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population of the captured city, should be put to death! And the

resolution was carried. A trireme was immediately dispatched to Lesbos to

order the execution of the edict. The mad democratic mob that had ordered

this butchery then slept and woke up sober. The atrocity of the thing

staggered the city, and on the morrow a new meeting was called to

reconsider. After an acrimonious debate, a revocation of the previous

order was carried by a bare majority. A second trireme, now twenty-four

hours behind the other, was at once sent away to stay the execution of

the Mityleneans. The galley reached Lesbos just in time. The former order

was already in the hands of Paches, and he was preparing to carry it into

effect when the panting oarsmen of the second boat reached the shore. The

merciful edict of the assembly, however, extended only to the citizens of

Mitylene, and not to the prisoners who had been taken in the siege and

sent to Athens. These, to the number of more than a thousand, were led

out and put to death.

The Mitylenean atrocity was excused by the Athenians on the ground that

it was a measure of just retaliation for the massacre of the Plataeans by

the Lacedaemonians. It was not long till another scene of still more

fearful cruelty was enacted in Corcyra. For some time there had been in

that island a bitter struggle between the oligarchic faction sup- ported

by Sparta and the democratic party backed by Athens. After much mutual

violence and several counter revolutions, the oligarchs were, by the

arrival of an Athenian fleet, completely overthrown. The popular

vengeance broke forth furiously against them. They were pursued into

their hiding places. They were dragged from the temple altars and

butchered without a sign of mercy or compunction. For seven days the

horrible massacre continued, and then ceased only because there were no

more to murder.

In the next epoch of the war the plague reappeared in Athens, and

Peloponnesus was again shaken by an earthquake. The Athenians,

attributing their woes to the anger of Apollo, ordered a purification of

the island of Delos, provided that no more births or deaths should occur

in that sacred seat, and instituted a festival in honor of the offended

god. In the seventh year's invasion of Attica by the Spartan general

Agis, the devastation was suddenly brought to an end by the news that the

Athenians, under the lead of Demosthenes, had succeeded in establishing a

military station at Pylus, in Messenia, thus menacing the peace of all

Western Peloponnesus. Agis was recalled and ordered to dislodge

Demosthenes from his foothold in Messenia. The latter, with a small force

of about one thousand men, built fortifications and awaited the onset. A

Spartan fleet, commanded by Brasidas, arrived in the bay and made an

unsuccessful attack upon the Athenians. Then came a squadron from Athens,

and the Spartans were driven away with a loss of five ships. They,

however, continued to occupy the densely wooded island of Sphacteria,

which lay across the entrance to the bay of Pylus.

This place was now closely blockaded by the Athenian squadron, and it

presently became apparent that the Peloponnesian army was reduced to

great straits. The Spartan Ephors, after having themselves reconnoitered

the situation, decided that there was no hope but to surrender. An

embassy was accordingly sent to Athens, and the assembly at last had the

inexpressible joy of seeing a company of saturnine Spartan envoys humbly

suing for peace! Cleon was in his glory, and, taking advantage of the

occasion, insisted upon such extravagant terms as could not be granted

but by the ruin of the Lacedaemonians. The views of the demagogue

prevailed over prudence, and the opportunity for a favorable peace was

thrown away. The envoys were sent back to Pylus, and Demosthenes was

ordered to press the siege of Sphacteria to a successful issue. The

armistice broke up in mutual bad faith, and hostilities were at once


The Spartans, now grown desperate, succeeded by one means and another in

getting a considerable quantity of provisions to the island, and the

siege was indefinitely prolonged. While the Athenians were expecting to

hear of the capture of the Spartan army, a demand came for

reinforcements. There was a