When the news of the battle and of the defection of Euboea was brought to Athens, the1
Athenians were panic-stricken. Nothing which had happened before, not even the ruin of the Sicilian expedition, however overwhelming at the time, had so terrified them. The army at Samos was in insurrection;
they had no ships in reserve or crews to man them; there was revolution at home—civil war might break out at any moment: and by this new and terrible misfortune they had lost, not only their ships, but what was worse, Euboea, on which they were more dependent for supplies than on Attica itself. Had they not reason to despair?
But what touched them nearest, and most agitated their minds, was the fear lest their enemies, emboldened by victory, should at once attack the Piraeus, in which no ships were left; indeed they fancied that they were all but there. And had the Peloponnesians been a little more enterprising they could easily have executed such a plan.
Either they might have cruised near, and would then have aggravated the divisions in the city; or by remaining and carrying on a blockade they might have compelled the fleet in Ionia, although hostile to the oligarchy, to come and assist their kindred and their native city; and then the Hellespont, Ionia, all the islands between Ionia and Euboea, in a word, the whole Athenian empire, would have fallen into their hands. But on this as on so many other occasions the Lacedaemonians proved themselves to be the most convenient enemies whom the Athenians could possibly have had.
For the two peoples were of very different tempers; the one quick, the other slow; the one adventurous, the other timorous2
; and the Lacedaemonian character was of great service to the Athenians, the more so because the empire for which they were fighting was maritime. And this view is confirmed by the defeat of the Athenians at Syracuse; for the Syracusans, who were most like them3
fought best against them.