Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

time enough. They therefore did not quit their oars, even when they took sustenance, but eat and drank as they rowed, and took their rest alternately ; and very happily for them, the wind was favourable. The first galley had got a day and night's sail before them, but as those on board carried ill news, they did not make great haste. Its arrival before the city had spread the utmost consternation in every part of it; but it increased infinitely, when the decree, by which all the citizens were sentenced to die, was read in a full assembly. Nothing was now beard in all places but cries and loud lamentation. The moment the sentence was about to be put in execution, advice came that a second galley had arrived. Immediately the cruel massacre was suspended. The assembly was again convened ; and the decree which granted a pardon was listened to with a silence and joy, that is much easier conceived than expressed.

All the factious Mityleneans, though upwards of a thousand, were put to death. The city was afterwards dismantled, the ships delivered up, and the whole island, the city of Methymna excepted, was divided into three thousand parts or portions, three hundred of which were consecrated to the service of the gods; and the rest divided by lot among such Athenians as were sent thither, to whom the natives of the country gave a revenue of two minæ for every portion; on which condition they were permitted to keep possession of the island, but not as proprietors.* The cities which belonged to the Mityleneans on the coast of Asia, were all subjected by the Athenians.

During the winter of the preceding campaign, the inhabitants of Platææ, having lost all hopes of succour, and being in the utmost want of provisions formed a resolution to cut their way through the enemy; but half of them, struck with the greatness of the danger, and the boldness of the enterprise, entirely lost courage when they came to the execution ; the rest, who were about two hundred and twenty soldiers, persisted in their resolution, and escaped in the following manner.

Before I begin the relation of their escape, it will be proper to inform my readers, in what sense I use certain expressions I shall employ in it. In strictness of speech, the line or fortification which is made round a city when besieged, to prevent sallies, is called contravallation ; and that which is made to prevent any succours from without, is named circumvallation. Both these fortifications were used in the siege ; however, for brevity's sake I shall use only the former term.

Ť be contravallation consisted of two walls, at sixteen feet distance one from the other. The space between the two walls, heing a kind of platform or terrace, seemed to be but one single building, and composed a range of cazerms or barracks, where the soldiers had their lodgings. Lofty towers were built around at proper distances, extending from one wall to the other, in order that they might be able to defend themselves at the same time against any attack from within and without. There was no going from one cazern to another without crossing those towers ; and on the top of the wall was a parapet on both sides, where a guard was commonly kept; but in rainy weather, the soldiers used to shelter themselves in the towers, which served the purpose of guard-houses. Such was the contravallation, having on both sides a ditch, the earth of which had been employed in making the bricks of the wall.

The besieged first took the height of the wall by counting the rows of bricks which composed it; and this they did at different times, and employed several men for that purpose, in order that they might not mistake in the calculation. Inis was the easier, because, as the wall stood but at a short distance, every part of it was very visible. They then made ladders of a proper length.

All things being now ready for executing the design, the besieged left the city on a dark night, in the midst of a storm of wind and rain. After crossing

* The Attic minæ was worth a hundred drachms, that is, fifty French livres or $9, 37.

+ Thucyd. I. iii. p. 185-188.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

the first ditch, they drew near to the wall undiscovered through the darkness of the night : not to mention that the noise made by the wind and rain prevented their being heard. They marched at some distance from one another, to prevent the clashing of their arms, which were light, in order that those whó carried them might be the more active ; and one of their legs was naked tu keep them from slipping so easily in the mire. Those who carried the ladders placed them in the space between the towers, where they knew no guard was posted, because it rained. That instant twelve men mounted the ladders, arined with only a coat of mail and a dagger, and marched directly to the tow ers, six on each side. They were followed by soldiers armed only with jave. lins, that they might mount the easier; and their shields were carried after them to be used in the charge.

