At the very beginning of the next spring, and earlier than ever before, the Lacedaemonians1
and their allies entered Attica under the command of Agis the son of Archidamus the Lacedaemonian king. They first devastated the plain and its neighbourhood.
They then began to fortify Decelea, dividing the work among the cities of the confederacy. Decelea is distant about fourteen miles from Athens, and not much further from Boeotia. The fort was designed for the devastation of the plain and the richest parts of the country, and was erected on a spot within sight of Athens.
While the Peloponnesians and their allies in Attica were thus engaged, the Peloponnesians at2
home were despatching the hoplites in the merchant-vessels to Sicily. The Lacedaemonians selected the best of the Helots and Neodamodes, numbering in all six hundred, and placed them under the command of Eccritus, a Spartan. The Boeotians furnished three hundred hoplites, who were commanded by two Thebans, Xenon and Nicon, and by Hegesander, a Thespian.
These started first and put out into the open sea from Taenarus in Laconia. Not long afterwards the Corinthians sent five hundred heavy-armed, some of them from Corinth itself, others who were Arcadian mercenaries; they were all placed under the command of Alexarchus, a Corinthian. The Sicyonians also sent with the Corinthians two hundred hoplites under the command of Sargeus, a Sicyonian.
Meanwhile the twenty five ships which the Corinthians had manned in the winter lay opposite to the twenty Athenian ships at Naupactus until the merchant-vessels conveying the heavy-armed troops had got safely off. So the design succeeded, and the attention of the Athenians was diverted from the merchantships to the triremes.