Hellenica (Xenophon)/Book 6/Chapter 2

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Hellenica (Xenophon) by Xenophon, translated by H. G. Dakyns
Book 6, Chapter 2

B.C. 374. 1The Lacedaemonians and their allies were collecting in Phocia, and the Thebans, after retreating into their own territory, were guarding the approaches. At this juncture the Athenians, seeing the Thebans growing strong at their expense without contributing a single penny to the maintenance of the fleet, while they themselves, what with money contributions, and piratical attacks from Aegina, and the garrisoning of their territory, were being pared to the bone, conceived a desire to cease from war. In this mood they sent an embassy to Lacedaemon and concluded peace.[1]

B.C. 374-373. 2This done, two of the ambassadors, in obedience to a decree of the state, set sail at once from Laconian territory, bearing orders to Timotheus to sail home, since peace was established. That officer, while obeying his orders, availed himself of the homeward voyage to land certain Zacynthian exiles[2] on their native soil, 3whereupon the Zacynthian city party sent to Lacedaemon and complained of the treatment they had received from Timotheus; and the Lacedaemonians, without further consideration, decided that the Athenians were in the wrong, and proceeded to equip another navy, and at length collected from Laconia itself, from Corinth, Leucas,[3] Ambracia, Elis, Zacynthus, Achaia, Epidaurus, Troezen, Hermione, and Halieis, a force amounting to sixty sail. 4In command of this squadron they appointed Mnasippus admiral, with orders to attack Corcyra, and in general to look after their interests in those seas. They, moreover, sent an embassy to Dionysius, instructing him that his interests would be advanced by the withdrawal of Corcyra from Athenian hands.

B.C. 373. 5Accordingly Mnasippus set sail, as soon as his squadron was ready, direct to Corcyra; he took with him, besides his troops from Lacedaemon, a body of mercenaries, making a total in all of no less than fifteen hundred men. 6His disembarked, and soon became master of the island, the country district falling a prey to the spoiler. It was in a high state of cultivation, and rich with fruit-trees, not to speak of magnificent dwelling-houses and wine-cellars fitted up on the farms: so that, it was said, the soldiers reached such a pitch of luxury that they refused to drink wine which had not a fine bouquet. A crowd of slaves, too, and fat beasts were captured on the estates.

7The general's next move was to encamp with his land forces about three-quarters of a mile[4] from the city district, so that any Corcyraean who attempted to leave the city to go into the country would certainly be cut off on that side. The fleet he stationed on the other side of the city, at a point where he calculated on detecting and preventing the approach of convoys. Besides which he established a blockade in front of the harbour when the weather permitted. 8In this way the city was completely invested.

The Corcyraeans, on their side, were in the sorest straits. They could get nothing from their soil owing to the vice in which they were gripped by land, whilst owing to the predominance of the enemy at sea nothing could be imported. 9Accordingly they sent to the Athenians and begged for their assistance. They urged upon them that it would be a great mistake if they suffered themselves to be robbed of Corcyra. If they did so, they would not only throw away a great advantage to themselves, but add a considerable strength to their enemy; since, with the exception of Athens, no state was capable of furnishing a larger fleet or revenue. Moreover, Corcyra lay favourably[5] for commanding the Corinthian gulf and the cities which line its shores; it was splendidly situated for injuring the rural districts of Laconia, and still more splendidly in relation to the opposite shores of the continent of Epirus, and the passage between Peloponnesus and Sicily.

10This appeal did not fall on deaf ears. The Athenians were persuaded that the matter demanded their most serious attention, and they at once despatched Stesicles as general,[6] with about six hundred peltasts. They also requested Alcetas to help them in getting their troops across. 11Thus under cover of night the whole body were conveyed across to a point in the open country, and found their way into the city. Nor was that all. The Athenians passed a decree to man sixty ships of war, and elected[7] Timotheus admiral. 12The latter, being unable to man the fleet on the spot, set sail on a cruise to the islands and tried to make up the complements of his crews from those quarters. He evidently looked upon it as no light matter to sail round Peloponnesus as if on a voyage of pleasure, and to attack a fleet in the perfection of training.[8] 13To the Athenians, however, it seemed that he was wasting the precious time seasonable for the coastal voyage, and they were not disposed to condone such an error, but deposed him, appointing Iphicrates in his stead. 14The new general was no sooner appointed than he set about getting his vessels manned with the utmost activity, putting pressure on the trierarchs. He further procured from the Athenians for his use not only any vessels cruising on the coast of Attica, but the Paralus and Salaminia[9] also, remarking that, if things turned out well yonder, he would soon send them back plenty of ships. Thus his numbers grew to something like seventy sail.

