The Lacedaemonians seeing that the Athenians had got possession of Cythera, and anticipating1
similar descents on their own shores, nowhere opposed them with their united forces, but distributed a body of hoplites in garrisons through the country where their presence seemed to be needed. They kept strict watch, fearing lest some domestic revolution should break out. Already a great and unexpected blow had fallen upon them at Sphacteria; Pylos and Cythera were in the hands of the Athenians, and they were beset on every side by an enemy against whose swift attacks precaution was vain.
Contrary to their usual custom they raised a force of four hundred cavalry and archers. Never in their history had they shown so much hesitation in their military movements. They were involved in a war at sea, an element to which they were strange, against a power like the Athenians, in whose eyes to miss an opportunity was to lose a victory2
Fortune too was against them, and they were panic-stricken by the many startling reverses which had befallen them within so short a time. They feared lest some new calamity like that of the island might overtake them;
and therefore they dared not venture on an engagement, but expected all their undertakings to fail; they had never hitherto known misfortune, and now they lost all confidence in their own powers.