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I've writen two books about Greece and Rome, introducing each civilization with their most famous authors woven into the narrative. Check them out on their own website!

Nicias – Superstitious but Noble

Nicias helps us understand why losers are still worth studying. Like Cassandra, the Trojan prophetess who foretells the fall of Troy and isn’t believed, Nicias prophesied for the Athenian people that they could not defeat Syracuse. When they put him in charge of the expedition, he comes quite close to overturning his own prophecy.

Parallel: Crassus

Important People

  • Cleon – The first demagogue to exert influence after Pericles’s death, he prosecuted the war against Sparta fairly succesfully, though at much greater loss of life than Pericles had, only to die about 10 years after the war had begun in a battle to regain a former Athenian conquest: Amphipolis.
  • Alcibiades – Brazen and unpredictable, this student of Socrates will get his fair treatment in the life right after this one. He makes an appearance here as a pro-war demagogue, talented general, and traitor to the Athenians.
  • Lamachus – One of the original three generals sent to Syracuse. He dies in a duel he initiated against a Syracusan commander.
  • Demosthenes – Not the orator of a couple generations later. A talented general during the Peloponnesian War that is sent to replace Alcibiades and Lamachus and bring fresh perspective and troops.
  • Gylippus – The Spartan general hired by the Syracusans to lead their troops and defeat Athens. With the help of the Corinthian naval commander Gongylus, he succeeds.

Important Places

Delos – An island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, sacred to Apollo, on which Nicias funds an elaborate choral festival. It used to be the site of the taxes collected for the Delian League, but under Pericles this money had been moved to Athens. Many historians take this move to signal the death of the League and the beginning of the Athenian Empire.

Syracuse – Largest and wealthiest polis on the island of Sicily, Syracuse had made enough enemies who sought the help of Athens in freeing them from Syracuse’s oversight.

Egesta (Segesta) and Leontini – The smaller Sicilian poleis that ask Athens for help against Syracuse.

Plemmyrium (see map below) – The strategic promontory which Nicias controls for much of the battle against Syracuse. Control of this promontory allows him access to his supply lines back in Athens by means of the sea. When he loses access to this, his situation grows dire rather quickly as retreat is almost entirely cut off.

Epipolae (see map below) – A triangular plateau rising above the city of Syracuse allowing a view inside the city. Since it is surrounded on all sides by cliffs, it’s also an easily defensible position. While Nicias captures this strategically important landmass, he also uses its position to oversee the siege of Syracuse as he orders his soldier to build a wall around the entire polis, about the same size, according to Plutarch, as the wall around Athens.

Thapsus – Nicias’s chosen landing point, about 5 miles north of Syracuse (not on the map below). Fun fact: it happens to be the archaeological site in which archaeologists have found the oldest signs of an inhabited town on the island of Sicily.

The Plan of Syracuse Harbor (mostly in pink)

C. 1 – Prologue: Why Nicias and Crassus?

  1. Sicilian disaster parallels the Parthian disaster, but don’t imagine I’m trying to surpass Thucydides like Timaeus.
  2. Timaeus unfortunately thought he could outstrip two previous authors and fails miserably.
  3. He’s as bad as Xenarchus! Finding weak pretexts and heavenly omens that aren’t there.
  4. Unlike Timaeus, jealousy will not motivate me and I won’t try to imitate the inimitable.
  5. Rather, I will cover the important things Thucydides and Philistus set down, but I’m primarily going to focus on the details that escaped other writers, handing on a sketch of character and temperament.

C. 2 – Nicias – Context and Natural Inclinations

  1. Plutarch agrees with Aristotle that Nicias was one of the best citizens of Athens, along with Thucydides (not the historian), and Theramenes, though the last man earned a reputation for flip-flopping. (cf. Cothurnus boot, which can be worn on either foot)
  2. Thucydides often opposed Pericles, but Nicias grew up under his command and towards the end also campaigned with him.
  3. Nicias v. Cleon, who courts the people’s influence by giving them jobs. Nicias not rash and loud, but circumspect and and dignified.
  4. He was timid by nature and cautious in success, he could also be easily confused in political life, though this strangely increased his popularity because he didn’t seem like he was trying to control the crowd.

