previous next

After the sea-battle had ended in the manner we have described, the Athenians, learning that the fleet under Demosthenes would arrive within a few days, decided to run no more risks before that force should join them, whereas the Syracusans, on the contrary, wishing to reach a final decision before the arrival of Demosthenes and his army, kept sailing out every day against the ships of the Athenians and continuing the fight. [2] And when Ariston the Corinthian pilot advised them to make the prows of their ships shorter and lower, the Syracusans followed his advice and for that reason enjoyed great advantage in the fighting which followed. [3] For the Attic triremes were built with weaker and high prows, and for this reason it followed that, when they rammed, they damaged only the parts of a ship that extended above the water, so that the enemy suffered no great damage; whereas the ships of the Syracusans, built as they were with the structure about the prow strong and low, would often, as they delivered their ramming blows, sink with one shock the triremes of the Athenians.1 [4]

Now day after day the Syracusans attacked the camp of the enemy both by land and by sea, but to no effect, since the Athenians made no move; but when some of the captains of triremes, being no longer able to endure the scorn of the Syracusans, put out against the enemy in the Great Harbour, a sea-battle commenced in which all the triremes joined. [5] Now though the Athenians had fast-sailing triremes and enjoyed the advantage from their long experience at sea as well as from the skill of their pilots, yet their superiority in these respects brought them no return since the sea-battle was in a narrow area; and the Syracusans, engaging at close quarters and giving the enemy no opportunity to turn about to ram, not only cast spears at the soldiers on the decks, but also, by hurling stones, forced them to leave the prows, and in many cases simply by ramming a ship that met them and then boarding the enemy vessel they made it a land-battle on the ship's deck. [6] The Athenians, being pressed upon from every quarter, turned to flight; and the Syracusans, pressing in pursuit, not only sank seven triremes but made a large number unfit for use.

1 Thuc. 7.36 describes in considerable detail this strengthening of the bow and its effect upon the tactics of the fighting in the harbour.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1989)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (5 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: