UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
The charge of having profaned the Eleusinian mysteries was still
unanswered, and a vote was passed by the assembly demanding the return of
Alcibiades for trial. A galley was dispatched to Sicily to bring him to
Athens; but on his way home he effected his escape and sailed to Sparta.
The Athenian court regarding this flight as a confession of guilt,
condemned him to death, and ordered the confiscation of his property. On
hearing of his sentence, Alcibiades remarked with nonchalance, "I will
show the Athenians that I am still alive."
Meanwhile the operations in Sicily had made no progress. The Syracusans
were not even annoyed at the presence of an enemy so little aggressive.
Their horsemen rode around the Athenian camp and insulted the garrison. A
rumor was now blown abroad that the inhabitants of Catana were themselves
on the eve of expelling the Athenians. In order to assist this movement,
the Syracusan army drew out of the city and marched to the aid of the
Catanaeans. Seizing the opportunity afforded by their absence, Nicias
succeeded in conveying his whole squadron into the harbor, effected a
landing near the temple of the Olympian Zeus, and threw up
fortifications. Here he was presently attacked by the Syracusan army
returning from Catana, but the victory remained with the Athenians, who
presently withdrew into winter quarters at Naxos. From this point Nicias
sent messengers to Athens asking fresh sup- plies of troops and means. A
reinforcement of cavalry was accordingly sent out, with three hundred
talents in money.
With the spring, the siege of Syracuse began. The city lay upon a
peninsula between the Great and Little harbors. On the land side it was
defended by a wall, and the sea-front was protected by the nature of the
ground and by fortifications. In the northern suburbs of the city,
however, was a high ground called Epipolae, and of this the Athenians
succeeded in gaining possession. An attempt of the Syracusans to dislodge
them was repulsed. Here Nicias constructed a fort, and the siege was
pressed by both sea and land.
In the mean time Lamachus had died, and the whole command devolved upon
Nicias, who was inferior to his colleague in energy. By this time the
Syracusans became discouraged and made overtures of surrender: but
Nicias, over-confident of success, paid little attention to the proposals
and continued the siege. At this juncture, however, Gylippus, the Spartan
general, arrived with a small squadron in the bay of Tarentum. Thence he
proceeded to Himera, and, publishing to the people that other forces from
his country would soon arrive, he gathered an army of three thousand men
and marched to the relief of Syracuse. He succeeded in passing the
heights of Epipolae, and entered the city without opposition. Having
effected a junction with the Syracusans, he sent an audacious message to
Nicias, allowing him five days to gather his effects and leave Sicily.
It would have been well if Nicias had taken the advice of his enemy, for
the latter very soon turned the tide of success against the Athenians.
The Syracusans in their turn captured and fortified the heights of
Epipolae. Nor was it long-such was the activity of Gylippus-until the
Athenians were put into the attitude of a besieged rather than a
besieging army. Nicias fell sick and asked to be recalled. Instead of
complying with this request, however, the Athenians sent out additional
troops under command of Demosthenes and Eurymedon. The Spartans also
reinforced their Sicilian army, and the Syracusans presently gave battle
to the Athenian fleet.
The latter gained an indecisive victory, but while the battle was in
progress, Gylippus made an assault upon some of the forts erected by
Nicias and captured them, with large quantities of provisions. In a short
time the Syracusans sailed boldly out into Great Harbor, and again gave
battle to the fleet. This time the Athenian squadron was routed, and the
remnant of the ships was only saved from destruction by being drawn to
the shore under protection of the Athenian works.
At this juncture a new fleet of seventy-five vessels, carrying five
thousand heavy armed troops, arrived from Athens. Demosthenes, the
commander, immediately made an