C. 3 – Nicias: Pious and Wealthy

  1. Pericles led with virtue and eloquence; Nicias didn’t have these things, so he used his wealth as best he could.
  2. He furnished lavish choral and gymnastic exhibitions for the Athenians, paying no attention to cost.
  3. Some dedicatory offerings from these competitions remain in the city of Athens to this day (500 years later). Nicias frees a slave who dresses like Dionysius.
  4. He would spend lavishly for the choral competitions dedicated to Apollo on the island of Delos. Nicias plans the entrance of the choir to increase its effect.
  5. He created a bridge of boats between a small island and Delos and at daybreak marched across with his choir, singing and lavishly arrayed.
  6. After the festival, he set up a bronze palm-tree as a thank offering and donated a piece of land the revenue of which the Delians could use for sacrificial banquets. The palm-tree fell over and hit a statue of Apollo, toppling the statue of the Naxians.

C. 4 – Extreme Piety – Superstition

  1. This ostentation could be seen as just that, but it’s likely rooted in N’s extreme piety.
  2. He sacrificed every day to the gods, kept a prophet at his house, consulting him not just for public but also private matters, especially his silver mins wherein lay the bulk of his wealth.
  3. He gave too much to the base, but was equally generous with the good.
  4. (4-6) The comic poets witness to this

C. 5 – Fear and Cowardice

  1. N refused to accept any invitation to dine at someone else’s home. First to reach the Council and last to leave. Even at home, he made himself inaccessible.
  2. His friends run interference for him at his front door, particularly Hiero, who had been raised in Nicias’s house.
  3. Hiero spread stories about how hard Nicias worked for the Athenian people.
  4. H uses the stories to explain why Nicias looks haggard or isn’t friendly. He feels like Agamemnon (in Euripides) “a slave to the populous”

C. 6 – Nicias Aloof and Lucky

  1. His observation of the people led to avoid arousing suspicion with extreme eloquence or powerful skills because Pericles was fined, Damon ostracized, Antiphon executed, and Paches killed himself in court (Thuc. 3.28)
  2. Thus, he avoided long or difficult commands and made safety his chief purpose as strategos. He did credit all achievements to fortune alone.
  3. The wisdom in this, he did not share in the reverses of Athens during the first part of the Pelop War. He didn’t lead the expedition to Thrace where everyone died, nor the disasters in Delium (Hippocrates) or Aetolia (Demosthenes). Everyone blamed Pericles for the plague.
  4. When he did serve as general, he captured Cythera, quelled revolts in Thrace, took the island of Minoa from the Megarians, and took hold of Nisaea. Finally, he marched against Corinth and defeated them, killing even their general.
  5. The awkwardness of his mistake: he left two dead Athenians on the field and had to send envoys back seeking the ability to get their bodies.
  6. Suppliants can’t set up trophies, so he had to accept the technicality of not “winning” in order to give a burial to two Athenians. He even took prisoners from Laconian raids and brought Thyrean captives alive back to Athens.

C. 7 – Nicias Replaced

  1. Demosthenes takes Pylos and cuts off 400 Spartans on the island of Sphacteria. The siege is difficult for both sides, as the Athenians supply-lines are long and there isn’t much fresh water in the area.
  2. Cleon rejected the embassy of Spartans wanting to negotiate because he hated Nicias, who often cooperated with the Spartans to seek peace. The troops grow angry with Cleon for this.
  3. Cleon blames Nicias and said this wouldn’t have happened if Cleon had been in charge. Nicias resigns his command and the Athenians demand Cleon replace him immediately.
  4. Cleon tries to demure, but the Athenians insist and Cleon vows to fix the situation in 20 days.
  5. The vanity of Cleon in another anecdote involving the Pnyx and Cleon’s being ready for a banquet.

