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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   


The generals of the Syracusans, who did not want confidence, and who
had intended even without this to march on Catana, believed the man
without any sufficient inquiry, fixed at once a day upon which they
would be there, and dismissed him, and the Selinuntines and others
of their allies having now arrived, gave orders for all the Syracusans
to march out in mass. Their preparations completed, and the time fixed
for their arrival being at hand, they set out for Catana, and passed
the night upon the river Symaethus, in the Leontine territory.
Meanwhile the Athenians no sooner knew of their approach than they
took all their forces and such of the Sicels or others as had joined
them, put them on board their ships and boats, and sailed by night
to Syracuse. Thus, when morning broke the Athenians were landing
opposite the Olympieum ready to seize their camping ground, and the
Syracusan horse having ridden up first to Catana and found that all
the armament had put to sea, turned back and told the infantry, and
then all turned back together, and went to the relief of the city.
In the meantime, as the march before the Syracusans was a long
one, the Athenians quietly sat down their army in a convenient
position, where they could begin an engagement when they pleased,
and where the Syracusan cavalry would have least opportunity of
annoying them, either before or during the action, being fenced off on
one side by walls, houses, trees, and by a marsh, and on the other
by cliffs. They also felled the neighbouring trees and carried them
down to the sea, and formed a palisade alongside of their ships, and
with stones which they picked up and wood hastily raised a fort at
Daskon, the most vulnerable point of their position, and broke down
the bridge over the Anapus. These preparations were allowed to go on
without any interruption from the city, the first hostile force to
appear being the Syracusan cavalry, followed afterwards by all the
foot together. At first they came close up to the Athenian army, and
then, finding that they did not offer to engage, crossed the
Helorine road and encamped for the night.
The next day the Athenians and their allies prepared for battle,
their dispositions being as follows: Their right wing was occupied
by the Argives and Mantineans, the centre by the Athenians, and the
rest of the field by the other allies. Half their army was drawn up
eight deep in advance, half close to their tents in a hollow square,
formed also eight deep, which had orders to look out and be ready to
go to the support of the troops hardest pressed. The camp followers
were placed inside this reserve. The Syracusans, meanwhile, formed
their heavy infantry sixteen deep, consisting of the mass levy of
their own people, and such allies as had joined them, the strongest
contingent being that of the Selinuntines; next to them the cavalry of
the Geloans, numbering two hundred in all, with about twenty horse and
fifty archers from Camarina. The cavalry was posted on their right,
full twelve hundred strong, and next to it the darters. As the
Athenians were about to begin the attack, Nicias went along the lines,
and addressed these words of encouragement to the army and the nations
composing it:
"Soldiers, a long exhortation is little needed by men like
ourselves, who are here to fight in the same battle, the force
itself being, to my thinking, more fit to inspire confidence than a
fine speech with a weak army. Where we have Argives, Mantineans,
Athenians, and the first of the islanders in the ranks together, it
were strange indeed, with so many and so brave companions in arms,
if we did not feel confident of victory; especially when we have
mass levies opposed to our picked troops, and what is more, Siceliots,
who may disdain us but will not stand against us, their skill not
being at all commensurate to their rashness. You may also remember
that we are far from home and have no friendly land near, except
what your own swords shall win you; and here I put before you a motive
just the reverse of that which the enemy are appealing to; their cry
being that they shall fight for their country, mine that we shall
fight for a country that is not ours, where we must conquer or

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