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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book IV   


hill to join their cavalry and offered battle; upon which Brasidas and
Perdiccas also came down to meet them, and engaged and routed them
with heavy loss; the survivors taking refuge upon the heights and
there remaining inactive. The victors now set up a trophy and waited
two or three days for the Illyrian mercenaries who were to join
Perdiccas. Perdiccas then wished to go on and attack the villages of
Arrhabaeus, and to sit still no longer; but Brasidas, afraid that
the Athenians might sail up during his absence, and of something
happening to Mende, and seeing besides that the Illyrians did not
appear, far from seconding this wish was anxious to return.
While they were thus disputing, the news arrived that the
Illyrians had actually betrayed Perdiccas and had joined Arrhabaeus;
and the fear inspired by their warlike character made both parties now
think it best to retreat. However, owing to the dispute, nothing had
been settled as to when they should start; and night coming on, the
Macedonians and the barbarian crowd took fright in a moment in one
of those mysterious panics to which great armies are liable; and
persuaded that an army many times more numerous than that which had
really arrived was advancing and all but upon them, suddenly broke and
fled in the direction of home, and thus compelled Perdiccas, who at
first did not perceive what had occurred, to depart without seeing
Brasidas, the two armies being encamped at a considerable distance
from each other. At daybreak Brasidas, perceiving that the Macedonians
had gone on, and that the Illyrians and Arrhabaeus were on the point
of attacking him, formed his heavy infantry into a square, with the
light troops in the centre, and himself also prepared to retreat.
Posting his youngest soldiers to dash out wherever the enemy should
attack them, he himself with three hundred picked men in the rear
intended to face about during the retreat and beat off the most
forward of their assailants, Meanwhile, before the enemy approached,
he sought to sustain the courage of his soldiers with the following
hasty exhortation:
"Peloponnesians, if I did not suspect you of being dismayed at being
left alone to sustain the attack of a numerous and barbarian enemy,
I should just have said a few words to you as usual without further
explanation. As it is, in the face of the desertion of our friends and
the numbers of the enemy, I have some advice and information to offer,
which, brief as they must be, will, I hope, suffice for the more
important points. The bravery that you habitually display in war
does not depend on your having allies at your side in this or that
encounter, but on your native courage; nor have numbers any terrors
for citizens of states like yours, in which the many do not rule the
few, but rather the few the many, owing their position to nothing else
than to superiority in the field. Inexperience now makes you afraid of
barbarians; and yet the trial of strength which you had with the
Macedonians among them, and my own judgment, confirmed by what I
hear from others, should be enough to satisfy you that they will not
prove formidable. Where an enemy seems strong but is really weak, a
true knowledge of the facts makes his adversary the bolder, just as
a serious antagonist is encountered most confidently by those who do
not know him. Thus the present enemy might terrify an inexperienced
imagination; they are formidable in outward bulk, their loud yelling
is unbearable, and the brandishing of their weapons in the air has a
threatening appearance. But when it comes to real fighting with an
opponent who stands his ground, they are not what they seemed; they
have no regular order that they should be ashamed of deserting their
positions when hard pressed; flight and attack are with them equally
honourable, and afford no test of courage; their independent mode of
fighting never leaving any one who wants to run away without a fair
excuse for so doing. In short, they think frightening you at a
secure distance a surer game than meeting you hand to hand;
otherwise they would have done the one and not the other. You can thus
plainly see that the terrors with which they were at first invested
are in fact trifling enough, though to the eye and ear very prominent.

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