Meanwhile, when day came and the Syracusans
and allies found that the Athenians were gone, most of them accused Gylippus
of having let them escape on purpose, and hastily pursuing by the road which
they had no difficulty in finding that they had taken, overtook them about
They first came up with the troops under Demosthenes, who were behind and
marching somewhat slowly and in disorder, owing to the night-panic above
referred to, and at once attacked and engaged them, the Syracusan horse
surrounding them with more ease now that they were separated from the rest,
and hemming them in on one spot.
The division of Nicias was five or six miles on in front, as he led them
more rapidly, thinking that under the circumstances their safety lay not in
staying and fighting, unless obliged, but in retreating as fast as possible,
and only fighting when forced to do so.
On the other hand, Demosthenes was, generally speaking, harassed more
incessantly, as his post in the rear left him the first exposed to the
attacks of the enemy; and now, finding that the Syracusans were in pursuit, he omitted to push
on, in order to form his men for battle, and so lingered until he was
surrounded by his pursuers and himself and the Athenians with him placed in
the most distressing position, being huddled into an enclosure with a wall
all round it, a road on this side and on that, and olive-trees in great
number, where missiles were showered in upon them from every quarter.
This mode of attack the Syracusans had with good reason adopted in
preference to fighting at close quarters, as to risk a struggle with
desperate men was now more for the advantage of the Athenians than for their
own; besides, their success had now become so certain that they began to spare
themselves a little in order not to be cut off in the moment of victory,
thinking too that, as it was, they would be able in this way to subdue and
capture the enemy.
Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.
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