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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book IV   


Such were the words of the Lacedaemonians, their idea being that the
Athenians, already desirous of a truce and only kept back by their
opposition, would joyfully accept a peace freely offered, and give
back the men. The Athenians, however, having the men on the island,
thought that the treaty would be ready for them whenever they chose to
make it, and grasped at something further. Foremost to encourage
them in this policy was Cleon, son of Cleaenetus, a popular leader
of the time and very powerful with the multitude, who persuaded them
to answer as follows: First, the men in the island must surrender
themselves and their arms and be brought to Athens. Next, the
Lacedaemonians must restore Nisaea, Pegae, Troezen, and Achaia, all
places acquired not by arms, but by the previous convention, under
which they had been ceded by Athens herself at a moment of disaster,
when a truce was more necessary to her than at present. This done they
might take back their men, and make a truce for as long as both
parties might agree.
To this answer the envoys made no reply, but asked that
commissioners might be chosen with whom they might confer on each
point, and quietly talk the matter over and try to come to some
agreement. Hereupon Cleon violently assailed them, saying that he knew
from the first that they had no right intentions, and that it was
clear enough now by their refusing to speak before the people, and
wanting to confer in secret with a committee of two or three. No, if
they meant anything honest let them say it out before all. The
Lacedaemonians, however, seeing that whatever concessions they might
be prepared to make in their misfortune, it was impossible for them to
speak before the multitude and lose credit with their allies for a
negotiation which might after all miscarry, and on the other hand,
that the Athenians would never grant what they asked upon moderate
terms, returned from Athens without having effected anything.
Their arrival at once put an end to the armistice at Pylos, and
the Lacedaemonians asked back their ships according to the convention.
The Athenians, however, alleged an attack on the fort in contravention
of the truce, and other grievances seemingly not worth mentioning, and
refused to give them back, insisting upon the clause by which the
slightest infringement made the armistice void. The Lacedaemonians,
after denying the contravention and protesting against their bad faith
in the matter of the ships, went away and earnestly addressed
themselves to the war. Hostilities were now carried on at Pylos upon
both sides with vigour. The Athenians cruised round the island all day
with two ships going different ways; and by night, except on the
seaward side in windy weather, anchored round it with their whole
fleet, which, having been reinforced by twenty ships from Athens
come to aid in the blockade, now numbered seventy sail; while the
Peloponnesians remained encamped on the continent, making attacks on
the fort, and on the look-out for any opportunity which might offer
itself for the deliverance of their men.
Meanwhile the Syracusans and their allies in Sicily had brought up
to the squadron guarding Messina the reinforcement which we left
them preparing, and carried on the war from thence, incited chiefly by
the Locrians from hatred of the Rhegians, whose territory they had
invaded with all their forces. The Syracusans also wished to try their
fortune at sea, seeing that the Athenians had only a few ships
actually at Rhegium, and hearing that the main fleet destined to
join them was engaged in blockading the island. A naval victory,
they thought, would enable them to blockade Rhegium by sea and land,
and easily to reduce it; a success which would at once place their
affairs upon a solid basis, the promontory of Rhegium in Italy and
Messina in Sicily being so near each other that it would be impossible
for the Athenians to cruise against them and command the strait. The
strait in question consists of the sea between Rhegium and Messina, at
the point where Sicily approaches nearest to the continent, and is the
Charybdis through which the story makes Ulysses sail; and the
narrowness of the passage and the strength of the current that pours

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