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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II   


engagements in particular; and behave before the enemy in a manner
worthy of your past exploits. The issues you will fight for are
great- to destroy the naval hopes of the Peloponnesians or to bring
nearer to the Athenians their fears for the sea. And I may once more
remind you that you have defeated most of them already; and beaten men
do not face a danger twice with the same determination."
Such was the exhortation of Phormio. The Peloponnesians finding that
the Athenians did not sail into the gulf and the narrows, in order
to lead them in whether they wished it or not, put out at dawn, and
forming four abreast, sailed inside the gulf in the direction of their
own country, the right wing leading as they had lain at anchor. In
this wing were placed twenty of their best sailers; so that in the
event of Phormio thinking that their object was Naupactus, and
coasting along thither to save the place, the Athenians might not be
able to escape their onset by getting outside their wing, but might be
cut off by the vessels in question. As they expected, Phormio, in
alarm for the place at that moment emptied of its garrison, as soon as
he saw them put out, reluctantly and hurriedly embarked and sailed
along shore; the Messenian land forces moving along also to support
him. The Peloponnesians seeing him coasting along with his ships in
single file, and by this inside the gulf and close inshore as they
so much wished, at one signal tacked suddenly and bore down in line at
their best speed on the Athenians, hoping to cut off the whole
squadron. The eleven leading vessels, however, escaped the
Peloponnesian wing and its sudden movement, and reached the more
open water; but the rest were overtaken as they tried to run
through, driven ashore and disabled; such of the crews being slain
as had not swum out of them. Some of the ships the Peloponnesians
lashed to their own, and towed off empty; one they took with the men
in it; others were just being towed off, when they were saved by the
Messenians dashing into the sea with their armour and fighting from
the decks that they had boarded.
Thus far victory was with the Peloponnesians, and the Athenian fleet
destroyed; the twenty ships in the right wing being meanwhile in chase
of the eleven Athenian vessels that had escaped their sudden
movement and reached the more open water. These, with the exception of
one ship, all outsailed them and got safe into Naupactus, and
forming close inshore opposite the temple of Apollo, with their
prows facing the enemy, prepared to defend themselves in case the
Peloponnesians should sail inshore against them. After a while the
Peloponnesians came up, chanting the paean for their victory as they
sailed on; the single Athenian ship remaining being chased by a
Leucadian far ahead of the rest. But there happened to be a
merchantman lying at anchor in the roadstead, which the Athenian
ship found time to sail round, and struck the Leucadian in chase
amidships and sank her. An exploit so sudden and unexpected produced a
panic among the Peloponnesians; and having fallen out of order in
the excitement of victory, some of them dropped their oars and stopped
their way in order to let the main body come up- an unsafe thing to
do considering how near they were to the enemy's prows; while others
ran aground in the shallows, in their ignorance of the localities.
Elated at this incident, the Athenians at one word gave a cheer, and
dashed at the enemy, who, embarrassed by his mistakes and the disorder
in which he found himself, only stood for an instant, and then fled
for Panormus, whence he had put out. The Athenians following on his
heels took the six vessels nearest them, and recovered those of
their own which had been disabled close inshore and taken in tow at
the beginning of the action; they killed some of the crews and took
some prisoners. On board the Leucadian which went down off the
merchantman, was the Lacedaemonian Timocrates, who killed himself when
the ship was sunk, and was cast up in the harbour of Naupactus. The
Athenians on their return set up a trophy on the spot from which
they had put out and turned the day, and picking up the wrecks and
dead that were on their shore, gave back to the enemy their dead under

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