C. 8 – Cleon’s Rise

  1. Cleon succeeds! Nicias looked at with distrust, as one who threw away his shield in battle by giving up his command.
  2. Aristophanes mocks Nicias for this in his Birds and Farmers.
  3. By facilitating Cleon’s reputation, he put a politician in place who brought down the quality of communication and leadership.

C. 9 – The Peace of Nicias

  1. Alcibiades, with more virtues to balance his evils, entered political life at this time.
  2. Cleon (Athenian) and Brasidas (Spartan) were most against peace between Athens and Sparta.
  3. Both these men die in Amphipolis, and so Nicias arranges peace with the Spartans.
  4. Wealthy, Elderly, and Farming men were inclined to peace already. He talked privately with many citizens blunting their desire for war, and then approached the Spartans for peace. Part of the reason the Spartans trusted him is because he had treated the prisoners from Sphacteria humanely.
  5. The negotiations occur in a year that had already declared an armistice, so everyone can feel what peace is like.
  6. Nicias esteemed for fostering the peace as Pericles had fostered the war. Thus the “Peace of Nicias”

C. 10 – A Troubled Peace – The Rise of Alcibiades

  1. Nicias connives to make the Spartans restore their prisoners and cities before the Athenians.
  2. Corinthians and Thebans chafe under the Athenian slowness, so Nicias settles separately with the Spartans to freeze out the C and T.
  3. Alcibiades loudly objects to the peace from the beginning, but only starts to gain headway when he can point to what the Spartans didn’t do to hold up their end of the treaty.
  4. Alc. receives an embassy from Argos, wanting to negotiate a separate alliance with Athens, but Spartan ambassadors also arrive in time to negotiate. Alc. takes them into his confidence and convinces them to deny that they have full rights to negotiate.
  5. Alcibiades then calls them into assembly and verbally abuses them for saying the exact thing he told them to say.
  6. Nicias can’t defend the ambassadors either and so the Athenians now want to ally with the Argives and leave the Spartans out. The next day, Nicias convinces them not to do this yet and offers to go to Sparta himself as ambassador.
  7. Nicias’s reception in Sparta is cool and he fails to win out over other ambassadors demanding Boeotian concessions. When N returns to Athens, he fears for his bodily safety. The Athenians angry because they had already given back so many important Spartan prisoners.
  8. Alcibiades elected general and he brings Athens back into the war by convincing certain poleis to defect from Sparta and join the Athenians. He also allows freebooters to attack Pylos.

C. 11 – Ostracism – Alcibiades or Nicias

  1. One or the other of them must go.
  2. The Athenians hate Alc’s boldness and way of living, while they are jealous of Nicias’s wealth and annoyed by his haughty aloofness and because he often resists the people in their wishes.
  3. The real struggle between one generation that wants war (the young) and one that wants peace (the old), but this made room for a third option: Hyperbolus.
  4. H didn’t see it coming, but when N and A united, they managed to ostracize Hyperbolus instead of themselves.
  5. This bothers the Athenians, who before this point had only used ostracism against great men.
  6. And so, H becomes the last man ever ostracized and the Athenians only used the practice from around 488 to 417 (about 70 years).
  7. The uncertainty of fortune. It probably would have been better for Nicias either to be ostracized or have Alc ostracized, but this third option seems to have turned out the worst for him.

C. 12 – The Seeds of the Sicilian Expedition

  1. Nicias opposes helping the poleis of Egesta and Leontini against the tyranny of Syracuse. Alc. supports it and spreads the word before the citizens even meet in assembly. Everyone draws diagrams, maps, and charts of Sicily and its harbors and environs.
  2. Sicily not seen as the prize of a Great War, but as a base of new operations for control in the Western Mediterranean. Nicias lacks allies.
  3. Even after the Athenians had voted to go to war against Sicily, Nicias continues to oppose them so that they elect Nicias, Alcibiades, and Lamachus generals. Nothing he says can convince the Athenians not to go.
  4. The Athenians took comfort in Nicias’s caution blended with Alc’s boldness and Lamachus’s roughness. One politicians gives the three generals full, independent powers of each other.

