70.But the Syracusians and their confederates, being out already with the same number of galleys they had before, disposed part of them to the guard of the open passage and the rest in circle about the haven, to the end they might fall upon the Athenians from all parts at once, and that their land forces might withal be near to aid them wheresoever the galleys touched.In the Syracusian navy commanded Sicanus and Agatharchus, each of them over a wing;and Pythen, with the Corinthians, had the middle battle.
After the Athenians were come to the lock of the haven, at the first charge they overcame the galleys placed there to guard it, and endeavoured to break open the bars thereof.But when afterwards the Syracusians and confederates came upon them from every side, they fought not at the lock only but also in the haven itself;and the battle was sharp, and such as there had never before been the like.
For the courage wherewith the mariners on both sides brought up their galleys to any part they were bidden was very great, and great was the plotting and counterplotting and contention one against another of the masters;also the soldiers, when the galleys boarded each other, did their utmost to excel each other in all points of skill that could be used upon the decks;and every man, in the place assigned him, put himself forth to appear the foremost.
But many galleys falling close together in a narrow compass (for they were the most galleys that in any battle they had used, and fought in the least room, being little fewer on the one side and the other than two hundred), they ran against each other but seldom, because there was no means of retiring nor of passing by, but made assaults upon each other oftener, as galley with galley, either flying or pursuing, chanced to fall foul.
And as long as a galley was making up, they that stood on the decks used their darts and arrows and stones in abundance;but being once come close, the soldiers at hand-strokes attempted to board each other.
And in many places it so fell out, through want of room, that they which ran upon a galley on one side were run upon themselves on the other;and that two galleys, or sometimes more, were forced to lie aboard of one;and that the masters were at once to have a care, not in one place only but in many together, how to defend on the one side and how to offend on the other;and the great noise of many galleys fallen foul of one another both amazed them and took away their hearing of what their directors directed.
For they directed thick and loud on both sides, not only as art required but out of their present eagerness;the Athenians crying out to theirs to force the passage, and now if ever valiantly to lay hold upon their safe return to their country;and the Syracusians and their confederates to theirs, how honourable a thing to every one of them it would be to hinder their escape and by this victory to improve every man the honour of his own country.
Moreover, the commanders of either side, where they saw any man without necessity to row a-stem, would call unto the captain of the galley by his name and ask him, the Athenians, whether he retired because he thought the most hostile land to be more their friend than the sea, which they had so long been masters of;the Syracusians theirs, whether when they knew that the Athenians desired earnestly by any means to fly, they would nevertheless fly from the flyers.
The English works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. Thucydides. Thomas Hobbes. translator. London. Bohn. 1843.
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