History of The Peloponnesian War - Book IV
the god as well as for themselves, in the name of the deities
concerned, and of Apollo, the Boeotians invited them first to evacuate
the temple, if they wished to take up the dead that belonged to them.
After these words from the herald, the Athenians sent their own
herald to the Boeotians to say that they had not done any wrong to the
temple, and for the future would do it no more harm than they could
help; not having occupied it originally in any such design, but to
defend themselves from it against those who were really wronging them.
The law of the Hellenes was that conquest of a country, whether more
or less extensive, carried with it possession of the temples in that
country, with the obligation to keep up the usual ceremonies, at least
as far as possible. The Boeotians and most other people who had turned
out the owners of a country, and put themselves in their places by
force, now held as of right the temples which they originally
entered as usurpers. If the Athenians could have conquered more of
Boeotia this would have been the case with them: as things stood,
the piece of it which they had got they should treat as their own, and
not quit unless obliged. The water they had disturbed under the
impulsion of a necessity which they had not wantonly incurred,
having been forced to use it in defending themselves against the
Boeotians who first invaded Attica. Besides, anything done under the
pressure of war and danger might reasonably claim indulgence even in
the eye of the god; or why, pray, were the altars the asylum for
involuntary offences? Transgression also was a term applied to
presumptuous offenders, not to the victims of adverse circumstances.
In short, which were most impious- the Boeotians who wished to barter
dead bodies for holy places, or the Athenians who refused to give up
holy places to obtain what was theirs by right? The condition of
evacuating Boeotia must therefore be withdrawn. They were no longer in
Boeotia. They stood where they stood by the right of the sword. All
that the Boeotians had to do was to tell them to take up their dead
under a truce according to the national custom.
The Boeotians replied that if they were in Boeotia, they must
evacuate that country before taking up their dead; if they were in
their own territory, they could do as they pleased: for they knew
that, although the Oropid where the bodies as it chanced were lying
(the battle having been fought on the borders) was subject to
Athens, yet the Athenians could not get them without their leave.
Besides, why should they grant a truce for Athenian ground? And what
could be fairer than to tell them to evacuate Boeotia if they wished
to get what they asked? The Athenian herald accordingly returned
with this answer, without having accomplished his object.
Meanwhile the Boeotians at once sent for darters and slingers from
the Malian Gulf, and with two thousand Corinthian heavy infantry who
had joined them after the battle, the Peloponnesian garrison which had
evacuated Nisaea, and some Megarians with them, marched against
Delium, and attacked the fort, and after divers efforts finally
succeeded in taking it by an engine of the following description. They
sawed in two and scooped out a great beam from end to end, and fitting
it nicely together again like a pipe, hung by chains a cauldron at one
extremity, with which communicated an iron tube projecting from the
beam, which was itself in great part plated with iron. This they
brought up from a distance upon carts to the part of the wall
principally composed of vines and timber, and when it was near,
inserted huge bellows into their end of the beam and blew with them.
The blast passing closely confined into the cauldron, which was filled
with lighted coals, sulphur and pitch, made a great blaze, and set
fire to the wall, which soon became untenable for its defenders, who
left it and fled; and in this way the fort was taken. Of the
garrison some were killed and two hundred made prisoners; most of
the rest got on board their ships and returned home.
Soon after the fall of Delium, which took place seventeen days after
the battle, the Athenian herald, without knowing what had happened,
came again for the dead, which were now restored by the Boeotians, who