The Syracusans next sent out twelve ships under the command of Agatharchus, a Syracusan. One of these hastened to Peloponnesus conveying envoys who were to report their improved prospects, and1
to urge more strongly than ever the prosecution of the war in Hellas. The remaining eleven sailed to Italy, hearing that ships laden with supplies were on their way to the Athenians.
They fell in with and destroyed most of these ships, and burnt a quantity of ship-timber which was lying ready for the Athenians in the territory of Caulonia.
Then they came to Locri, and while they were at anchor there, one of the merchantvessels from Peloponnesus sailed in, bringing some Thespian hoplites2
. These the Syracusans took on board, and sailed homewards.
The Athenians watched for them near Megara with twenty ships and took one ship with the crew, but the rest made their escape to Syracuse.
There was some skirmishing in the harbour about the palisades which the Syracusans had fixed in the sea in front of their old3
dock-houses, that their ships might ride at anchor in the enclosed space, where they could not be struck by the enemy, and would be out of harm's way.
The Athenians brought up a ship of ten thousand talents4
burden, which had wooden towers and bulwarks;
and from their boats they tied cords to the stakes and5
wrenched and tore them up6
; or dived and sawed them through underneath the water. Meanwhile the Syracusans kept up a shower of missiles from the dock-houses, which the men in the ship returned. At length the Athenians succeeded in pulling up most of the palisade.
The stakes which were out of sight were the most dangerous of all, there being some which were so fixed that they did not appear above the water; and no vessel could safely come near. They were like a sunken reef, and a pilot, not seeing them, might easily catch his ship upon them. Even these were sawn off by men who dived for hire; but the Syracusans drove them in again.
Many were the contrivances employed on both sides, as was very natural, when two armies confronted each other at so short a distance.
There were continual skirmishes, and they practised all kinds of stratagems.
The Syracusans also sent to the Siciliot cities Corinthan Ambraciot, and Lacedaemonian7
ambassadors announcing the taking of Plemmyrium, and explaining that in the sea-fight they had been defeated not so much by the superior strength of the enemy as through their own disorder. They were also to report their great hopes of success, and to ask for assistance both by land and sea. They were to add that the Athenians were expecting reinforcements; if they could succeed in destroying the army then in Sicily before these arrived, there would be an end of the war. Such was the course of events in Sicily.