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Plutarch's Lives

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good-will of the commonalty, who, likewise, contributed to his
advancement. For though Cleon got great influence by his exertions

-- to please
The old men, who trusted him to find them fees.

Yet even those, for whose interest, and to gain whose favor he
acted, nevertheless observing the avarice, the arrogance, and the
presumption of the man, many of them supported Nicias. For his was
not that sort of gravity which is harsh and offensive, but he
tempered it with a certain caution and deference, winning upon the
people, by seeming afraid of them. And being naturally diffident
and unhopeful in war, his good fortune supplied his want of
courage, and kept it from being detected, as in all his commands he
was constantly successful. And his timorousness in civil life, and
his extreme dread of accusers, was thought very suitable in a
citizen of a free State; and from the people's good-will towards
him, got him no small power over them, they being fearful of all
that despised them, but willing to promote one who seemed to be
afraid of them; the greatest compliment their betters could pay
them being not to contemn them.

Pericles, who by solid virtue and the pure force of argument ruled
the commonwealth, had stood in need of no disguises nor persuasions
with the people. Nicias, inferior in these respects, used his
riches, of which he had abundance, to gain popularity. Neither had
he the nimble wit of Cleon, to win the Athenians to his purposes by
amusing them with bold jests; unprovided with such qualities, he
courted them with dramatic exhibitions, gymnastic games, and other
public shows, more sumptuous and more splendid than had been ever
known in his, or in former ages. Amongst his religious offerings,
there was extant, even in our days, the small figure of Minerva in
the citadel, having lost the gold that covered it; and a shrine in
the temple of Bacchus, under the tripods, that were presented by
those who won the prize in the shows of plays. For at these he had
often carried off the prize, and never once failed. We are told
that on one of these occasions, a slave of his appeared in the
character of Bacchus, of a beautiful person and noble stature, and
with as yet no beard upon his chin; and on the Athenians being
pleased with the sight, and applauding a long time, Nicias stood
up, and said he could not in piety keep as a slave, one whose
person had been consecrated to represent a god. And forthwith he
set the young man free. His performances at Delos are, also, on
record, as noble and magnificent works of devotion. For whereas
the choruses which the cities sent to sing hymns to the god were
wont to arrive in no order, as it might happen, and, being there
met by a crowd of people crying out to them to sing, in their hurry
to begin, used to disembark confusedly, putting on their garlands,
and changing their dresses as they left the ships, he, when he had
to convoy the sacred company, disembarked the chorus at Rhenea,
together with the sacrifice, and other holy appurtenances. And
having brought along with him from Athens a bridge fitted by
measurement for the purpose, and magnificently adorned with gilding
and coloring, and with garlands and tapestries; this he laid in the
night over the channel betwixt Rhenea and Delos, being no great
distance. And at break of day he marched forth with all the
procession to the god, and led the chorus, sumptuously ornamented,
and singing their hymns, along over the bridge. The sacrifices,
the games, and the feast being over, he set up a palm-tree of brass
for a present to the god, and bought a parcel of land with ten
thousand drachmas which he consecrated; with the revenue the
inhabitants of Delos were to sacrifice and to feast, and to pray
the gods for many good things to Nicias. This he engraved on a
pillar, which he left in Delos to be a record of his bequest. This
same palm-tree, afterwards broken down by the wind, fell on the
great statue which the men of Naxos presented, and struck it to the

It is plain that much of this might be vainglory, and the mere
desire of popularity and applause; yet from other qualities and
carriage of the man, one might believe all this cost and public
display to be the effect of devotion. For he was one of those who
dreaded the divine powers extremely, and, as Thucydides tells us,
was much given to arts of divination. In one of Pasiphon's
dialogues, it is stated that he daily sacrificed to the gods, and
keeping a diviner at his house, professed to be consulting always
about the commonwealth, but for the most part, inquired about his
own private affairs, more especially concerning his silver mines;
for he owned many works at Laurium, of great value, but somewhat
hazardous to carry on. He maintained there a multitude of slaves,
and his wealth consisted chiefly in silver. Hence he had many
hangers-on about him, begging and obtaining. For he gave to those
who could do him mischief, no less than to those who deserved well.
In short, his timidity was a revenue to rogues, and his humanity to
honest men. We find testimony in the comic writers, as when
Teleclides, speaking of one of the professed informers, says: --

Charicles gave the man a pound, the matter not to name,
That from inside a money-bag into the world he came;
And Nicias, also, paid him four; I know the reason well,
But Nicias is a worthy man, and so I will not tell.

So, also, the informer whom Eupolis introduces in his Maricas,
attacking a good, simple, poor man: --

How long ago did you and Nicias meet?

I did but see him just now in the street.

The man has seen him and denies it not,
'Tis evident that they are in a plot.

See you, O citizens! 'tis fact,
Nicias is taken in the act.

Taken, Fools! take so good a man
In aught that's wrong none will or can.

Cleon, in Aristophanes, makes it one of his threats: --

I'll outscream all the speakers, and make Nicias stand aghast!

Phrynichus also implies his want of spirit, and his easiness to be
intimidated in the verses,

A noble man he was, I well can say,
Nor walked like Nicias, cowering on his way.

So cautious was he of informers, and so reserved, that he never
would dine out with any citizen, nor allowed himself to indulge in
talk and conversation with his friends, nor gave himself any
leisure for such amusements; but when he was general he used to
stay at the office till night, and was the first that came to the
council-house, and the last that left it. And if no public
business engaged him, it was very hard to have access, or to speak
with him, he being retired at home and locked up. And when any
came to the door, some friend of his gave them good words, and
begged them to excuse him, Nicias was very busy; as if affairs of
State and public duties still kept him occupied. He who
principally acted this part for him, and contributed most to this
state and show, was Hiero, a man educated in Nicias's family, and
instructed by him in letters and music. He professed to be the son
of Dionysius, surnamed Chalcus, whose poems are yet extant, and had
led out the colony to Italy, and founded Thurii. This Hiero
transacted all his secrets for Nicias with the dinners; and gave
out to the people, what a toilsome and miserable life he led, for
the sake of the commonwealth. "He," said Hiero, "can never be
either at the bath, or at his meat, but some public business
interferes. Careless of his own, and zealous for the public good,
he scarcely ever goes to bed till after others have had their first
sleep. So that his health is impaired, and his body out of order,
nor is he cheerful or affable with his friends, but loses them as
well as his money in the service of the State, while other men gain
friends by public speaking, enrich themselves, fare delicately, and
make government their amusement." And in fact this was Nicias's
manner of life, so that he well might apply to himself the words of
Agamemnon: --

Vain pomp's the ruler of the life we live,
And a slave's service to the crowd we give.

He observed that the people, in the case of men of eloquence, or of
eminent parts, made use of their talents upon occasion, but were
always jealous of their abilities, and held a watchful eye upon
them, taking all opportunities to humble their pride and abate
their reputation; as was manifest in their condemnation of
Pericles, their banishment of Damon, their distrust of Antiphon the
Rhamnusian, but especially in the case of Paches who took Lesbos,
who, having to give an account of his conduct, in the very court of
justice unsheathed his sword and slew himself. Upon such
considerations, Nicias declined all difficult and lengthy
enterprises; if he took a command, he was for doing what was safe;
and if, as thus was likely, he had for the most part success, he
did not attribute it to any wisdom, conduct, or courage of his own,
but, to avoid envy, he thanked fortune for all, and gave the glory
to the divine powers. And the actions themselves bore testimony in
his favor; the city met at that time with several considerable
reverses, but he had not a hand in any of them. The Athenians were
routed in Thrace by the Chalcidians, Calliades and Xenophon
commanding in chief. Demosthenes was the general when they were
unfortunate in Aetolia. At Delium, they lost a thousand citizens
under the conduct of Hippocrates; the plague was principally laid
to the charge of Pericles, he, to carry on the war, having shut up
close together in the town the crowd of people from the country,
who, by the change of place, and of their usual course of living,
bred the pestilence. Nicias stood clear of all this; under his
conduct was taken Cythera, an island most commodious against
Laconia, and occupied by the Lacedaemonian settlers; many places,
likewise, in Thrace, which had revolted, were taken or won over by
him; he, shutting up the Megarians within their town, seized upon
the isle of Minoa; and soon after, advancing from thence to Nisaea,
made himself master there, and then making a descent upon the
Corinthian territory, fought a successful battle, and slew a great
number of the Corinthians with their captain Lycophron. There it
happened that two of his men were left by an oversight, when they
carried off the dead, which when he understood, he stopped the
fleet, and sent a herald to the enemy for leave to carry off the
dead; though by law and custom, he that by a truce craved leave to
carry off the dead, was hereby supposed to give up all claim to the
victory. Nor was it lawful for him that did this to erect a
trophy, for his is the victory who is master of the field, and he
is not master who asks leave, as wanting power to take. But he
chose rather to renounce his victory and his glory, than to let two
citizens lie unburied. He scoured the coast of Laconia all along,
and beat the Lacedaemonians that made head against him. He took
Thyrea, occupied by the Aeginetans, and carried the prisoners to

When Demosthenes had fortified Pylos, and the Peloponnesians
brought together both their sea and land forces before it, after
the fight, about the number of four hundred native Spartans were
left ashore in the isle Sphacteria. The Athenians thought it a
great prize, as indeed it was, to take these men prisoners. But
the siege, in places that wanted water, being very difficult and
untoward, and to convey necessaries about by sea in summer tedious
and expensive, in winter doubtful, or plainly impossible, they
began to be annoyed, and to repent their having rejected the
embassy of the Lacedaemonians that had been sent to propose a
treaty of peace, which had been done at the importunity of Cleon,
who opposed it chiefly out of a pique to Nicias; for, being his
enemy, and observing him to be extremely solicitous to support the
offers of the Lacedaemonians, he persuaded the people to refuse

Now, therefore, that the siege was protracted, and they heard of
the difficulties that pressed their army, they grew enraged against
Cleon. But he turned all the blame upon Nicias, charging it on his
softness and cowardice, that the besieged were not yet taken.
"Were I general," said he, "they should not hold out so long." The
Athenians not unnaturally asked the question, "Why then, as it is,
do not you go with a squadron against them?" And Nicias standing
up resigned his command at Pylos to him, and bade him take what
forces he pleased along with him, and not be bold in words, out of
harm's way, but go forth and perform some real service for the
commonwealth. Cleon, at the first, tried to draw back,
disconcerted at the proposal, which he had never expected; but the
Athenians insisting, and Nicias loudly upbraiding him, he thus
provoked, and fired with ambition, took upon him the charge, and
said further, that within twenty days after he embarked, he would
either kill the enemy upon the place, or bring them alive to
Athens. This the Athenians were readier to laugh at than to
believe, as on other occasions, also, his bold assertions and
extravagances used to make them sport, and were pleasant enough.
As, for instance, it is reported that once when the people were
assembled, and had waited his coming a long time, at last he
appeared with a garland on his head, and prayed them to adjourn to
the next day. "For," said he, "I am not at leisure to-day; I have
sacrificed to the gods, and am to entertain some strangers."
Whereupon the Athenians laughing rose up, and dissolved the
assembly. However, at this time he had good fortune, and in
conjunction with Demosthenes, conducted the enterprise so well,
that within the time he had limited, he carried captive to Athens
all the Spartans that had not fallen in battle.

This brought great disgrace on Nicias; for this was not to throw
away his shield, but something yet more shameful and ignominious,
to quit his charge voluntarily out of cowardice, and voting
himself, as it were, out of his command of his own accord, to put
into his enemy's hand the opportunity of achieving so brave an
action. Aristophanes has a jest against him on this occasion in
the Birds: --

Indeed, not now the word that must be said
Is, do like Nicias, or retire to bed.

And, again, in his Husbandmen: --

I wish to stay at home and farm.
What then?
Who should prevent you?
You, my countrymen;
Whom I would pay a thousand drachmas down,
To let me give up office and leave town.

Enough; content; the sum two thousand is,
With those that Nicias paid to give up his.

Besides all this, he did great mischief to the city by suffering
the accession of so much reputation and power to Cleon, who now
assumed such lofty airs, and allowed himself in such intolerable
audacity, as led to many unfortunate results, a sufficient part of
which fell to his own share. Amongst other things, he destroyed
all the decorum of public speaking; he was the first who ever broke
out into exclamations, flung open his dress, smote his thigh, and
ran up and down whilst he was speaking, things which soon after
introduced amongst those who managed the affairs of State, such
license and contempt of decency, as brought all into confusion.

Already, too, Alcibiades was beginning to show his strength at
Athens, a popular leader, not, indeed, as utterly violent as Cleon,
but as the land of Egypt, through the richness of its soil, is

-- great plenty to produce,
Both wholesome herbs, and drugs of deadly juice,

so the nature of Alcibiades was strong and luxuriant in both kinds,
and made way for many serious innovations. Thus it fell out that
after Nicias had got his hands clear of Cleon, he had not
opportunity to settle the city perfectly into quietness. For
having brought matters to a pretty hopeful condition, he found
everything carried away and plunged again into confusion by
Alcibiades, through the wildness and vehemence of his ambition, and
all embroiled again in war worse than ever. Which fell out thus.
The persons who had principally hindered the peace were Cleon and
Brasidas. War setting off the virtue of the one, and hiding the
villainy of the other, gave to the one occasions of achieving brave
actions, to the other opportunity of committing equal dishonesties.
Now when these two were in one battle both slain near Amphipolis,
Nicias was aware that the Spartans had long been desirous of a
peace, and that the Athenians had no longer the same confidence in
the war. Both being alike tired, and, as it were by consent,
letting fall their hands, he, therefore, in this nick of time,
employed his efforts to make a friendship betwixt the two cities,
and to deliver the other States of Greece from the evils and
calamities they labored under, and so establish his own good name
for success as a statesman for all future time. He found the men
of substance, the elder men, and the land-owners and farmers pretty
generally, all inclined to peace. And when, in addition to these,
by conversing and reasoning, he had cooled the wishes of a good
many others for war, he now encouraged the hopes of the
Lacedaemonians, and counseled them to seek peace. They confided in
him, as on account of his general character for moderation and
equity, so, also, because of the kindness and care he had shown to
the prisoners taken at Pylos and kept in confinement, making their
misfortune the more easy to them.

The Athenians and the Spartans had before this concluded a truce
for a year, and during this, by associating with one another, they
had tasted again the sweets of peace and security, and unimpeded
intercourse with friends and connections, and thus longed for an
end of that fighting and bloodshed, and heard with delight the
chorus sing such verses as

-- my lance I'll leave
Laid by, for spiders to o'erweave,

and remembered with joy the saying, In peace, they who sleep are
awaked by the cock-crow, not by the trumpet. So shutting their
ears, with loud reproaches, to the forebodings of those who said
that the Fates decreed this to be a war of thrice nine years, the
whole question having been debated, they made a peace. And most
people thought, now, indeed, they had got an end of all their
evils. And Nicias was in every man's mouth, as one especially
beloved of the gods, who, for his piety and devotion, had been
appointed to give a name to the fairest and greatest of all
blessings. For in fact they considered the peace Nicias's work, as
the war the work of Pericles; because he, on light occasions,
seemed to have plunged the Greeks into great calamities, while
Nicias had induced them to forget all the evils they had done each
other and to be friends again; and so to this day it is called the
Peace of Nicias.

The articles being, that the garrisons and towns taken on either
side, and the prisoners should be restored, and they to restore the
first to whom it should fall by lot, Nicias, as Theophrastus tells
us, by a sum of money procured that the lot should fall for the
Lacedaemonians to deliver the first. Afterwards, when the
Corinthians and the Boeotians showed their dislike of what was
done, and by their complaints and accusations were wellnigh
bringing the war back again, Nicias persuaded the Athenians and the
Lacedaemonians, besides the peace, to make a treaty of alliance,
offensive and defensive, as a tie and confirmation of the peace,
which would make them more terrible to those that held out, and the
firmer to each other. Whilst these matters were on foot,
Alcibiades, who was no lover of tranquillity, and who was offended
with the Lacedaemonians because of their applications and
attentions to Nicias, while they overlooked and despised himself,
from first to last, indeed, had opposed the peace, though all in
vain, but now finding that the Lacedaemonians did not altogether
continue to please the Athenians, but were thought to have acted
unfairly in having made a league with the Boeotians, and had not
given up Panactum, as they should have done, with its
fortifications unrazed, nor yet Amphipolis, he laid hold on these
occasions for his purpose, and availed himself of every one of them
to irritate the people. And, at length, sending for ambassadors
from the Argives, he exerted himself to effect a confederacy
between the Athenians and them. And now, when Lacedaemonian
ambassadors were come with full powers, and at their preliminary
audience by the council seemed to come in all points with just
proposals, he, fearing that the general assembly, also, would be
won over to their offers, overreached them with false professions
and oaths of assistance, on the condition that they would not avow
that they came with full powers, this, he said, being the only way
for them to attain their desires. They being overpersuaded and
decoyed from Nicias to follow him, he introduced them to the
assembly, and asked them presently whether or no they came in all
points with full powers, which when they denied, he, contrary to
their expectation, changing his countenance, called the council to
witness their words, and now bade the people beware how they trust,
or transact anything with such manifest liars, who say at one time
one thing, and at another the very opposite upon the same subject.
These plenipotentiaries were, as well they might be, confounded at
this, and Nicias, also, being at a loss what to say, and struck
with amazement and wonder, the assembly resolved to send
immediately for the Argives, to enter into a league with them. An
earthquake, which interrupted the assembly, made for Nicias's
advantage; and the next day the people being again assembled, after
much speaking and soliciting, with great ado he brought it about,
that the treaty with the Argives should be deferred, and he be sent
to the Lacedaemonians, in full expectation that so all would go

When he arrived at Sparta, they received him there as a good man,
and one well inclined towards them; yet he effected nothing, but,
baffled by the party that favored the Boeotians, he returned home,
not only dishonored and hardly spoken of, but likewise in fear of
the Athenians, who were vexed and enraged that through his
persuasions they had released so many and such considerable
persons, their prisoners, for the men who had been brought from
Pylos were of the chiefest families of Sparta, and had those who
were highest there in place and power for their friends and
kindred. Yet did they not in their heat proceed against him,
otherwise than that they chose Alcibiades general, and took the
Mantineans and Eleans, who had thrown up their alliance with the
Lacedaemonians, into the league, together with the Argives, and
sent to Pylos freebooters to infest Laconia, whereby the war began
to break out afresh.

But the enmity betwixt Nicias and Alcibiades running higher and
higher, and the time being at hand for decreeing the ostracism or
banishment, for ten years, which the people, putting the name on a
sherd, were wont to inflict at certain times on some person
suspected or regarded with jealousy for his popularity or wealth,
both were now in alarm and apprehension, one of them, in all
likelihood, being to undergo this ostracism; as the people
abominated the life of Alcibiades, and stood in fear of his
boldness and resolution, as is shown particularly in the history of
him; while as for Nicias, his riches made him envied, and his
habits of living, in particular, his unsociable and exclusive ways,
not like those of a fellow-citizen, or even a fellow-man, went
against him, and having many times opposed their inclinations,
forcing them against their feelings to do what was their interest,
he had got himself disliked.

To speak plainly, it was a contest of the young men who were eager
for war, against the men of years and lovers of peace, they turning
the ostracism upon the one, these upon the other. But

In civil strife e'en villains rise to fame.

And so now it happened that the city, distracted into two factions,
allowed free course to the most impudent and profligate persons,
among whom was Hyperbolus of the Perithoedae, one who could not,
indeed, be said to be presuming upon any power, but rather by his
presumption rose into power, and by the honor he found in the city,
became the scandal of it. He, at this time, thought himself far
enough from the ostracism, as more properly deserving the slave's
gallows, and made account, that one of these men being dispatched
out of the way, he might be able to play a part against the other
that should be left, and openly showed his pleasure at the
dissension, and his desire to inflame the people against both of
them. Nicias and Alcibiades, perceiving his malice, secretly
combined together, and setting both their interests jointly at
work, succeeded in fixing the ostracism not on either of them, but
even on Hyperbolus. This, indeed, at the first, made sport, and
raised laughter among the people; but afterwards it was felt as an
affront, that the thing should be dishonored by being employed upon
so unworthy a subject; punishment, also, having its proper dignity,
and ostracism being one that was appropriate rather for Thucydides,
Aristides, and such like persons; whereas for Hyperbolus it was a
glory, and a fair ground for boasting on his part, when for his
villainy he suffered the same with the best men. As Plato, the
comic poet said of him,

The man deserved the fate, deny who can;
Yes, but the fate did not deserve the man;
Not for the like of him and his slave-brands,
Did Athens put the sherd into our hands.

And, in fact, none ever afterwards suffered this sort of
punishment, but Hyperbolus was the last, as Hipparchus the
Cholargian, who was kin to the tyrant, was the first.

There is no judgment to be made of fortune; nor can any reasoning
bring us to a certainty about it. If Nicias had run the risk with
Alcibiades, whether of the two should undergo the ostracism, he had
either prevailed, and, his rival being expelled the city, he had
remained secure; or, being overcome, he had avoided the utmost
disasters, and preserved the reputation of a most excellent
commander. Meantime I am not ignorant that Theophrastus says, that
when Hyperbolus was banished Phaeax, not Nicias, contested it with
Alcibiades; but most authors differ from him.

It was Alcibiades, at any rate, whom when the Aegestean and
Leontine ambassadors arrived and urged the Athenians to make an
expedition against Sicily, Nicias opposed, and by whose persuasions
and ambition he found himself overborne, who even before the people
could be assembled, had preoccupied and corrupted their judgment
with hopes and with speeches; insomuch that the young men at their
sports, and the old men in their workshops, and sitting together on
the benches, would be drawing maps of Sicily, and making charts
showing the seas, the harbors, and general character of the coast
of the island opposite Africa. For they made not Sicily the end of
the war, but rather its starting point and head-quarters from
whence they might carry it to the Carthaginians, and possess
themselves of Africa, and of the seas as far as the pillars of
Hercules. The bulk of the people, therefore, pressing this way,
Nicias, who opposed them, found but few supporters, nor those of
much influence; for the men of substance, fearing lest they should
seem to shun the public charges and ship-money, were quiet against
their inclination; nevertheless he did not tire nor give it up, but
even after the Athenians decreed a war and chose him in the first
place general, together with Alcibiades and Lamachus, when they
were again assembled, he stood up, dissuaded them, and protested
against the decision, and laid the blame on Alcibiades, charging
him with going about to involve the city in foreign dangers and
difficulties, merely with a view to his own private lucre and
ambition. Yet it came to nothing. Nicias, because of his
experience, was looked upon as the fitter for the employment, and
his wariness with the bravery of Alcibiades, and the easy temper of
Lamachus, all compounded together, promised such security, that he
did but confirm the resolution. Demostratus, who, of the popular
leaders, was the one who chiefly pressed the Athenians to the
expedition, stood up and said he would stop the mouth of Nicias
from urging any more excuses, and moved that the generals should
have absolute power both at home and abroad, to order and to act as
they thought best; and this vote the people passed.

