Athenians thronged to the tents of their commanders and begged the generals to take thought,
not for the ships, but for the safety of themselves. Demosthenes, accordingly, declared that,
since the barrier of boats had been broken, they should straight-way man the triremes, and he
expressed the belief that, if they delivered an unexpected attack, they would easily succeed in
But Nicias advised that they leave the ships behind and
withdraw through the interior to the cities which were their allies. This plan was agreed to by
all, and they burned some of the ships and made preparations for the retreat.
When it was evident that the Athenians
were going to withdraw during the night, Hermocrates advised the Syracusans to lead forth their
entire army in the night and seize all the roads beforehand.
And when the generals would not agree to this, both because many of the soldiers were wounded
and because all of them were worn-out in body from the fighting, he sent some of the horsemen
to the camp of the Athenians to tell them that the Syracusans had already dispatched men to
seize in advance the roads and the most important positions.
It was already night when the horsemen carried out these orders, and the Athenians, believing
that it was men from Leontini who out of goodwill had brought them the word, were not a little
disturbed and postponed the departure. If they had not been deceived by this trick, they would
have got safely away.
The Syracusans at daybreak dispatched
the soldiers who were to seize in advance the narrow passes in the roads. And the Athenian
generals, dividing the soldiers into two bodies, put the pack-animals and the sick and injured
in the centre and stationed those who were in condition to fight in the van and the rear, and
then set out for Catane
, Demosthenes commanding one
group and Nicias the other.