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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book IV   

The Fourth Book.


Seventh Year of the War - Occupation of Pylos -
Surrender of the Spartan Army in Sphacteria

NEXT summer, about the time of the corn's coming into ear, ten
Syracusan and as many Locrian vessels sailed to Messina, in Sicily,
and occupied the town upon the invitation of the inhabitants; and
Messina revolted from the Athenians. The Syracusans contrived this
chiefly because they saw that the place afforded an approach to
Sicily, and feared that the Athenians might hereafter use it as a base
for attacking them with a larger force; the Locrians because they
wished to carry on hostilities from both sides of the strait and to
reduce their enemies, the people of Rhegium. Meanwhile, the Locrians
had invaded the Rhegian territory with all their forces, to prevent
their succouring Messina, and also at the instance of some exiles from
Rhegium who were with them; the long factions by which that town had
been torn rendering it for the moment incapable of resistance, and
thus furnishing an additional temptation to the invaders. After
devastating the country the Locrian land forces retired, their ships
remaining to guard Messina, while others were being manned for the
same destination to carry on the war from thence.
About the same time in the spring, before the corn was ripe, the
Peloponnesians and their allies invaded Attica under Agis, the son
of Archidamus, king of the Lacedaemonians, and sat down and laid waste
the country. Meanwhile the Athenians sent off the forty ships which
they had been preparing to Sicily, with the remaining generals
Eurymedon and Sophocles; their colleague Pythodorus having already
preceded them thither. These had also instructions as they sailed by
to look to the Corcyraeans in the town, who were being plundered by
the exiles in the mountain. To support these exiles sixty
Peloponnesian vessels had lately sailed, it being thought that the
famine raging in the city would make it easy for them to reduce it.
Demosthenes also, who had remained without employment since his return
from Acarnania, applied and obtained permission to use the fleet, if
he wished it, upon the coast of Peloponnese.

Off Laconia they heard that the Peloponnesian ships were already
at Corcyra, upon which Eurymedon and Sophocles wished to hasten to the
island, but Demosthenes required them first to touch at Pylos and do
what was wanted there, before continuing their voyage. While they were
making objections, a squall chanced to come on and carried the fleet
into Pylos. Demosthenes at once urged them to fortify the place, it
being for this that he had come on the voyage, and made them observe
there was plenty of stone and timber on the spot, and that the place
was strong by nature, and together with much of the country round
unoccupied; Pylos, or Coryphasium, as the Lacedaemonians call it,
being about forty-five miles distant from Sparta, and situated in
the old country of the Messenians. The commanders told him that
there was no lack of desert headlands in Peloponnese if he wished to
put the city to expense by occupying them. He, however, thought that
this place was distinguished from others of the kind by having a
harbour close by; while the Messenians, the old natives of the
country, speaking the same dialect as the Lacedaemonians, could do
them the greatest mischief by their incursions from it, and would at
the same time be a trusty garrison.
After speaking to the captains of companies on the subject, and
failing to persuade either the generals or the soldiers, he remained
inactive with the rest from stress of weather; until the soldiers
themselves wanting occupation were seized with a sudden impulse to
go round and fortify the place. Accordingly they set to work in
earnest, and having no iron tools, picked up stones, and put them

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