The priests, however, are said to have very earnestly opposed the
enterprise. But Alcibiades had his diviners of another sort, who
from some old prophesies announced that "there shall be great fame
of the Athenians in Sicily," and messengers came back to him from
Jupiter Ammon, with oracles importing that "the Athenians shall
take all the Syracusans." Those, meanwhile, who knew anything
that boded ill, concealed it, lest they might seem to forespeak
ill-luck. For even prodigies that were obvious and plain would not
deter them; not the defacing of the Hermue, all maimed in one night
except one, called the Hermes of Andocides, erected by the tribe of
Aegeus, placed directly before the house then occupied by
Andocides; nor what was perpetrated on the altar of the twelve
gods, upon which a certain man leaped suddenly up, and then turning
round, mutilated himself with a stone. Likewise at Delphi, there
stood a golden image of Minerva, set on a palm-tree of brass,
erected by the city of Athens from the spoils they won from the
Medes; this was pecked at several days together by crows flying
upon it, who, also, plucked off and knocked down the fruit, made of
gold, upon the palm-tree. But the Athenians said these were all
but inventions of the Delphians, corrupted by the men of Syracuse.
A certain oracle bade them bring from Clazomenae the priestess of
Minerva there; they sent for the woman and found her named
Hesychia, Quietness, this being, it would seem, what the divine
powers advised the city at this time, to be quiet. Whether,
therefore, the astrologer Meton feared these presages, or that from
human reason he doubted its success, (for he was appointed to a
command in it,) feigning himself mad, he set his house on fire.
Others say he did not counterfeit madness, but set his house on
fire in the night, and he next morning came before the assembly in
great distress, and besought the people, in consideration of the
sad disaster, to release his son from the service, who was about to
go captain of a galley for Sicily. The genius, also, of the
philosopher Socrates, on this occasion, too, gave him intimation by
the usual tokens, that the expedition would prove the ruin of the
commonwealth; this he imparted to his friends and familiars, and by
them it was mentioned to a number of people. Not a few were
troubled because the days on which the fleet set sail happened to
be the time when the women celebrated the death of Adonis; there
being everywhere then exposed to view images of dead men, carried
about with mourning and lamentation, and women beating their
breasts. So that such as laid any stress on these matters were
extremely troubled, and feared lest that all this warlike
preparation, so splendid and so glorious, should suddenly, in a
little time, be blasted in its very prime of magnificence, and come
to nothing.

Nicias, in opposing the voting of this expedition, and neither
being puffed up with hopes, nor transported with the honor of his
high command so as to modify his judgment, showed himself a man of
virtue and constancy. But when his endeavors could not divert the
people from the war, nor get leave for himself to be discharged of
the command, but the people, as it were, violently took him up and
carried him, and against his will put him in the office of general,
this was no longer now a time for his excessive caution and his
delays, nor was it for him, like a child, to look back from the
ship, often repeating and reconsidering over and over again how
that his advice had not been overruled by fair arguments, thus
blunting the courage of his fellow commanders and spoiling the
season of action. Whereas, he ought speedily to have closed with
the enemy and brought the matter to an issue, and put fortune
immediately to the test in battle. But, on the contrary, when
Lamachus counseled to sail directly to Syracuse, and fight the
enemy under their city walls, and Alcibiades advised to secure the
friendship of the other towns, and then to march against them,
Nicias dissented from them both, and insisted that they should
cruise quietly around the island and display their armament, and,
having landed a small supply of men for the Egesteans, return to
Athens, weakening at once the resolution and casting down the
spirits of the men. And when, a little while after, the Athenians
called home Alcibiades in order to his trial, he being, though
joined nominally with another in commission, in effect the only
general, made now no end of loitering, of cruising, and
considering, till their hopes were grown stale, and all the
disorder and consternation which the first approach and view of
their forces had cast amongst the enemy was worn off, and had left

Whilst yet Alcibiades was with the fleet, they went before Syracuse
with a squadron of sixty galleys, fifty of them lying in array
without the harbor, while the other ten rowed in to reconnoiter,
and by a herald called upon the citizens of Leontini to return to
their own country. These scouts took a galley of the enemy's, in
which they found certain tablets, on which was set down a list of
all the Syracusans, according to their tribes. These were wont to
be laid up at a distance from the city, in the temple of Jupiter
Olympius, but were now brought forth for examination to furnish a
muster-roll of young men for the war. These being so taken by the
Athenians, and carried to the officers, and the multitude of names
appearing, the diviners thought it unpropitious, and were in
apprehension lest this should be the only destined fullfilment of
the prophecy, that "the Athenians shall take all the Syracusans."
Yet, indeed, this was said to be accomplished by the Athenians at
another time, when Callippus the Athenian, having slain Dion,
became master of Syracuse. But when Alcibiades shortly after
sailed away from Sicily, the command fell wholly to Nicias.
Lamachus was, indeed, a brave and honest man, and ready to fight
fearlessly with his own hand in battle, but so poor and ill off,
that whenever he was appointed general, he used always, in
accounting for his outlay of public money, to bring some little
reckoning or other of money for his very clothes and shoes. On the
contrary, Nicias, as on other accounts, so, also, because of his
wealth and station, was very much thought of. The story is told that
once upon a time the commission of generals being in consultation
together in their public office, he bade Sophocles the poet give
his opinion first, as the senior of the board. "I," replied
Sophocles, "am the older, but you are the senior." And so now,
also, Lamachus, who better understood military affairs, being quite
his subordinate, he himself, evermore delaying and avoiding risk,
and faintly employing his forces, first by his sailing about Sicily
at the greatest distance aloof from the enemy, gave them
confidence, then by afterwards attacking Hybla, a petty fortress,
and drawing off before he could take it, made himself utterly
despised. At the last he retreated to Catana without having
achieved anything, save that he demolished Hyocara, a humble town
of the barbarians, out of which the story goes that Lais the
courtesan, yet a mere girl, was sold amongst the other prisoners,
and carried thence away to Peloponnesus.

But when the summer was spent, after reports began to reach him
that the Syracusans were grown so confident that they would come
first to attack him, and troopers skirmishing to the very camp
twitted his soldiers, asking whether they came to settle with the
Catanians, or to put the Leontines in possession of their city, at
last, with much ado, Nicias resolved to sail against Syracuse. And
wishing to form his camp safely and without molestation, he
procured a man to carry from Catana intelligence to the Syracusans
that they might seize the camp of the Athenians unprotected, and
all their arms, if on such a day they should march with all their
forces to Catana; and that, the Athenians living mostly in the
town, the friends of the Syracusans had concerted, as soon as they
should perceive them coming, to possess themselves of one of the
gates, and to fire the arsenal; that many now were in the
conspiracy and awaited their arrival. This was the ablest thing
Nicias did in the whole of his conduct of the expedition. For
having drawn out all the strength of the enemy, and made the city
destitute of men, he set out from Catana, entered the harbor, and
chose a fit place for his camp, where the enemy could least
incommode him with the means in which they were superior to him,
while with the means in which he was superior to them, he might
expect to carry on the war without impediment.

When the Syracusans returned from Catana, and stood in battle array
before the city gates, he rapidly led up the Athenians and fell on
them and defeated them, but did not kill many, their horse
hindering the pursuit. And his cutting and breaking down the
bridges that lay over the river gave Hermocrates, when cheering up
the Syracusans, occasion to say, that Nicias was ridiculous, whose
great aim seemed to be to avoid fighting, as if fighting were not
the thing he came for. However, he put the Syracusans into a very
great alarm and consternation, so that instead of fifteen generals
then in service, they chose three others, to whom the people
engaged by oath to allow absolute authority.

There stood near them the temple of Jupiter Olympius, which the
Athenians (there being in it many consecrated things of gold and
silver) were eager to take, but were purposely withheld from it by
Nicias, who let the opportunity slip, and allowed a garrison of the
Syracusans to enter it, judging that if the soldiers should make
booty of that wealth, it would be no advantage to the public, and
he should bear the guilt of the impiety. Not improving in the
least this success, which was everywhere famous, after a few days'
stay, away he goes to Naxos, and there winters, spending largely
for the maintenance of so great an army, and not doing anything
except some matters of little consequence with some native
Sicilians that revolted to him. Insomuch that the Syracusans took
heart again, made excursions to Catana, wasted the country, and
fired the camp of the Athenians. For which everybody blamed
Nicias, who, with his long reflection, his deliberateness, and his
caution, had let slip the time for action. None ever found fault
with the man when once at work, for in the brunt he showed vigor
and activity enough, but was slow and wanted assurance to engage.

When, therefore, he brought again the army to Syracuse, such was
his conduct, and with such celerity, and at the same time security,
he came upon them, that nobody knew of his approach, when already
he had come to shore with his galleys at Thapsus, and had landed
his men; and before any could help it he had surprised Epipolae,
had defeated the body of picked men that came to its succor, took
three hundred prisoners, and routed the cavalry of the enemy, which
had been thought invincible. But what chiefly astonished the
Syracusans, and seemed incredible to the Greeks, was, in so short a
space of time the walling about of Syracuse, a town not less than
Athens, and far more difficult, by the unevenness of the ground,
and the nearness of the sea and the marshes adjacent, to have such
a wall drawn in a circle round it; yet this, all within a very
little, finished by a man that had not even his health for such
weighty cares, but lay ill of the stone, which may justly bear the
blame for what was left undone. I admire the industry of the
general, and the bravery of the soldiers for what they succeeded
in. Euripides, after their ruin and disaster, writing their
funeral elegy, said that

Eight victories over Syracuse they gained,
While equal yet to both the gods remained.

And in truth one shall not find eight, but many more victories, won
by these men against the Syracusans, till the gods, in real truth,
or fortune intervened to check the Athenians in this advance to the
height of power and greatness.

Nicias, therefore, doing violence to his body, was present in most
actions. But once, when his disease was the sharpest upon him, he
lay in the camp with some few servants to attend him. And Lamachus
having the command fought the Syracusans, who were bringing a
cross-wall from the city along to that of the Athenians, to hinder
them from carrying it round; and in the victory, the Athenians
hurrying in some disorder to the pursuit, Lamachus getting
separated from his men, had to resist the Syracusan horse that came
upon him. Before the rest advanced Callicrates, a man of good
courage and skill in war. Lamachus, upon a challenge, engaged with
him in single combat, and receiving the first wound, returned it so
home to Callicrates, that they both fell and died together. The
Syracusans took away his body and arms, and at full speed advanced
to the wall of the Athenians, where Nicias lay without any troops
to oppose to them, yet roused by this necessity, and seeing the
danger, he bade those about him go and set on fire all the wood and
materials that lay provided before the wall for the engines, and
the engines themselves; this put a stop to the Syracusans, saved
Nicias, saved the walls, and all the money of the Athenians. For
when the Syracusans raw such a fire blazing up between them and the
wall, they retired.

Nicias now remained sole general, and with great prospects; for
cities began to come over to alliance with him, and ships laden
with corn from every coast came to the camp, everyone favoring
when matters went well. And some proposals from among the
Syracusans despairing to defend the city, about a capitulation,
were already conveyed to him. And in fact Gylippus, who was on his
way with a squadron to their aid from Lacedaemon, hearing, on his
voyage, of the wall surrounding them, and of their distress, only
continued his enterprise thenceforth, that, giving Sicily up for
lost, he might, if even that should be possible, secure the
Italians their cities. For a strong report was everywhere spread
about that the Athenians carried all before them, and had a general
alike for conduct and for fortune invincible.

And Nicias himself, too, now against his nature grown bold in his
present strength and success, especially from the intelligence he
received under hand of the Syracusans, believing they would almost
immediately surrender the town upon terms, paid no manner of regard
to Gylippus coming to their assistance, nor kept any watch of his
approach so that, neglected altogether and despised, Gylippus went
in a longboat ashore without the knowledge of Nicias, and, having
landed in the remotest parts from Syracuse, mustered up a
considerable force, the Syracusans not so much as knowing of his
arrival nor expecting him; so that an assembly was summoned to
consider the terms to be arranged with Nicias, and some were
actually on the way, thinking it essential to have all dispatched
before the town should be quite walled round, for now there
remained very little to be done, and the materials for the building
lay all ready along the line.

