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The History of the Peloponnesian War

Page: 125

Summer was now over. The winter ensuing, the Athenians in Sicily with their Hellenic allies, and such of the Sicel subjects or allies of Syracuse as had revolted from her and joined their army, marched against the Sicel town Inessa, the acropolis of which was held by the Syracusans, and after attacking it without being able to take it, retired. In the retreat, the allies retreating after the Athenians were attacked by the Syracusans from the fort, and a large part of their army routed with great slaughter. After this, Laches and the Athenians from the ships made some descents in Locris, and defeating the Locrians, who came against them with Proxenus, son of Capaton, upon the river Caicinus, took some arms and departed.

The same winter the Athenians purified Delos, in compliance, it appears, with a certain oracle. It had been purified before by Pisistratus the tyrant; not indeed the whole island, but as much of it as could be seen from the temple. All of it was, however, now purified in the following way. All the sepulchres of those that had died in Delos were taken up, and for the future it was commanded that no one should be allowed either to die or to give birth to a child in the island; but that they should be carried over to Rhenea, which is so near to Delos that Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, having added Rhenea to his other island conquests during his period of naval ascendancy, dedicated it to the Delian Apollo by binding it to Delos with a chain.

The Athenians, after the purification, celebrated, for the first time, the quinquennial festival of the Delian games. Once upon a time, indeed, there was a great assemblage of the Ionians and the neighbouring islanders at Delos, who used to come to the festival, as the Ionians now do to that of Ephesus, and athletic and poetical contests took place there, and the cities brought choirs of dancers. Nothing can be clearer on this point than the following verses of Homer, taken from a hymn to Apollo:

   Phoebus, wherever thou strayest, far or near,
   Delos was still of all thy haunts most dear.
   Thither the robed Ionians take their way
   With wife and child to keep thy holiday,
   Invoke thy favour on each manly game,
   And dance and sing in honour of thy name.

That there was also a poetical contest in which the Ionians went to contend, again is shown by the following, taken from the same hymn. After celebrating the Delian dance of the women, he ends his song of praise with these verses, in which he also alludes to himself:

   Well, may Apollo keep you all! and so,
   Sweethearts, good-bye—yet tell me not I go
   Out from your hearts; and if in after hours
   Some other wanderer in this world of ours
   Touch at your shores, and ask your maidens here
   Who sings the songs the sweetest to your ear,
   Think of me then, and answer with a smile,
   'A blind old man of Scio's rocky isle.'


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