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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II   


your heavy infantry; and as a rule, numbers and equipment give
victory. At no point, therefore, is defeat likely; and as for our
previous mistakes, the very fact of their occurrence will teach us
better for the future. Steersmen and sailors may, therefore,
confidently attend to their several duties, none quitting the
station assigned to them: as for ourselves, we promise to prepare
for the engagement at least as well as your previous commanders, and
to give no excuse for any one misconducting himself. Should any insist
on doing so, he shall meet with the punishment he deserves, while
the brave shall be honoured with the appropriate rewards of valour."
The Peloponnesian commanders encouraged their men after this
fashion. Phormio, meanwhile, being himself not without fears for the
courage of his men, and noticing that they were forming in groups
among themselves and were alarmed at the odds against them, desired to
call them together and give them confidence and counsel in the present
emergency. He had before continually told them, and had accustomed
their minds to the idea, that there was no numerical superiority
that they could not face; and the men themselves had long been
persuaded that Athenians need never retire before any quantity of
Peloponnesian vessels. At the moment, however, he saw that they were
dispirited by the sight before them, and wishing to refresh their
confidence, called them together and spoke as follows:
"I see, my men, that you are frightened by the number of the
enemy, and I have accordingly called you together, not liking you to
be afraid of what is not really terrible. In the first place, the
Peloponnesians, already defeated, and not even themselves thinking
that they are a match for us, have not ventured to meet us on equal
terms, but have equipped this multitude of ships against us. Next,
as to that upon which they most rely, the courage which they suppose
constitutional to them, their confidence here only arises from the
success which their experience in land service usually gives them, and
which they fancy will do the same for them at sea. But this
advantage will in all justice belong to us on this element, if to them
on that; as they are not superior to us in courage, but we are each of
us more confident, according to our experience in our particular
department. Besides, as the Lacedaemonians use their supremacy over
their allies to promote their own glory, they are most of them being
brought into danger against their will, or they would never, after
such a decided defeat, have ventured upon a fresh engagement. You need
not, therefore, be afraid of their dash. You, on the contrary, inspire
a much greater and better founded alarm, both because of your late
victory and also of their belief that we should not face them unless
about to do something worthy of a success so signal. An adversary
numerically superior, like the one before us, comes into action
trusting more to strength than to resolution; while he who voluntarily
confronts tremendous odds must have very great internal resources to
draw upon. For these reasons the Peloponnesians fear our irrational
audacity more than they would ever have done a more commensurate
preparation. Besides, many armaments have before now succumbed to an
inferior through want of skill or sometimes of courage; neither of
which defects certainly are ours. As to the battle, it shall not be,
if I can help it, in the strait, nor will I sail in there at all;
seeing that in a contest between a number of clumsily managed
vessels and a small, fast, well-handled squadron, want of sea room
is an undoubted disadvantage. One cannot run down an enemy properly
without having a sight of him a good way off, nor can one retire at
need when pressed; one can neither break the line nor return upon
his rear, the proper tactics for a fast sailer; but the naval action
necessarily becomes a land one, in which numbers must decide the
matter. For all this I will provide as far as can be. Do you stay at
your posts by your ships, and be sharp at catching the word of
command, the more so as we are observing one another from so short a
distance; and in action think order and silence
all-important- qualities useful in war generally, and in naval

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