The History of the Peloponnesian War
Page: 120At the close of the same summer the Athenians sent twenty ships under the command of Laches, son of Melanopus, and Charoeades, son of Euphiletus, to Sicily, where the Syracusans and Leontines were at war. The Syracusans had for allies all the Dorian cities except Camarina—these had been included in the Lacedaemonian confederacy from the commencement of the war, though they had not taken any active part in it—the Leontines had Camarina and the Chalcidian cities. In Italy the Locrians were for the Syracusans, the Rhegians for their Leontine kinsmen. The allies of the Leontines now sent to Athens and appealed to their ancient alliance and to their Ionian origin, to persuade the Athenians to send them a fleet, as the Syracusans were blockading them by land and sea. The Athenians sent it upon the plea of their common descent, but in reality to prevent the exportation of Sicilian corn to Peloponnese and to test the possibility of bringing Sicily into subjection. Accordingly they established themselves at Rhegium in Italy, and from thence carried on the war in concert with their allies.
Year of the War—Campaigns of Demosthenes in Western Greece—Ruin of Ambracia
Summer was now over. The winter following, the plague a second time attacked the Athenians; for although it had never entirely left them, still there had been a notable abatement in its ravages. The second visit lasted no less than a year, the first having lasted two; and nothing distressed the Athenians and reduced their power more than this. No less than four thousand four hundred heavy infantry in the ranks died of it and three hundred cavalry, besides a number of the multitude that was never ascertained. At the same time took place the numerous earthquakes in Athens, Euboea, and Boeotia, particularly at Orchomenus in the last-named country.
The same winter the Athenians in Sicily and the Rhegians, with thirty ships, made an expedition against the islands of Aeolus; it being impossible to invade them in summer, owing to the want of water. These islands are occupied by the Liparaeans, a Cnidian colony, who live in one of them of no great size called Lipara; and from this as their headquarters cultivate the rest, Didyme, Strongyle, and Hiera. In Hiera the people in those parts believe that Hephaestus has his forge, from the quantity of flame which they see it send out by night, and of smoke by day. These islands lie off the coast of the Sicels and Messinese, and were allies of the Syracusans. The Athenians laid waste their land, and as the inhabitants did not submit, sailed back to Rhegium. Thus the winter ended, and with it ended the fifth year of this war, of which Thucydides was the historian.
The next summer the Peloponnesians and their allies set out to invade Attica under the command of Agis, son of Archidamus, and went as far as the Isthmus, but numerous earthquakes occurring, turned back again without the invasion taking place. About the same time that these earthquakes were so common, the sea at Orobiae, in Euboea, retiring from the then line of coast, returned in a huge wave and invaded a great part of the town, and retreated leaving some of it still under water; so that what was once land is now sea; such of the inhabitants perishing as could not run up to the higher ground in time. A similar inundation also occurred at Atalanta, the island off the Opuntian Locrian coast, carrying away part of the Athenian fort and wrecking one of two ships which were drawn up on the beach. At Peparethus also the sea retreated a little, without however any inundation following; and an earthquake threw down part of the wall, the town hall, and a few other buildings. The cause, in my opinion, of this phenomenon must be sought in the earthquake. At the point where its shock has been the most violent, the sea is driven back and, suddenly recoiling with redoubled force, causes the inundation. Without an earthquake I do not see how such an accident could happen.