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The History of the Peloponnesian War

Page: 152

The same summer the Megarians in the city, pressed by the hostilities of the Athenians, who invaded their country twice every year with all their forces, and harassed by the incursions of their own exiles at Pegae, who had been expelled in a revolution by the popular party, began to ask each other whether it would not be better to receive back their exiles, and free the town from one of its two scourges. The friends of the emigrants, perceiving the agitation, now more openly than before demanded the adoption of this proposition; and the leaders of the commons, seeing that the sufferings of the times had tired out the constancy of their supporters, entered in their alarm into correspondence with the Athenian generals, Hippocrates, son of Ariphron, and Demosthenes, son of Alcisthenes, and resolved to betray the town, thinking this less dangerous to themselves than the return of the party which they had banished. It was accordingly arranged that the Athenians should first take the long walls extending for nearly a mile from the city to the port of Nisaea, to prevent the Peloponnesians coming to the rescue from that place, where they formed the sole garrison to secure the fidelity of Megara; and that after this the attempt should be made to put into their hands the upper town, which it was thought would then come over with less difficulty.

The Athenians, after plans had been arranged between themselves and their correspondents both as to words and actions, sailed by night to Minoa, the island off Megara, with six hundred heavy infantry under the command of Hippocrates, and took post in a quarry not far off, out of which bricks used to be taken for the walls; while Demosthenes, the other commander, with a detachment of Plataean light troops and another of Peripoli, placed himself in ambush in the precinct of Enyalius, which was still nearer. No one knew of it, except those whose business it was to know that night. A little before daybreak, the traitors in Megara began to act. Every night for a long time back, under pretence of marauding, in order to have a means of opening the gates, they had been used, with the consent of the officer in command, to carry by night a sculling boat upon a cart along the ditch to the sea, and so to sail out, bringing it back again before day upon the cart, and taking it within the wall through the gates, in order, as they pretended, to baffle the Athenian blockade at Minoa, there being no boat to be seen in the harbour. On the present occasion the cart was already at the gates, which had been opened in the usual way for the boat, when the Athenians, with whom this had been concerted, saw it, and ran at the top of their speed from the ambush in order to reach the gates before they were shut again, and while the cart was still there to prevent their being closed; their Megarian accomplices at the same moment killing the guard at the gates. The first to run in was Demosthenes with his Plataeans and Peripoli, just where the trophy now stands; and he was no sooner within the gates than the Plataeans engaged and defeated the nearest party of Peloponnesians who had taken the alarm and come to the rescue, and secured the gates for the approaching Athenian heavy infantry.


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