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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VIII   

to contrive measures and a tongue to recommend them, did not willingly
come forward in the assembly or upon any public scene, being ill
looked upon by the multitude owing to his reputation for talent; and
who yet was the one man best able to aid in the courts, or before
the assembly, the suitors who required his opinion. Indeed, when he
was afterwards himself tried for his life on the charge of having been
concerned in setting up this very government, when the Four Hundred
were overthrown and hardly dealt with by the commons, he made what
would seem to be the best defence of any known up to my time.
Phrynichus also went beyond all others in his zeal for the
oligarchy. Afraid of Alcibiades, and assured that he was no stranger
to his intrigues with Astyochus at Samos, he held that no oligarchy
was ever likely to restore him, and once embarked in the enterprise,
proved, where danger was to be faced, by far the staunchest of them
all. Theramenes, son of Hagnon, was also one of the foremost of the
subverters of the democracy- a man as able in council as in debate.
Conducted by so many and by such sagacious heads, the enterprise,
great as it was, not unnaturally went forward; although it was no
light matter to deprive the Athenian people of its freedom, almost a
hundred years after the deposition of the tyrants, when it had been
not only not subject to any during the whole of that period, but
accustomed during more than half of it to rule over subjects of its
The assembly ratified the proposed constitution, without a single
opposing voice, and was then dissolved; after which the Four Hundred
were brought into the council chamber in the following way. On account
of the enemy at Decelea, all the Athenians were constantly on the wall
or in the ranks at the various military posts. On that day the persons
not in the secret were allowed to go home as usual, while orders
were given to the accomplices of the conspirators to hang about,
without making any demonstration, at some little distance from the
posts, and in case of any opposition to what was being done, to
seize the arms and put it down. There were also some Andrians and
Tenians, three hundred Carystians, and some of the settlers in
Aegina come with their own arms for this very purpose, who had
received similar instructions. These dispositions completed, the
Four Hundred went, each with a dagger concealed about his person,
accompanied by one hundred and twenty Hellenic youths, whom they
employed wherever violence was needed, and appeared before the
Councillors of the Bean in the council chamber, and told them to
take their pay and be gone; themselves bringing it for the whole of
the residue of their term of office, and giving it to them as they
went out.
Upon the Council withdrawing in this way without venturing any
objection, and the rest of the citizens making no movement, the Four
Hundred entered the council chamber, and for the present contented
themselves with drawing lots for their Prytanes, and making their
prayers and sacrifices to the gods upon entering office, but
afterwards departed widely from the democratic system of government,
and except that on account of Alcibiades they did not recall the
exiles, ruled the city by force; putting to death some men, though not
many, whom they thought it convenient to remove, and imprisoning and
banishing others. They also sent to Agis, the Lacedaemonian king, at
Decelea, to say that they desired to make peace, and that he might
reasonably be more disposed to treat now that he had them to deal with
instead of the inconstant commons.
Agis, however, did not believe in the tranquillity of the city, or
that the commons would thus in a moment give up their ancient liberty,
but thought that the sight of a large Lacedaemonian force would be
sufficient to excite them if they were not already in commotion, of
which he was by no means certain. He accordingly gave to the envoys of
the Four Hundred an answer which held out no hopes of an
accommodation, and sending for large reinforcements from
Peloponnese, not long afterwards, with these and his garrison from

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