In this very nick of time and danger arrived Gongylus in one galley
from Corinth, and everyone, as may be imagined, flocking about
him, he told them that Gylippus would be with them speedily, and
that other ships were coming to relieve them. And, ere yet they
could perfectly believe Gongylus, an express was brought from
Gylippus, to bid them go forth to meet him. So now taking good
heart, they armed themselves; and Gylippus at once led on his men
from their march in battle array against the Athenians, as Nicias
also embattled these. And Gylippus, piling his arms in view of the
Athenians, sent a herald to tell them he would give them leave to
depart from Sicily without molestation. To this Nicias would not
vouchsafe any answer, but some of his soldiers laughing asked if
with the sight of one coarse coat and Laconian staff the Syracusan
prospects had become so brilliant that they could despise the
Athenians, who had released to the Lacedaemonians three hundred,
whom they held in chains, bigger men than Gylippus, and
longer-haired? Timaeus, also, writes that even the Syracusans made
no account of Gylippus, at the first sight mocking at his staff and
long hair, as afterwards they found reason to blame his
covetousness and meanness. The same author, however, adds that on
Gylippus's first appearance, as it might have been at the sight of
an owl abroad in the air, there was a general flocking together of
men to serve in the war. And this is the truer saying of the two;
for in the staff and the cloak they saw the badge and authority of
Sparta, and crowded to him accordingly. And not only Thucydides
affirms that the whole thing was done by him alone, but so, also,
does Philistus, who was a Syracusan and an actual witness of what

However, the Athenians had the better in the first encounter, and
slew some few of the Syracusans, and amongst them Gongylus of
Corinth. But on the next day Gylippus showed what it is to be a
man of experience; for with the same arms, the same horses, and on
the same spot of ground, only employing them otherwise, he overcame
the Athenians; and they fleeing to their camp, he set the
Syracusans to work, and with the stone and materials that had been
brought together for finishing the wall of the Athenians, he built
a cross wall to intercept theirs and break it off, so that even if
they were successful in the field, they would not be able to do
anything. And after this the Syracusans taking courage manned their
galleys, and with their horse and followers ranging about took a
good many prisoners; and Gylippus going himself to the cities,
called upon them to join with him, and was listened to and
supported vigorously by them. So that Nicias fell back again to
his old views, and, seeing the face of affairs change, desponded,
and wrote to Athens, bidding them either send another army, or
recall this out of Sicily, and that he might, in any case, be
wholly relieved of the command, because of his disease.

Before this, the Athenians had been intending to send another army
to Sicily, but envy of Nicias's early achievements and high fortune
had occasioned, up to this time, many delays; but now they were all
eager to send off succors. Eurymedon went before, in midwinter,
with money, and to announce that Euthydemus and Menander were
chosen out of those that served there under Nicias to be joint
commanders with him. Demosthenes was to go after in the spring
with a great armament. In the meantime Nicias was briskly
attacked, both by sea and land; in the beginning he had the
disadvantage on the water, but in the end repulsed and sunk many
galleys of the enemy. But by land he could not provide succor in
time, so Gylippus surprised and captured Plemmyrium, in which the
stores for the navy, and a great sum of money being there kept, all
fell into his hands, and many were slain, and many taken prisoners.
And what was of greatest importance, he now cut off Nicias's
supplies, which had been safely and readily conveyed to him under
Plemmyrium, while the Athenians still held it, but now that they
were beaten out, he could only procure them with great difficulty,
and with opposition from the enemy, who lay in wait with their
ships under that fort. Moreover, it seemed manifest to the
Syracusans that their navy had not been beaten by strength, but by
their disorder in the pursuit. Now, therefore, all hands went to
work to prepare for a new attempt, that should succeed better than
the former. Nicias had no wish for a sea-fight, but said it was
mere folly for them, when Demosthenes was coming in all haste with
so great a fleet and fresh forces to their succor, to engage the
enemy with a less number of ships and ill provided. But, on the
other hand, Menander and Euthydemus, who were just commencing their
new command, prompted by a feeling of rivalry and emulation of both
the generals, were eager to gain some great success before
Demosthenes came, and to prove themselves superior to Nicias. They
urged the honor of the city, which, said they, would be blemished
and utterly lost, if they should decline a challenge from the
Syracusans. Thus they forced Nicias to a sea-fight; and by the
stratagem of Ariston, the Corinthian pilot, (his trick, described
by Thucydides, about the men's dinners,) they were worsted, and
lost many of their men, causing the greatest dejection to Nicias,
who had suffered so much from having the sole command, and now
again miscarried through his colleagues.

But now, by this time, Demosthenes with his splendid fleet came in
sight outside the harbor, a terror to the enemy. He brought along,
in seventy-three galleys, five thousand men at arms; of darters,
archers, and slingers, not less than three thousand; with the
glittering of their armor, the flags waving from the galleys, the
multitude of coxswains and flute-players giving time to the rowers,
setting off the whole with all possible warlike pomp and
ostentation to dismay the enemy. Now, one may believe the
Syracusans were again in extreme alarm, seeing no end or prospect
of release before them, toiling, as it seemed, in vain, and
perishing to no purpose. Nicias, however, was not long overjoyed
with the reinforcement, for the first time he conferred with
Demosthenes, who advised forthwith to attack the Syracusans, and to
put all to the speediest hazard, to win Syracuse, or else return
home, afraid, and wondering at his promptness and audacity, he
besought him to do nothing rashly and desperately, since delay
would be the ruin of the enemy, whose money would not hold out, nor
their confederates be long kept together; that when once they came
to be pinched with want, they would presently come again to him for
terms, as formerly. For, indeed, many in Syracuse held secret
correspondence with him, and urged him to stay, declaring that even
now the people were quite worn out with the war, and weary of
Gylippus. And if their necessities should the least sharpen upon
them they would give up all.

Nicias glancing darkly at these matters, and unwilling to speak out
plainly, made his colleagues imagine that it was cowardice which
made him talk in this manner. And saying that this was the old
story over again, the well known procrastinations and delays and
refinements with which at first he let slip the opportunity in not
immediately falling on the enemy, but suffering the armament to
become a thing of yesterday, that nobody was alarmed with, they
took the side of Demosthenes, and with much ado forced Nicias to
comply. And so Demosthenes, taking the land-forces, by night made
an assault upon Epipolae; part of the enemy he slew ere they took
the alarm, the rest defending themselves he put to flight. Nor was
he content with this victory there, but pushed on further, till he
met the Boeotians. For these were the first that made head against
the Athenians, and charged them with a shout, spear against spear,
and killed many on the place. And now at once there ensued a panic
and confusion throughout the whole army; the victorious portion got
infected with the fears of the flying part, and those who were
still disembarking and coming forward, falling foul of the
retreaters, came into conflict with their own party, taking the
fugitives for pursuers, and treating their friends as if they were
the enemy.

Thus huddled together in disorder, distracted with fear and
uncertainties, and unable to be sure of seeing anything, the night
not being absolutely dark, nor yielding any steady light, the moon
then towards setting, shadowed with the many weapons and bodies
that moved to and fro, and glimmering so as not to show an object
plain, but to make friends through fear suspected for foes, the
Athenians fell into utter perplexity and desperation. For,
moreover, they had the moon at their backs, and consequently their
own shadows fell upon them, and both hid the number and the
glittering of their arms; while the reflection of the moon from the
shields of the enemy made them show more numerous and better
appointed than, indeed, they were. At last, being pressed on every
side, when once they had given way, they took to rout, and in their
flight were destroyed, some by the enemy, some by the hand of their
friends, and some tumbling down the rocks, while those that were
dispersed and straggled about were picked off in the morning by the
horsemen and put to the sword. The slain were two thousand; and of
the rest few came off safe with their arms.

Upon this disaster, which to him was not wholly an unexpected one,
Nicias accused the rashness of Demosthenes; but he, making his
excuses for the past, now advised to be gone in all haste, for
neither were other forces to come, nor could the enemy be beaten
with the present. And, indeed, even supposing they were yet too
hard for the enemy in any case, they ought to remove and quit a
situation which they understood to be always accounted a sickly
one, and dangerous for an army, and was more particularly
unwholesome now, as they could see themselves, because of the time
of year. It was the beginning of autumn, and many now lay sick,
and all were out of heart.

It grieved Nicias to hear of flight and departing home, not that he
did not fear the Syracusans, but he was worse afraid of the
Athenians, their impeachments and sentences; he professed that he
apprehended no further harm there, or if it must be, he would
rather die by the hand of an enemy, than by his fellow-citizens.
He was not of the opinion which Leo of Byzantium declared to his
fellow-citizens: "I had rather," said he, "perish by you, than
with you." As to the matter of place and quarter whither to remove
their camp, that, he said, might be debated at leisure. And
Demosthenes, his former counsel having succeeded so ill, ceased to
press him further; others thought Nicias had reasons for
expectation, and relied on some assurance from people within the
city, and that this made him so strongly oppose their retreat, so
they acquiesced. But fresh forces now coming to the Syracusans,
and the sickness growing worse in his camp, he, also, now approved
of their retreat, and commanded the soldiers to make ready to go

And when all were in readiness, and none of the enemy had observed
them, not expecting such a thing, the moon was eclipsed in the
night, to the great fright of Nicias and others, who, for want of
experience, or out of superstition, felt alarm at such appearances.
That the sun might be darkened about the close of the month, this
even ordinary people now understood pretty well to be the effect of
the moon; but the moon itself to be darkened, how that could come
about, and how, on the sudden, a broad full moon should lose her
light, and show such various colors, was not easy to be
comprehended; they concluded it to be ominous, and a divine
intimation of some heavy calamities. For he who the first, and the
most plainly of any, and with the greatest assurance committed to
writing how the moon is enlightened and overshadowed, was
Anaxagoras; and he was as yet but recent, nor was his argument much
known, but was rather kept secret, passing only amongst a few,
under some kind of caution and confidence. People would not then
tolerate natural philosophers, and theorists, as they then called
them, about things above; as lessening the divine power, by
explaining away its agency into the operation of irrational causes
and senseless forces acting by necessity, without anything of
Providence, or a free agent. Hence it was that Protagoras was
banished, and Anaxagoras cast in prison, so that Pericles had much
difficulty to procure his liberty; and Socrates, though he had no
concern whatever with this sort of learning, yet was put to death
for philosophy. It was only afterwards that the reputation of
Plato, shining forth by his life, and because he subjected natural
necessity to divine and more excellent principles, took away the
obloquy and scandal that had attached to such contemplations, and
obtained these studies currency among all people. So his friend
Dion, when the moon, at the time he was to embark from Zacynthus to
go against Dionysius, was eclipsed, was not in the least disturbed,
but went on, and, arriving at Syracuse, expelled the tyrant. But
it so fell out with Nicias, that he had not at this time a skillful
diviner with him; his former habitual adviser who used to moderate
much of his superstition, Stilbides, had died a little before. For
in fact, this prodigy, as Philochorus observes, was not unlucky for
men wishing to fly, but on the contrary very favorable; for things
done in fear require to be hidden, and the light is their foe. Nor
was it usual to observe signs in the sun or moon more than three
days, as Autoclides states in his Commentaries. But Nicias
persuaded them to wait another full course of the moon, as if he
had not seen it clear again as soon as ever it had passed the
region of shadow where the light was obstructed by the earth.

In a manner abandoning all other cares, he betook himself wholly to
his sacrifices, till the enemy came upon them with their infantry,
besieging the forts and camp, and placing their ships in a circle
about the harbor. Nor did the men in the galleys only, but the
little boys everywhere got into the fishing-boats and rowed up and
challenged the Athenians, and insulted over them. Amongst these a
youth of noble parentage, Heraclides by name, having ventured out
beyond the rest, an Athenian ship pursued and wellnigh took him.
His uncle Pollichus, in fear for him, put out with ten galleys
which he commanded, and the rest, to relieve Pollichus, in like
manner drew forth; the result of it being a very sharp engagement,
in which the Syracusans had the victory, and slew Eurymedon, with
many others. lifter this the Athenian soldiers had no patience to
stay longer, but raised an outcry against their officers, requiring
them to depart by land; for the Syracusans, upon their victory,
immediately shut and blocked up the entrance of the harbor; but
Nicias would not consent to this, as it was a shameful thing to
leave behind so many ships of burden, and galleys little less than
two hundred. Putting, therefore, on board the best of the foot,
and the most serviceable darters, they filled one hundred and ten
galleys; the rest wanted oars. The remainder of his army Nicias
posted along by the sea-side, abandoning the great camp and the
fortifications adjoining the temple of Hercules; so the Syracusans,
not having for a long time performed their usual sacrifice to
Hercules, went up now, both priests and captains, to sacrifice.