C. 13 – Signs Against Sicily

  1. The priests of Athens not receiving favorable omens re: Sicily, but Alcibiades hires some of his own diviners. Some return from the Shrine of Ammon in Egypt with an oracle declaring the Athenians will capture all the Syracusans.
  2. No sign could deter them, not even the mutilation of the Herms. All but one (of Andocides) defaced/vandalized in a single night.
  3. At Delphi ravens alight on a bronze palm tree and picked off the golden fruit, throwing it to the ground.
  4. Athenians blame the Syracusans for politicizing Delphi, but another oracle orders the Athenians to bring a priestess from Clazomenae whose name was PEACE and the Athenians still don’t get the message.
  5. The astrologer Meton sets his house on fire (either out of madness or desperation) to beg his fellow citizens to release his son from the expedition.
  6. Socrates also warned by his daemon that the expedition would ruin the city. He tells friends in private, but word spreads quickly.
  7. Even as the fleet leaves, the women celebrate the festival of Adonis which involves lamenting the death of young men in their prime.

C. 14 – Nicias as General

  1. Because Nicias doesn’t change his mind about the expedition he is honest and discrete, but the people still force him to be general.
  2. Unfortunately, he continues to be hesitant and cautious, and he thus blunts the edge of the Athenian force and gives the enemy time to respond.
  3. Lamachus urges direct assault; Alc’s plan is to pick off the allies of Syracuse and then march on Syracuse, but Nicias wants to circumnavigate the island to get a lay of the land and a display of force. This works horribly.
  4. Alcibiades recalled to Athens for trial, leaving Nicias more idle than ever, blunting the hope and courage of his men.
  5. Alcibiades rowed close to Syracuse with 60 ships to give warning and reconnoitre. An enemy ship is captured with tablets containing the names of all the Syracuse citizens, to note those of military age.
  6. The number of names was distressingly large and made people think this is what the oracle meant by “The Athenians shall take the Syracusans”

C. 15 – Alcibiades Exits

  1. Nicias now basically in sole command, Lamachus brave in battle but greedy and petty as a strategist.
  2. Anecdote: Nicias debating with the other strategoi in war council defers to Sophocles, the poet, as the eldest in the room. Sophocles defers to Nicias as the “most senior general.”
  3. Thus, Lamachus listened to Nicias, who sailed a good way around Sicily, attacked the small city of Hybla (map), but didn’t even occupy the city.
  4. Returns to Catana, overthrows Hyccara, a barbarian stronghold.

C. 16 – Syracuse on the Offensive

  1. Summer ends, Nicias hears of an attack pending.
  2. N sends false information about the Athenian camp near Catana to empty out Syracuse of defenders and give N’s allies on the inside opportunity to overthrow Syracuse.
  3. Best idea! Syracusans roll out; Nicias takes control of the Syracuse harbor, and sets up camp where he’ll have the greatest advantage against cavalry, which he could not bring.
  4. As the Syracusans rush back, Nicias attacks them, but can’t kill many of them because S cavalry prevent pursuit.
  5. Syracusans now fearful and elect three generals over the normal fifteen with supreme powers of command.
  6. Nicias could have taken the Olympieum and the gold and silver in it, but he delays too long for fear of sacrilege if he sets his men loose on a temple.
  7. Winters in Naxos (not the island in the Aegean, but find something on a map). He must pay his troops to be idle and he does little negotiating with the enemies of the Syracusans. The Syracusans burn the old Athenian camp near Catana.
  8. Even his men start to notice that his hesitation and caution let the proper time for action slip by.

