previous next
48. Nicias in his own mind took the same gloomy view of their affairs; but he did not wish openly1 to confess their weakness, or by a public vote given in a numerous assembly to let their intention reach the enemy's ears, and so lose the advantage of departing secretly whenever they might choose to go. [2] He had moreover still some reason to suppose that the Syracusans, of whose condition he was better informed than the other generals, were likely to be worse off than themselves if they would only persevere in the siege; they would be worn out by the exhaustion of their resources; and now the Athenians with their additional ships had much greater command of the sea.-There was a party in Syracuse itself which wanted to surrender the city to the Athenians, and they kept sending messages to Nicias and advising him not to depart. Having this information he was still wavering and considering, and had not made up his mind. [3] But in addressing the council he positively refused to withdraw the army; he knew, he said, that the Athenian people would not forgive their departure if they left without an order from home. The men upon whose votes their fate would depend would not, like themselves, have seen with their own eyes the state of affairs; they would only have heard the criticisms of others, and would be convinced by any accusations which a clever speaker might bring forward2. [4] Indeed many or most of the very soldiers who were now crying out that their case was desperate would raise the opposite cry when they reached home, and would say that the generals were traitors, and had been bribed to depart; and therefore he, knowing the tempers of the Athenians,3 would for his own part rather take his chance and fall, if he must, alone by the hands of the enemy, than die4 unjustly on a dishonourable charge at the hands of the Athenians. [5] And, after all, the Syracusans were in a condition worse than their own; for they had to maintain mercenary troops; they were spending money on garrisons, and had now kept up a large navy for a whole year; already in great difficulties, they would soon be in greater; they had expended two thousand talents5, and were heavily in arrear; and if by a failure in the pay they suffer any diminution of their present forces their affairs would be ruined. For they depended on mercenaries, who, unlike the Athenian allies, were under no compulsion to serve. [6] Therefore, he said, they ought to persevere in the siege, and not go away d disheartened by the greatness of the expense, for they were far richer than the enemy6.

1 Nicias, who is partly swayed by information from Syracuse, is in his own mind undecided. But in public he refuses to go. They will be censured at home, and even accused of treason by their own soldiers. Better to die at the hands of enemies than of friends. And the Syracusans, in debt and dependent on mercenaries, are worse off than themselves.

2 Cp. 3.38 med.

3 Or, 'would for his own part rather take his chance, and fall, if he must, by the hands of the enemy, like any private soldier, than die.'

4 Or, 'would for his own part rather take his chance, and fall, if he must, by the hands of the enemy, like any private soldier, than die.'

5 £40,000.

6 Or, disheartened at the idea of the enemy's riches; for they were far richer themselves.'

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (E.C. Marchant)
load focus Notes (Charles F. Smith)
load focus Greek (1942)
load focus English (Thomas Hobbes, 1843)
load focus English (1910)
hide References (65 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: