Hellenica (Xenophon)/Book 2/Chapter 2

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

1When he had set the affairs of Lampsacus in order, Lysander sailed to Byzantium and Chalcedon, where the inhabitants, having first dismissed the Athenian garrison under a flag of truce, admitted him within their walls. Those citizens of Byzantium, who had betrayed Byzantium into the hands of Alcibiades, fled as exiles into Pontus, but subsequently betaking themselves to Athens, became Athenian citizens.

2In dealing with the Athenian garrisons, and indeed with all Athenians wheresoever found, Lysander made it a rule to give them safe conduct to Athens, and to Athens only, in the certainty that the larger the number collected within the city and Piraeus, the more quickly the want of necessaries of life would make itself felt. And now, leaving Sthenelaus, a Laconian, as governor-general of Byzantium and Chalcedon, he sailed back himself to Lampsacus and devoted himself to refitting his ships.

3It was night when the "Paralus" reached Athens with her evil tidings, on receipt of which a bitter wail of woe broke forth. From Piraeus, following the line of the long walls up to the heart of the city, it swept and swelled, as each man to his neighbour passed on the news. On that night no man slept. There was mourning and sorrow for those that were lost, but the lamentation for the dead was merged in even deeper sorrow for themselves, as they pictured the evils they were about to suffer, the like of which they themselves had inflicted upon the men of Melos, who were colonists of the Lacedaemonians, when they mastered them by siege. Or on the men of Histiaea; on Scione and Torone; on the Aeginetans, and many another Hellene city.[1]

4On the following day the public assembly met, and, after debate, it was resolved to block up all the harbours save one, to put the walls in a state of defence, to post guards at various points, and to make all other necessary preparations for a siege. Such were the concerns of the men of Athens.

5Lysander presently left the Hellespont with two hundred sail and arrived at Lesbos, where he established a new order of things in Mitylene and the other cities of the island. Meanwhile he despatched Eteonicus with a squadron of ten ships to the northern coasts,[2] where that officer brought about a revolution of affairs which placed the whole region in the hands of Lacedaemon.

6Indeed, in a moment of time, after the sea-fight, the whole of Hellas had revolted from Athens, with the solitary exception of the men of Samos. These, having massacred the notables,[3] held the state under their control.

7After a while Lysander sent messages to Agis at Deceleia, and to Lacedaemon, announcing his approach with a squadron of two hundred sail. In obedience to a general order of Pausanias, the other king of Lacedaemon, a levy in force of the Lacedaemonians and all the rest of Peloponnesus, except the Argives, was set in motion for a campaign.

8As soon as the several contingents had arrived, the king put himself at their head and marched against Athens, encamping in the gymnasium of the Academy,[4] as it is called.

9Lysander had now reached Aegina, where, having got together as many of the former inhabitants as possible, he formally reinstated them in their city; and what he did in behalf of the Aeginetans, he did also in behalf of the Melians, and of the rest who had been deprived of their countries. He then pillaged the island of Salamis, and finally came to moorings off Piraeus with one hundred and fifty ships of the line, and established a strict blockade against all merchant ships entering that harbour.

10The Athenians, finding themselves besieged by land and sea, were in sore perplexity what to do. Without ships, without allies, without provisions, the belief gained hold upon them that there was no way of escape. They must now, in their turn, suffer what they had themselves inflincted upon others; not in retaliation, indeed, for ills received, but out of sheer insolence, overriding the citizens of petty states, and for no better reason than that these were allies of the very men now at their gates.

11In this frame of mind they enfranchised those who at any time had lost their civil rights, and schooled themselves to endurance; and, albeit many succumbed to starvation, no thought of truce or reconciliation with their foes was breathed.[5] But when the stock of corn was absolutely insufficient, they sent an embassage to Agis, proposing to become allies of the Lacedaemonians on the sole condition of keeping their fortification walls and Piraeus; and to draw up articles of treaty on these terms.

12Agis bade them betake themselves to Lacedaemon, seeing that he had no authority to act himself. With this answer the ambassadors returned to Athens, and were forthwith sent on to Lacedaemon.

13On reaching Sellasia,[6] a town in[7] Laconian territory, they waited till they got their answer from the ephors, who, having learnt their terms (which were identical to those already proposed to Agis), bade them instantly to be gone, and, if they really desired peace, to come with other proposals, the fruit of happier reflection.

14Thus the ambassadors returned home, and reported the result of their embassage, whereupon despondency fell upon all. It was a painful reflection that in the end they would be sold into slavery; and meanwhile, pending the return of a second embassy, many must needs fall victims to starvation.

15The razing of their fortifications was not a solution which any one cared to recommend. A senator, Archestratus, had indeed put the question in the senate, whether it were not best to make peace with the Lacedaemonians on such terms as they were willing to propose; but he was thrown into prison. The Laconian proposals referred to involved the destruction of both long walls for a space of more than a mile. And a decree had been passed, making it illegal to submit any such proposition about the walls.