C. 17 – Nicias Back to Battle

  1. In Spring of 414, he moved back to Syracuse, putting in at Thapsus and seizing Epipolae, defeating even the Syracusan cavalry sent against him.
  2. He builds a wall around Syracuse in spite of the difficult terrain and that its size matches Athens.
  3. He ALMOST completed it, and this is the first mention of Nicias being ill. Admirable what they did accomplish even if they didn’t finish.
  4. Euripides writes an epitaph for these men… who never return for burial.
  5. They beat the Syracusans at least 8 times, until the gods no longer favored the Athenians.

C. 18 – Lamachus Exits; Gylippus Arrives

  1. Nicias usually joined battle personally, but one battle he was bedridden while the Syracusans were trying to intercept the wall with their own wall.
  2. As the Athenians pursue the Syracusans, having stopped them from intercepting the wall, Lamachus is isolated and accepts single combat with a certain Callicrates. Both men die.
  3. Syracusans return with Lamachus’s body and armor. The victorious S’s turn to attack Nicias, who has to get out of bed, set fire to the wood brought near for siege-engines, but also ruin future plans of success in the siege.
  4. Nicias now sole general, in high spirits, because his allies are increasing and shipments of grain are arriving every day. Proposals for a treaty already leaking out of Syracuse.
  5. Gylippus, the Spartan general, paused on his way out to aid the Syracusans, thinking the battle might be over as he arrived.
  6. Nicias, contrary to his nature, was also emboldened at this time that he took no account of the arrival of Gylippus. Thus, G. Sails straight in and gathers an army before the Syracusans even know he’s there.
  7. Since the siege wall was almost complete, the Syracusans were meeting to discuss terms of peace.

C. 19 – Gylippus Turns the Tide

  1. Gongylus, the Corinthian, arrives with news of Gylippus coming soon, and a larger navy of reinforcements.
  2. Right after Gongylus, a messenger from Gylippus arrives telling the Syracusans to come out and meet him. Gylippus and Nicias face off, but G gives Nicias a guarantee of safe conduct if they return to Athens right now.
  3. Nicias doesn’t respond; some soldiers mock the one Spartan cloak and staff which changes nothing, since they had so recently ransomed 300 after Pylos.
  4. The Sicilians also underestimate Gylippus’s greed, but once he became like an owl among birds, all flocked to him with offers of military service.
  5. Plutarch uses not only Themistocles as a source, but Philistus, who was an eye-witness and lived through these events. First day, Athenians win and Gongylus dies. Second day, Gylippus adjusts his strategy and send the Athenians running.
  6. While the Athenians retreat to their camp, Gylippus intercepts their wall and prevents it from being completed.
  7. Gylippus goes around to other cities convincing them to remain allies of Syracuse. Nicias returns to the views he had of this expedition when he was still in Athens. He writes to Athens for more aid or to recall him because of his disease.

C. 20 – Athenians Plan Aid and Replace Colleagues

  1. Desmothenes plans to arrive in the spring, but a smaller contingent with some money, supplies, and two more colleagues for Nicias, is sent in the midst of the embarrassing losses.
  2. Before they arrive, Nicias attacked on sea and land. Nicias ultimately wins at sea, but can’t come quickly enough to help his land troops on a key promontory (Plemmyrium).
  3. Nicias now loses strategic access to supplies, which before had had a harbor to unload safe from the Syracusans. Now every arrival is exposed to attack. Syrcusans think they lost at sea through disorganization, and work not to let it happen again.
  4. Nicias doesn’t want to fight at sea. Menander and Euthydemus, the brand-new colleagues, are ambitious and want to accomplish something before Demosthenes arrives.
  5. E and M force a battle and are outmaneuvered by Ariston, the Corinthian (see Thuc. 7.36-41)

