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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   


we shall have need of much good counsel and more good fortune- a hard
matter for mortal man to aspire to- I wish as far as may be to make
myself independent of fortune before sailing, and when I do sail, to
be as safe as a strong force can make me. This I believe to be
surest for the country at large, and safest for us who are to go on
the expedition. If any one thinks differently I resign to him my
command."
With this Nicias concluded, thinking that he should either disgust
the Athenians by the magnitude of the undertaking, or, if obliged to
sail on the expedition, would thus do so in the safest way possible.
The Athenians, however, far from having their taste for the voyage
taken away by the burdensomeness of the preparations, became more
eager for it than ever; and just the contrary took place of what
Nicias had thought, as it was held that he had given good advice,
and that the expedition would be the safest in the world. All alike
fell in love with the enterprise. The older men thought that they
would either subdue the places against which they were to sail, or
at all events, with so large a force, meet with no disaster; those
in the prime of life felt a longing for foreign sights and spectacles,
and had no doubt that they should come safe home again; while the idea
of the common people and the soldiery was to earn wages at the moment,
and make conquests that would supply a never-ending fund of pay for
the future. With this enthusiasm of the majority, the few that liked
it not, feared to appear unpatriotic by holding up their hands against
it, and so kept quiet.
At last one of the Athenians came forward and called upon Nicias and
told him that he ought not to make excuses or put them off, but say at
once before them all what forces the Athenians should vote him. Upon
this he said, not without reluctance, that he would advise upon that
matter more at leisure with his colleagues; as far however as he could
see at present, they must sail with at least one hundred galleys- the
Athenians providing as many transports as they might determine, and
sending for others from the allies- not less than five thousand heavy
infantry in all, Athenian and allied, and if possible more; and the
rest of the armament in proportion; archers from home and from
Crete, and slingers, and whatever else might seem desirable, being got
ready by the generals and taken with them.
Upon hearing this the Athenians at once voted that the generals
should have full powers in the matter of the numbers of the army and
of the expedition generally, to do as they judged best for the
interests of Athens. After this the preparations began; messages being
sent to the allies and the rolls drawn up at home. And as the city had
just recovered from the plague and the long war, and a number of young
men had grown up and capital had accumulated by reason of the truce,
everything was the more easily provided.
In the midst of these preparations all the stone Hermae in the
city of Athens, that is to say the customary square figures, so common
in the doorways of private houses and temples, had in one night most
of them their fares mutilated. No one knew who had done it, but
large public rewards were offered to find the authors; and it was
further voted that any one who knew of any other act of impiety having
been committed should come and give information without fear of
consequences, whether he were citizen, alien, or slave. The matter was
taken up the more seriously, as it was thought to be ominous for the
expedition, and part of a conspiracy to bring about a revolution and
to upset the democracy.
Information was given accordingly by some resident aliens and body
servants, not about the Hermae but about some previous mutilations
of other images perpetrated by young men in a drunken frolic, and of
mock celebrations of the mysteries, averred to take place in private
houses. Alcibiades being implicated in this charge, it was taken
hold of by those who could least endure him, because he stood in the
way of their obtaining the undisturbed direction of the people, and
who thought that if he were once removed the first place would be

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