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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book IV   


together as they happened to fit, and where mortar was needed, carried
it on their backs for want of hods, stooping down to make it stay
on, and clasping their hands together behind to prevent it falling
off; sparing no effort to be able to complete the most vulnerable
points before the arrival of the Lacedaemonians, most of the place
being sufficiently strong by nature without further fortifications.
Meanwhile the Lacedaemonians were celebrating a festival, and also
at first made light of the news, in the idea that whenever they
chose to take the field the place would be immediately evacuated by
the enemy or easily taken by force; the absence of their army before
Athens having also something to do with their delay. The Athenians
fortified the place on the land side, and where it most required it,
in six days, and leaving Demosthenes with five ships to garrison it,
with the main body of the fleet hastened on their voyage to Corcyra
and Sicily.
As soon as the Peloponnesians in Attica heard of the occupation of
Pylos, they hurried back home; the Lacedaemonians and their king
Agis thinking that the matter touched them nearly. Besides having made
their invasion early in the season, and while the corn was still
green, most of their troops were short of provisions: the weather also
was unusually bad for the time of year, and greatly distressed their
army. Many reasons thus combined to hasten their departure and to make
this invasion a very short one; indeed they only stayed fifteen days
in Attica.
About the same time the Athenian general Simonides getting
together a few Athenians from the garrisons, and a number of the
allies in those parts, took Eion in Thrace, a Mendaean colony and
hostile to Athens, by treachery, but had no sooner done so than the
Chalcidians and Bottiaeans came up and beat him out of it, with the
loss of many of his soldiers.
On the return of the Peloponnesians from Attica, the Spartans
themselves and the nearest of the Perioeci at once set out for
Pylos, the other Lacedaemonians following more slowly, as they had
just come in from another campaign. Word was also sent round
Peloponnese to come up as quickly as possible to Pylos; while the
sixty Peloponnesian ships were sent for from Corcyra, and being
dragged by their crews across the isthmus of Leucas, passed
unperceived by the Athenian squadron at Zacynthus, and reached
Pylos, where the land forces had arrived before them. Before the
Peloponnesian fleet sailed in, Demosthenes found time to send out
unobserved two ships to inform Eurymedon and the Athenians on board
the fleet at Zacynthus of the danger of Pylos and to summon them to
his assistance. While the ships hastened on their voyage in
obedience to the orders of Demosthenes, the Lacedaemonians prepared to
assault the fort by land and sea, hoping to capture with ease a work
constructed in haste, and held by a feeble garrison. Meanwhile, as
they expected the Athenian ships to arrive from Zacynthus, they
intended, if they failed to take the place before, to block up the
entrances of the harbour to prevent their being able to anchor
inside it. For the island of Sphacteria, stretching along in a line
close in front of the harbour, at once makes it safe and narrows its
entrances, leaving a passage for two ships on the side nearest Pylos
and the Athenian fortifications, and for eight or nine on that next
the rest of the mainland: for the rest, the island was entirely
covered with wood, and without paths through not being inhabited,
and about one mile and five furlongs in length. The inlets the
Lacedaemonians meant to close with a line of ships placed close
together, with their prows turned towards the sea, and, meanwhile,
fearing that the enemy might make use of the island to operate against
them, carried over some heavy infantry thither, stationing others
along the coast. By this means the island and the continent would be
alike hostile to the Athenians, as they would be unable to land on
either; and the shore of Pylos itself outside the inlet towards the
open sea having no harbour, and, therefore, presenting no point

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