When most of these were got to the top of the wall, they were discovered by the falling of a tile, which one of their comrades, in taking hold of the parapet, had thrown down. The alarm was immediately given from the towers, and the whole camp approached the wall without discovering the occasion of the outcry, from the gloom of the night, and the violence of the storm. Besides which, those who had staid behind in the city, beat an alarm at the same time in another quarter, to make a diversion ; so that the enemy did not know which way to turn themselves, and were afraid to quit their posts. But a corps of reserve, of three hundred men who were kept for any unforseen accident that might happen, quitted the contravallation, and ran to that part where they heard the noise ; and torches were held up towards Thebes, to show that they must run that way. But those in the city, to render the signal of no use, made others at the same time in different quarters, having prepared them on the wall for that purpose.

In the mean time, those who had mounted first having possessed themselves of the two towers which flanked the interval where the ladders were set, and having killed those who guarded them, posted themselves there to defend the passage and keep off the besiegers." Then, setting ladders from the top of the wall against the two towers, they caused a great number of their comrades to mount in order to keep off, by the discharge of their arrows, as well those who were advancing, to the foot of the wall, as the others who were hastening from the neighbouring towers. While this was doing, they had time to set several ladders, and to throw down the parapet, that the rest might come up with greater ease. As fast as they came up, they went down on the other side and drew up near the ditch on the outside, to shoot at those who appeared. After they were passed over, the men who were in the towers came down last, and made to the ditch to follow after the rest.

That instant the guard of three hundred, with torches, came up. However as the Platæans saw their enemies by this light better than they were seen by them, they took a surer aim, by which means the last crossed the ditch, without being attacked in their passage : but this was not done without difficulty, because the ditch was frozen over, and the ice would not bear, on account of the thaw and heavy rains. The violence of the storm was of great advantage to them.

After all were passed, they took the road towards Thebes, the better to conceal their retreat; because it would not appear likely that they had fled towards an enemy's city. Immediately they perceived the besiegers, with torches in their hands, pursuing in the road that led to Athens. After keeping that of Thebes about six or seven stadia,* they turned short towards the mountain, and resumed the route of Athens, where two hundred and twelve arrived, out of two hundred and twenty who had quitted the place; the rest having returned through fear, one archer excepted, who was taken on the side of the ditch of contravallation. The besiegers, after having pursued them to no purpose, returned to their camp.

VOL. II.

* Upwards of a quarter of a league. 11

Cast your

In the mean time, the Platæans who remained in the city, supposing that all their companions had been killed, because those who returned to justify them. selves, affirmed that they were, sent a herald to demand the dead bodies; but being told the true state of the affair, he withdrew.

About the end of the following campaign, which is that wherein Mitylene was taken, the Platæans, being in absolute want of provisions, and unable to make the least defence, surrendered upon condition that they should not be punished till they had been tried and adjudged in due form of justice. Five commissioners came for this purpose from Lacedæmon; and these, without charging them with any crime, barely asked them whether they had done any service to the Lacedæmonians and the allies in this war? the Platæans were much surprised as well as puzzled at this question; and were sensible, that it had been suggested by the Thebans, their professed enemies, who had vowed their destruction. They therefore put the Lacedæmonians in mind of the services they had done to Greece in general, both at the battle of Artemisium and that of Platææ; and particularly in Lacedæmon at the time of the earthquake, which was followed by the revolt of their slaves. The only reason, they declared, of their having joined the Athenians afterwards, was to defend them selves from the hostilities of the Thebans, against whom they had implored the assistance of the Lacedæmonians to no purpose : that if that was inputed, to them for a crime, which was only their misfortune, it ought not however entirely to obliterate the remembrance of their former services. eyes,” said they, on the monuments of your ancestors which you see here, to whom we annually pay all the honours which can be rendered to the manes of the dead. You thought fit to intrust their bodies with us, as we were eyewitnesses of their bravery ; and yet

you will now give up their ashes to their murderers, in abandoning us to the Thebans, who fought against them at the battle of Platææ. Will

you enslave a province where Greece recovered its liberty ? Will you destroy the temples of those gods to whom you owe the victory? Will you abolish the memory of their founders, who contributed so greatly to your safety? On this occasion, we may venture to say, our interest is inseparable from your glory; and you cannot deliver up your ancient friends and benefactors to the unjust hatred of the Thebans, without eternal infamy to yourselves."*

