Sunday, 21 November 2010




In a third extract from Thucydides' famous history of the Peloponnesian War, Sabidius translates the well-known piece about the siege of Plataea by the Lacedaemonians (or Spartans) in 429-27 B.C, following an unsuccessful attempt by Thebes to capture Plataea in 431. Although Plataea was a city in Boeotia (central Greece) it was allied to Athens, and that attack by Thebes was effectively the beginning of the long Peloponnesian War (431-404) between Athens and Sparta. Plataea was also famous as the only city that had sent its troops to help Athens repel the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490, and was the location of the battle in 479 that saw the final defeat of Xerxes' army. Thucydides' account of this siege was used by subsequent historical writers in Antiquity as a stereotype for the detailed description of sieges, rather as his account of the Great Plague of Athens in 430 was subsequently plagiarised by classical historians to embellish accounts of the outbreaks of disease. (Such emulation should not be seen as dishonest; indeed, because of  Thucydides' reputation, and the widespread view that his work could never be bettered, such borrowings were both expected and welcomed by the readers or audiences of authors in later centuries.) The story of this long siege, the exciting escape of half the garrison, and its eventual downfall is stained by the appalling atrocities which mark its beginning and its ending. The Plataeans were so incensed by the attempt of the Thebans to capture their city by stealth in 431 that they executed all 180 of the captives that fell into their hands. Eager for revenge, the Thebans persuaded the Spartans to execute in turn 225 prisoners when Plataea finally surrendered in 427. These deaths were precursors of the many similar atrocities with which the annals of the Peloponnesian War are filled. 

As in the case of the Plague account, the text for this extract is taken from an edition in the Macmillan Elementary Classics series, edited by W.T. Sutthery, M.A. and A.S.Graves, M.A.,(1912), in which Chapters  1-6 and 71-78 of Book II; and Chapters 20-24, 52, 60 and 68 of Book III are in the original Greek. In the following extract , Sabidius has employed the chaper titles of Sutthery and Graves, and also their summaries of chapters 53-59 and 61-67 (see below in italic script). The comments about Thucydides' writing style, and its challenge to the translator, in Sabidius' translation of the Capture of Sphacteria (see his blog, dated 11 June 2010) apply also to this extract.


Chapter 1.  Beginning of the Peloponnesian War.

The war between the Athenians and the Peloponnesians and the allies on either side now begins, while they did not hold communication with each other any longer except through heralds, and, settling down, they made war continuously; it has been written (down) according to winters and summers as each happened in turn.

Chapter 2.  The Thebans surprise Plataea, a town in alliance with Athens, and enter the town by night, helped by traitors inside.

The thirty year truce, which occurred after the conquest of Euboea, continued in force for fourteen years; in the fifteenth year, at the time when Chrysis had been priestess in Argos for forty-eight years, and Aenesias ephor in Sparta, and Pythodorus archon at Athens for two months still in the sixth month after the battle at Potidaea, and at the same time as spring having begun, the men of the Thebans, a little more than three hundred (strong), - and the Boeotarchs, both Pythangelus, the son of Phyleides, and Diemporus, the son of Onetorides, were leading them - , entered under arms (lit. with their weapons) around the first sleep (i.e. the first watch of the night) into Plataea, (a town) of Boeotia, being an allied state of the Athenians. Men, both Naucleides and those with him, invited (them) in, and opened the gates of Plataea, wishing, for the sake of their own power, both to kill the men among the citizens who (were) hostile to them, and to bring the city over to the Thebans. They arranged these things through Eurymachus, the son of Leontiades, a very powerful man among the Thebans. For the Thebans, realising that there would be war, wished to seize prior control of Plataea, which was always (lit. being) at variance with them, (while) still in peace (time) and with war not yet clearly established. For which (reason) also those entering escaped notice quite easily, a guard not having been posted. Having grounded their arms in the market-place, they were not persuaded  by those who had invited (lit. having invited) (them) in that they should at once proceed to business and go to the houses of their enemies, but they at once made up their minds to employ sympathetic announcements, and rather to lead the city into a friendly agreement (lit. an agreement and friendship), and, in fact, their herald proclaimed that, if anyone wished to ally themselves according to the traditions of all of Boeotia, they should join their ranks (lit. pile their weapons with them), thinking that the city would easily be won to themselves in this way.