16Things having reached this pass, Theramenes made a proposal in the public assembly as follows: If they chose to send him as an ambassador to Lysander, he would go and find out why the Lacedaemonians were so unyielding about the walls; whether it was they really intended to enslave the city, or merely that they wanted a guarantee of good faith. Despatched accordingly, he lingered on with Lysander for three whole months and more, watching for the time when the Athenians, at the last pinch of starvation, would be willing to accede to any terms that might be offered.

17At last, in the fourth month, he returned and reported to the public assembly that Lysander had detained him all this while, and had ended by bidding him betake himself to Lacedaemon, since he had no authority himself to answer his questions, which must be addressed directly to the ephors. After this Theramenes was chosen with nine others to go to Lacedaemon as ambassadors with full powers.

18Meanwhile Lysander had sent an Athenian exile, named Aristoteles, in company of certain Lacedaemonians, to Sparta to report to the board of ephors how he had answered Theramenes, that they, and they alone, had supreme authority in matters of peace and war.

19Theramenes and his companions presently reached Sellasia, and being there questioned as to the reason of their visit, replied that they had full powers to treat of peace. After which the ephors ordered them to be summoned to their presence. On their arrival a general assembly was convened, in which the Corinthians and Thebans more particularly, though their views were shared by many other Hellenes also, urged the meeting not to come to terms with the Athenians, but to destroy them.

20The Lacedaemonians replied that they would never reduce to slavery a city which was itself an integral portion of Hellas, and had performed a great and noble service to Hellas in the most perilous of emergencies. On the contrary, they were willing to offer peace on the terms now specified--namely, "That the long walls and the fortifications of Piraeus should be destroyed; that the Athenian fleet, with the exception of twelve vessels, should be surrendered; that the exiles should be restored; and lastly, that the Athenians should acknowledge the headship of Sparta in peace and war, leaving to her the choice of friends and foes, and following her lead by land and sea."

21Such were the terms which Theramenes and the rest who acted with him were able to report on their return to Athens. As they entered the city, a vast crowd met them, trembling lest their mission have proved fruitless. For indeed delay was no longer possible, so long already was the list of victims daily perishing from starvation.

22On the day following, the ambassadors delivered their report, stating the terms upon which the Lacedaemonians were willing to make peace. Theramenes acted as spokesman, insisting that they ought to obey the Lacedaemonians and pull down the walls. A small minority raised their voice in opposition, but the majority were strongly in favour of the proposition, and the resolution was passed to accept the peace.

23After that, Lysander sailed into the Piraeus, and the exiles were readmitted. And so they fell to levelling the fortifications and walls with much enthusiasm, to the accompaniment of female flute-players, deeming that day the beginning of liberty to Greece.

24Thus the year drew to its close[8]--during its middle months took place the accession of Dionysius, the son of Hermocrates the Syracusan, to the tyranny of Syracuse; an incident itself preceded by a victory gained over the Carthaginians by the Syracusans; the reduction of Agrigentum through famine by the Carthaginians themselves; and the exodus of the Sicilian Greeks from that city.

  1. With regard to these painful recollections, see (1) for the siege and surrender of Melos (in B.C. 416), Thuc. v. 114, 116; and cf. Aristoph. "Birds," 186; Plut. ("Lysander," 14); (2) for the ejection of the Histiaeans, an incident of the recovery of Euboea in 445 B.C., see Thuc. i. 14; Plut. ("Pericles," 23); (3) for the matter of Scione, which revolted in 423 B.C., and was for a long time a source of disagreement between the Athenians and Lacedaemonians, until finally captured by the former in 421 B.C., when the citizens were slain and the city given to the Plataeans, see Thuc. iv. 120-122, 129-133; v. 18, 32; (4) for Torone see Thuc. ib., and also v. 3; (5) for the expulsion of the Aeginetans in 431 B.C. see Thuc. ii. 27.
  2. Lit. "the Thraceward districts." See above, p. 16.
  3. Or, "since they had slain their notables, held the state under popular control." See Grote, "Hist. of Greece," vol. viii. p. 303 note 3 (2d ed.), who thinks that the incident referred to is the violent democratic revolution in Samos described in Thuc. viii. 21, B.C. 412.
  4. For this most illustrious of Athenian gymnasia, which still retains its name, see Leake, "Topography of Athens," i. 195 foll.
  5. Or, "they refused to treat for peace."
  6. Sellasia, the bulwark of Sparta in the valley of the Oenus.
  7. The MSS. have "in the neighbourhood of," which words are inappropriate at this date, though they may well have been added by some annotator after the Cleomenic war and the battle of Sellasia, B.C. 222, when Antigonus of Macedon destroyed the place in the interests of the Achaean League.
  8. For the puzzling chronology of this paragraph see Grote, "Hist. of Greece," vol. x. p 619 (2d ed.) If genuine, the words may perhaps have slipt out of their natural place in chapter i. above, in front of the words "in the following year Lysander arrived," etc. L. Dindorf brackets them as spurious. Xen., "Hist. Gr." ed. tertia, Lipsiae, MDCCCLXXII. For the incidents referred to see above; Grote, "Hist. of Greece," vol. x. pp. 582, 598 (2d ed.)