One would conclude, that these just remonstrances should have made some impression on the Lacedæmonians; but they were hiassed more by the answer the Thebans made, and which was expressed in the most bitter and baughty terms against the Platæans; and besides, they had brought their instructions from Lacedæmon. They stood therefore to their first question,

" Whether the Platæans had done them any service since the war ?" and making them pass one after another, as they severally answered no, they were immediately butchered, and not one escaped. About two hundred were killed in this manner; and twenty-five Athenians, who were among them, met with the same unhappy fate. Their wives, who had been taken prisoners, were made slaves. The Thebans afterwards peopled their city with exiles from Megara and Platææ ; but the year after they demolished it entirely. It was in this manner the Lacedæmonians, in the hopes of reaping great advantage from the Thebans, sacrificed the Platæans to their animosity, ninety-three years after their first alliance with the Athenians.

In the sixth year of the war of Peloponnesus, the plague broke out anew io Athens, and again swept away great numbers.t SECTION IV. THE ATHENIANS POSSESS THEMSELVES OF PYLUS, &c. SIXTA

AND SEVENTH YEARS OF THE WAR.

I pass over several particular incidents of the succeeding campaigns, which anver very little from one another; the Lacedæmonians making regularly every

• Thucyd. 1. iii. p. 203220, Diod. l. xii. p. 109. 1 A. M 9502 Ant. J. C. 426. Thucyd. 1. riji.

Р.

23

the

spot, in

year incursions into Attica, and the Athenians into Peloponnesus: I likewise omit some sieges in different places : that of Pylus, a little city of Messenia, only four hundred furlongs* from Lacedæmon, was one of the most considerable. The Athenians, headed by Demosthenes, had taken that city, and fortified themselves very strongly in it; this was the seventh year of the war. The Lacedæmonians left Attica immediately, in order to go and recover, if possible, that place, and accordingly they attacked it both by sea and land. Brasidas, one of their leaders, signalized himself here by the most extraordinary acts of bravery. Opposite to the city was a little island called Sphacteria, whence the besieged might be greatly annoyed, and the entrance of the barbour shut up. They therefore threw a chosen body of Lacedæmonians into it; making in all, four hundred and twenty, exclusive of the Helots. A battle was fought at sea, in which tbe Athenians were victorious, and accordingly erected a trophy. They surrounded the island, and set a guard in every part of it, to prevent any of the inhabitants from going out, or any provisions from being brought in to them.t

The news of the defeat being carried to Sparta, the magistrate thought the affair of the utmost importance, and therefore came himself upon order that he might be better able to take proper measures; when, concluding that it would be impossible for him to save those who were on the island, and that they at last must necessarily be starved out, or be taken by some other means, he proposed an accommodation. A suspension of arms was concluded, in order to give the Lacedæmonians time to send to Athens ; but upon condition that in the mean time they should surrender up all their galleys, and not attack the place either by sea or land, till the return of the ambassadors: that if they complied with these conditions, the Athenians would permit them to carry provisions to thuse who were in the island, at the rate of so much for the master, and half for the servant ;f and that the whole should be done publicly, and in sight of both armies; that, on the other side, the Athenians should be allowed to keep guard round the island, to prevent any thing from going in or out of it, but should not attack it in any manner; that in case this agreement should be infringed in the least, the truce should be broken; otherwise, that it should continue in full force till the return of the ambassadors, whom the Athenians obliged themselves, by the articles, to convey backwards and forwards ; and that then the Lacedæmonians should have their ships restored, in the same condition in which they had been delivered up. Such were the articles of the treaty. The Lacedæmonians began to put it in execution, by surrendering about sixty ships; after which they sent ambassadors to Athens.