Chapter 3.  The Plataeans at first come to terms with the Thebans, but afterwards attack them, finding them to be less numerous than they had supposed. 

The Plataeans, when they became aware that the Thebans were inside and had suddenly seized the city, fearing greatly and thinking that much more men had entered, for they could not see in the night, came to an agreement, and, accepting their proposals, remained still, especially since they had made no drastic movements against anyone. But somehow, (while) managing these things, they perceived that there were not many Thebans, and they considered that, if they attacked (lit. having attacked), they would overpower (them) easily: for amongst the mass of the Plataeans there was not a wish to secede from the Athenians. And so it seemed to be worth attempting, and they assembled, digging through their party walls (so as to get) to each other, in order that they were not clearly (seen) going through the streets, and they placed wagons in the streets without their beasts of burden so that (the barricade thus made) was instead of walls, and they prepared the other things where each seemed to be convenient for the present. When (things) were as ready as  possible, taking care that it (should) still (be) night, around cock-crow they sallied out of their houses against them, in order that they should not be met in daylight by (men) being more courageous and (who) were on equal terms with themselves, but, being more fearful at night, they would be inferior to their experience of things concerning the city. And they attacked at once and were at close quarters as soon as possible.

Chapter 4.  They meet with almost immediate success and kill or take prisoner almost the whole number.

They, when they became aware that they were deceived, both began to close up and proceeded to push back the attacks on themselves whenever they were assailed. Twice or thrice they beat off (their attackers), (and) then, the men attacking (them) with much noise, and the women together with the servants, employing from the house (tops) both shouting and cheering and pelting (them) both with stones and with tiling, and at the same time much rain happening throughout the night, they became fearful, and, having turned, they fled through the city, the majority being ignorant, in the darkness and the mud, of the ways out, (not knowing) in what direction  it was necessary to be seek salvation, for these events were happening as the month was ending, and, having knowledgeable men pursuing (them) to prevent their escape, the result was that many were killed. One of the Plataeans shut the gate by which they had entered and which was the only one opened, thrusting the spike of a javelin into the bar instead of the pin, so that even here there was not a way out. Being pursued all through the town, some of them climbing on the wall, hurled themselves over it and the majority were killed; others, eluding notice by the undefended gates, a woman giving them an axe, and cutting through the bar, not many got out, for swift detection occurred; and elsewhere others were killed here and there in the city. The most numerous (group), inasmuch as it was the most compact, rush into a large dwelling, which was next to the walls and the doors there happened to be open, thinking that the doors of the dwelling were the gates and a passage through to the outside. The Plataeans, seeing that they had been trapped, deliberated whether they should set fire to the building, burning (them) just as they were, or whether they should be treated in some other way. At length, both these and as many others of the Thebans wandering around the city (as) were surviving, agreed to surrender themselves and their weapons to the Plataeans, to be treated in whatever way they wished. Thus, you see, had those in Plataea fared.

Chapter 5.  Reinforcements arrive from Thebes too late to be of service, and propose to ravage the country, whereupon the Plataeans agree to give back the prisoners, but massacre them as soon as the Thebans have retreated. 

