History of the Peloponnesian War


Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.

The news that Amphipolis was in the hands of the enemy caused great alarm at Athens.

Not only was the town valuable for the timber it afforded for shipbuilding, and the money that it brought in; but also, although the escort of the Thessalians gave the Lacedaemonians a means of reaching the allies of Athens as far as the Strymon, yet as long as they were not masters of the bridge but were watched on the side of Eion by the Athenian galleys, and on the land side impeded by a large and extensive lake formed by the waters of the river, it was impossible for them to go any further.

Now, on the contrary, the path seemed open.

There was also the fear of the allies revolting,

owing to the moderation displayed by Brasidas in all his conduct, and to the declarations which he was everywhere making that he was sent out to free Hellas.

The towns subject to the Athenians, hearing of the capture of Amphipolis and of the terms accorded to it, and of the gentleness of Brasidas, felt most strongly encouraged to change their condition, and sent secret messages to him, begging him to come on to them; each wishing to be the first to revolt.

Indeed there seemed to be no danger in so doing; their mistake in their estimate of the Athenian power was as great as that power afterwards turned out to be, and their judgment was based more upon blind wishing than upon any sound prevision; for it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy.

Besides the late severe blow which the Athenians had met with in Boeotia, joined to the seductive, though untrue, statements of Brasidas, about the Athenians not having ventured to engage his single army at Nisaea, made the allies confident, and caused them to believe that no Athenian force would be sent against them.

Above all the wish to do what was agreeable at the moment, and the likelihood that they should find the Lacedaemonians full of zeal at starting, made them eager to venture.

Observing this, the Athenians sent garrisons to the different towns, as far as was possible at such short notice and in winter; while Brasidas sent despatches to Lacedaemon asking for reinforcements, and himself made preparations for building galleys in the Strymon.

The Lacedaemonians however did not send him any, partly through envy on the part of their chief men, partly because they were more bent on recovering the prisoners of the island and ending the war.