Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Thucydides
Pages of History of The Peloponnesian War - Book IV

Previous | Next

History of The Peloponnesian War - Book IV   

which they could use as a base to relieve their countrymen, they,
the Lacedaemonians, without sea-fight or risk would in all probability
become masters of the place, occupied as it had been on the spur of
the moment, and unfurnished with provisions. This being determined,
they carried over to the island the heavy infantry, drafted by lot
from all the companies. Some others had crossed over before in
relief parties, but these last who were left there were four hundred
and twenty in number, with their Helot attendants, commanded by
Epitadas, son of Molobrus.
Meanwhile Demosthenes, seeing the Lacedaemonians about to attack him
by sea and land at once, himself was not idle. He drew up under the
fortification and enclosed in a stockade the galleys remaining to
him of those which had been left him, arming the sailors taken out
of them with poor shields made most of them of osier, it being
impossible to procure arms in such a desert place, and even these
having been obtained from a thirty-oared Messenian privateer and a
boat belonging to some Messenians who happened to have come to them.
Among these Messenians were forty heavy infantry, whom he made use
of with the rest. Posting most of his men, unarmed and armed, upon the
best fortified and strong points of the place towards the interior,
with orders to repel any attack of the land forces, he picked sixty
heavy infantry and a few archers from his whole force, and with
these went outside the wall down to the sea, where he thought that the
enemy would most likely attempt to land. Although the ground was
difficult and rocky, looking towards the open sea, the fact that
this was the weakest part of the wall would, he thought, encourage
their ardour, as the Athenians, confident in their naval
superiority, had here paid little attention to their defences, and the
enemy if he could force a landing might feel secure of taking the
place. At this point, accordingly, going down to the water's edge,
he posted his heavy infantry to prevent, if possible, a landing, and
encouraged them in the following terms:
"Soldiers and comrades in this adventure, I hope that none of you in
our present strait will think to show his wit by exactly calculating
all the perils that encompass us, but that you will rather hasten to
close with the enemy, without staying to count the odds, seeing in
this your best chance of safety. In emergencies like ours
calculation is out of place; the sooner the danger is faced the
better. To my mind also most of the chances are for us, if we will
only stand fast and not throw away our advantages, overawed by the
numbers of the enemy. One of the points in our favour is the
awkwardness of the landing. This, however, only helps us if we stand
our ground. If we give way it will be practicable enough, in spite
of its natural difficulty, without a defender; and the enemy will
instantly become more formidable from the difficulty he will have in
retreating, supposing that we succeed in repulsing him, which we shall
find it easier to do, while he is on board his ships, than after he
has landed and meets us on equal terms. As to his numbers, these
need not too much alarm you. Large as they may be he can only engage
in small detachments, from the impossibility of bringing to.
Besides, the numerical superiority that we have to meet is not that of
an army on land with everything else equal, but of troops on board
ship, upon an element where many favourable accidents are required
to act with effect. I therefore consider that his difficulties may
be fairly set against our numerical deficiencies, and at the same time
I charge you, as Athenians who know by experience what landing from
ships on a hostile territory means, and how impossible it is to
drive back an enemy determined enough to stand his ground and not to
be frightened away by the surf and the terrors of the ships sailing
in, to stand fast in the present emergency, beat back the enemy at the
water's edge, and save yourselves and the place."
Thus encouraged by Demosthenes, the Athenians felt more confident,
and went down to meet the enemy, posting themselves along the edge
of the sea. The Lacedaemonians now put themselves in movement and

Previous | Next
Site Search