Hellenica (Xenophon)/Book 4/Chapter 4

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Hellenica (Xenophon)
by Xenophon, translated by H. G. Dakyns
Book 4, Chapter 4

1This incident ended the campaign. The army as a whole was disbanded, the contingents retiring to their several cities, and Agesilaus home across the Gulf by sea.

B.C. 393. Subsequently[1] the war between the two parties recommenced. The Athenians, Boeotians, Argives, and the other allies made Corinth the base of their operations; the Lacedaemonians and their allies held Sicyon as theirs. As to the Corinthians, they had to face the fact that, owing to their proximity to the seat of war, it was their territory which was ravaged and their people who perished, while the rest of the allies abode in peace and reaped the fruits of their lands in due season. Hence the majority of them, including the better class, desired peace, and gathering into knots they indoctrinated one another with these views.

B.C. 392.[2] 2On the other hand, it could hardly escape the notice of the allied powers, the Argives, Athenians, and Boeotians, as also those of the Corinthians themselves who had received a share of the king's moneys, or for whatever reason were most directly interested in the war, that if they did not promptly put the peace party out of the way, ten chances to one the old laconising policy would again hold the field. It seemed there was nothing for it but the remedy of the knife. There was a refinement of wickedness in the plan adopted. With most people the life even of a legally condemned criminal is held sacred during a solemn season, but these men deliberately selected the last day of the Eucleia,[3] when they might reckon on capturing more victims in the crowded market-place, for their murderous purposes. 3Their agents were supplied with the names of those to be gotten rid of, the signal was given, and then, drawing their daggers, they fell to work. Here a man was struck down standing in the centre of a group of talkers, and there another seated; a third while peacably enjoying himself at the play; a fourth actually whilst officiating as a judge at some dramatic contest.[4] When what was taking place became known, there was a general flight on the part of the better classes. Some fled to the images of the gods in the market-place, others to the altars; and here these unhallowed miscreants, ringleaders and followers alike, utterly regardless of duty and law, fell to butchering their victims even within the sacred precincts of the gods; so that even some of those against whom no hand was lifted--honest, law-abiding folk--were filled with sore amazement at sight of such impiety. 4In this way many of the elder citizens, as mustering more thickly in the market-place, were done to death. The younger men, acting on a suspicion conceived by one of their number, Pasimelus, as to what was going to take place, kept quiet in the Kraneion;[5] but hearing screams and shouting and being joined anon by some who had escaped from the affair, they took the hint, and, running up along the slope of the Acrocorinthus, succeeded in repelling an attack of the Argives and the rest. 5While they were still deliberating what they ought to do, down fell a capital from its column--without assignable cause, whether of earthquake or wind. Also, when they sacrificed, the aspect of the victims was such that the soothsayers said it was better to descend from that position.

So they retired, in the first instance prepared to go into exile beyond the territory of Corinth. It was only upon the persuasion of their friends and the earnest entreaties of their mothers and sisters who came out to them, supported by the solemn assurance of the men in power themselves, who swore to guarantee them against evil consequences, 6that some of them finally consented to return home. Presented to their eyes was the spectacle of a tyranny in full exercise, and to their minds the consciousness of the obliteration of their city, seeing that boundaries were plucked up and the land of their fathers had come to be re-entitled by the name of Argos instead of Corinth; and furthermore, compulsion was put upon them to share in the constitution in vogue at Argos, for which they had ltitle appetite, while in their own city they wielded less power than the resident aliens. So that a party sprang up among them whose creed was, that life was not worth living on such terms: their endeavour must be to make their fatherland once more the Corinth of old days--to restore freedom to their city, purified from the murderer and his pollution and fairly rooted in good order and legality.[6] It was a design worth the venture: if they succeeded they would become the saviours of their country; if not--why, in the effort to grasp the fairest flower of happiness, they would but overreach, and find instead a glorious termination to existence.

