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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II   


the sea by a few vessels; for they could not at all account for
their discomfiture, the less so as it was their first attempt at
sea; and they fancied that it was not that their marine was so
inferior, but that there had been misconduct somewhere, not
considering the long experience of the Athenians as compared with
the little practice which they had had themselves. The commissioners
were accordingly sent in anger. As soon as they arrived they set to
work with Cnemus to order ships from the different states, and to
put those which they already had in fighting order. Meanwhile
Phormio sent word to Athens of their preparations and his own victory,
and desired as many ships as possible to be speedily sent to him, as
he stood in daily expectation of a battle. Twenty were accordingly
sent, but instructions were given to their commander to go first to
Crete. For Nicias, a Cretan of Gortys, who was proxenus of the
Athenians, had persuaded them to sail against Cydonia, promising to
procure the reduction of that hostile town; his real wish being to
oblige the Polichnitans, neighbours of the Cydonians. He accordingly
went with the ships to Crete, and, accompanied by the Polichnitans,
laid waste the lands of the Cydonians; and, what with adverse winds
and stress of weather wasted no little time there.
While the Athenians were thus detained in Crete, the
Peloponnesians in Cyllene got ready for battle, and coasted along to
Panormus in Achaea, where their land army had come to support them.
Phormio also coasted along to Molycrian Rhium, and anchored outside it
with twenty ships, the same as he had fought with before. This Rhium
was friendly to the Athenians. The other, in Peloponnese, lies
opposite to it; the sea between them is about three-quarters of a mile
broad, and forms the mouth of the Crissaean gulf. At this, the Achaean
Rhium, not far off Panormus, where their army lay, the
Peloponnesians now cast anchor with seventy-seven ships, when they saw
the Athenians do so. For six or seven days they remained opposite each
other, practising and preparing for the battle; the one resolved not
to sail out of the Rhia into the open sea, for fear of the disaster
which had already happened to them, the other not to sail into the
straits, thinking it advantageous to the enemy, to fight in the
narrows. At last Cnemus and Brasidas and the rest of the Peloponnesian
commanders, being desirous of bringing on a battle as soon as
possible, before reinforcements should arrive from Athens, and
noticing that the men were most of them cowed by the previous defeat
and out of heart for the business, first called them together and
encouraged them as follows:
"Peloponnesians, the late engagement, which may have made some of
you afraid of the one now in prospect, really gives no just ground for
apprehension. Preparation for it, as you know, there was little
enough; and the object of our voyage was not so much to fight at sea
as an expedition by land. Besides this, the chances of war were
largely against us; and perhaps also inexperience had something to
do with our failure in our first naval action. It was not,
therefore, cowardice that produced our defeat, nor ought the
determination which force has not quelled, but which still has a
word to say with its adversary, to lose its edge from the result of an
accident; but admitting the possibility of a chance miscarriage, we
should know that brave hearts must be always brave, and while they
remain so can never put forward inexperience as an excuse for
misconduct. Nor are you so behind the enemy in experience as you are
ahead of him in courage; and although the science of your opponents
would, if valour accompanied it, have also the presence of mind to
carry out at in emergency the lesson it has learnt, yet a faint
heart will make all art powerless in the face of danger. For fear
takes away presence of mind, and without valour art is useless.
Against their superior experience set your superior daring, and
against the fear induced by defeat the fact of your having been then
unprepared; remember, too, that you have always the advantage of
superior numbers, and of engaging off your own coast, supported by

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