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The History of the Peloponnesian War

Page: 95

"Respect, therefore, the hopes placed in you by the Hellenes, and that Olympian Zeus, in whose temple we stand as very suppliants; become the allies and defenders of the Mitylenians, and do not sacrifice us, who put our lives upon the hazard, in a cause in which general good will result to all from our success, and still more general harm if we fail through your refusing to help us; but be the men that the Hellenes think you, and our fears desire."

Such were the words of the Mitylenians. After hearing them out, the Lacedaemonians and confederates granted what they urged, and took the Lesbians into alliance, and deciding in favour of the invasion of Attica, told the allies present to march as quickly as possible to the Isthmus with two-thirds of their forces; and arriving there first themselves, got ready hauling machines to carry their ships across from Corinth to the sea on the side of Athens, in order to make their attack by sea and land at once. However, the zeal which they displayed was not imitated by the rest of the confederates, who came in but slowly, being engaged in harvesting their corn and sick of making expeditions.

Meanwhile the Athenians, aware that the preparations of the enemy were due to his conviction of their weakness, and wishing to show him that he was mistaken, and that they were able, without moving the Lesbian fleet, to repel with ease that with which they were menaced from Peloponnese, manned a hundred ships by embarking the citizens of Athens, except the knights and Pentacosiomedimni, and the resident aliens; and putting out to the Isthmus, displayed their power, and made descents upon Peloponnese wherever they pleased. A disappointment so signal made the Lacedaemonians think that the Lesbians had not spoken the truth; and embarrassed by the non-appearance of the confederates, coupled with the news that the thirty ships round Peloponnese were ravaging the lands near Sparta, they went back home. Afterwards, however, they got ready a fleet to send to Lesbos, and ordering a total of forty ships from the different cities in the league, appointed Alcidas to command the expedition in his capacity of high admiral. Meanwhile the Athenians in the hundred ships, upon seeing the Lacedaemonians go home, went home likewise.

If, at the time that this fleet was at sea, Athens had almost the largest number of first-rate ships in commission that she ever possessed at any one moment, she had as many or even more when the war began. At that time one hundred guarded Attica, Euboea, and Salamis; a hundred more were cruising round Peloponnese, besides those employed at Potidaea and in other places; making a grand total of two hundred and fifty vessels employed on active service in a single summer. It was this, with Potidaea, that most exhausted her revenues—Potidaea being blockaded by a force of heavy infantry (each drawing two drachmae a day, one for himself and another for his servant), which amounted to three thousand at first, and was kept at this number down to the end of the siege; besides sixteen hundred with Phormio who went away before it was over; and the ships being all paid at the same rate. In this way her money was wasted at first; and this was the largest number of ships ever manned by her.


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