C. 21 – Demosthenes Arrives and Attacks

  1. Mid-summer 413 BC, Demosthenes arrive with 5000 hoplites, 3000 slingers and archers, and 73 ships scaring the Syracusans again.
  2. Nicias refuses to let Demosthenes attack immediately.
  3. Delay was sure to work against the enemy, and many were in secret communication with Nicias urging him to bide his time to wear them out of war and make them annoyed at Gylippus.
  4. The other generals conclude that he is a coward—forfeiting the golden moment. Three against one, though, and they carry the day.
  5. Demosthenes attacks Epipolae by night and defeats the enemy in front of him but presses forward. The Boeotians, who are not as surprised as the first wave, fight and defeat Demosthenes.
  6. The attacking Athenians grow confused in the darkness and can’t tell friend from foe…chaos reigns.
  7. (7-8) The worst kind of light, occasional moonlight behind them makes the enemy arms seem more numerous because of the shining and makes their own shadows obscure their vision of friend and foe.
  8. (9) The Athenians give ground and disperse. Every man killed, either by the enemy, his own men, falling off a cliff, or cleaned up in the morning by the cavalry. 2000 dead; few survivors.

C. 22 – Demosthenes Defeated…

  1. Nicias accuses Demosthenes of rashness. Demosthenes recommends retreat by sea.
  2. Autumn setting in and the location of the camp (surrounded by water) becoming unhealthy. Nicias fears the Athenians more than the Syracusans, so he doesn’t want to retreat.
  3. He would rather die by Syracusans hands than by Athenians ones. cf. Leon of Byzantium
  4. Demosthenes gives in and the other three generals think Nicias must know something about the state inside Syracuse that they don’t. A fresh army arrives to support Syracuse, so Nicias at least agrees they need to move their camp.

C. 23 – The Lunar Eclipse

  1. Lunar eclipse just as the soldiers are about to change location. This terrifies Nicias, who understood solar eclipses but had no idea what got in the way of the moon, nor why the moon changed colors.
  2. Anaxagoras had already been the first to discuss at least the phases of the moon, but not many read him yet. He had taught most of his doctrines in secret to a few.
  3. Aside: Men didn’t trust the “natural philosophers” and called them “visionaries because they seemed to limit divine agency to blind force, necessity, and irrational causes. Protagoras exiled, Anaxagoras imprisoned (saved by Pericles) and Socrates, who didn’t even participate in natural philosophy much, died for philosophy.
  4. Plato, both for his life and his teaching, opened up philosophy to the love of more men. Dion, one of his students, was not alarmed at all by a lunar eclipse and put to sea anyway and drove the tyrant out of Syracuse.
  5. Nicias doesn’t have his soothsayer, who had died earlier and had kept him away from such superstitions. Plutarch quotes Philochorus and interprets the omen as good: fearful flight requires concealment and light is the enemy.
  6. Heavenly portents also have an expiration date, anyway, about three days as Autocleides says in his Exegetics. But Nicias persuaded everyone to wait another cycle of the moon (28 days). Over-cautious!

C. 24 – Athenian Camp Besieged

  1. In this time, the Syracusans surround the Athenian camp by sea and by land, while Nicias sacrifices to the gods continuously since the eclipse.
  2. Even the little fishing skiffs join in the siege and one, rowed by a boy, is chased by an Athenian ship precipitating a naval battle in the harbor which the Syracusans win, killing the Athenian naval captain, Eurymedon.
  3. The soldiers demand that their generals lead an escape by land. Nicias refuses to abandon so many transports.
  4. Thus, he puts the best of his infantry and javelineers on 110 triremes, any others they have don’t have enough oars to be rowed, and abandons the camp that had controlled the peninsula up to the Heracleum. When the S get back in, they immediately sacrifice to Heracles.

C. 25 – The Final (Sea) Battle

  1. As they sacrifice to Heracles, the soothsayers call for a splendid victory, but only if they defended and did not attack, because this is how Heracles had always acted. The Syracusans join the sea fight with this in mind, taking much damage and with the whole sea fight visible in the harbor.
  2. Athenian ships: light and nimble. Syracuse: heavy and clumsy and close together. Stones also easier to throw from the deck of a rocking boat, javelins and arrows too often miss their mark in these conditions. Ariston, the Corinthian captain leading the Syracusans, died just as the Syracusans gain victory.
  3. The Athenians can’t escape by sea now and escape by land doesn’t look easy. They can’t bury their dead and must abandon their sick and wounded.