7It was in furtherance of this design that two men--Pasimelus and Alcimenes--undertook to creep through a watercourse and effect a meeting with Praxitas the polemarch of the Lacedaemonians, who was on garrison duty with his own division in Sicyon. They told him they could give him ingress at a point in the long walls leading to Lechaeum. Praxitas, knowing from previous experience that the two men might be relied upon, believed their statement; and having arranged for the further detention in Sicyon of the division which was on the point of departure, he busied himself with plans for the enterprise. 8When the two men, partly by chance and partly by contrivance, came to be on guard at the gate where the tophy now stands, without further ado Praxitas presented himself with his division, taking with him also the men of Sicyon and the whole of the Corinthian exiles. Having reached the gate, he had a qualm of misgiving, and hesitated to step inside until he had first sent in a man on whom he could rely to take a look at things within. The two Corinthians introduced him, and made so simple and straightforward a representation[7] that the visitor was convinced, and reported everything as free of pitfalls as the two had asserted. 9Then the polemarch entered, but owing to the wide space between the double walls, as soon as they came to form in line within, the intruders were impressed by the paucity of their numbers. They therefore erected a stockade, and dug as good a trench as they could in front of them, pending the arrival of reinforcements from the allies. In their rear, moreover, lay the guard of the Boeotians in the harbour. Thus they passed the whole day which followed the night of ingress without striking a blow.

On the next day, however, the Argive troops arrived in all haste, hurrying to the rescue, and found the enemy duly drawn up. The Lacedaemonians were on their own right, the men of Sicyon next, and leaning against the eastern wall the Corinthian exiles, one hundred and fifty strong.[8] Their opponents marshalled their lines face to face in correspondence: Iphicrates with his mercenaries abutting on the eastern wall; next to them the Argives, whilst the Corinthians of the city held their left. 10In the pride inspired by numbers they began advancing at once. They overpowered the Sicyonians, and tearing asunder the stockade, pursued them to the sea and here slew numbers of them. At that instant Pasimachus, the cavalry general, at the head of a handful of troopers, seeing the Sicyonians sore presed, made fast the horses of his troops to the trees, and relieving the Sicyonians of their heavy infantry shields, advanced with his volunteers against the Argives. The latter, seeing the Sigmas on the shields and taking them to be "Sicyonians," had not the slightest fear. Whereupon, as the story goes, Pasimachus, exclaiming in his broad Doric, "By the twin gods! these Sigmas will cheat you, you Argives," came to close quarters, and in that battle of a handful against a host, was slain himself with all his followers. 11In another quarter of the field, however, the Corinthian exiles had got the better of their opponents and worked their way up, so that they were now touching the city circumvallation walls.

The Lacedaemonians, on their side, perceiving the discomfiture of the Sicyonians, sprang out with timely aid, keeping the palisade-work on their left. But the Argives, discovering that the Lacedaemonians were behind them, wheeled round and came racing back, pouring out of the palisade at full speed. Their extreme right, with unprotected flanks exposed, fell victims to the Lacedaemonians; the rest, hugging the wall, made good their retreat in dense masses towards the city. Here they encountered the Corinthian exiles, and discovering that they had fallen upon foes, swerved aside in the reverse direction. In this predicament some mounted by the ladders of the city wall, and, leaping down from its summit, were destroyed;[9] others yielded up their lives, thrust through, as they jostled at the foot of the steps; others again were literally trampled under one another's feet and suffocated.

12The Lacedaemonians had no difficulty in the choice of victims; for at that instant a work was assigned to them to do,[10] such as they could hardly have hoped or prayed for. To find delivered into their hands a mob of helpless enemies, in an ecstasy of terror, presenting their unarmed sides in such sort that none turned to defend himself, but each victim rather seemed to contribute what he could towards his own destruction--if that was not divine interposition, I know now what to call it. Miracle or not, in that little space so many fell, and the corpses lay piled so thick, that eyes familiar with the stacking of corn or wood or piles of stones were called upon to gaze at layers of human bodies. Nor did the guard of the Boeotians in the port itself[11] escape death; some were slain upon the ramparts, others on the roofs of the dock-houses, which they had scaled for refuge. 13Nothing remained but for the Corinthians and Argives to carry away their dead under cover of a truce; whilst the allies of Lacedaemon poured in their reinforcements. When these were collected, Praxitas decided in the first place to raze enough of the walls to allow a free broadway for an army on march. This done, he put himself at the head of his troops and advanced on the road to Megara, taking by assault, first Sidus and next Crommyon. Leaving garrisons in these two fortresses, he retraced his steps, and finally fortifying Epieiceia as a garrison outpost to protect the territory of the allies, he at once disbanded his troops and himself withdrew to Lacedaemon.

B.C. 392-391.[12] 14After this the great armaments of both belligerents had ceased to exist. The states merely furnished garrisons--the one set at Corinth, the other set at Sicyon--and were content to guard the walls. Though even so, a vigorous war was carried on by dint of the mercenary troops with which both sides were furnished.

