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28. But Nicias, seeing the Athenians to be in a kind of tumult against Cleon, for that when he thought it so easy a matter he did not presently put it in practice, and seeing also he had upbraided him, willed him to take what strength he would that they could give him and undertake it. [2] Cleon, supposing at first that he gave him this leave but in words, was ready to accept it; but when he knew he would give him the authority in good earnest, then he shrunk back and said that not he but Nicias was general, being now indeed afraid and hoping that he durst not have given over the office to him. [3] But then Nicias again bade him do it and gave over his command [to him] for so much as concerned Pylus and called the Athenians to witness it. They (as is the fashion of the multitude), the more Cleon declined the voyage and went back from his word, pressed Nicias so much the more to resign his power to him and cried out upon Cleon to go. [4] Insomuch as not knowing how to disengage himself of his word, he undertook the voyage, and stood forth saying that he feared not the Lacedaemonians and that he would not carry any man with him out of the city but only the Lemnians and Imbrians that then were present and those targettiers that were come to them from Aenus and four hundred archers out of other places; and with these, he said, added to the soldiers that were at Pylus already, he would within twenty days either fetch away the Lacedaemonians alive or kill them upon the place. [5] This vain speech moved amongst the Athenians some laughter, and was heard with great content of the wiser sort. For of two benefits, the one must needs fall out: either to be rid of Cleon (which was their greatest hope) or, if they were deceived in that, then to get those Lacedaemonians into their hands.

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