A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B.C

By George Grote; J. M. Mitchell et al. | Go to book overview

31 [LXI]

FROM THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ATHENIAN ARMAMENT IN SICILY DOWN TO THE OLIGARCHICAL CONSPIRACY OF THE FOUR HUNDRED AT ATHENS

I HAVE already mentioned, that even at the moment when Demosthenês with his powerful armament left Peiræus to go to Sicily, the hostilities of the Peloponnesian confederacy against Athens herself had been already recommenced. Not only was the Spartan king Agis ravaging Attica, but the far more important step of fortifying Dekeleia, for the abode of a permanent garrison, was in course of completion. That fortress, having been begun about the middle of March, was probably by the month of June in a situation to shelter its garrison.

And now began that incessant marauding of domiciliated enemies, partially contemplated even at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war - and recently enforced by the advice of the exile Alkibiadês. 1 The earlier invasions of Attica had been all temporary, continuing for five or six weeks at the farthest, and leaving the country in repose for the remainder of the year. But the Athenians now underwent from henceforward the experience of a hostile garrison within fifteen miles of their city, an experience peculiarly painful this summer, as well as from its novelty, as from the extraordinary vigour which Agis displayed in his operations. His excursions were so widely extended, that no part of Attica was secure or could be rendered productive. Not only were all the sheep and cattle destroyed, but the slaves too, especially the most valuable slaves or artisans, began to desert to Dekeleia in great numbers: more than 20,000 of them soon disappeared in this way. So terrible a loss of income both to proprietors of land and to employers in the city, was farther aggravated by the increased cost and difficulty of import from Eubœa. Provisions and cattle from that island had previously come over land from Orôpus, but as that road was completely stopped by the garrison of Dekeleia, they were now of necessity sent round Cape Sunium by sea; a transit more circuitous and expensive, besides being

1 Thukyd., i. 122-142; vi. 90.

-808-

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