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CHAPTER VI

Athens taken -- Slaughter of the Inhabitants -- Sulla returns to the Piræus -- Drives Archelaus out -- Burns the Piræus -- Follows Archelaus -- Battle of Chæronea -- Archelaus routed -- Great slaughter of the Barbarians


[38] Knowing that the defenders of Athens were severely pressed by hunger, that they had devoured all their cattle, boiled the hides and skins, and licked what they could get therefrom, and that some had even partaken of human flesh, Sulla directed his soldiers to encircle the city with a ditch so that the inhabitants might not escape secretly, even one by one. This done, he brought up his ladders and at the same time began to break through the wall. The feeble defenders were soon put to flight, and the Romans rushed into the city. A great and pitiless slaughter ensued in Athens, the inhabitants, for want of nourishment, being too weak to fly. Sulla ordered an indiscriminate massacre, not sparing women or children. He was angry that they had so suddenly joined the barbarians without cause, and had displayed such violent animosity toward himself. Most of the Athenians when they heard the order given rushed upon the swords of the slayers voluntarily. A few had taken their feeble course to the Acropolis, among them Aristion, who had burned the Odeum, so that Sulla might not have the timber in it at hand for storming the Acropolis. Sulla forbade the burning of the city, but allowed the soldiers to plunder it. In many houses they found human flesh prepared for food. The next day Sulla sold the slaves at auction. To the freemen who had escaped the slaughter of the previous night, a very small number, he promised their liberty but took away their right as voters and electors because they had made war upon him. The same terms were extended to their offspring.

[39] In this way did Athens have her full of horrors. Sulla stationed a guard around the Acropolis, to whom Aristion and his company were soon compelled by hunger and thirst to surrender. Sulla inflicted the penalty of death on Aristion and his body-guard, and upon all who exercised any authority or who had done anything whatever contrary to the rules laid down for them after the first capture of Greece by the Romans. Sulla pardoned the rest and gave to all of them substantially the same laws that had been previously established for them by the Romans. About forty pounds of gold and 600 pounds of silver was obtained from the Acropolis, -- but these events at the Acropolis took place somewhat later.

[40] As soon as Athens was taken Sulla, impatient at the long siege of the Piræus, brought up rams, and projectiles of all kinds, and a large force of men, who battered the walls under the shelter of tortoises, and numerous cohorts who hurled javelins and shot arrows in vast numbers at the defenders on the walls in order to drive them back. He knocked down a part of the newly built lunette, which was still moist and weak. Archelaus had anticipated this from the first and had built several others like it inside, so that Sulla came upon one wall after another, and found his task endless. But he pushed on with tireless energy, he relieved his men often, he was ubiquitous among them, urging them on and showing them that their entire hope of reward for their labors depended on accomplishing this small remainder. The soldiers, too, believing that this would in fact be the end of their toils, and spurred to their work by the love of glory and the thought that it would be a splendid achievement to conquer such walls as these, pressed forward vigorously. Finally, Archelaus was dumbfounded by their senseless and mad persistence, and abandoned the walls to them and betook himself to that part of the Piræus which was most strongly fortified and enclosed on all sides by the sea. As Sulla had no ships he could not attack it.

[41] Thence Archelaus withdrew to Thessaly by way of Bœotia and drew what was left of his entire forces together at Thermopyle, both his own and those brought by Dromichiætes. He also united with his command the army that had invaded Macedonia under Arcathias, the son of King Mithridates, which was fresh and at nearly its full strength, and had lately received recruits from Mithridates; for he never ceased sending forward reinforcements. While Archelaus was hastily gathering these forces Sulla burned the Piræus, which had given him more trouble than the city of Athens, not sparing the arsenal, or the navy yard, or any other of its famous belongings. Then he marched against Archelaus, proceeding also by way of Bœotia. As they neared each other the forces of Archelaus just from Thermopyle advanced into Phocis, consisting of Thracian, Pontic, Scythian, Cappadocian, Bithynian, Galatian, and Phrygian troops, and others from Mithridates' newly acquired territory, in all 120,000 men. Each nationality had its own general, but Archelaus had supreme command over all. Sulla's forces were Italians and some Greeks and Macedonians, who had lately deserted Archelaus and come over to him, and a few others from the surrounding country, but they were not one-third the number of the enemy.