The rest of the Thebans, who ought (lit. for whom it was necessary) to have arrived in full full force, while (it was) still night, in case it were not going well for those who had (lit. having) entered, from the time when the news about what had happened having been told to them upon the road, were hurrying to their assistance. Plataea was seventy stades distant from Thebes and the rain which had happened (lit. having happened) during the night made (it) slower for them to progress; for the Asopus river was running high and was not easily fordable. Marching in rain and crossing the river with difficulty, they arrived too late, some of the men having been slain, others having been taken alive. When the Thebans learned what had happened, they contrived a plot against those men outside the city of Plataea; for there were both men and property outside in the fields just as (would be the case), the unexpected evil having occurred in peace-time. For whomsoever they were to take by themselves they wished to keep as hostages for those within, if, that is, any chanced to have been captured alive. And they intended these things. But, while they were still deliberating (lit. them still deliberating) carefully, the Plataeans, suspecting that there would be some such thing and becoming fearful about those outside, sent out a herald to the Thebans, saying that they had not done what they had done justly, trying to capture their city (which was) at a time of peace, and told them not to harm their possessions outside (the walls). Otherwise (lit. if not), they said that they themselves would kill the men of theirs whom they were holding alive; but, on their withdrawing (lit. them having withdrawn) again from their territory, they would give these men back to them. The Thebans say this, (and) they say that they swore upon (it); but the Plataeans do not agree that they promised to give back the men immediately, but if, negotiations having first occurred, they were to agree something, and they did not affirm that they had sworn upon (it). And so the Thebans withdrew from their territory, having harmed nothing; and the Plataeans, after they had speedily brought in their possessions from the countryside, immediately slew the men.  There were a hundred and eighty prisoners, and Eurymachus, with whom the traitors had intrigued, was one of them.

Chapter 6.   News comes to Athens, whence a garrison is sent to occupy Plataea.

Having done this, they sent a messenger to Athens, and returned the dead to the Thebans under a truce, and arranged matters in the city as it seemed good to them in the existing circumstances. The things happening at Plataea were reported to the Athenians, and they seized immediately as many of the Boeotians (as) there were in Attica, and sent a herald to Plataea, ordering (him) to say that they should do nothing extreme concerning the men whom they were holding, until they themselves should determine something with regard to them; for it had not been reported that they were dead. For the first messenger left at the same time as the entrance of the Thebans was happening, and the second just as they were being defeated and captured. And so they knew nothing of these later matters. Thus, the Athenians sent their message not knowing (the facts). And the herald, arriving, found the men having been slain. After this, the Athenians, having marched to Plataea, brought in provisions and left a garrison behind, and they took away those men most unfit for military service together with the women and children.


Chapter 71.  429 B.C.  The Peloponnesians attack Plataea instead of invading Attica. The Plataeans protest.

The next summer (lit. the summer coming next), the Peloponnesians and their allies did not invade Attica, but marched against Plataea. The king of the Lacedaemonians, Archidamus, the son of Zeuxidamus, was in command. Having encamped his army, he was about to lay waste their territory; but the Plataeans, sending ambassadors at once, spoke (words) of this kind to him: "(O) Archidamus, and Lacedaemonians, you are not doing just things, nor things worthy either of yourselves or of the fathers, of whom you are (sons), (by) marching into  the land of the Plataeans. For the Lacedaemonian Pausanias, the son of Cleombrotus, having freed Greece form the Medes with those Hellenes willing to take up together the risk in the battle which occurred near us, (and) having sacrificed to Zeus the Liberator in the market-place of Plataea, and having called together all the allies, restored to the Plataeans (the right) to dwell in their territory and city, holding (it) independently, and (he proposed) that no one should at any time make war upon them unjustly, nor with a view to their slavery; and in default (lit. if not), the allies present would defend (them) according to their power. Your fathers gave these advantages to us on account of the courage and enthusiasm which we showed (lit. having occurred) in those dangerous times, but you are doing the contrary; for you have come with the Thebans, to us the bitterest of enemies, for the purpose of our servitude. Appealing to the gods as witnesses of the oaths which had (lit. having) then happened, your ancestral ones and our native ones, we bid you not to harm the land of Plataea nor to transgress the oaths, and to allow (us) to live independently, just as Pausanias decreed for us."

Chapter 72.  Archidamus replies that the Plataeans can only avert the attack by remaining neutral.

