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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II   


force employed would ensure the speedy reduction of the place. They
accordingly cut down timber from Cithaeron, and built it up on
either side, laying it like lattice-work to serve as a wall to keep
the mound from spreading abroad, and carried to it wood and stones and
earth and whatever other material might help to complete it. They
continued to work at the mound for seventy days and nights without
intermission, being divided into relief parties to allow of some being
employed in carrying while others took sleep and refreshment; the
Lacedaemonian officer attached to each contingent keeping the men to
the work. But the Plataeans, observing the progress of the mound,
constructed a wall of wood and fixed it upon that part of the city
wall against which the mound was being erected, and built up bricks
inside it which they took from the neighbouring houses. The timbers
served to bind the building together, and to prevent its becoming weak
as it advanced in height; it had also a covering of skins and hides,
which protected the woodwork against the attacks of burning missiles
and allowed the men to work in safety. Thus the wall was raised to a
great height, and the mound opposite made no less rapid progress.
The Plataeans also thought of another expedient; they pulled out
part of the wall upon which the mound abutted, and carried the earth
into the city.
Discovering this the Peloponnesians twisted up clay in wattles of
reed and threw it into the breach formed in the mound, in order to
give it consistency and prevent its being carried away like the
soil. Stopped in this way the Plataeans changed their mode of
operation, and digging a mine from the town calculated their way under
the mound, and began to carry off its material as before. This went on
for a long while without the enemy outside finding it out, so that for
all they threw on the top their mound made no progress in
proportion, being carried away from beneath and constantly settling
down in the vacuum. But the Plataeans, fearing that even thus they
might not be able to hold out against the superior numbers of the
enemy, had yet another invention. They stopped working at the large
building in front of the mound, and starting at either end of it
inside from the old low wall, built a new one in the form of a
crescent running in towards the town; in order that in the event of
the great wall being taken this might remain, and the enemy have to
throw up a fresh mound against it, and as they advanced within might
not only have their trouble over again, but also be exposed to
missiles on their flanks. While raising the mound the Peloponnesians
also brought up engines against the city, one of which was brought
up upon the mound against the great building and shook down a good
piece of it, to the no small alarm of the Plataeans. Others were
advanced against different parts of the wall but were lassoed and
broken by the Plataeans; who also hung up great beams by long iron
chains from either extremity of two poles laid on the wall and
projecting over it, and drew them up at an angle whenever any point
was threatened by the engine, and loosing their hold let the beam go
with its chains slack, so that it fell with a run and snapped off
the nose of the battering ram.
After this the Peloponnesians, finding that their engines effected
nothing, and that their mound was met by the counterwork, concluded
that their present means of offence were unequal to the taking of
the city, and prepared for its circumvallation. First, however, they
determined to try the effects of fire and see whether they could
not, with the help of a wind, burn the town, as it was not a large
one; indeed they thought of every possible expedient by which the
place might be reduced without the expense of a blockade. They
accordingly brought faggots of brushwood and threw them from the
mound, first into the space between it and the wall; and this soon
becoming full from the number of hands at work, they next heaped the
faggots up as far into the town as they could reach from the top,
and then lighted the wood by setting fire to it with sulphur and
pitch. The consequence was a fire greater than any one had ever yet

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