And their galleys being manned, the diviners predicted from their
sacrifices victory and glory to the Syracusans, provided they would
not be the aggressors, but fight upon the defensive; for so
Hercules overcame all, by only de. fending himself when set upon.
In this confidence they set out; and this proved the hottest and
fiercest of all their sea-fights, raising no less concern and
passion in the beholders than in the actors; as they could oversee
the whole action with all the various and unexpected turns of
fortune which, in a short space, occurred in it; the Athenians
suffering no less from their own preparations, than from the enemy;
for they fought against light and nimble ships, that could attack
from any quarter, with theirs laden and heavy. And they were
thrown at with stones that fly indifferently any way, for which
they could only return darts and arrows, the direct aim of which
the motion of the water disturbed, preventing their coming true,
point foremost to their mark. This the Syracusans had learned from
Ariston the Corinthian pilot, who, fighting stoutly, fell himself
in this very engagement, when the victory had already declared for
the Syracusans.

The Athenians, their loss and slaughter being very great, their
flight by sea cut off, their safety by land so difficult, did not
attempt to hinder the enemy towing away their ships, under their
eves, nor demanded their dead, as, indeed, their want of burial
seemed a less calamity than the leaving behind the sick and wounded
which they now had before them. Yet more miserable still than
those did they reckon themselves, who were to work on yet, through
more such sufferings, after all to reach the same end.

They prepared to dislodge that night. And Gylippus and his friends
seeing the Syracusans engaged in their sacrifices and at their
cups, for their victories, and it being also a holiday, did not
expect either by persuasion or by force to rouse them up and carry
them against the Athenians as they decamped. But Hermocrates, of
his own head, put a trick upon Nicias, and sent some of his
companions to him, who pretended they came from those that were
wont to hold secret intelligence with him, and advised him not to
stir that night, the Syracusans having laid ambushes and beset the
ways. Nicias, caught with this stratagem, remained, to encounter
presently in reality, what he had feared when there was no
occasion. For they, the next morning, marching before, seized the
defiles, fortified the passes where the rivers were fordable, cut
down the bridges, and ordered their horsemen to range the plains
and ground that lay open, so as to leave no part of the country
where the Athenians could move without fighting. They stayed both
that day and another night, and then went along as if they were
leaving their own, not an enemy's country, lamenting and bewailing
for want of necessaries, and for their parting from friends and
companions that were not, able to help themselves; and,
nevertheless, judging the present evils lighter than those they
expected to come. But among the many miserable spectacles that
appeared up and down in the camp, the saddest sight of all was
Nicias himself, laboring under his malady, and unworthily reduced
to the scantiest supply of all the accommodations necessary for
human wants, of which he in his condition required more than
ordinary, because of his sickness; yet bearing; up under all this
illness, and doing and undergoing more than many in perfect health.
And it was plainly evident, that all this toil was not for himself,
or from any regard to his own life, but that purely for the sake of
those under his command he would not abandon hope. And, indeed,
the rest were given over to weeping and lamentation through fear or
sorrow, but he, whenever he yielded to anything of the kind, did
so, it was evident, from reflection upon the shame and dishonor of
the enterprise, contrasted with the greatness and glory of the
success he had anticipated, and not only the sight of his person,
but, also, the recollection of the arguments and the dissuasions he
used to prevent this expedition, enhanced their sense of the
undeservedness of his sufferings, nor had they any heart to put
their trust in the gods, considering that a man so religious, who
had performed to the divine powers so many and so great acts of
devotion, should have no more favorable treatment than the
wickedest and meanest of the army.

Nicias, however, endeavored all the while by his voice, his
countenance, and his carriage, to show himself undefeated by these
misfortunes. And all along the way shot at, and receiving wounds
eight days continually from the enemy, he yet preserved the forces
with him in a body entire, till that Demosthenes was taken prisoner
with the party that he led, whilst they fought and made a
resistance, and so got behind and were surrounded near the country
house of Polyzelus. Demosthenes thereupon drew his sword, and
wounded but did not kill himself, the enemy speedily running in and
seizing upon him. So soon as the Syracusans had gone and informed
Nicias of this, and he had sent some horsemen, and by them knew the
certainty of the defeat of that division, he then vouchsafed to sue
to Gylippus for a truce for the Athenians to depart out of Sicily,
leaving hostages for payment of the money that the Syracusans had
expended in the war.

But now they would not hear of these proposals, but threatening and
reviling them, angrily and insultingly continued to ply their
missiles at them, now destitute of every necessary. Yet Nicias
still made good his retreat all that night, and the next day,
through all their darts, made his way to the river Asinarus.
There, however, the enemy encountering them, drove some into the
stream, while others ready to die for thirst plunged in headlong,
while they drank at the same time, and were cut down by their
enemies. And here was the cruelest and the most immoderate
slaughter. Till at last Nicias falling down to Gylippus, "Let
pity, O Gylippus," said he, "move you in your victory; not for me,
who was destined, it seems, to bring the glory I once had to this
end, but for the other Athenians; as you well know that the chances
of war are common to all, and the Athenians used them moderately
and mildly towards you in their prosperity."

At these words, and at the sight of Nicias, Gylippus was somewhat
troubled, for he was sensible that the Lacedaemonians had received
good offices from Nicias in the late treaty; and he thought it
would be a great and glorious thing for him to carry off the chief
commanders of the Athenians alive. He, therefore, raised Nicias
with respect, and bade him be of good cheer, and commanded his men
to spare the lives of the rest. But the word of command being
communicated slowly, the slain were a far greater number than the
prisoners. Many, however, were privily conveyed away by particular
soldiers. Those taken openly were hurried together in a mass;
their arms and spoils hung up on the finest and largest trees along
the river. The conquerors, with garlands on their heads, with
their own horses splendidly adorned, and cropping short the manes
and tails of those of their enemies, entered the city, having, in
the most signal conflict ever waged by Greeks against Greeks, and
with the greatest strength and the utmost effort of valor and
manhood, won a most entire victory.

And a general assembly of the people of Syracuse and their
confederates sitting, Eurycles, the popular leader, moved, first,
that the day on which they took Nicias should from thenceforward be
kept holiday by sacrificing and forbearing all manner of work, and
from the river be called the Asinarian Feast. This was the
twenty-sixth day of the month Carneus, the Athenian Metagitnion.
And that the servants of the Athenians with the other confederates
be sold for slaves, and they themselves and the Sicilian
auxiliaries be kept and employed in the quarries, except the
generals, who should be put to death. The Syracusans favored the
proposal, and when Hermocrates said, that to use well a victory was
better than to gain a victory, he was met with great clamor and
outcry. When Gylippus, also, demanded the Athenian generals to be
delivered to him, that he might carry them to the Lacedaemonians,
the Syracusans, now insolent with their good fortune, gave him ill
words. Indeed, before this, even in the war, they had been
impatient at his rough behavior and Lacedaemonian haughtiness, and
had, as Timaeus tells us, discovered sordidness and avarice in his
character, vices which may have descended to him from his father
Cleandrides, who was convicted of bribery and banished. And the
very man himself, of the one thousand talents which Lysander sent
to Sparta, embezzled thirty, and hid them under the tiles of his
house, and was detected and shamefully fled his country. But this
is related more at large in the life of Lysander. Timaeus says
that Demosthenes and Nicias did not die, as Thucydides and
Philistus have written, by the order of the Syracusans, but that
upon a message sent them from Hermocrates, whilst yet the assembly
were sitting, by the connivance of some of their guards, they were
enabled to put an end to themselves. Their bodies, however, were
thrown out before the gates and offered for a public spectacle.
And I have heard that to this day in a temple at Syracuse is shown
a shield, said to have been Nicias's, curiously wrought and
embroidered with gold and purple intermixed. Most of the Athenians
perished in the quarries by diseases and ill diet, being allowed
only one pint of barley every day, and one half pint of water.
Many of them, however, were carried off by stealth, or, from the
first, were supposed to be servants, and were sold as slaves.
These latter were branded on their foreheads with the figure of a
horse. There were, however, Athenians, who, in addition to
slavery, had to endure even this. But their discreet and orderly
conduct was an advantage to them; they were either soon set free,
or won the respect of their masters with whom they continued to
live. Several were saved for the sake of Euripides, whose poetry,
it appears, was in request among the Sicilians more than among any
of the settlers out of Greece. And when any travelers arrived that
could tell them some passage, or give them any specimen of his
verses, they were delighted to be able to communicate them to one
another. Many of the captives who got safe back to Athens are
said, after they reached home, to have gone and made their
acknowledgments to Euripides, relating how that some of them had
been released from their slavery by teaching what they could
remember of his poems, and others, when straggling after the fight,
been relieved with meat and drink for repeating some of his lyrics.
Nor need this be any wonder, for it is told that a ship of Caunus
fleeing into one of their harbors for protection, pursued by
pirates, was not received, but forced back, till one asked if they
knew any of Euripides's verses, and on their saying they did, they
were admitted, and their ship brought into harbor.

It is said that the Athenians would not believe their loss, in a
great degree because of the person who first brought them news of
it. For a certain stranger, it seems, coming to Piraeus, and there
sitting in a barber's shop, began to talk of what had happened, as
if the Athenians already knew all that had passed; which the barber
hearing, before he acquainted anybody else, ran as fast as he could
up into the city, addressed himself to the Archons, and presently
spread it about in the public Place. On which, there being
everywhere, as may be imagined, terror and consternation, the
Archons summoned a general assembly, and there brought in the man
and questioned him how he came to know. And he, giving no
satisfactory account, was taken for a spreader of false
intelligence and a disturber of the city, and was, therefore,
fastened to the wheel and racked a long time, till other messengers
arrived that related the whole disaster particularly. So hardly
was Nicias believed to have suffered the calamity which he had
often predicted.


Marcus Crassus, whose father had borne the office of a censor, and
received the honor of a triumph, was educated in a little house
together with his two brothers, who both married in their parents'
lifetime; they kept but one table amongst them; all which,
perhaps, was not the least reason of his own temperance and
moderation in diet. One of his brothers dying, he married his
widow, by whom he had his children; neither was there in these
respects any of the Romans who lived a more orderly life than he
did, though later in life he was suspected to have been too
familiar with one of the vestal virgins, named Licinia, who was,
nevertheless, acquitted, upon an impeachment brought against her
by one Plotinus. Licinia stood possessed of a beautiful property
in the suburbs, which Crassus desiring to purchase at a low price,
for this reason was frequent in his attentions to her, which gave
occasion to the scandal, and his avarice, so to say, serving to
clear him of the crime, he was acquitted. Nor did he leave the
lady till he had got the estate.

People were wont to say that the many virtues of Crassus were
darkened by the one vice of avarice, and indeed he seemed to have
no other but that; for it being the most predominant, obscured
others to which he was inclined. The arguments in proof of his
avarice were the vastness of his estate, and the manner of raising
it; for whereas at first he was not worth above three hundred
talents, yet, though in the course of his political life he
dedicated the tenth of all he had to Hercules, and feasted the
people, and gave to every citizen corn enough to serve him three
months, upon casting up his accounts, before he went upon his
Parthian expedition, he found his possessions to amount to seven
thousand one hundred talents; most of which, if we may scandal him
with a truth, he got by fire and rapine, making his advantages of
the public calamities. For when Sylla seized the city, and
exposed to sale the goods of those that he had caused to be slain,
accounting them booty and spoils, and, indeed, calling them so
too, and was desirous of making as many, and as eminent men as he
could, partakers in the crime, Crassus never was the man that
refused to accept, or give money for them. Moreover observing how
extremely subject the city was to fire, and falling down of
houses, by reason of their height and their standing so near
together, he bought slaves that were builders and architects, and
when he had collected these to the number of more than five
hundred, he made it his practice to buy houses that were on fire,
and those in the neighborhood, which, in the immediate danger and
uncertainty, the proprietors were willing to part with for little,
or nothing; so that the greatest part of Rome, at one time or
other, came into his hands. Yet for all he had so many workmen,
he never built anything but his own house, and used to say that
those that were addicted to building would undo themselves soon
enough without the help of other enemies. And though he had many
silver mines, and much valuable land, and laborers to work in it,
yet all this was nothing in comparison of his slaves, such a
number and variety did he possess of excellent readers,
amanuenses, silversmiths, stewards, and table-waiters, whose
instruction he always attended to himself, superintending in
person while they learned, and teaching them himself, accounting
it the main duty of a master to look over the servants, that are,
indeed, the living tools of housekeeping; and in this, indeed, he
was in the right, in thinking, that is, as he used to say, that
servants ought to look after all other things, and the master
after them. For economy, which in things inanimate is but
money-making when exercised over men becomes policy. But it was
surely a mistaken judgment, when he said no man was to be
accounted rich that could not maintain an army at his own cost and
charges, for war, as Archidamus well observed, is not fed at a
fixed allowance, so that there is no saying what wealth suffices
for it, and certainly it was one very far removed from that of
Marius; for when he had distributed fourteen acres of land a man,
and understood that some desired more, "God forbid," said he,
"that any Roman should think that too little which is enough to
keep him alive and well."