The Plataeans having said so much, Archidamus, replying, said: "You say just things, O Plataean men, if you act in like manner to your words. For just as Pausanias granted (it) to you, both enjoy independence yourselves, and join in freeing those others, who, having shared the dangers of those times, swore the oaths with you, and are now under the Athenians, and all this great preparation and war has happened for the sake of the liberation of them and the other states. Sharing in this (course) in particular, abide by the oaths yourselves; but, failing that (lit. if not), keep the peace, dividing your own possessions amongst yourselves, and do not be with one side, but receive both (as) friends, but not either on a war footing. And these things will suffice for us." Archidamus said so much; the representatives of Plataea, hearing these things, went into the city, and, sharing what had been said with the crowd, they replied to him that it was impossible for them to do as he proposed without consulting the Athenians; for their own children and wives were with them. And (they said) that they also had fears about the whole city, lest, they (i.e. the Lacedaemonians) having withdrawn, the Athenians, having come, might not entrust (the decision) to them, or (lest) the Thebans, as being included in the terms of the covenant in the matter of receiving both (sides), might try to seize their city again. Encouraging them upon these points, he said, "You must hand over your city and houses to us Lacedaemonians, and you must point out the boundaries of your land and your trees by number and whatever else (it is) possible to admit to computation. You, yourselves, must go away to wherever you wish, while there is war. Whenever it is over, we shall give back to you whatever we have received. Until that time, we shall hold (it) in trust, farming (it) and paying (you) an allowance which is likely to be sufficient for you."

Chapter 73.  The Plataeans reply that they must consult the Athenians, and secure a truce for this purpose.    

Hearing (this), they entered into the city again, and, having consulted with the mass (of the people), they said that they wished first to share with the Athenians what things were being proposed, and, if they persuaded them, to agree them. Until that time they bade (him) to make a truce with them, and not to ravage their land. He granted (them) a truce for the (number of) days in which it was requisite to return (from Athens) and did not damage their territory. The Plataean envoys having gone to the Athenians and having consulted with them, they went back reporting the following things to those in the city: "O Plataean men, the Athenians say that in all the time before this from when we have been allies, they have abandoned us at no time, nor will they overlook (us) now, but they will help (us) according to their power. By your oaths they enjoin you to disturb nothing which your fathers swore concerning the alliance." 

Chapter 74.  The Athenians promise them aid if they remain true to the alliance, which the Plataeans resolve to do. Archidamus makes a solemn appeal to the gods to justify his action.

The envoys having reported such things, the Plataeans determined not to betray the Athenians, but even to  endure seeing their land being ravaged, if it were necessary, and suffering whatever else might happen; (they decided) to send out nothing further, but that (their envoys) should answer from their wall that it was impossible for them to do what the Lacedaemonians were proposing. When they had replied, King Archidamus thenceforth appealed firstly to the witness of both the gods and the heroes of their native-land, saying thus: " (You) gods and heroes, such as inhabit the district of Plataea, be witnesses that at the beginning we did not come unjustly, but they having earlier forsaken the common oath, against this land, in which our fathers, having offered prayers to you, defeated the Medes, and, well disposed, you offered it for the Greeks to contend therein, nor now, if we have to resort to anything, shall we be acting unjustly; for, having proposed many reasonable things, we are not happening (to be successful). Be indulgent to those first beginning the injustices that they should be punished, and to those justly inflicting vengeance that it should happen."

Chapter 75.  The siege of  Plataea begins. The operations of the besiegers and of the besieged. 

Having appealed to the gods in so great a manner, (the king) arranged his army for war, and first he fenced them in with the fruit-trees which they had cut down in order that no one should get out any longer, (and) next they piled up a mound against the city, expecting that a very speedy capture of them would happen, so great an army being employed. And so, cutting down timber from Cithaeron, they built up (a framework) on both sides (of the mound), placing (the logs) cross-wise up against the walls, in order that the mound might not collapse to (any) great extent; and they carried loose wood to it, and stones and earth and whatever other material might be likely to accomplish its throwing up. They piled (it) up for nine days and nights continuously, having been divided up according to shifts (lit. reliefs), so that some were carrying, and others were taking their sleep and their food; the officers of the Lacedaemonians, having jointly supervised each city (contingent),  compelled (them) to (keep doing) the work. The Plataeans, seeing the mound rising up, having put together a wooden wall and having fixed (it) on top of their own wall, beside where (the mound) had been heaped up, they built bricks into it, taking them down from the houses nearby. The timbers were a fixture for them (i.e. the bricks), in order that the building should not become weak as it was becoming lofty; and (as) coverings it had skins and hides so that those working and the timbers were in safety, and not pelted by fire-carrying arrows. And the height of the wall was raised greatly and the mound went up against it no more tardily. The Plataeans also think of some such thing. Going through the (part of the) wall where it abutted the mound, they carried away the earth.