C. 26 – Nicias Tricked This Time

  1. Syracusans already celebrating victory, which would give the Athenians time to withdraw and Gylippus despairs of convincing them to pursue.
  2. Gylippus sends a messenger to Nicias saying the Syracusans already control the path of retreat and have set traps along it.
  3. Syracusans do set out at daybreak to set ambushes along the road, cut down bridges, and post cavalry in open fields. The Aths wait another day and night and then leave, bemoaning their current fortune but later admitting that it got worse later.
  4. Nicias the most pitiful sight of all, undone by sickness, hunger, and almost no comforts (like his troops). He endured and persisted for the lives of his men.
  5. Everyone else bemoaning the shameful dishonor they were now experiencing compared to the high hopes they’d had of glorious success.
  6. They also remembered all of Nicias’s arguments against this expedition, and made them feel more sorry that he was experiencing the hardships with them. They also gave up faith, though, for if a man as devout as Nicias could be abandoned by the gods, than they had all been abandoned.

C. 27 – The Long Retreat

  1. Nicias manages to keep his forces together and retreating for 8 days, in spite of continuous harassment by the enemy. Then Demosthenes and his men captured.
  2. Dem tries to kill himself, but doesn’t succeed. Nicias tries to negotiate with Gylippus for a truce allowing the Athenians to leave.
  3. Syracusans insolently reject, and Nicias holds on another day and night, coming to the river Asinarus.
  4. Being thirsty and exhausted, the Athenians have difficulty crossing. Nicias watches his men butchered in the river and falls before Gylippus begging for mercy and asking G to recall the way the Aths had treated the Sp captives.
  5. Gylippus agrees and sends the command to take the remaining men alive. Fewer spared than slain.
  6. Prisoners lined up, captured armor hung from trees, and the victory parade begins right there for the Syracusans. Plutarch calls it the greatest battle of Greek vs Greek the world had yet seen.

C. 28 – The Debate Over the Prisoners

  1. The day Nicias was captured becomes a festival day, dedicated to the river Asinarus where the Athenians were captured.
  2. The Syracusans also discuss whether to sell the slaves of the Athenians into slavery and put the freemen and other Sicilians in the stone quarries; but the generals should be put to death. Hermocrates protests, but the motion passes. Gylippus requests the Athenian generals as a prize, but the Syracusans refuse.
  3. Syracusans annoyed at Gylippus’s Laconian style of leadership and life. They also noticed how penurious he was at this point. Gylippus would later be banished from Sparta for keeping thirty talents for himself that had been sent by Lysander.
  4. Two authors claim D and N put to death. Timaeus claims they killed themselves before the Syracusans had completed their assembly and the prisoners threw their bodies out in the open.
  5. A shield still in Syracuse which they claim belonged to Nicias of welded gold and purple metal.

C. 29 – The Stone Quarries

  1. Most Athenians die in the quarries, some taken and sold into slavery, or pretended to be slaves to escape. Some branded on the forehead with the mark of a horse.
  2. Some saved for Euripides, because the Sicilians loved to hear his poetry.
  3. Some prisoners were able to return home and thank Euripides, telling him that they used his lines to secure freedom or food. A ship even given safe harborage from pirates because they knew Euripides (test of civility?)

C. 30 – News Reaches Athens

  1. Athenians in denial when first reports reach them. The man arrives, sits down for a haircut, and starts talking about the disaster as if it’s common knowledge. The barber runs into the agora with the knowledge.
  2. The archons call an assembly, but the barber can’t produce the original informant and thus causes an uproar as a rumor-monger, for which they torture him. That’s how hard it was for the people to believe Nicias.

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