UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
reaction in the assembly, and Cleon was about to lose his grip; but he
turned furiously upon Nicias, one of the generals, and accused him of
being the cause of the delay and disappointment. The braggart then went
on to declare that if he were commander, he would take Sphacteria in
twenty days. Thereupon Nicias moved that Cleon be given the command! In
spite of an attempted escape from his own trap, the demagogue was obliged
to accept what the assembly now thrust upon him, and without one day's
military experience he departed with a small force to take command at
On arriving at the scene Cleon found the Athenians already preparing for
an assault on the island. By accident a fire was kindled in the edge of
the forest, which, blown into a conflagration by the wind, swept through
the island and destroyed the forest, which had thus far been the main
protection of the Spartans. The latter were thus exposed to an attack.
The Athenians, led by Demosthenes and Cleon, landed in force, and a
battle of unusual severity was fought, in which the Spartans were
completely defeated. In answer to a demand for surrender, the remnant
threw down their shields and held up their hands!
Such a scene had not before been witnessed in Greece. It was the Spartan
code to conquer or die; but now two hundred and ninety-two of the
supposed Invincibles, many of them of the best families in Laconia, gave
themselves into the power of an enemy. The victory was complete. Pylus
was strengthened. The prisoners were taken to Athens; and before the
expiration of the twenty days Cleon, by the strange favor of fortune,
stood in the assembly and presented his prisoners!
After the siege of Sphacteria, the Athenian fleet, under Eurymedon and
Sophocles, proceeded to Corcyra, and aided the people of that island in
reducing the last post held by the oligarchs, the fortress of Istone.
This place was surrendered on condition that the prisoners should be
spared until they should be condemned after a formal trial before the
assembly; but they were presently induced to try to escape, for the
express purpose that a pretext might be found for their destruction.
Eurymedon consented to this atrocious piece of business, and all the
prisoners were led out two by two and put to death.
At this juncture the Athenians were undoubtedly in a position to have
procured terms of peace most advantageous to the state; but they gave
themselves up to passion and continued hostility. In the beginning of the
eighth year they reduced the important island of Cythera, and once more
ravaged the coasts of Laconia. They then undertook a campaign against the
Megarians, and another into Boeotia. In the first of these some ad-
vantages were gained, and the town of Nissaea was taken and occupied by
an Athenian garrison. But the Boeotian expedition ended in disaster. The
state was invaded on both sides simultaneously, by Demosthenes and
Hippocrates. The former found the country preoccupied, and was obliged
to retire, and the latter, after having gained possession of the temple
of Apollo at Delium, and garrisoned the town, was overtaken in the plain
of Oropus and completely routed. Nothing but the approach of night saved
any part of the Athenian army from the fury of the heavy-armed soldiers
of Boeotia. Delium was retaken, and the campaign closed with the complete
recovery of the country from Athenian influence.
In the mean time the long-cherished plan of Sparta to overthrow the rule
of her rival in Thrace was successfully carried out by Brasidas. With a
force of one thousand seven hundred picked troops he made his way through
Thessaly, and, forming a junction with the forces of Perdiccas of
Macedon, proceeded into Thrace. Here his conduct was such as to win over
a large part of those who adhered to the Athenian cause. The two towns of
Acanthus and Stagirus received him gladly. He then urged his way to the
important colony of Amphipolis, on the river Strymon. Even this place was
surrendered without a siege, as were also most of the towns in the
The effect was such that Athens was now, in her turn, anxious for peace.
In the ninth year after the opening of hostilities (B. C. 423), a truce
was agreed to for twelve months,