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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book IV   

being offered, and freedom promised to any of the Helots who should
succeed in doing so. The Helots accordingly were most forward to
engage in this risky traffic, putting off from this or that part of
Peloponnese, and running in by night on the seaward side of the
island. They were best pleased, however, when they could catch a
wind to carry them in. It was more easy to elude the look-out of the
galleys, when it blew from the seaward, as it became impossible for
them to anchor round the island; while the Helots had their boats
rated at their value in money, and ran them ashore, without caring how
they landed, being sure to find the soldiers waiting for them at the
landing-places. But all who risked it in fair weather were taken.
Divers also swam in under water from the harbour, dragging by a cord
in skins poppyseed mixed with honey, and bruised linseed; these at
first escaped notice, but afterwards a look-out was kept for them.
In short, both sides tried every possible contrivance, the one to
throw in provisions, and the other to prevent their introduction.
At Athens, meanwhile, the news that the army was in great
distress, and that corn found its way in to the men in the island,
caused no small perplexity; and the Athenians began to fear that
winter might come on and find them still engaged in the blockade. They
saw that the convoying of provisions round Peloponnese would be then
impossible. The country offered no resources in itself, and even in
summer they could not send round enough. The blockade of a place
without harbours could no longer be kept up; and the men would
either escape by the siege being abandoned, or would watch for bad
weather and sail out in the boats that brought in their corn. What
caused still more alarm was the attitude of the Lacedaemonians, who
must, it was thought by the Athenians, feel themselves on strong
ground not to send them any more envoys; and they began to repent
having rejected the treaty. Cleon, perceiving the disfavour with which
he was regarded for having stood in the way of the convention, now
said that their informants did not speak the truth; and upon the
messengers recommending them, if they did not believe them, to send
some commissioners to see, Cleon himself and Theagenes were chosen
by the Athenians as commissioners. Aware that he would now be
obliged either to say what had been already said by the men whom he
was slandering, or be proved a liar if he said the contrary, he told
the Athenians, whom he saw to be not altogether disinclined for a
fresh expedition, that instead of sending and wasting their time and
opportunities, if they believed what was told them, they ought to sail
against the men. And pointing at Nicias, son of Niceratus, then
general, whom he hated, he tauntingly said that it would be easy, if
they had men for generals, to sail with a force and take those in
the island, and that if he had himself been in command, he would
have done it.
Nicias, seeing the Athenians murmuring against Cleon for not sailing
now if it seemed to him so easy, and further seeing himself the object
of attack, told him that for all that the generals cared, he might
take what force he chose and make the attempt. At first Cleon
fancied that this resignation was merely a figure of speech, and was
ready to go, but finding that it was seriously meant, he drew back,
and said that Nicias, not he, was general, being now frightened, and
having never supposed that Nicias would go so far as to retire in
his favour. Nicias, however, repeated his offer, and resigned the
command against Pylos, and called the Athenians to witness that he did
so. And as the multitude is wont to do, the more Cleon shrank from the
expedition and tried to back out of what he had said, the more they
encouraged Nicias to hand over his command, and clamoured at Cleon
to go. At last, not knowing how to get out of his words, he
undertook the expedition, and came forward and said that he was not
afraid of the Lacedaemonians, but would sail without taking any one
from the city with him, except the Lemnians and Imbrians that were
at Athens, with some targeteers that had come up from Aenus, and
four hundred archers from other quarters. With these and the

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