[42] When they had taken position opposite each other Archelaus repeatedly led out his forces and offered battle. Sulla hesitated on account of the nature of the ground and the numbers of the enemy. When Archelaus moved toward Chalcis Sulla followed him closely, watching for a favorable time and place. When he saw the enemy encamped in a rocky region near Chæronea, where there was no chance of escape for the vanquished, he took possession of a broad plain near by and drew up his forces in such a way that he could compel Archelaus to fight whether he wanted to or not, and where the slope of the plain favored the Romans either in advancing or retreating. Archelaus was hedged in by rocks which, in a battle, would not allow his whole army to act in concert, as he could not bring them together by reason of the unevenness of the ground; and if they were routed their flight would be impeded by the rocks. Relying for these reasons on his advantage of position Sulla moved forward in such a way that the enemy's superiority of numbers should not be of any service to him. Archelaus did not dream of coming to an engagement at that time, for which reason he had been careless in choosing the place for his camp. Now that the Romans were advancing he perceived sorrowfully and too late the badness of his position, and he sent forward a detachment of horse to prevent the movement. The detachment was put to flight and shattered among the rocks. He next charged with sixty chariots, hoping to sever and break in pieces the formation of the legions by the shock. The Romans opened their ranks and the chariots were carried through by their own momentum to the rear, and before they could turn back they were surrounded and destroyed by the javelins of the rear guard.

[43] Although Archelaus might have fought safely from his fortified camp, where the crags would perhaps have defended him, he hastily led out his vast multitude of men who had not expected to fight here, and drew them up, in a place that had proved much too narrow, because Sulla was already approaching. He first made a powerful charge with his horse, cut the Roman formation in two, and, by reason of the smallness of their numbers, completely surrounded both parts. The Romans turned their faces to the enemy on all sides and fought bravely. The divisions of Galba and Hortensius suffered most since Archelaus led the battle against them in person, and the barbarians fighting under the eye of the commander were spurred by emulation to the highest pitch of valor. But Sulla moved to their aid with a large body of horse and Archelaus, feeling sure that it was Sulla who was approaching, for he saw the standards of the commander-in-chief, and a greater cloud of dust arising, released his grasp and began to resume his first position. Sulla, leading the best part of his horse and picking up two new cohorts that had been placed in reserve, struck the enemy before they had executed their manœuvre and formed a solid front. He threw them into confusion, put them to flight, and pursued them. While victory was dawning on that side, Murena, who commanded the left wing, was not idle. Chiding his soldiers for their remissness he, too, dashed upon the enemy valiantly and put them to flight.

[44] When Archelaus' two wings gave way the centre no longer held its ground, but took to promiscuous flight. Then everything that Sulla had foreseen befell the enemy. Not having room to turn around, or an open country for flight, they were driven by their pursuers among the rocks. Some of them rushed into the hands of the Romans. Others with more wisdom fled toward their own camp. Archelaus placed himself in front of them and barred the entrance, and ordered them to turn and face the enemy, thus betraying the greatest inexperience of the exigencies of war. They obeyed him with alacrity, but as they no longer had either generals to lead, or officers to align them, or standards to show where they belonged, but were scattered in disorderly rout, and had no room either to fly or to fight, the pursuit having brought them into their very narrowest place, they were killed without resistance, some by the enemy, upon whom they could not retaliate, and others by their own friends in the jam and confusion. Again they fled toward the gates of the camp, around which they became congested. They up braided the gate-keepers. They appealed to them in the name of their country's gods and their common relationship, and reproached them that they were slaughtered not so much by the swords of the enemy as by the indifference of their friends. Finally Archelaus, after more delay than was necessary, opened the gates and received the disorganized runaways. When the Romans observed this they gave a great cheer, burst into the camp with the fugitives, and made their victory complete.

[45] Archelaus and the rest, who made their escape singly, came together at Chalcis. Not more than 10,000 of the 120,000 remained. The Roman loss was only fifteen, and two of these turned up afterward. Such was the result of the battle of Chæronea between Sulla and Archelaus, the general of Mithridates, to which the sagacity of Sulla and the blundering of Archelaus contributed in equal measure. Sulla captured a large number of prisoners and a great quantity of arms and spoils, the useless part of which he put in a heap. Then he girded himself according to the Roman custom and burned it as a sacrifice to the gods of war. After giving his army a short rest he hastened with his best troops after Archelaus, but as the Romans had no ships the latter sailed securely among the islands and ravaged the coasts. He landed at Zacynthus and laid siege to it, but being attacked in the night by a party of Romans who were sojourning there he reembarked in a hurry and returned to Chalcis more like a robber than a warrior.


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