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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   


considerations urged as a capital argument that if the Syracusans were
allowed to go unpunished for their depopulation of Leontini, to ruin
the allies still left to Athens in Sicily, and to get the whole
power of the island into their hands, there would be a danger of their
one day coming with a large force, as Dorians, to the aid of their
Dorian brethren, and as colonists, to the aid of the Peloponnesians
who had sent them out, and joining these in pulling down the
Athenian empire. The Athenians would, therefore, do well to unite with
the allies still left to them, and to make a stand against the
Syracusans; especially as they, the Egestaeans, were prepared to
furnish money sufficient for the war. The Athenians, hearing these
arguments constantly repeated in their assemblies by the Egestaeans
and their supporters, voted first to send envoys to Egesta, to see
if there was really the money that they talked of in the treasury
and temples, and at the same time to ascertain in what posture was the
war with the Selinuntines.
The envoys of the Athenians were accordingly dispatched to Sicily.
The same winter the Lacedaemonians and their allies, the Corinthians
excepted, marched into the Argive territory, and ravaged a small
part of the land, and took some yokes of oxen and carried off some
corn. They also settled the Argive exiles at Orneae, and left them a
few soldiers taken from the rest of the army; and after making a truce
for a certain while, according to which neither Orneatae nor Argives
were to injure each other's territory, returned home with the army.
Not long afterwards the Athenians came with thirty ships and six
hundred heavy infantry, and the Argives joining them with all their
forces, marched out and besieged the men in Orneae for one day; but
the garrison escaped by night, the besiegers having bivouacked some
way off. The next day the Argives, discovering it, razed Orneae to the
ground, and went back again; after which the Athenians went home in
their ships. Meanwhile the Athenians took by sea to Methone on the
Macedonian border some cavalry of their own and the Macedonian
exiles that were at Athens, and plundered the country of Perdiccas.
Upon this the Lacedaemonians sent to the Thracian Chalcidians, who had
a truce with Athens from one ten days to another, urging them to
join Perdiccas in the war, which they refused to do. And the winter
ended, and with it ended the sixteenth year of this war of which
Thucydides is the historian.
Early in the spring of the following summer the Athenian envoys
arrived from Sicily, and the Egestaeans with them, bringing sixty
talents of uncoined silver, as a month's pay for sixty ships, which
they were to ask to have sent them. The Athenians held an assembly
and, after hearing from the Egestaeans and their own envoys a
report, as attractive as it was untrue, upon the state of affairs
generally, and in particular as to the money, of which, it was said,
there was abundance in the temples and the treasury, voted to send
sixty ships to Sicily, under the command of Alcibiades, son of
Clinias, Nicias, son of Niceratus, and Lamachus, son of Xenophanes,
who were appointed with full powers; they were to help the
Egestaeans against the Selinuntines, to restore Leontini upon
gaining any advantage in the war, and to order all other matters in
Sicily as they should deem best for the interests of Athens. Five days
after this a second assembly was held, to consider the speediest means
of equipping the ships, and to vote whatever else might be required by
the generals for the expedition; and Nicias, who had been chosen to
the command against his will, and who thought that the state was not
well advised, but upon a slight aid specious pretext was aspiring to
the conquest of the whole of Sicily, a great matter to achieve, came
forward in the hope of diverting the Athenians from the enterprise,
and gave them the following counsel:
"Although this assembly was convened to consider the preparations to
be made for sailing to Sicily, I think, notwithstanding, that we
have still this question to examine, whether it be better to send
out the ships at all, and that we ought not to give so little

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