Meanwhile the Syracusans hearing of their
approach resolved to make a second attempt with their fleet and their other
forces on shore, which they had been collecting for this very purpose in
order to do something before their arrival.
In addition to other improvements suggested by the former sea-fight which
they now adopted in the equipment of their navy, they cut down their prows
to a smaller compass to make them more solid and made their cheeks stouter,
and from these let stays into the vessel's sides for a length of six cubits
within and without, in the same way as the Corinthians had altered their
prows before engaging the squadron at Naupactus.
The Syracusans thought that they would thus have an advantage over the
Athenian vessels, which were not constructed with equal strength, but were
slight in the bows, from their being more used to sail round and charge the
enemy's side than to meet him prow to prow, and that the battle being in the
great harbor, with a great many ships in not much room, was also a fact in
their favour.Charging prow to prow, they would stave in the enemy's bows, by striking
with solid and stout beaks against hollow and weak ones;
and secondly, the Athenians for want of room would be unable to use their
favorite manoeuvre of breaking the line or of sailing round, as the
Syracusans would do their best not to let them do the one, and want of room
would prevent their doing the other.
This charging prow to prow which had hitherto been thought want of skill in
a helmsman, would be the Syracusans' chief manoeuvre, as being that which
they should find most useful, since the Athenians, if repulsed, would not be
able to back water in any direction except towards the shore, and that only
for a little way, and in the little space in front of their own camp.The rest of the harbor would be commanded by the Syracusans;
and the Athenians, if hard pressed, by crowding together in a small space
and all to the same point, would run foul of one another and fall into
disorder, which was, in fact, the thing that did the Athenians most harm in
all the sea-fights, they not having, like the Syracusans, the whole harbor
to retreat over.As to their sailing round into the open sea, this would be impossible, with
the Syracusans in possession of the way out and in, especially as Plemmyrium
would be hostile to them, and the mouth of the harbor was not large.
Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.
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