In the same spring and about the same time Gylippus returned to Syracuse, bringing from1
each of the cities which he had persuaded to join him as many troops as he could obtain.
He assembled the Syracusans and told them that they should man as large a fleet as possible and try their fortune at sea; he hoped to obtain a decisive result which would justify the risk.
Hermocrates took the same view, and urged them strongly not to be faint-hearted at the prospect of attacking with their ships. He said that the Athenians had not inherited their maritime skill,2
and would not retain it for ever3
; there was a time when they were less of a naval people than the Syracusans themselves4
, but they had been made sailors from necessity by the Persian invasion. To daring men like the Athenians those who emulated their daring were the most formidable foes. The same reckless courage which had often enabled the Athenians, although inferior in power, to strike terror into their adversaries might now be turned against them by the Syracusans.
He was quite sure that if they faced the Athenian navy suddenly and unexpectedly, they would gain more than they would lose; the consternation which they would inspire would more than counterbalance their own inexperience and the superior skill of the Athenians.
He told them therefore to try what they could do at sea, and not to be timid. Thus under the influence of Gylippus, Hermocrates, and others, the Syracusans, now eager for the conflict, began to man their ships.