15Meanwhile the Corcyraeans were sore beset with famine: desertion became every day more frequent, so much so that Mnasippus caused proclamation to be made by herald that all deserters would be sold there and then;[10] and when that had no effect in lessening the stream of runaways, he ended by driving them back with the lash. Those within the walls, however, were not disposed to receive these miserable slaves within the lines, and numbers died outside. 16Mnasippus, not blind to what was happening, soon persuaded himself that he had as good as got the city into his possession: and he began to try experiments on his mercenaries. Some of them he had already paid off;[11] others still in his service had as much as two months' pay owing to them by the general, who, if report spoke true, had no lack of money, since the majority of the states, not caring for a campaign across the seas, sent him hard cash instead of men. 17But now the beleaguered citizens, who could espy from their towers that the outposts were less carefully guarded than formerly, and the men scattered about the rural districts, made a sortie, capturing some and cutting down others. 18Mnasippus, perceiving the attack, donned his armour, and, with all the heavy troops he had, rushed to the rescue, giving orders to the captains and brigadiers[12] to lead out the mercenaries. 19Some of the captains answered that it was not so easy to command obedience when the necessaries of life were lacking; whereat the Spartan struck one man with his staff, and another with the butt of his spear. Without spirit and full of resentment against their general, the men mustered--a condition very unfavourable to success in battle. 20Having drawn up the troops, the general in person repulsed the division of the enemy which was opposite the gates, and pursued them closely; but these, rallying close under their walls, turned right about, and from under cover of the tombs kept up a continuous discharge of darts and other missiles; other detachments, dashing out at other gates, meanwhile fell heavily on the flanks of the enemy. 21The Lacedaemonians, being drawn up eight deep, and thinking that the wing of their phalanx was of inadeqate strength, essayed to wheel around; but as soon as they began the movement the Corcyraeans attacked them as if they were fleeing, and they were then unable to recover themselves,[13] while the troops next in position abandoned themselves to flight. 22Mnasippus, unable to succour those who were being pressed owing to the attack of the enemy immediately in front, found himself left from moment to moment with decreasing numbers. At last the Corcyraeans collected, and with one united effort made a final rush upon Mnasippus and his men, whose numbers were now considerably reduced. At the same instant the townsmen,[14] eagerly noticing the posture of affairs, rushed out to play their part. 23First Mnasippus was slain, and then the pursuit became general; nor could the pursuers well have failed to capture the camp, barricade and all, had they not caught sight of the mob of traffickers with a long array of attendants and slaves, and thinking that here was a prize indeed, desisted from further chase.

24The Corcyraeans were well content for the moment to set up a trophy and to give back the enemy's dead under a flag of truce; but the after-consequences were even more important to them in the revival of strength and spirits which were sunk in despondency. The rumour spread that Iphicrates would soon be there--he was even at the doors; and in fact the Corcyraeans themselves were manning a fleet. 25So Hypermenes, who was second in command to Mnasippus and the bearer of his despatches, manned every vessel of the fleet as full as it would hold, and then sailing round to the entrenched camp, filled all the transports with prisoners and valuables and other stock, and sent them off. He himself, with his marines and the survivors of his troops, kept watch over the entrenchments; 26but at last even this remnant in the excess of panic and confusion got on board the men-of-war and sailed off, leaving behind them vast quantities of corn and wine, with numerous prisoners and invalided soldiers. The fact was, they were sorely afraid of being caught by the Athenians in the island, and so they made safely off to Leucas.