Being admitted to an audience before the people, they began by saying, that they had come to the Athenians to sue for that peace which they themselves were, a little before, in a condition to grant : that they now might acquire the glory of having restored the tranquillity of all Greece, as the Lacedæmonians consented to their being arbitrators in this treaty: that the danger to which their citizens were exposed in the island, had determined them to take such a step as could not but be very grating to the Lacedæmonians : however, that their affairs were far from deing desperate : and therefore, that now was the time to establish, between the two republics, a firm and solid friendship, because the affairs of both were still fluctuating, and fortune had not yet declared i bsolutely in favour of either: that the gods frequently abandoned those whom success makes proud, by changing the scene, and rendering them as unfortunate as they before had been happy: that they ought to consider, that the fortune of war is very uncertain ; and that the means to establish a lasting peace, is not to triumph over an enemy by oppressing him, but to agree to a reconciliation on just and reasonable terms, for then, conquered by generosity

* Twenty French leagues. † A. M. 3579. Ant. J. C. 425. Thucyd. 1. iv, p. 253–280. Diod. 1. xii. p. 112-124. For the masters, two choices of flour, making about four pounds and a hall, two cotyles, or half piats of wine, and a piece of mcat, with half this quantity for the scrvants.

and not by violence, his future thoughts being all employed, not on revenge, but on gratitude, he is delighted, and thinks it his duty to observe his engagements with inviolable fidelity:

The Athenians had now a happy opportunity for terminating the war, by a peace which would have been as glorious to them, as advantageous to all Greece. But Cleon, who had a great power over the people, prevented its taking effect. They therefore answered, by his advice, that those who were in the island should first surrender at discretion, and afterwards be carried to Athens, on the condition of being sent back from it, as soon as the Lacedæmonians should bave restored the cities, &c. which the Athenians had been forced to give up by the last treaty; and that these things being done, a firm and lasting peace should be concluded. The Lacedæmonians demanded that deputies should be appointed, and that the Athenians should engage to ratify what they should conclude. But Cleon exclaimed against this proposal, and said, it was plain they did not deal fairly, since they would not negotiate with the people, but with particular men, whom they might easily bribe : and that, if they had any thing to offer, they should do it immediately. The Lacedæmonians, finding there was no possibility for them to treat with the people without advising with their allies, and that if any thing had been granted by them to their prejudice, they must be responsible for it, went away without concluding any thing ; fully persuaded that they must not expect equitable treatment from the Athenians, in the present state of their affairs and dispositions consequent on prosperity:

As soon as they were returned to Pylus, the suspension ceased : but when the Lacedæmonians came to demand back their ships, the Athenians refused to give them up, upon pretence that the treaty had been infringed in some particulars of little consequence. The Lacedæmonians inveighed strongly against this refusal, as being a manifest perfidy; and immediately prepared for war with greater vigour and animosity than before. A baughty deportment in success, and want of faith in the observation of treaties, never fail, eventually, to involve a people in great calamities. This will appear by what follows.

The Athenians continued to keep a strict guard round the island, to prevent any provisions from being ught into it, and hoped they should soon be able to starve out the inhabitants. But the Lacedæmonians engaged the whole country in their interest by the views of gain, laying a heavy tax upon provisions, and giving such slaves their freedoin as should bring any into it. Provisions were therefore now brought at the hazard of men's lives, from all parts of Peloponnesus. There were even many who swam from the coast to the island, opposite to the harbour, and drew after them goats skins filled with pounded linseed, and poppies mixed with honey.

Those who were besieged in Pylus were reduced to almost the like extremi. ties, being in want of both water and provisions. When advice was brought to Athens, that their countrymen, so far from reducing the enemy by famine, were themselves almost starved, it was feared, that as it would not be possible for the fleet to subsist during the winter, on a desert coast which belonged to the enemy, nor to lie at anchor in so dangerous a road, the island must by that means be less securely guarded, which would give the prisoners an opportunity of escaping. But the circumstance they chiefly dreaded was, that the Lacedæmonians, after their countrymen were once extricated from their danger, would refuse to hearken to any conditions of peace; so that they now repented their having refused it when offered them.

Cleon saw plainly that these complaints would all fall on him. He therefore began by asserting, that it was all a false report concerning the extreme want of provisions, to which the Athenians, both within and without Pylus, were said to be reduced. He next exclaimed, in presence of the people, against the supineness and inactivity of the leaders who besieged the island, pretending that were they to exert the least bravery, they might soon take the island; and that had he commanded, he would soon have taken ita Upon this

« ZurückWeiter »