So they worked diligently at the fort, which had entrances and postern-gates and every facility for introducing the enemy, and did their best to finish the building in time.
As yet the murmurs of discontent had been secret and confined to a few; when suddenly Phrynichus, after his return from the embassy to Lacedaemon, in a full market-place, having just quitted the council-chamber, was struck by an assassin, one of the force employed in guarding the frontier, and fell dead. The man who dealt the blow escaped; his accomplice, an Argive, was seized1
and put to the torture by order of the Four Hundred, but did not disclose any name or say who had instigated the deed. All he would confess was that a number of persons used to assemble at the house of the commander of the frontier guard, and in other houses. No further measures followed; and so Theramenes and Aristocrates, and the other citizens, whether members of the Four Hundred or not, who were of the same mind, were emboldened to take decided steps.
For the Peloponnesians had already sailed round from Las, and having overrun Aegina had cast anchor at Epidaurus; and Theramenes insisted that if they had been on their way to Euboea they would never have gone up the Saronic gulf to Aegina and then returned and anchored at Epidaurus, but that some one had invited them for the purposes which he had always alleged; it was impossible therefore to be any longer indifferent.
After many insinuations and inflammatory harangues, the people began to take active measures. The hoplites who were at work on the fortification of Eetionea in the Piraeus, among whom was Aristocrates with his own tribe, which, as taxiarch, he commanded, seized Alexicles, an oligarchical general who had been most concerned with the clubs, and shut him up in a house. Others joined in the act, including one Hermon, who commanded the Peripoli stationed at Munychia;
above all, the rank and file of the hoplites heartily approved. The Four Hundred, who were assembled in the councilhouse when the news was brought to them, were ready in a moment to take up arms, except Theramenes and his associates, who disapproved of their proceedings;
to these they began to use threats. Theramenes protested, and offered to go with them at once and rescue Alexicles. So, taking one of the generals who was of his own faction, he went down to the Piraeus. Aristarchus and certain young knights came also to the scene of action.
Great and bewildering was the tumult, for in the city the people fancied that the Piraeus was in the hands of the insurgents, and that their prisoner had been killed, and the inhabitants of the Piraeus that they were on the point of being attacked from the city. The elder men with difficulty restrained the citizens, who were running up and down and flying to arms.
Thucydides of Pharsalus, the proxenus of Athens in that city, happening to be on the spot, kept throwing himself in every man's way and loudly entreating the people, when the enemy was lying in wait so near, not to destroy their country. At length they were pacified, and refrained from laying hands on one another.
Theramenes, who was himself a general, came to the Piraeus, and in an angry voice pretended to rate the soldiers, while Aristarchus and the party opposed to the people were furious. No effect was produced on the mass of the hoplites, who were for going to work at once.
They began asking Theramenes if he thought that the fort was being built to any good end, and whether it would not be better demolished. He answered that, if they thought so, he thought so too. And immediately the hoplites and a crowd of men from the Piraeus got on the walls and began to pull them down. The cry addressed to the people was,' Whoever wishes the Five Thousand to rule and not the Four Hundred, let him come and help us.'
For they still veiled their real minds under the name of the Five Thousand, and did not venture to say outright 'Whoever wishes the people to rule': they feared that the Five Thousand might actually exist, and that a man speaking in ignorance to his neighbour might get into trouble. The Four Hundred therefore did not wish the Five Thousand either to exist or to be known not to exist, thinking that to give so many a share in the government would be downright democracy, while at the same time the mystery tended to make the people afraid of one another.