27Meanwhile Iphicrates had commenced his voyage of circumnavigation, partly voyaging and partly making every preparation for an engagement. He at once left his large sails behind him, as the voyage was only to be the prelude of a battle; his flying jibs, even if there was a good breeze, were but little used, since by making his progres depend on sheer rowing, he hoped at once to improve the physique of his men and the speed of his attack. 28Often when the squadron was about to put into shore for the purpose of breakfast or supper, he would seize the moment, and draw back the leading wing of the column from the land off the point in question; and then facing round again with the triremes posted well in line, prow for prow, at a given signal let loose the whole fleet in a stoutly contested race for the shore. Great was the triumph in being the first to take in water or whatever else they might need, or the first to breakfast; just as it was a heavy penalty on the late-comers, not only to come short in all these objects of desire, but to have to put out to sea with the rest as soon as the signal was given; since the first-comers had altogether a quiet time of it, whilst the hindmost must get through the whole business in hot haste. 29So again, in the matter of outposts, if he chanced to be getting the morning meal on hostile territory, pickets would be posted, as was right and proper, on the land; but, apart from these, he would raise his masts and keep look-out men on the maintops. These commanded of course a far wider prospect from their lofty perches than the outposts on the level ground. So too, when he dined or slept he had no fires burning in the camp at night, but only a beacon kindled in front of the encampment to prevent any unseen approach; and frequently in fine weather he put out to sea immediately after the evening meal, when, if the breeze favoured, they ran along and took their rest simultaneously, or if they depended on oars he gave his mariners repose by turns. 30During the voyage in daytime he would at one time signal to "sail in column," and at another signal "abreast in line." So that whilst they prosecuted the voyage they at the same time became (both as to theory and practice) well versed in all the details of an engagement before they reached the open sea--a sea, as they imagined, occupied by their foes. For the most part they breakfasted and dined on hostile territory; but as he confined himelf to bare necessaries he was always too quick for the enemy. Before the hostile reinforcement would come up he had finished his business and was out to sea again.

31At the date of Mnasippus's death he chanced to be off Sphagiae in Laconian territory. Reaching Elis, and coasting past the mouth of the Alpheus, he came to moorings under Cape Ichthus,[15] as it is called. The next day he put out from that port for Cephallenia, so drawing up his line and conducting the voyage that he might be prepared in every detail to engage if necessary. The tale about Mnasippus and his demise had reached him, but he had not heard it from an eye-witness, and suspected that it might have been invented to deceive him and throw him off his guard. He was therefore on the look-out. It was, in fact, only on arrival in Cephallenia that he learned the news in an explicit form, and gave his troops rest.

32I am well aware that all these details of practice and manouvring are customary in anticipation of a sea-fight, but what I single out for praise in the case before us is the skill with which the Athenian admiral attained a twofold object. Bearing in mind that it was his duty to reach a certain point at which he expected to fight a naval battle without delay, it was a happy discovery on his part not to allow tactical skill, on the one hand, to be sacrificed to the pace of sailing,[16] nor, on the other, the need of training to interfere with the date of arrival.

33After reducing the towns of Cephallenia, Iphicrates sailed to Corcyra. There the first news he heard was that the triremes sent by Dionysius were expected to relieve the Lacedaemonians. On receipt of this information he set off in person and surveyed the country, in order to find a spot from which it would be possible to see the vessels approaching and to signal to the city. 34Here he stationed his look-out men. A code of signals was agreed upon to signify "vessels in sight," "mooring," etc.; which done he gave his orders to twenty of his captains of men-of-war who were to follow him at a given word of command. Any one who failed to follow him must not grumble at the penalty; that he warned them. 35Presently the vessels were signalled approaching; the word of command was given, and then the enthusiasm was a sight to see--every man of the crews told off for the expedition racing to join his ship and embark. Sailing to the point where the enemy's vessels lay, he had no difficulty in capturing the crews, who had disembarked from all the ships with one exception. The exception was that of Melanippus the Rhodian, who had advised the other captains not to stop at this point, and had then manned his own vessel and sailed off. Thus he encountered the ships of Iphicrates, but contrived to slip through his fingers, while the whole of the Syracusan vessels were captured, crews and all.

