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   

popular party, began to ask each other whether it would not be
better to receive back their exiles, and free the town from one of its
two scourges. The friends of the emigrants, perceiving the
agitation, now more openly than before demanded the adoption of this
proposition; and the leaders of the commons, seeing that the
sufferings of the times had tired out the constancy of their
supporters, entered in their alarm into correspondence with the
Athenian generals, Hippocrates, son of Ariphron, and Demosthenes,
son of Alcisthenes, and resolved to betray the town, thinking this
less dangerous to themselves than the return of the party which they
had banished. It was accordingly arranged that the Athenians should
first take the long walls extending for nearly a mile from the city to
the port of Nisaea, to prevent the Peloponnesians coming to the rescue
from that place, where they formed the sole garrison to secure the
fidelity of Megara; and that after this the attempt should be made
to put into their hands the upper town, which it was thought would
then come over with less difficulty.
The Athenians, after plans had been arranged between themselves
and their correspondents both as to words and actions, sailed by night
to Minoa, the island off Megara, with six hundred heavy infantry under
the command of Hippocrates, and took post in a quarry not far off, out
of which bricks used to be taken for the walls; while Demosthenes, the
other commander, with a detachment of Plataean light troops and
another of Peripoli, placed himself in ambush in the precinct of
Enyalius, which was still nearer. No one knew of it, except those
whose business it was to know that night. A little before daybreak,
the traitors in Megara began to act. Every night for a long time back,
under pretence of marauding, in order to have a means of opening the
gates, they had been used, with the consent of the officer in command,
to carry by night a sculling boat upon a cart along the ditch to the
sea, and so to sail out, bringing it back again before day upon the
cart, and taking it within the wall through the gates, in order, as
they pretended, to baffle the Athenian blockade at Minoa, there
being no boat to be seen in the harbour. On the present occasion the
cart was already at the gates, which had been opened in the usual
way for the boat, when the Athenians, with whom this had been
concerted, saw it, and ran at the top of their speed from the ambush
in order to reach the gates before they were shut again, and while the
cart was still there to prevent their being closed; their Megarian
accomplices at the same moment killing the guard at the gates. The
first to run in was Demosthenes with his Plataeans and Peripoli,
just where the trophy now stands; and he was no sooner within the
gates than the Plataeans engaged and defeated the nearest party of
Peloponnesians who had taken the alarm and come to the rescue, and
secured the gates for the approaching Athenian heavy infantry.
After this, each of the Athenians as fast as they entered went
against the wall. A few of the Peloponnesian garrison stood their
ground at first, and tried to repel the assault, and some of them were
killed; but the main body took fright and fled; the night attack and
the sight of the Megarian traitors in arms against them making them
think that all Megara had gone over to the enemy. It so happened
also that the Athenian herald of his own idea called out and invited
any of the Megarians that wished, to join the Athenian ranks; and this
was no sooner heard by the garrison than they gave way, and, convinced
that they were the victims of a concerted attack, took refuge in
Nisaea. By daybreak, the walls being now taken and the Megarians in
the city in great agitation, the persons who had negotiated with the
Athenians, supported by the rest of the popular party which was
privy to the plot, said that they ought to open the gates and march
out to battle. It had been concerted between them that the Athenians
should rush in, the moment that the gates were opened, while the
conspirators were to be distinguished from the rest by being
anointed with oil, and so to avoid being hurt. They could open the
gates with more security, as four thousand Athenian heavy infantry

Previous | Next
Site Search