Crassus, however, was very eager to be hospitable to strangers; he
kept open house, and to his friends he would lend money without
interest, but called it in precisely at the time; so that his
kindness was often thought worse than the paying the interest
would have been. His entertainments were, for the most part,
plain and citizenlike, the company general and popular; good taste
and kindness made them pleasanter than sumptuosity would have
done. As for learning, he chiefly cared for rhetoric, and what
would be serviceable with large numbers; he became one of the best
speakers at Rome, and by his pains and industry outdid the best
natural orators. For there was no trial how mean and contemptible
soever that he came to unprepared; nay, several times he undertook
and concluded a cause, when Pompey and Caesar and Cicero refused
to stand up, upon which account particularly he got the love of
the people, who looked upon him as a diligent and careful man,
ready to help and succor his fellow-citizens. Besides, the people
were pleased with his courteous and unpretending salutations and
greetings; for he never met any citizen however humble and low,
but he returned him his salute by name. He was looked upon as a
man well-read in history, and pretty well versed in Aristotle's
philosophy, in which one Alexander instructed him, a man whose
intercourse with Crassus gave a sufficient proof of his
good-nature, and gentle disposition; for it is hard to say whether
he was poorer when he entered into his service, or while he
continued in it; for being his only friend that used to accompany
him when traveling, he used to receive from him a cloak for the
journey, and when he came home had it demanded from him again;
poor patient sufferer, when even the philosophy he professed did
not look upon poverty as a thing indifferent. But of this

When Cinna and Marius got the power in their hands, it was soon
perceived that they had not come back for any good they intended
to their country, but to effect the ruin and utter destruction of
the nobility. And as many as they could lay their hands on they
slew, amongst whom were Crassus's father and brother; he himself,
being very young, for the moment escaped the danger; but
understanding that he was every way beset and hunted after by the
tyrants, taking with him three friends and ten servants, with all
possible speed he fled into Spain, having formerly been there and
secured a great number of friends, while his father was Praetor of
that country. But finding all people in a consternation, and
trembling at the cruelty of Marius, as if he was already standing
over them in person, he durst not discover himself to anybody, but
hid himself in a large cave, which was by the sea-shore, and
belonged to Vibius Pacianus, to whom he sent one of his servants
to sound him, his provisions, also, beginning to fail. Vibius was
well pleased at his escape, and inquiring the place of his abode
and the number of his companions, he went not to him himself, but
commanded his steward to provide every day a good meal's meat, and
carry it and leave it near such a rock, and so return without
taking any further notice or being inquisitive, promising him his
liberty if he did as he commanded, and that he would kill him if
he intermeddled. The cave is not far from the sea; a small and
insignificant looking opening in the cliffs conducts you in; when
you are entered, a wonderfully high roof spreads above you, and
large chambers open out one beyond another, nor does it lack
either water or light, for a very pleasant and wholesome spring
runs at the foot of the cliffs, and natural chinks, in the most
advantageous place, let in the light all day long; and the
thickness of the rock makes the air within pure and clear, all the
wet and moisture being carried off into the spring.

While Crassus remained here, the steward brought them what was
necessary, but never saw them, nor knew anything of the matter,
though they within saw, and expected him at the customary times.
Neither was their entertainment such as just to keep them alive,
but given them in abundance and for their enjoyment; for Pacianus
resolved to treat him with all imaginable kindness, and
considering he was a young man, thought it well to gratify a
little his youthful inclinations; for to give just what is
needful, seems rather to come from necessity than from a hearty
friendship. Once taking with him two female servants, he showed
them the place and bade them go in boldly, whom when Crassus and
his friends saw, they were afraid of being betrayed, and demanded
what they were, and what they would have. They, according as they
were instructed, answered, they came to wait upon their master who
was hid in that cave. And so Crassus perceiving it was a piece of
pleasantry and of goodwill on the part of Vibius, took them in and
kept them there with him as long as he stayed, and employed them
to give information to Vibius of what they wanted, and how they
were. Fenestella says he saw one of them, then very old, and
often heard her speak of the time and repeat the story with

After Crassus had lain concealed there eight months, on hearing
that Cinna was dead, he appeared abroad, and a great number of
people flocking to him, out of whom he selected a body of two
thousand five hundred, he visited many cities, and, as some write,
sacked Malaca, which he himself, however, always denied, and
contradicted all who said so. Afterwards, getting together some
ships, he passed into Africa, and joined with Metellus Pius, an
eminent person that had raised a very considerable force; but upon
some difference between him and Metellus, he stayed not long
there, but went over to Sylla, by whom he was very much esteemed.
When Sylla passed over into Italy, he was anxious to put all the
young men that were with him in employment; and as he dispatched
some one way, and some another, Crassus, on its falling to his
share to raise men among the Marsians, demanded a guard, being to
pass through the enemy's country, upon which Sylla replied
sharply, "I give you for guard your father, your brother, your
friends and kindred, whose unjust and cruel murder I am now going
to revenge;" and Crassus, being nettled, went his way, broke
boldly through the enemy, collected a considerable force, and in
all Sylla's wars acted with great zeal and courage. And in these
times and occasions, they say, began the emulation and rivalry for
glory between him and Pompey; for though Pompey was the younger
man, and had the disadvantage to be descended of a father that was
disesteemed by the citizens, and hated as much as ever man was,
yet in these actions he shone out, and was proved so great, that
Sylla always used, when he came in, to stand up and uncover his
head, an honor which he seldom showed to older men and his own
equals, and always saluted him Imperator. This fired and stung
Crassus, though, indeed, he could not with any fairness claim to
be preferred; for he both wanted experience, and his two innate
vices, sordidness and avarice, tarnished all the lustre of his
actions. For when he had taken Tudertia, a town of the Umbrians,
he converted, it was said, all the spoil to his own use, for which
he was complained of to Sylla. But in the last and greatest
battle before Rome itself, where Sylla was worsted, some of his
battalions giving ground, and others being quite broken, Crassus
got the victory on the right wing, which he commanded, and pursued
the enemy till night, and then sent to Sylla to acquaint him with
his success, and demand provision for his soldiers. In the time,
however, of the proscriptions and sequestrations, he lost his
repute again, by making great purchases for little or nothing, and
asking for grants. Nay, they say he proscribed one of the
Bruttians without Sylla's order, only for his own profit, and
that, on discovering this, Sylla never after trusted him in any
public affairs. As no man was more cunning than Crassus to
ensnare others by flattery, so no man lay more open to it, or
swallowed it more greedily than himself. And this particularly
was observed of him, that though he was the most covetous man in
the world, yet he habitually disliked and cried out against others
who were so.

It troubled him to see Pompey so successful in all his
undertakings; that he had had a triumph before he was capable to
sit in the senate, and that the people had surnamed him Magnus, or
the Great. When somebody was saying Pompey the Great was coming,
he smiled, and asked him, "How big is he?" Despairing to equal
him by feats of arms, he betook himself to civil life, where by
doing kindnesses, pleading, lending money, by speaking and
canvassing among the people for those who had objects to obtain
from them, he gradually gained as great honor and power as Pompey
had from his many famous expeditions. And it was a curious thing
in their rivalry, that Pompey's name and interest in the city was
greatest when he was absent, for his renown in war, but when
present he was often less successful than Crassus, by reason of
his superciliousness and haughty way of living, shunning crowds of
people, and appearing rarely in the forum, and assisting only some
few, and that not readily, that his interest might be the stronger
when he came to use it for himself. Whereas Crassus, being a
friend always at hand, ready to be had and easy of access, and
always with his hands full of other people's business, with his
freedom and courtesy, got the better of Pompey's formality. In
point of dignity of person, eloquence of language, and
attractiveness of countenance, they were pretty equally excellent.
But, however, this emulation never transported Crassus so far as
to make him bear enmity, or any ill-will; for though he was vexed
to see Pompey and Caesar preferred to him, yet he never minded any
hostility or malice with his jealousy; though Caesar when he was
taken captive by the corsairs in Asia, cried out, "O Crassus, how
glad you will be at the news of my captivity!" Afterwards they
lived together on friendly terms, for when Caesar was going
praetor into Spain, and his creditors, he being then in want of
money, came upon him and seized his equipage, Crassus then stood
by him and relieved him, and was his security for eight hundred
and thirty talents. And, in general, Rome being divided into
three great interests, those of Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus, (for
as for Cato, his fame was greater than his power, and he was
rather admired than followed,) the sober and quiet part were for
Pompey, the restless and hotheaded followed Caesar's ambition, but
Crassus trimmed between them, making advantages of both, and
changed sides continually, being neither a trusty friend nor an
implacable enemy, and easily abandoned both his attachments and
his animosities, as he found it for his advantage, so that in
short spaces of time, the same men and the same measures had him
both as their supporter and as their opponent. He was much liked,
but was feared as much or even more. At any rate, when Sicinius,
who was the greatest troubler of the magistrates and ministers of
his time, was asked how it was he let Crassus alone, "Oh," said
he, "he carries hay on his horns," alluding to the custom of tying
hay to the horns of a bull that used to butt, that people might
keep out of his way.

The insurrection of the gladiators and the devastation of Italy,
commonly called the war of Spartacus, began upon this occasion.
One Lentulus Batiates trained up a great many gladiators in Capua,
most of them Gauls and Thracians, who, not for any fault by them
committed, but simply through the cruelty of their master, were
kept in confinement for this object of fighting one with another.
Two hundred of these formed a plan to escape, but their plot being
discovered, those of them who became aware of it in time to
anticipate their master, being seventy-eight, got out of a cook's
shop chopping-knives and spits, and made their way through the
city, and lighting by the way on several wagons that were carrying
gladiator's arms to another city, they seized upon them and armed
themselves. And seizing upon a defensible place, they chose three
captains, of whom Spartacus was chief, a Thracian of one of the
nomad tribes, and a man not only of high spirit and valiant, but
in understanding, also, and in gentleness, superior to his
condition, and more of a Grecian than the people of his country
usually are. When he first came to be sold at Rome, they say a
snake coiled itself upon his face as he lay asleep, and his wife,
who at this latter time also accompanied him in his flight, his
country-woman, a kind of prophetess, and one of those possessed
with the bacchanal frenzy, declared that it was a sign portending
great and formidable power to him with no happy event.

