Some exiles driven from Chalcis, by ill treatment received from the king's party, brought intelligence, that the place might be taken without even a contest;
for that both the Macedonians, being under no immediate apprehension from an enemy, were straying idly about the country; and that the townsmen, depending on the Macedonian garrison, neglected the guard of the city.
Claudius, on this authority, set out, and though he arrived at Sunium early enough to have [p. 1363]
sailed forward to the entrance of the strait of Eubœa, yet fearing that, on doubling the promontory, he might be descried by the enemy, he lay by with the fleet until night.
As soon as it grew dark he began to move, and, favoured by a calm, arrived at Chalcis a little before day; and then, approaching the city, on a side where it was thinly inhabited, with a small party of soldiers, and by means of scaling ladders, he got possession of the nearest tower, and the wall on each side; the guards being asleep in some places, and in others no one being on the watch.
Thence they advanced to the more populous parts of the town, and having slain the sentinels, and broke open a gate, they gave an entrance to the main body of the troops.
These immediately spread themselves throughout the whole city, and increased the tumult by setting fire to the buildings round the forum, by
which means both the granaries belonging to the king, and his armoury, with a vast store of machines and engines, were reduced to ashes.
Then commenced a general slaughter of those who fled, as well as of those who made resistance; and after having either put to the sword or driven out every one who was of an age fit to bear arms, (Sopater also, the Acarnanian, who commanded the garrison, being slain,) they first collected all the spoils in the forum, and then carried it on board the ships.
The prison, too, was forced open by the Rhodians, and those prisoners whom Philip had shut up there, as in the safest custody, were set at liberty.
They next pulled down and mutilated the statues of the king; and then, on a signal being given for a retreat, re-embarked and returned to Piraeus, from whence they had set out.
If there had been so large a force of Roman soldiers that Chalcis might have been retained and the protection of Athens not neglected, Chalcis and Euripus might have been taken from the king; —a most important advantage at the commencement of the war.
For as the pass of Thermopylae is the principal barrier of Greece by land, so is the strait of the Euripus by sea.