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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   


of their oaths and imploring their assistance, the Athenians became
more eager for the expedition than before. Nicias, perceiving that
it would be now useless to try to deter them by the old line of
argument, but thinking that he might perhaps alter their resolution by
the extravagance of his estimates, came forward a second time and
spoke as follows:
"I see, Athenians, that you are thoroughly bent upon the expedition,
and therefore hope that all will turn out as we wish, and proceed to
give you my opinion at the present juncture. From all that I hear we
are going against cities that are great and not subject to one
another, or in need of change, so as to be glad to pass from
enforced servitude to an easier condition, or in the least likely to
accept our rule in exchange for freedom; and, to take only the
Hellenic towns, they are very numerous for one island. Besides Naxos
and Catana, which I expect to join us from their connection with
Leontini, there are seven others armed at all points just like our own
power, particularly Selinus and Syracuse, the chief objects of our
expedition. These are full of heavy infantry, archers, and darters,
have galleys in abundance and crowds to man them; they have also
money, partly in the hands of private persons, partly in the temples
at Selinus, and at Syracuse first-fruits from some of the barbarians
as well. But their chief advantage over us lies in the number of their
horses, and in the fact that they grow their corn at home instead of
importing it.
"Against a power of this kind it will not do to have merely a weak
naval armament, but we shall want also a large land army to sail
with us, if we are to do anything worthy of our ambition, and are
not to be shut out from the country by a numerous cavalry;
especially if the cities should take alarm and combine, and we
should be left without friends (except the Egestaeans) to furnish us
with horse to defend ourselves with. It would be disgraceful to have
to retire under compulsion, or to send back for reinforcements,
owing to want of reflection at first: we must therefore start from
home with a competent force, seeing that we are going to sail far from
our country, and upon an expedition not like any which you may
undertaken undertaken the quality of allies, among your subject states
here in Hellas, where any additional supplies needed were easily drawn
from the friendly territory; but we are cutting ourselves off, and
going to a land entirely strange, from which during four months in
winter it is not even easy for a messenger get to Athens.
"I think, therefore, that we ought to take great numbers of heavy
infantry, both from Athens and from our allies, and not merely from
our subjects, but also any we may be able to get for love or for money
in Peloponnese, and great numbers also of archers and slingers, to
make head against the Sicilian horse. Meanwhile we must have an
overwhelming superiority at sea, to enable us the more easily to carry
in what we want; and we must take our own corn in merchant vessels,
that is to say, wheat and parched barley, and bakers from the mills
compelled to serve for pay in the proper proportion; in order that
in case of our being weather-bound the armament may not want
provisions, as it is not every city that will be able to entertain
numbers like ours. We must also provide ourselves with everything else
as far as we can, so as not to be dependent upon others; and above all
we must take with us from home as much money as possible, as the
sums talked of as ready at Egesta are readier, you may be sure, in
talk than in any other way.
"Indeed, even if we leave Athens with a force not only equal to that
of the enemy except in the number of heavy infantry in the field,
but even at all points superior to him, we shall still find it
difficult to conquer Sicily or save ourselves. We must not disguise
from ourselves that we go to found a city among strangers and enemies,
and that he who undertakes such an enterprise should be prepared to
become master of the country the first day he lands, or failing in
this to find everything hostile to him. Fearing this, and knowing that

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