First, then, routing those that came out of Capua against them,
and thus procuring a quantity of proper soldiers' arms, they
gladly threw away their own as barbarous and dishonorable.
Afterwards Clodius, the praetor, took the command against them
with a body of three thousand men from Rome, and besieged them
within a mountain, accessible only by one narrow and difficult
passage, which Clodius kept guarded, encompassed on all other
sides with steep and slippery precipices. Upon the top, however,
grew a great many wild vines, and cutting down as many of their
boughs as they had need of, they twisted them into strong ladders
long enough to reach from thence to the bottom, by which, without
any danger, they got down all but one, who stayed there to throw
them down their arms, and after this succeeded in saving himself.
The Romans were ignorant of all this, and, therefore, coming upon
them in the rear, they assaulted them unawares and took their
camp. Several, also, of the shepherds and herdsman that were
there, stout and nimble fellows, revolted over to them, to some of
whom they gave complete arms, and made use of others as scouts and
light-armed soldiers. Publius Varinus, the praetor, was now sent
against them, whose lieutenant, Furius, with two thousand men,
they fought and routed. Then Cossinius was sent, with
considerable forces, to give his assistance and advice, and him
Spartacus missed but very little of capturing in person, as he was
bathing at Salinae; for he with great difficulty made his escape,
while Spartacus possessed himself of his baggage, and following
the chase with a great slaughter, stormed his camp and took it,
where Cossinius himself was slain. After many successful
skirmishes with the praetor himself, in one of which he took his
lictors and his own horse, he began to be great and terrible; but
wisely considering that he was not to expect to match the force of
the empire, he marched his army towards the Alps, intending, when
he had passed them, that every man should go to his own home, some
to Thrace, some to Gaul. But they, grown confident in their
numbers, and puffed up with their success, would give no obedience
to him, but went about and ravaged Italy; so that now the senate
was not only moved at the indignity and baseness, both of the
enemy and of the insurrection, but, looking upon it as a matter of
alarm and of dangerous consequence, sent out both the consuls to
it, as to a great and difficult enterprise. The consul Gellius,
falling suddenly upon a party of Germans, who through contempt and
confidence had straggled from Spartacus, cut them all to pieces.
But when Lentulus with a large army besieged Spartacus, he sallied
out upon him, and, joining battle, defeated his chief officers,
and captured all his baggage. As he made toward the Alps,
Cassius, who was praetor of that part of Gaul that lies about the
Po, met him with ten thousand men, but being overcome in battle,
he had much ado to escape himself, with the loss of a great many
of his men.

When the senate understood this, they were displeased at the
consuls, and ordering them to meddle no further, they appointed
Crassus general of the war, and a great many of the nobility went
volunteers with him, partly out of friendship, and partly to get
honor. He stayed himself on the borders of Picenum, expecting
Spartacus would come that way, and sent his lieutenant, Mummius,
with two legions, to wheel about and observe the enemy's motions,
but upon no account to engage or skirmish. But he, upon the first
opportunity, joined battle, and was routed, having a great many
of his men slain, and a great many only saving their lives, with
the loss of their arms. Crassus rebuked Mummius severely, and
arming the soldiers again, he made them find sureties for their
arms, that they would part with them no more, and five hundred
that were the beginners of the flight, he divided into fifty tens,
and one of each was to die by lot, thus reviving the ancient Roman
punishment of decimation, where ignominy is added to the penalty
of death, with a variety of appalling and terrible circumstances,
presented before the eyes of the whole army, assembled as
spectators. When he had thus reclaimed his men, he led them
against the enemy; but Spartacus retreated through Lucania toward
the sea, and in the straits meeting with some Cilician pirate
ships, he had thoughts of attempting Sicily, where, by landing two
thousand men, he hoped to new kindle the war of the slaves, which
was but lately extinguished, and seemed to need but a little fuel
to set it burning again. But after the pirates had struck a
bargain with him, and received his earnest, they deceived him and
sailed away. He thereupon retired again from the sea, and
established his army in the peninsula of Rhegium; there Crassus
came upon him, and considering the nature of the place, which of
itself suggested the undertaking, he set to work to build a wall
across the isthmus; thus keeping his soldiers at once from
idleness, and his foes from forage. This great and difficult work
he perfected in a space of time short beyond all expectation,
making a ditch from one sea to the other, over the neck of land,
three hundred furlongs long, fifteen feet broad, and as much in
depth, and above it built a wonderfully high and strong wall. All
which Spartacus at first slighted and despised, but when
provisions began to fail, and on his proposing to pass further, he
found he was walled in, and no more was to be had in the
peninsula, taking the opportunity of a snowy, stormy night, he
filled up part of the ditch with earth and boughs of trees, and so
passed the third part of his army over.

Crassus was afraid lest he should march directly to Rome, but was
soon eased of that fear when he saw many of his men break out in a
mutiny and quit him, and encamp by themselves upon the Lucanian
lake. This lake they say changes at intervals of time, and is
sometimes sweet, and sometimes so salt that it cannot be drunk.
Crassus falling upon these beat them from the lake, but he could
not pursue the slaughter, because of Spartacus suddenly coming up,
and checking the flight. Now he began to repent that he had
previously written to the senate to call Lucullus out of Thrace,
and Pompey out of Spain; so that he did all he could to finish the
war before they came, knowing that the honor of the action would
redound to him that came to his assistance. Resolving, therefore,
first to set upon those that had mutinied and encamped apart, whom
Caius Cannicius and Castus commanded, he sent six thousand men
before to secure a little eminence, and to do it as privately as
possible, which that they might do, they covered their helmets,
but being discovered by two women that were sacrificing for the
enemy, they had been in great hazard, had not Crassus immediately
appeared, and engaged in a battle which proved a most bloody one.
Of twelve thousand three hundred whom he killed, two only were
found wounded in their backs, the rest all having died standing in
their ranks, and fighting bravely. Spartacus, after this
discomfiture, retired to the mountains of Petelia, but Quintius,
one of Crassus's officers, and Scrofa, the quaestor, pursued and
overtook him. But when Spartacus rallied and faced them, they
were utterly routed and fled, and had much ado to carry off their
quaestor, who was wounded. This success, however, ruined
Spartacus, because it encouraged the slaves, who now disdained any
longer to avoid fighting, or to obey their officers, but as they
were upon their march, they came to them with their swords in
their hand, and compelled them to lead them back again through
Lucania, against the Romans, the very thing which Crassus was
eager for. For news was already brought that Pompey was at hand;
and people began to talk openly, that the honor of this war was
reserved for him, who would come and at once oblige the enemy to
fight and put an end to the war. Crassus, therefore, eager to
fight a decisive battle, encamped very near the enemy, and began
to make lines of circumvallation; but the slaves made a sally, and
attacked the pioneers. As fresh supplies came in on either side,
Spartacus, seeing there was no avoiding it, set all his army in
array, and when his horse was brought him, he drew out his sword
and killed him, saying, if he got the day, he should have a great
many better horses of the enemies, and if he lost it, he should
have no need of this. And so making directly towards Crassus
himself, through the midst of arms and wounds, he missed him, hut
slew two centurions that fell upon him together. At last being
deserted by those that were about him, he himself stood his
ground, and, surrounded by the enemy, bravely defending himself,
was cut in pieces. But though Crassus had good fortune, and not
only did the part of a good general, but gallantly exposed his
person, yet Pompey had much of the credit of the action. For he
met with many of the fugitives, and slew them, and wrote to the
senate that Crassus indeed had vanquished the slaves in a pitched
battle, but that he had put an end to the war. Pompey was honored
with a magnificent triumph for his conquest over Sertorius and
Spain, while Crassus could not himself so much as desire a triumph
in its full form, and indeed it was thought to look but meanly in
him to accept of the lesser honor, called the ovation, for a
servile war, and perform a procession on foot. The difference
between this and the other, and the origin of the name, are
explained in the life of Marcellus.

And Pompey being immediately invited to the consulship, Crassus,
who had hoped to be joined with him, did not scruple to request
his assistance. Pompey most readily seized the opportunity, as he
desired by all means to lay some obligation upon Crassus, and
zealously promoted his interest; and at last he declared in one of
his speeches to the people, that he should be not less beholden to
them for his colleague, than for the honor of his own appointment.
But once entered upon the employment, this amity continued not
long; but differing almost in everything, disagreeing,
quarreling, and contending, they spent the time of their
consulship, without effecting any measure of consequence, except
that Crassus made a great sacrifice to Hercules, and feasted the
people at ten thousand tables, and measured them out corn for
three months. When their command was now ready to expire, and
they were, as it happened addressing the people, a Roman knight,
one Onatius Aurelius, an ordinary private person, living in the
country, mounted the hustings, and declared a vision he had in his
sleep: "Jupiter," said he, "appeared to me, and commanded me to
tell you, that you should not suffer your consuls to lay down
their charge before they are made friends." When he had spoken,
the people cried out that they should be reconciled. Pompey stood
still and said nothing, but Crassus, first offering him his hand,
said, "I cannot think, my countrymen, that I do any thing
humiliating or unworthy of myself, if I make the first offers of
accommodation and friendship with Pompey, whom you yourselves
styled the Great, before he was of man's estate, and decreed him a
triumph before he was capable of sitting in the senate."

This is what was memorable in Crassus's consulship, but as for his
censorship, that was altogether idle and inactive, for he neither
made a scrutiny of the senate, nor took a review of the horsemen,
nor a census of the people, though he had as mild a man as could
be desired for his colleague, Lutatius Catulus. It is said,
indeed, that when Crassus intended a violent and unjust measure,
which was the reducing Egypt to be tributary to Rome, Catulus
strongly opposed it, and falling out about it, they laid down
their office by consent. In the great conspiracy of Catiline,
which was very near subverting the government, Crassus was not
without some suspicion of being concerned, and one man came
forward and declared him to be in the plot; but nobody credited
him. Yet Cicero, in one of his orations, clearly charges both
Crassus and Caesar with the guilt of it, though that speech was
not published till they were both dead. But in his speech upon
his consulship, he declares that Crassus came to him by night, and
brought a letter concerning Catiline, stating the details of the
conspiracy. Crassus hated him ever after, but was hindered by his
son from doing him any open injury; for Publius was a great lover
of learning and eloquence, and a constant follower of Cicero,
insomuch that he put himself into mourning when he was accused,
and induced the other young men to do the same. And at last he
reconciled him to his father.

Caesar now returning from his command, and designing to get the
consulship, and seeing that Crassus and Pompey were again at
variance, was unwilling to disoblige one by making application to
the other, and despaired of success without the help of one of
them; he therefore made it his business to reconcile them, making
it appear that by weakening each other's influence they were
promoting the interest of the Ciceros, the Catuli, and the Catos,
who would really be of no account if they would join their
interests and their factions, and act together in public with one
policy and one united power. And so reconciling them by his
persuasions, out of the three parties he set up one irresistible
power, which utterly subverted the government both of senate and
people. Not that he made either Pompey or Crassus greater than
they were before, but by their means made himself greatest of all;
for by the help of the adherents of both, he was at once
gloriously declared consul, which office when he administered with
credit, they decreed him the command of an army, and allotted him
Gaul for his province, and so placed him as it were in the
citadel, not doubting but they should divide the rest at their
pleasure between themselves, when they had confirmed him in his
allotted command. Pompey was actuated in all this by an
immoderate desire of ruling, but Crassus, adding to his old
disease of covetousness, a new passion after trophies and
triumphs, emulous of Caesar's exploits, not content to be beneath
him in these points, though above him in all others, could not be
at rest, till it ended in an ignominious overthrow, and a public
calamity. When Caesar came out of Gaul to Lucca, a great many
went thither from Rome to meet him. Pompey and Crassus had
various conferences with him in secret, in which they came to the
resolution to proceed to still more decisive steps, and to get the
whole management of affairs into their hands, Caesar to keep his
army, and Pompey and Crassus to obtain new ones and new provinces.
To effect all which there was but one way, the getting the
consulate a second time, which they were to stand for, and Caesar
to assist them by writing to his friends, and sending many of his
soldiers to vote.

