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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II   


seen produced by human agency, though it could not of course be
compared to the spontaneous conflagrations sometimes known to occur
through the wind rubbing the branches of a mountain forest together.
And this fire was not only remarkable for its magnitude, but was also,
at the end of so many perils, within an ace of proving fatal to the
Plataeans; a great part of the town became entirely inaccessible,
and had a wind blown upon it, in accordance with the hopes of the
enemy, nothing could have saved them. As it was, there is also a story
of heavy rain and thunder having come on by which the fire was put out
and the danger averted.
Failing in this last attempt the Peloponnesians left a portion of
their forces on the spot, dismissing the rest, and built a wall of
circumvallation round the town, dividing the ground among the
various cities present; a ditch being made within and without the
lines, from which they got their bricks. All being finished by about
the rising of Arcturus, they left men enough to man half the wall, the
rest being manned by the Boeotians, and drawing off their army
dispersed to their several cities. The Plataeans had before sent off
their wives and children and oldest men and the mass of the
non-combatants to Athens; so that the number of the besieged left in
the place comprised four hundred of their own citizens, eighty
Athenians, and a hundred and ten women to bake their bread. This was
the sum total at the commencement of the siege, and there was no one
else within the walls, bond or free. Such were the arrangements made
for the blockade of Plataea.
The same summer and simultaneously with the expedition against
Plataea, the Athenians marched with two thousand heavy infantry and
two hundred horse against the Chalcidians in the direction of Thrace
and the Bottiaeans, just as the corn was getting ripe, under the
command of Xenophon, son of Euripides, with two colleagues. Arriving
before Spartolus in Bottiaea, they destroyed the corn and had some
hopes of the city coming over through the intrigues of a faction
within. But those of a different way of thinking had sent to Olynthus;
and a garrison of heavy infantry and other troops arrived accordingly.
These issuing from Spartolus were engaged by the Athenians in front of
the town: the Chalcidian heavy infantry, and some auxiliaries with
them, were beaten and retreated into Spartolus; but the Chalcidian
horse and light troops defeated the horse and light troops of the
Athenians. The Chalcidians had already a few targeteers from Crusis,
and presently after the battle were joined by some others from
Olynthus; upon seeing whom the light troops from Spartolus, emboldened
by this accession and by their previous success, with the help of
the Chalcidian horse and the reinforcement just arrived again attacked
the Athenians, who retired upon the two divisions which they had
left with their baggage. Whenever the Athenians advanced, their
adversary gave way, pressing them with missiles the instant they began
to retire. The Chalcidian horse also, riding up and charging them just
as they pleased, at last caused a panic amongst them and routed and
pursued them to a great distance. The Athenians took refuge in
Potidaea, and afterwards recovered their dead under truce, and
returned to Athens with the remnant of their army; four hundred and
thirty men and all the generals having fallen. The Chalcidians and
Bottiaeans set up a trophy, took up their dead, and dispersed to their
several cities.
The same summer, not long after this, the Ambraciots and
Chaonians, being desirous of reducing the whole of Acarnania and
detaching it from Athens, persuaded the Lacedaemonians to equip a
fleet from their confederacy and send a thousand heavy infantry to
Acarnania, representing that, if a combined movement were made by land
and sea, the coast Acarnanians would be unable to march, and the
conquest of Zacynthus and Cephallenia easily following on the
possession of Acarnania, the cruise round Peloponnese would be no
longer so convenient for the Athenians. Besides which there was a hope
of taking Naupactus. The Lacedaemonians accordingly at once sent off a

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