36Having cut the beaks off the prows, Iphicrates bore down into the harbour of Corcyra with the captured triremes in tow. With the captive crews themselves he came to an agreement that each should pay a fixed sum as ransom, with one exception, that of Crinippus, their commander. Him he kept under guard, with the intention apparently of exacting a handsome sum in his case or else of selling him. The prisoner, however, from vexation of spirit, put an end to his own life. The rest were sent about their business by Iphicrates, who accepted the Corcyraeans as sureties for the money. 37His own sailors he supported for the most part as labourers on the lands of the Corcyraeans, while at the head of his light infantry and the hoplites of the contingent he crossed over into Acarnania, and there lent his aid to any friendly state that needed his services; besides which he went to war with the Thyrians,[17] a sturdy race of warriors in possession of a strong fortress.

B.C. 372. 38Having attached to his squadron the navy also of Corcyra, with a fleet numbering now about ninety ships he set sail, in the first instance to Cephallenia, where he exacted money--which was in some cases voluntarily paid, in others forcibly extorted. In the next place he began making preparations partly to harass the territory of the Lacedaemonians, and partly to win over voluntarily the other states in that quarter which were hostile to Athens; or in case of refusal to go to war with them.

39The whole conduct of the campaign reflects, I think, the highest credit on Iphicrates. If his strategy was admirable, so too was the instinct which led him to advise the association with himself of two such colleagues as Callistratus and Chabrias--the former a popular orator but no great friend of himself politically,[18] the other a man of high military reputation. Either he looked upon them as men of unusual sagacity, and wished to profit by their advice, in which case I commend the good sense of the arrangement, or they were, in his belief, antagonists, in which case the determination to approve himself a consummate general, neither indolent nor incautious, was bold, I admit, but indicative of a laudable self-confidence. Here, however, we must part with Iphicrates and his achievements to return to Athens.

  1. See Curtius, "H. G." vol. iv. p. 376 (Eng. trans.)
  2. See Hicks, 81, p. 142.
  3. Ibid. 81, 86.
  4. Lit. "five stades."
  5. See Thuc. i. 36.
  6. The name of the general was Ctesicles, according to Diod. xv. 47. Read {strategon} for {tagon}, with Breitenbach, Cobet, etc. For Alcetas, see above, "Hell." VI. i. 7.
  7. I.e. by show of hands, {ekheirotonoun}.
  8. See Jowett, note to Thuc. VIII. xcv. 2, ii. p. 525.
  9. The two sacred galleys. See Thuc. iii. 33; Aristoph. "Birds," 147 foll.
  10. Or, "he would knock them all down to the hammer."
  11. Or, "cut off from their pay."
  12. Lit. "lochagoi and taxiarchs."
  13. Or, "to retaliate"; or, "to complete the movement."
  14. Reading, after Dindorf, {oi politai}, or, if with the MSS., {oi oplitai}; translate "the heavy-armed among the assailants saw their advantage and pressed on."
  15. Cape Fish, mod. Cape Katakolon, protecting harbour of Pyrgos in Elis.
  16. Lit. "the voyage."
  17. Thyreum (or Thyrium), in Acarnania, a chief city at the time of the Roman wars in Greece; and according to Polybius (xxxviii. 5), a meeting-place of the League on one occasion. See "Dict. Anct. Geog." s.v.; Freeman, op. cit. iv. 148; cf. Paus. IV. xxvi. 3, in reference to the Messenians and Naupactus; Grote, "H. G." x. 212.
  18. Reading with the MSS. {ou mala epitedeion onta}. See Grote, "H. G." x. 206. Boeckh ("P. E. A.," trans. Cornewall Lewis, p. 419) wished to read {eu mala} for {ou mala k.t.l.}, in which case translate "the former a popular orator, and a man of singular capacity"; and for {epitedeion} in that sense, see "Hipparch." i. 8; for {eu mala}, see "Hipparch." i. 25. For details concerning Callistratus, see Dindorf, op. cit. note ad. loc.; Curtius, "H. G." iv. 367, 381 foll., v. 90. For Chabrias, Rehdantz, op. cit. In the next sentence I have again adhered to the reading of the MSS., but the pasage is commonly regarded as corrupt; see Otto Keller, op. cit. p. 215 for various emendations.