But when they returned to Rome, their design was presently
suspected, and a report was soon spread that this interview had
been for no good. When Marcellinus and Domitius asked Pompey in
the senate if he intended to stand for the consulship, he
answered, perhaps he would, perhaps not; and being urged again,
replied, he would ask it of the honest citizens, but not of the
dishonest. Which answer appearing too haughty and arrogant,
Crassus said, more modestly, that he would desire it if it might
be for the advantage of the public, otherwise he would decline it.
Upon this some others took confidence and came forward as
candidates, among them Domitius. But when Pompey and Crassus now
openly appeared for it, the rest were afraid and drew back; only
Cato encouraged Domitius, who was his friend and relation, to
proceed, exciting him to persist, as though he was now defending
the public liberty, as these men, he said, did not so much aim at
the consulate, as at arbitrary government, and it was not a
petition for office, but a seizure of provinces and armies. Thus
spoke and thought Cato, and almost forcibly compelled Domitius to
appear in the forum, where many sided with them. For there was,
indeed, much wonder and question among the people, "Why should
Pompey and Crassus want another consulship? and why they two
together, and not with some third person? We have a great many men
not unworthy to be fellow-consuls with either the one or the
other." Pompey's party, being apprehensive of this, committed all
manner of indecencies and violences, and amongst other things lay
in wait for Domitius, as he was coming thither before daybreak
with his friends; his torchbearer they killed, and wounded several
others, of whom Cato was one. And these being beaten back and
driven into a house, Pompey and Crassus were proclaimed consuls.
Not long after, they surrounded the house with armed men, thrust
Cato out of the forum, killed some that made resistance, and
decreed Caesar his command for five years longer, and provinces
for themselves, Syria, and both the Spains, which being divided by
lots, Syria fell to Crassus, and the Spains to Pompey.

All were well pleased with the chance, for the people were
desirous that Pompey should not go far from the city, and he,
being extremely fond of his wife, was very glad to continue there;
but Crassus was so transported with his fortune, that it was
manifest he thought he had never had such good luck befall him as
now, so that he had much to do to contain himself before company
and strangers; but amongst his private friends he let fall many
vain and childish words, which were unworthy of his age, and
contrary to his usual character, for he had been very little given
to boasting hitherto. But then being strangely puffed up, and his
head heated, he would not limit his fortune with Parthia and
Syria; but looking on the actions of Lucullus against Tigranes and
the exploits of Pompey against Mithridates as but child's play, he
proposed to himself in his hopes to pass as far as Bactria and
India, and the utmost ocean. Not that he was called upon by the
decree which appointed him to his office to undertake any
expedition against the Parthians, but it was well known that he
was eager for it, and Caesar wrote to him out of Gaul, commending
his resolution, and inciting him to the war. And when Ateius, the
tribune of the people, designed to stop his journey, and many
others murmured that one man should undertake a war against a
people that had done them no injury, and were at amity with them,
he desired Pompey to stand by him and accompany him out of the
town, as he had a great name amongst the common people. And when
several were ready prepared to interfere and raise an outcry,
Pompey appeared with a pleasing countenance, and so mollified the
people, that they let Crassus pass quietly. Ateius, however, met
him, and first by word of mouth warned and conjured him not to
proceed, and then commanded his attendant officer to seize him and
detain him; but the other tribunes not permitting it, the officer
released Crassus. Ateius, therefore, running to the gate, when
Crassus was come thither, set down a chafing-dish with lighted
fire in it, and burning incense and pouring libations on it,
cursed him with dreadful imprecations, calling upon and naming
several strange and horrible deities. In the Roman belief there
is so much virtue in these sacred and ancient rites, that no man
can escape the effects of them, and that the utterer himself
seldom prospers; so that they are not often made use of, and but
upon a great occasion. And Ateius was blamed at the time for
resorting to them, as the city itself, in whose cause he used
them, would be the first to feel the ill effects of these curses
and supernatural terrors.

Crassus arrived at Brundusium, and though the sea was very rough,
he had not patience to wait, but went on board, and lost many of
his ships. With the remnant of his army he marched rapidly
through Galatia, where meeting with king Deiotarus, who, though he
was very old, was about building a new city, Crassus scoffingly
told him, "Your majesty begins to build at the twelfth hour."
"Neither do you," said he, "O general, undertake your Parthian
expedition very early." For Crassus was then sixty years old, and
he seemed older than he was. At his first coming, things went as
he would have them, for he made a bridge over Euphrates without
much difficulty, and passed over his army in safety, and occupied
many cities of Mesopotamia, which yielded voluntarily. But a
hundred of his men were killed in one, in which Apollonius was
tyrant; therefore, bringing his forces against it, he took it by
storm, plundered the goods, and sold the inhabitants. The Greeks
call this city Zenodotia, upon the taking of which, he permitted
the army to salute him Imperator, but this was very ill thought
of, and it looked as if he despaired a nobler achievement, that he
made so much of this little success. Putting garrisons of seven
thousand foot and one thousand horse in the new conquests, he
returned to take up his winter quarters in Syria, where his son
was to meet him coming from Caesar out of Gaul, decorated with
rewards for his valor, and bringing with him one thousand select
horse. Here Crassus seemed to commit his first error, and except,
indeed, the whole expedition, his greatest; for, whereas he ought
to have gone forward and seized Babylon and Seleucia, cities that
were ever at enmity with the Parthians, he gave the enemy time to
provide against him. Besides, he spent his time in Syria more
like an usurer than a general, not in taking an account of the
arms, and in improving the skill and discipline of his soldiers,
but in computing the revenue of the cities, wasting many days in
weighing by scale and balance the treasure that was in the temple
of Hierapolis, issuing requisitions for levies of soldiers upon
particular towns and kingdoms, and then again withdrawing them on
payment of sums of money, by which he lost his credit and became
despised. Here, too, he met with the first ill-omen from that
goddess, whom some call Venus, others Juno, others Nature, or the
Cause that produces out of moisture the first principles and seeds
of all things, and gives mankind their earliest knowledge of all
that is good for them. For as they were going out of the temple,
young Crassus stumbled, and his father fell upon him.

When he drew his army out of winter quarters, ambassadors came to
him from Arsaces, with this short speech: If the army was sent
by the people of Rome, he denounced mortal war, but if, as he
understood was the case, against the consent of his country,
Crassus for his own private profit had invaded his territory, then
their king would be more merciful, and taking pity upon Crassus's
dotage, would send those soldiers back, who had been left not so
truly to keep guard on him as to be his prisoners. Crassus
boastfully told them he would return his answer at Seleucia, upon
which Vagises, the eldest of them, laughed and showed the palm of
his hand, saying, "Hail will grow here before you will see
Seleucia;" so they returned to their king, Hyrodes, telling him it
was war. Several of the Romans that were in garrison in
Mesopotamia with great hazard made their escape, and brought word
that the danger was worth consideration, urging their own
eye-witness of the numbers of the enemy, and the manner of their
fighting, when they assaulted their towns; and, as men's manner
is, made all seem greater than really it was. By flight it was
impossible to escape them, and as impossible to overtake them when
they fled, and they had a new and strange sort of darts, as swift
as sight, for they pierced whatever they met with, before you
could see who threw; their men-at-arms were so provided that their
weapons would cut through anything, and their armor give way to
nothing. All which when the soldiers heard, their hearts failed
them; for till now they thought there was no difference between
the Parthians and the Armenians or Cappadocians, whom Lucullus
grew weary with plundering, and had been persuaded that the main
difficulty of the war consisted only in the tediousness of the
march, and the trouble of chasing men that durst not come to
blows, so that the danger of a battle was beyond their
expectation; accordingly, some of the officers advised Crassus to
proceed no further at present, but reconsider the whole
enterprise, amongst whom in particular was Cassius, the quaestor.
The soothsayers, also, told him privately the signs found in the
sacrifices were continually adverse and unfavorable. But he paid
no heed to them, or to anybody who gave any other advice than to
proceed. Nor did Artabazes, king of Armenia, confirm him a
little, who came to his aid with six thousand horse; who, however,
were said to be only the king's life-guard and suite, for he
promised ten thousand cuirassiers more, and thirty thousand foot,
at his own charge. He urged Crassus to invade Parthia by the way
of Armenia, for not only would he be able there to supply his army
with abundant provision, which he would give him, but his passage
would be more secure in the mountains and hills, with which the
whole country was covered, making it almost impassable to horse,
in which the main strength of the Parthians consisted. Crassus
returned him but cold thanks for his readiness to serve him, and
for the splendor of his assistance, and told him he was resolved
to pass through Mesopotamia, where he had left a great many brave
Roman soldiers; whereupon the Armenian went his way. As Crassus
was taking the army over the river at Zeugma, he encountered
preternaturally violent thunder, and the lightning flashed in the
faces of the troops, and during the storm a hurricane broke upon
the bridge, and carried part of it away; two thunderbolts fell
upon the very place where the army was going to encamp; and one of
the general's horses, magnificently caparisoned, dragged away the
groom into the river and was drowned. It is said, too, that when
they went to take up the first standard, the eagle of itself
turned its head backward; and after he had passed over his army,
as they were distributing provisions, the first thing they gave
was lentils and salt, which with the Romans are the food proper to
funerals, and are offered to the dead. And as Crassus was
haranguing his soldiers, he let fall a word which was thought very
ominous in the army; for "I am going," he said, "to break down the
bridge, that none of you may return;" and whereas he ought, when
he had perceived his blunder, to have corrected himself, and
explained his meaning, seeing the men alarmed at the expression,
he would not do it out of mere stubbornness. And when at the last
general sacrifice the priest gave him the entrails, they slipped out
of his hand, and when he saw the standers-by concerned at it, he
laughed and said, "See what it is to be an old man; but I shall
hold my sword fast enough."

So he marched his army along the river with seven legions, little
less than four thousand horse, and as many light-armed soldiers,
and the scouts returning declared that not one man appeared, but
that they saw the footing of a great many horses which seemed to
be retiring in flight, whereupon Crassus conceived great hopes,
and the Romans began to despise the Parthians, as men that would
not come to combat, hand to hand. But Cassius spoke with him
again, and advised him to refresh his army in some of the garrison
towns, and remain there till they could get some certain
intelligence of the enemy, or at least to make toward Seleucia,
and keep by the river, that so they might have the convenience of
having provision constantly supplied by the boats, which might
always accompany the army, and the river would secure them from
being environed, and, if they should fight, it might be upon equal

While Crassus was still considering, and as yet undetermined,
there came to the camp an Arab chief named Ariamnes, a cunning and
wily fellow, who, of all the evil chances which combined to lead
them on to destruction, was the chief and the most fatal. Some of
Pompey's old soldiers knew him, and remembered him to have
received some kindnesses of Pompey, and to have been looked upon
as a friend to the Romans, but he was now suborned by the king's
generals, and sent to Crassus to entice him if possible from the
river and hills into the wide open plain, where he might be
surrounded. For the Parthians desired anything, rather than to
be obliged to meet the Romans face to face. He, therefore, coming
to Crassus, (and he had a persuasive tongue,) highly commended
Pompey as his benefactor, and admired the forces that Crassus had
with him, but seemed to wonder why he delayed and made
preparations, as if he should not use his feet more than any arms,
against men that, taking with them their best goods and chattels,
had designed long ago to fly for refuge to the Scythians or
Hyrcanians. "If you meant to fight, you should have made all
possible haste, before the king should recover courage, and
collect his forces together; at present you see Surena and
Sillaces opposed to you, to draw you off in pursuit of them, while
the king himself keeps out of the way." But this was all a lie,
for Hyrodes had divided his army in two parts, with one he in
person wasted Armenia, revenging himself upon Artavasdes, and sent
Surena against the Romans, not out of contempt, as some pretend,
for there is no likelihood that he should despise Crassus, one of
the chiefest men of Rome, to go and fight with Artavasdes, and
invade Armenia; but much more probably he really apprehended the
danger, and therefore waited to see the event, intending that
Surena should first run the hazard of a battle, and draw the enemy
on. Nor was this Surena an ordinary person, but in wealth,
family, and reputation, the second man in the kingdom, and in
courage and prowess the first, and for bodily stature and beauty
no man like him. Whenever he traveled privately, he had one
thousand camels to carry his baggage, two hundred chariots for his
concubines, one thousand completely armed men for his life-guards,
and a great many more light-armed; and he had at least ten
thousand horsemen altogether, of his servants and retinue. The
honor had long belonged to his family, that at the king's
coronation he put the crown upon his head, and when this very king
Hyrodes had been exiled, he brought him in; it was he, also, that
took the great city of Seleucia, was the first man that scaled the
walls, and with his own hand beat off the defenders. And though
at this time he was not above thirty years old, he had a great
name for wisdom and sagacity, and, indeed, by these qualities
chiefly, he overthrew Crassus, who first through his overweening
confidence, and afterwards because he was cowed by his calamities,

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