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The Syracusans took in tow the fifty ships left behind1 and brought them to the city, and then, taking off all the crews of their triremes and providing them with arms, they followed after the Athenians with their entire armament, harassing them and hindering their forward progress. [2] For three days following close on their heels and encompassing them on all sides they prevented them from taking a direct road toward Catane, their ally; instead they compelled them to retrace their steps through the plain of Elorium, and surrounding them at the Asinarus River, slew eighteen thousand and took captive seven thousand, among whom were also the generals Demosthenes and Nicias. The remainder were seized as their plunder by the soldiers2; [3] for the Athenians, since their escape was blocked in every direction, were obliged to surrender their weapons and their persons to the enemy. After this had taken place, the Syracusans set up two trophies, nailing to each of them the arms of a general, and turned back to the city. [4]

Now at that time the whole city of Syracuse offered sacrifices to the gods, and on the next day, after the Assembly had gathered, they considered what disposition they should make of the captives. A man named Diocles, who was a most notable leader of the populace, declared his opinion that the Athenian generals should be put to death under torture and the other prisoners should for the present all be thrown into the quarries; but that later the allies of the Athenians should be sold as booty and the Athenians should labour as prisoners under guard, receiving two cotyls3 of barley meal. [5] When this motion had been read, Hermocrates took the floor and endeavoured to show that a fairer thing than victory is to bear the victory with moderation.4 [6] But when the people shouted their disapproval and would not allow him to continue, a man named Nicolaus, who had lost two sons in the war, made his way, supported by his slaves because of his age, to the platform. When the people saw him, they stopped shouting, believing that he would denounce the prisoners. As soon, then, as there was silence, the old man began to speak.

1 By the Athenians.

2 The seven thousand were formally surrendered and became prisoners of the state; the others were taken by the soldiers as their individual captives, either before the formal surrender or after, as they were picked up over the countryside.

3 An almost starvation fare of about one pint.

4 His words in Plut. Nic. 28.2 are: τοῦ νικᾶν κρεῖττόν ἐστι τὸ καλῶς χρῆσθαι τῇ νίκῃ ("Better than victory is a noble use of victory").

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