The Lacedaemonians, perceiving that if he were deposed they would find the Athenians more pliant in their hands, ordered them to drive out the Cylonian pollution,1
in which the family of Pericles on his mother's side was involved, as Thucydides states.2
But the attempt brought a result the opposite of what its makers designed, for in place of suspicion and slander, Pericles won even greater confidence and honor among the citizens than before, because they saw that their enemies hated and feared him above all other men.
Therefore also, before Archidamus invaded Attica with the Peloponnesians, Pericles made public proclamation to the Athenians, that in case Archidamus, while ravaging everything else, should spare his estates, either out of regard for the friendly tie that existed between them, or with an eye to affording his enemies grounds for slander, he would make over to the city his lands and the homesteads thereon.
Accordingly, the Lacedaemonians and their allies invaded Attica with a great host under the leadership of Archidamus the king. And they advanced, ravaging the country as they went, as far as Acharnae, where they encamped, supposing that the Athenians would not tolerate it, but would fight with them out of angry pride.
Pericles, however, looked upon it as a terrible thing to join battle with sixty thousand Peloponnesian and Boeotian hoplites (those who made the first invasion were as numerous as that), and stake the city itself upon the issue. So he tried to calm down those who were eager to fight, and who were in distress at what the enemy was doing, by saying that trees, though cut and lopped, grew quickly, but if men were destroyed it was not easy to get them again.
And he would not call the people together into an assembly, fearing that he would be constrained against his better judgement, but, like the helmsman of a ship, who, when a stormy wind swoops down upon it in the open sea, makes all fast, takes in sail, and exercises his skill, disregarding the tears and entreaties of the sea-sick and timorous passengers, so he shut the city up tight, put all parts of it under safe garrison, and exercised his own judgement, little heeding the brawlers and malcontents.
And yet many of his friends beset him with entreaties, and many of his enemies with threats and denunciations, and choruses sang songs of scurrilous mockery, railing at his generalship for its cowardice, and its abandonment of everything to the enemy. Cleon, too, was already harassing him, taking advantage of the wrath with which the citizens regarded him to make his own way toward the leadership of the people,
as these anapaestic verses of Hermippus3
Thou king of the Satyrs, why pray wilt thou not
Take the spear for thy weapon, and stop the dire talk
With the which, until now, thou conductest the war.
While the soul of a Teles is in thee?
If the tiniest knife is but laid on the stone
To give it an edge, thou gnashest thy teeth,
As if bitten by fiery Cleon.