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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   


country, horses and arms reviewed in the city to see that nothing
was wanting, and all other steps taken to prepare for a war which
might be upon them at any moment.
Meanwhile the three ships that had been sent on came from Egesta
to the Athenians at Rhegium, with the news that so far from there
being the sums promised, all that could be produced was thirty
talents. The generals were not a little disheartened at being thus
disappointed at the outset, and by the refusal to join in the
expedition of the Rhegians, the people they had first tried to gain
and had had had most reason to count upon, from their relationship
to the Leontines and constant friendship for Athens. If Nicias was
prepared for the news from Egesta, his two colleagues were taken
completely by surprise. The Egestaeans had had recourse to the
following stratagem, when the first envoys from Athens came to inspect
their resources. They took the envoys in question to the temple of
Aphrodite at Eryx and showed them the treasures deposited there:
bowls, wine-ladles, censers, and a large number of other pieces of
plate, which from being in silver gave an impression of wealth quite
out of proportion to their really small value. They also privately
entertained the ships' crews, and collected all the cups of gold and
silver that they could find in Egesta itself or could borrow in the
neighbouring Phoenician and Hellenic towns, and each brought them to
the banquets as their own; and as all used pretty nearly the same, and
everywhere a great quantity of plate was shown, the effect was most
dazzling upon the Athenian sailors, and made them talk loudly of the
riches they had seen when they got back to Athens. The dupes in
question- who had in their turn persuaded the rest- when the news got
abroad that there was not the money supposed at Egesta, were much
blamed by the soldiers.
Meanwhile the generals consulted upon what was to be done. The
opinion of Nicias was to sail with all the armament to Selinus, the
main object of the expedition, and if the Egestaeans could provide
money for the whole force, to advise accordingly; but if they could
not, to require them to supply provisions for the sixty ships that
they had asked for, to stay and settle matters between them and the
Selinuntines either by force or by agreement, and then to coast past
the other cities, and after displaying the power of Athens and proving
their zeal for their friends and allies, to sail home again (unless
they should have some sudden and unexpected opportunity of serving the
Leontines, or of bringing over some of the other cities), and not to
endanger the state by wasting its home resources.
Alcibiades said that a great expedition like the present must not
disgrace itself by going away without having done anything; heralds
must be sent to all the cities except Selinus and Syracuse, and
efforts be made to make some of the Sicels revolt from the Syracusans,
and to obtain the friendship of others, in order to have corn and
troops; and first of all to gain the Messinese, who lay right in the
passage and entrance to Sicily, and would afford an excellent
harbour and base for the army. Thus, after bringing over the towns and
knowing who would be their allies in the war, they might at length
attack Syracuse and Selinus; unless the latter came to terms with
Egesta and the former ceased to oppose the restoration of Leontini.
Lamachus, on the other hand, said that they ought to sail straight
to Syracuse, and fight their battle at once under the walls of the
town while the people were still unprepared, and the panic at its
height. Every armament was most terrible at first; if it allowed
time to run on without showing itself, men's courage revived, and they
saw it appear at last almost with indifference. By attacking suddenly,
while Syracuse still trembled at their coming, they would have the
best chance of gaining a victory for themselves and of striking a
complete panic into the enemy by the aspect of their numbers- which
would never appear so considerable as at present- by the anticipation
of coming disaster, and above all by the immediate danger of the
engagement. They might also count upon surprising many in the fields

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