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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VIII   

The Eighth Book.

CHAPTER XXIV.

Nineteenth and Twentieth Years of the War -
Revolt of Ionia - Intervention of
Persia - The War in Ionia


WHEN the news was brought to Athens, for a long while they
disbelieved even the most respectable of the soldiers who had
themselves escaped from the scene of action and clearly reported the
matter, a destruction so complete not being thought credible. When the
conviction was forced upon them, they were angry with the orators
who had joined in promoting the expedition, just as if they had not
themselves voted it, and were enraged also with the reciters of
oracles and soothsayers, and all other omen-mongers of the time who
had encouraged them to hope that they should conquer Sicily. Already
distressed at all points and in all quarters, after what had now
happened, they were seized by a fear and consternation quite without
example. It was grievous enough for the state and for every man in his
proper person to lose so many heavy infantry, cavalry, and able-bodied
troops, and to see none left to replace them; but when they saw, also,
that they had not sufficient ships in their docks, or money in the
treasury, or crews for the ships, they began to despair of
salvation. They thought that their enemies in Sicily would immediately
sail with their fleet against Piraeus, inflamed by so signal a
victory; while their adversaries at home, redoubling all their
preparations, would vigorously attack them by sea and land at once,
aided by their own revolted confederates. Nevertheless, with such
means as they had, it was determined to resist to the last, and to
provide timber and money, and to equip a fleet as they best could,
to take steps to secure their confederates and above all Euboea, to
reform things in the city upon a more economical footing, and to elect
a board of elders to advise upon the state of affairs as occasion
should arise. In short, as is the way of a democracy, in the panic
of the moment they were ready to be as prudent as possible.
These resolves were at once carried into effect. Summer was now
over. The winter ensuing saw all Hellas stirring under the
impression of the great Athenian disaster in Sicily. Neutrals now felt
that even if uninvited they ought no longer to stand aloof from the
war, but should volunteer to march against the Athenians, who, as they
severally reflected, would probably have come against them if the
Sicilian campaign had succeeded. Besides, they considered that the war
would now be short, and that it would be creditable for them to take
part in it. Meanwhile the allies of the Lacedaemonians felt all more
anxious than ever to see a speedy end to their heavy labours. But
above all, the subjects of the Athenians showed a readiness to
revolt even beyond their ability, judging the circumstances with
passion, and refusing even to hear of the Athenians being able to last
out the coming summer. Beyond all this, Lacedaemon was encouraged by
the near prospect of being joined in great force in the spring by
her allies in Sicily, lately forced by events to acquire their navy.
With these reasons for confidence in every quarter, the Lacedaemonians
now resolved to throw themselves without reserve into the war,
considering that, once it was happily terminated, they would be
finally delivered from such dangers as that which would have
threatened them from Athens, if she had become mistress of Sicily, and
that the overthrow of the Athenians would leave them in quiet
enjoyment of the supremacy over all Hellas.
Their king, Agis, accordingly set out at once during this winter
with some troops from Decelea, and levied from the allies
contributions for the fleet, and turning towards the Malian Gulf
exacted a sum of money from the Oetaeans by carrying off most of their
cattle in reprisal for their old hostility, and, in spite of the

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