Even before this the Athenians had made preparations to send another force to Sicily, but the leading men among them felt some jealousy of the preliminary good fortune of Nicias, and so had induced many delays. Now, however, they were all eagerness to send aid. It was therefore determined that Demosthenes should sail with a large armament in the spring, and while it was yet winter Eurymedon preceded him with a smaller fleet, bringing money, and announcing the selection of colleagues for Nicias from among the members of the expedition there,—to wit, Euthydemus and Menander.
But in the meantime Nicias was suddenly attacked by land and sea. With his fleet, though vanquished at first, he yet succeeded in repulsing the enemy and sank many of their ships; but he was not prompt enough in sending aid to his garrison at Plemmyrium,1
and so Gylippus, who had fallen upon it suddenly, captured it. Large naval stores and moneys were in deposit there, all of which Gylippus secured, besides killing many men and taking many prisoners.
What was most important of all, he robbed Nicias of his easy importation of supplies. These had been safely and speedily brought in past to Plemmyrium as long as the Athenians held that post; but now that they had been driven from it, the process was a difficult one, and involved fighting with the enemy who lay at anchor there. And besides all this, the Syracusans felt that their fleet had been defeated, not through any superior strength in their enemy, but by reason of their own disorderly pursuit of that enemy. Accordingly, they were making more vigorous preparations to try the issue again.
But Nicias did not want a sea fight. He said it would be great folly, when so large an armament was sailing to their aid and hurrying up fresh troops under Demosthenes, to fight the issue out with inferior forces, and those wretchedly supplied. Menander and Euthydemus, however, who had just been appointed to their offices, were moved by an ambitious rivalry with both the other generals; they longed to anticipate Demosthenes in some brilliant exploit, and to eclipse Nicias.
They therefore made much of their city's reputation. This, they declared again and again, would be altogether ruined and dissipated if they should show fear when the Syracusans sailed out to attack them; and so they forced a decision to give battle by sea. But they were simply out-maneuvered by Ariston, the Corinthian captain, in the matter of the noon-day meal, as Thucydides relates,2
and then worsted in action, with the loss of many men. And so a great despair encompassed Nicias; he had met with disaster while in sole command, and was now again brought to grief by his colleagues.