At any rate, when he moved his armament back to Syracuse,1
he showed such generalship, and made his approach with such speed and safety, that he put in at Thapsus with his fleet and landed his men unobserved, seized Epipolae2
before the enemy could prevent, defeated the picked companies which came to its rescue, killing three hundred men, and even routed the cavalry of the enemy, which was thought to be invincible.
But what most of all filled the Sicilians with terror and the Hellenes with incredulity was the fact that in a short time he carried a wall around Syracuse, a city fully as large as Athens, although the unevenness of the territory about it, its proximity to the sea and its adjacent marshes, made the task of surrounding it with such a wall very difficult.
But he came within an ace of bringing this great task to completion,—a man who had not even sound health for such concerns, but was sick of a disease in the kidneys. To this it is only fair to ascribe the fact that part of the work was unfinished. I can but admire the watchful care of the general and the noble valor of his soldiers in what they did accomplish.
Euripides, after their defeat and destruction, composed an epitaph for them, in which he said:—
These men at Syracuse eight times were triumphant as victors;3
Heroes they were while the gods favoured both causes alike.
And not eight times only, nay, more than that you will find that the Syracusans were beaten by them, until the gods, as the poet says, or fortune, became hostile to the Athenians at the very pinnacle of their power.