Although Nabis was enclosed between such powerful armaments on land and sea, and, on a comparative view of his own and his enemy's strength, could scarcely conceive any degree of hope;
yet he did not desist from the war, but brought, from Crete, a thousand chosen young men of that country in addition to a thousand whom he had before; he had, besides, under arms, three thousand mercenary soldiers, and ten thousand of his countrymen, with the peasants, who belonged to the fortresses.
He fortified the city with a ditch and rampart; and lest any intestine commotion should arise, curbed the people's spirits by fear, punishing them with extreme severity, as he could not hope for good wishes towards a tyrant.
As he had his suspicions respecting some of the citizens, he drew out all his forces to a field called Dromos, (the course,) and ordered the Lacedaemonians to be called to an assembly without their arms.
He then formed a line of armed men round the place where they were assembled, observing briefly, “that he ought to be excused, if, at such a juncture, he feared and guarded against every thing that might happen;
and that, if the present state of affairs subjected any to suspicion, it was their advantage to be prevented from attempting any design, rather than to be punished for attempting it: he therefore intended,” he said, “to keep certain persons in custody, until the storm, which then threatened, should [p. 1518]
have passed over;
and would discharge them as soon as the enemy should have been driven away, from whom the danger would be less, when proper precaution was taken against internal treachery.”
He then ordered the names of about eighty of the principal young men to be called over, and as each answered to his name, he put them in custody. On the night following, they were all put to death.
Some of the Helotes
, a race of rustics, who have been feudal vassals even from the earliest times, being charged with an intention to desert, they were driven with stripes through all the streets, and put to death. The terror which this excited so confounded the multitude, as to deter them from all attempts to effect a revolution.
He kept his forces within the fortifications, knowing that he was not a match for the enemy in the field; and, besides, he was afraid to leave the city, while all men's minds were in a state of such suspense and uncertainty.