Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Thucydides
Pages of History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI

Previous | Next

History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   

hardly get away, as we shall have their horse upon us in great
numbers. Remember, therefore, your renown, and go boldly against the
enemy, thinking the present strait and necessity more terrible than
After this address Nicias at once led on the army. The Syracusans
were not at that moment expecting an immediate engagement, and some
had even gone away to the town, which was close by; these now ran up
as hard as they could and, though behind time, took their places
here or there in the main body as fast as they joined it. Want of zeal
or daring was certainly not the fault of the Syracusans, either in
this or the other battles, but although not inferior in courage, so
far as their military science might carry them, when this failed
them they were compelled to give up their resolution also. On the
present occasion, although they had not supposed that the Athenians
would begin the attack, and although constrained to stand upon their
defence at short notice, they at once took up their arms and
advanced to meet them. First, the stone-throwers, slingers, and
archers of either army began skirmishing, and routed or were routed by
one another, as might be expected between light troops; next,
soothsayers brought forward the usual victims, and trumpeters urged on
the heavy infantry to the charge; and thus they advanced, the
Syracusans to fight for their country, and each individual for his
safety that day and liberty hereafter; in the enemy's army, the
Athenians to make another's country theirs and to save their own
from suffering by their defeat; the Argives and independent allies
to help them in getting what they came for, and to earn by victory
another sight of the country they had left behind; while the subject
allies owed most of their ardour to the desire of self-preservation,
which they could only hope for if victorious; next to which, as a
secondary motive, came the chance of serving on easier terms, after
helping the Athenians to a fresh conquest.
The armies now came to close quarters, and for a long while fought
without either giving ground. Meanwhile there occurred some claps of
thunder with lightning and heavy rain, which did not fail to add to
the fears of the party fighting for the first time, and very little
acquainted with war; while to their more experienced adversaries these
phenomena appeared to be produced by the time of year, and much more
alarm was felt at the continued resistance of the enemy. At last the
Argives drove in the Syracusan left, and after them the Athenians
routed the troops opposed to them, and the Syracusan army was thus cut
in two and betook itself to flight. The Athenians did not pursue
far, being held in check by the numerous and undefeated Syracusan
horse, who attacked and drove back any of their heavy infantry whom
they saw pursuing in advance of the rest; in spite of which the
victors followed so far as was safe in a body, and then went back
and set up a trophy. Meanwhile the Syracusans rallied at the
Helorine road, where they re-formed as well as they could under the
circumstances, and even sent a garrison of their own citizens to the
Olympieum, fearing that the Athenians might lay hands on some of the
treasures there. The rest returned to the town.
The Athenians, however, did not go to the temple, but collected
their dead and laid them upon a pyre, and passed the night upon the
field. The next day they gave the enemy back their dead under truce,
to the number of about two hundred and sixty, Syracusans and allies,
and gathered together the bones of their own, some fifty, Athenians
and allies, and taking the spoils of the enemy, sailed back to Catana.
It was now winter; and it did not seem possible for the moment to
carry on the war before Syracuse, until horse should have been sent
for from Athens and levied among the allies in Sicily- to do away
with their utter inferiority in cavalry- and money should have been
collected in the country and received from Athens, and until some of
the cities, which they hoped would be now more disposed to listen to
them after the battle, should have been brought over, and corn and all
other necessaries provided, for a campaign in the spring against

Previous | Next
Site Search