At a general assembly of the Syracusans and their allies, Eurycles, the popular leader, brought in a motion, first, that the day on which they had taken Nicias be made a holy day, with sacrifices and abstention from labour, and that the festival be called Asinaria, from the river Asinarus (the day was the twenty-sixth of the month Carneius, which the Athenians call Metageitnion);
and second, that the serving men of the Athenians and their immediate allies be sold into slavery, while the freemen and the Sicilian Hellenes who had joined them be cast into the stone quarries for watch and ward,—all except the generals, who should be put to death.
These propositions were adopted by the Syracusans. When Hermocrates protested that there was something better than victory, to wit, a noble use of victory, he was met with a tumult of disapproval; and when Gylippus demanded the Athenian generals as his prize, that he might take them alive to the Lacedaemonians, the Syracusans, now grown insolent with their good fortune, abused him roundly.
They were the more ready to do this because, all through the war, they had found it hard to put up with his harshness and the Laconian style with which he exercised his authority. Timaeus says, moreover, that they denounced his exceeding penuriousness and avarice,—an inherited infirmity, it would seem, since his father, Cleandridas, was convicted of taking bribes and had to flee his country. And Gylippus himself, for abstracting thirty talents from the thousand which Lysander had sent to Sparta, and hiding them in the roof of his house—as an informer was prompt to show—was banished in the deepest disgrace. But this has been told with more detail in my Life of Lysander.1
Timaeus denies that Demosthenes and Nicias were put to death by the orders of the Syracusans, as Philistus and Thucydides2
state; but rather, Hermocrates sent word to them of the decision of the assembly while it was yet in session, and with the connivance of one of their guards they took their own lives. Their bodies, however, he says, were cast out at the prison door, and lay there in plain sight of all who craved the spectacle.
And I learn that down to this day there is shown among the treasures of a temple in Syracuse a shield which is said to have been the shield of Nicias. It is a welded mosaic of gold and purple interwoven with rare skill.