15A signal incident in the period was the invasion of Phlius by Iphicrates. He laid an ambuscade, and with a small body of troops adopting a system of guerilla war, took occasion of an unguarded sally of the citizens of Phlius to inflict such losses on them, that though they had never previously received the Lacedaemonians within their walls, they received them now. They had hitherto feared to do so lest it might lead to the restoration of the banished members of their community, who gave out that they owed their exile to their Lacedaemonian sympathies;[13] but they were now in such abject fear of the Corinthian party that they sent to fetch the Lacedaemonians, and delivered the city and citadel to their safe keeping. These latter, however, well disposed to the exiles of Phlius, did not, at the time they held the city, so much as breathe the thought of bringing back the exiles; on the contrary, as soon as the city seemed to have recovered its confidence, they took their departure, leaving city and laws precisely as they had found them on their entry.

16To return to Iphicrates and his men: they frequently extended their incursions even into Arcadia in many directions,[14] following their usual guerilla tactics, but also making assaults on fortified posts. The heavy infantry of the Arcadians positively refused to face them in the field, so profound was the terror in which they held these light troops. In compensation, the light troops themselves entertained a wholesome dread of the Lacedaemonians, and did not venture to approach even within javelin-range of their heavy infantry. They had been taught a lesson when, within that distance, some of the younger hoplites had made a dash at them, catching and putting some of them to the sword. 17But however profound the contempt of the Lacedaemonians for these light troops, their contempt for their own allies was deeper. (On one occasion[15] a reinforcement of Mantineans had sallied from the walls between Corinth and Lechaeum to engage the peltasts, and had no sooner come under attack than they swerved, losing some of their men as they made good their retreat. The Lacedaemonians were unkind enough to poke fun at these unfortunates. "Our allies," they said, "stand in as much awe of these peltasts as children of the bogies and hobgoblins of their nurses." For themselves, starting from Lechaeum, they found no difficulty in marching right round the city of Corinth with a single Lacedaemonian division and the Corinthian exiles.)[16]

18The Athenians, on their side, who felt the power of the Lacedaemonians to be dangerously close, now that the walls of Corinth had been laid open, and even apprehended a direct attack upon themselves, determined to rebuild the portion of the wall severed by Praxitas. Accordingly they set out with their whole force, including a suite of stonelayers, masons, and carpenters, and within a few days erected a quite splendid wall on the side facing Sicyon towards the west,[17] and then proceeded with more leisure to the completion of the eastern portion.

19To turn once more to the other side: the Lacedaemonians, indignant at the notion that the Argives should be gathering the produce of their lands in peace at home, as if war were a pastime, marched against them. Agesilaus commanded the expedition, and after ravaging their territory from one end to the other, crossed their frontier at Tenea[18] and swooped down upon Corinth, taking the walls which had been lately rebuilt by the Athenians. He was supported on the sea side by his brother Teleutias[19] with a naval force of about twelve triremes, and the mother of both was able to congratulate herself on the joint success of both her sons; one having captured the enemy's walls by land and the other his ships and naval arsenal by sea, on the same day. These achievements sufficed Agesilaus for the present; he disbanded the army of the allies and led the state troops home.

  1. B.C. 393. See Grote, ix. p. 455, note 2 foll.; "Hell." IV. viii. 7.
  2. Others assign the incidents of this whole chapter iv. to B.C. 393.
  3. The festival of Artemis Eucleia.
  4. See Diod. xiv. 86.
  5. See Paus. II. ii. 4.
  6. {eunomia}. See "Pol. Ath." i. 8; Arist. "Pol." iv. 8, 6; iii. 9, 8; v. 7, 4.
  7. Or, "showed him the place in so straightforward a manner."
  8. See Grote, ix. p. 333 foll.
  9. Or, "plunged from its summit into perdition." See Thuc. ii. 4.
  10. Or, "Heaven assigned to them a work . . ." Lit. "The God . . ."
  11. I.e. "of Lechaeum."
  12. So Grote and Curtius; al. B.C. 393.
  13. Lit. "laconism."
  14. See Thuc. ii. 4.
  15. See Grote, ix. 472 note. Lechaeum was not taken by the Lacedaemonians until the Corinthian long walls had been rebuilt by the Athenians. Possibly the incidents in this section (S. 17) occurred after the capture of Lechaeum. The historian introduces them parenthetically, as it were, in illustration of his main topic--the success of the peltasts.
  16. Or, adopting Schneider's conjecture, {estratopedeuonto}, add "and encamping."
  17. See Thuc. vi. 98.
  18. Reading {Tenean}, Koppen's emendation for {tegean}. In the parallel passage ("Ages." ii. 17) the text has {kata ta stena}. See Grote, "H. G." ix. 471.
  19. See below, IV. viii. 11.