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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book IV   


The advanced post thus attacked by the Athenians was at once put
to the sword, the men being scarcely out of bed and still arming,
the landing having taken them by surprise, as they fancied the ships
were only sailing as usual to their stations for the night. As soon as
day broke, the rest of the army landed, that is to say, all the
crews of rather more than seventy ships, except the lowest rank of
oars, with the arms they carried, eight hundred archers, and as many
targeteers, the Messenian reinforcements, and all the other troops
on duty round Pylos, except the garrison on the fort. The tactics of
Demosthenes had divided them into companies of two hundred, more or
less, and made them occupy the highest points in order to paralyse the
enemy by surrounding him on every side and thus leaving him without
any tangible adversary, exposed to the cross-fire of their host; plied
by those in his rear if he attacked in front, and by those on one
flank if he moved against those on the other. In short, wherever he
went he would have the assailants behind him, and these light-armed
assailants, the most awkward of all; arrows, darts, stones, and slings
making them formidable at a distance, and there being no means of
getting at them at close quarters, as they could conquer flying, and
the moment their pursuer turned they were upon him. Such was the
idea that inspired Demosthenes in his conception of the descent, and
presided over its execution.
Meanwhile the main body of the troops in the island (that under
Epitadas), seeing their outpost cut off and an army advancing
against them, serried their ranks and pressed forward to close with
the Athenian heavy infantry in front of them, the light troops being
upon their flanks and rear. However, they were not able to engage or
to profit by their superior skill, the light troops keeping them in
check on either side with their missiles, and the heavy infantry
remaining stationary instead of advancing to meet them; and although
they routed the light troops wherever they ran up and approached too
closely, yet they retreated fighting, being lightly equipped, and
easily getting the start in their flight, from the difficult and
rugged nature of the ground, in an island hitherto desert, over
which the Lacedaemonians could not pursue them with their heavy
armour.
After this skirmishing had lasted some little while, the
Lacedaemonians became unable to dash out with the same rapidity as
before upon the points attacked, and the light troops finding that
they now fought with less vigour, became more confident. They could
see with their own eyes that they were many times more numerous than
the enemy; they were now more familiar with his aspect and found him
less terrible, the result not having justified the apprehensions which
they had suffered, when they first landed in slavish dismay at the
idea of attacking Lacedaemonians; and accordingly their fear
changing to disdain, they now rushed all together with loud shouts
upon them, and pelted them with stones, darts, and arrows, whichever
came first to hand. The shouting accompanying their onset confounded
the Lacedaemonians, unaccustomed to this mode of fighting; dust rose
from the newly burnt wood, and it was impossible to see in front of
one with the arrows and stones flying through clouds of dust from
the hands of numerous assailants. The Lacedaemonians had now to
sustain a rude conflict; their caps would not keep out the arrows,
darts had broken off in the armour of the wounded, while they
themselves were helpless for offence, being prevented from using their
eyes to see what was before them, and unable to hear the words of
command for the hubbub raised by the enemy; danger encompassed them on
every side, and there was no hope of any means of defence or safety.
At last, after many had been already wounded in the confined space
in which they were fighting, they formed in close order and retired on
the fort at the end of the island, which was not far off, and to their
friends who held it. The moment they gave way, the light troops became
bolder and pressed upon them, shouting louder than ever, and killed as
many as they came up with in their retreat, but most of the

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