History of the Peloponnesian War

Thucydides

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

In Sicily about the same time in this spring, Gylippus came to Syracuse with as many troops as he could bring from the cities which he had persuaded to join.

Calling the Syracusans together, he told them that they must man as many ships as possible, and try their hand at a sea-fight, by which he hoped to achieve an advantage in the war not unworthy of the risk.

With him Hermocrates actively joined in trying to encourage his countrymen to attack the Athenians at sea, saying that the latter had not inherited their naval prowess nor would they retain it for ever; they had been landsmen even to a greater degree than the Syracusans, and had only become a maritime power when obliged by the Mede.

Besides, to daring spirits like the Athenians, a daring adversary would seem the most formidable; and the Athenian plan of paralyzing by the boldness of their attack a neighbor often not their inferior in strength, could now be used against them with as good effect by the Syracusans.

He was convinced also that the unlooked-for spectacle of Syracusans daring to face the Athenian navy would cause a terror to the enemy, the advantages of which would far outweigh any loss that Athenian science might inflict upon their inexperience.

He accordingly urged them to throw aside their fears and to try their fortune at sea;

and the Syracusans, under the influence of Gylippus and Hermocrates, and perhaps some others, made up their minds for the sea-fight and began to man their vessels.