The three ships which had gone forward to Egesta now returned to the Athenians at Rhegium;1
they reported that of the money which had been promised thirty talents2
only were forthcoming and no more.
The spirits of the generals fell at once on receiving this their first discouragement. They were also disappointed at the unfavourable answer of the Rhegians, whom they had asked first, and who might naturally have been expected to join them because they were kinsmen of the Leontines, and had always hitherto been in the Athenian interest. Nicias had expected that the Egestaeans would fail them3
to the two others their behaviour appeared even more incomprehensible than the defection of the Rhegians. The fact was that when the original envoys came from Athens to inspect the treasure, the Egestaeans had practised a trick upon them. They brought them to the temple of Aphrodite at Eryx, and showed them the offerings deposited there, consisting of bowls, flagons, censers, and a good deal of other plate. Most of the vessels were only of silver, and therefore they made a show quite out of proportion to their value, They also gave private entertainments to the crews of the trirenes:
on each of these occasions they produced, as their own, drinking-vessels of gold and silver not only collected in Egesta itself, but borrowed from the neighbouring towns, Phoenician as well as Hellenic. All of them exhibiting much the same vessels and making everywhere a great display, the sailors were amazed, and on their arrival at Athens told every one what heaps of wealth they had seen.
When the news spread that the Egestaeans had not got the money, great was the unpopularity incurred throughout the army by these men, who having been first imposed upon themselves had been instrumental in imposing upon others.