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The History of the Peloponnesian War

Page: 133

Thus encouraged by Demosthenes, the Athenians felt more confident, and went down to meet the enemy, posting themselves along the edge of the sea. The Lacedaemonians now put themselves in movement and simultaneously assaulted the fortification with their land forces and with their ships, forty-three in number, under their admiral, Thrasymelidas, son of Cratesicles, a Spartan, who made his attack just where Demosthenes expected. The Athenians had thus to defend themselves on both sides, from the land and from the sea; the enemy rowing up in small detachments, the one relieving the other—it being impossible for many to bring to at once—and showing great ardour and cheering each other on, in the endeavour to force a passage and to take the fortification. He who most distinguished himself was Brasidas. Captain of a galley, and seeing that the captains and steersmen, impressed by the difficulty of the position, hung back even where a landing might have seemed possible, for fear of wrecking their vessels, he shouted out to them, that they must never allow the enemy to fortify himself in their country for the sake of saving timber, but must shiver their vessels and force a landing; and bade the allies, instead of hesitating in such a moment to sacrifice their ships for Lacedaemon in return for her many benefits, to run them boldly aground, land in one way or another, and make themselves masters of the place and its garrison.

Not content with this exhortation, he forced his own steersman to run his ship ashore, and stepping on to the gangway, was endeavouring to land, when he was cut down by the Athenians, and after receiving many wounds fainted away. Falling into the bows, his shield slipped off his arm into the sea, and being thrown ashore was picked up by the Athenians, and afterwards used for the trophy which they set up for this attack. The rest also did their best, but were not able to land, owing to the difficulty of the ground and the unflinching tenacity of the Athenians. It was a strange reversal of the order of things for Athenians to be fighting from the land, and from Laconian land too, against Lacedaemonians coming from the sea; while Lacedaemonians were trying to land from shipboard in their own country, now become hostile, to attack Athenians, although the former were chiefly famous at the time as an inland people and superior by land, the latter as a maritime people with a navy that had no equal.

After continuing their attacks during that day and most of the next, the Peloponnesians desisted, and the day after sent some of their ships to Asine for timber to make engines, hoping to take by their aid, in spite of its height, the wall opposite the harbour, where the landing was easiest. At this moment the Athenian fleet from Zacynthus arrived, now numbering fifty sail, having been reinforced by some of the ships on guard at Naupactus and by four Chian vessels. Seeing the coast and the island both crowded with heavy infantry, and the hostile ships in harbour showing no signs of sailing out, at a loss where to anchor, they sailed for the moment to the desert island of Prote, not far off, where they passed the night. The next day they got under way in readiness to engage in the open sea if the enemy chose to put out to meet them, being determined in the event of his not doing so to sail in and attack him. The Lacedaemonians did not put out to sea, and having omitted to close the inlets as they had intended, remained quiet on shore, engaged in manning their ships and getting ready, in the case of any one sailing in, to fight in the harbour, which is a fairly large one.


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