Nicias having thus exhorted his men led them at once to the charge. The Syracusans did1
not expect that they would have to fight just at that moment, and some of them had even gone away into the city, which was close at hand; others came running up as fast as they could, and, although late, joined the main body one by one at the nearest point. For they showed no want of spirit or daring in this or any other engagement; in courage they were not a whit inferior to their enemies, had their skill only been adequate, but when it failed, they could no longer do justice to their good intentions. On this occasion they were compelled to make a hasty defence, for they felt sure that the Athenians would not begin the attack.
Nevertheless they took up their arms and immediately went forward to meet them. For a while the throwers of stones, and slingers, and archers skirmished in front of the two armies, driving one another before them after the manner of light-armed troops.
Then the soothsayers brought out the customary victims, and the trumpets sounded and called the infantry to the charge. The two armies advanced; the Syracusans to fight for their country, and every man for life now, and liberty hereafter; on the opposite side the Athenians to gain a new country, and to save the old from the disaster of defeat; the Argives and the independent allies eager to share the good things of Sicily, and, if they returned victorious, to see their own homes once more. The courage of the subject allies was chiefly inspired by a lively consciousness that their only chance of life was in victory; they had also a distant hope that, if they assisted the Athenians in overthrowing others, their own yoke might be lightened.