Chapter 76.  Ill-success of the Lacedaemonians; the energy and vigilance of the Plataeans. battering rams are employed in vain by the besiegers.

Discovering (this), the Peloponnesians, rolling up clay in wattles of reed, threw (it) into the breach, in  order that it could not be dispersed just as the soil had been carried away. Thwarted in this way, they desisted from (lit. as to) this (method), and digging from the city and calculating (their way) under the mound, they began drawing off the soil again to their own (side). For a long time they escaped the notice of those outside, so that, although they were throwing (earth) on top of (the mound), they accomplished less, (soil from) the mound being carried away from them from beneath, (and upper parts) settling constantly into the vacuum. Fearing that even so their small force might not be able to hold out against (so) many, they had this further stratagem. They stopped working on the large building opposite the mound, and, starting from the low wall from this side and from that side of it, they also built from the inside a crescent-shaped (fortification curving back) towards the city, in order that, if the main wall were to be taken, this would hold out, and it would be necessary for the enemy to make a mound against it again, and, (while) advancing within, to have their trouble duplicated, and even more to become (exposed) to cross-fire. At the same time as the heaping up of the mound, the Peloponnesians also brought up siege engines against the city, one which, having been employed upon the mound against the great structure, shook (it) violently and  alarmed the Plataeans, and they brought up others elsewhere on the walls, which the Plataeans, having put lassoes around (them), broke, and, hanging huge beams by long iron chains at each extremity (lit. from the cut part at each end) from two poles, having been laid horizontally on, and projecting over the wall, (and) drawing (them) up at an angle, whenever the siege-engine was about to have struck in some way, they let the beam go with its chains slack, and not keeping (them) within their grasp; the force (of the beam) falling down snapped off the nose of the head of the battering ram.

Chapter 77.   Attempt to fire the town frustrated by a storm of rain.

After this, the Peloponnesians, as their siege-engines were achieving nothing, and the counter-wall was meeting their mound, concluding that it was impracticable, in the face of the present difficulties to take the city, made preparations for its circumvallation. But, first, it seemed good to them to try fire, (to see) if, a wind happening, they could set fire to the city, which was not (lit. not being) large; for they brought to mind every (possible) form (of attack), (to see) if somehow it could be obtained for them without the expense of (lit. and) a siege; bringing faggots of wood, they threw (them) from the mound first into the (space) between the wall and the mound, and (this) soon becoming full through the multitude of hands, they heaped (them) up as far into the rest of the city as they could direct mostly from the top, and, throwing flame together with sulphur and pitch, they set fire to the wood. And there occurred a fire so great such as no one had ever seen made by human hands up to that time. For (before) now in the mountains wooden (branches), having been rubbed against themselves by the winds, have let loose fire and flame from this spontaneously. This was very great and came within a very little (distance) of destroying the Plataeans, who had escaped (lit. having escaped) other things; for within a large portion of the city it was not possible to approach (it), and, if a wind had come next, blowing upon it, as the enemy hoped, they would not have escaped. But, now, it is also told that this occurred, much water from heaven and thunderstorms happening to quench the blaze and thus to end the danger.

Chapter 78.  The siege is turned into a blockade, and most of the Lacedaemonians return home. 
The Peloponnesians, since they had utterly failed in this, leaving some part of their army and letting the rest go, walled the city around in a circle, dividing the ground between the (contingents of the) cities; and there was a ditch within and without (the wall), from which they made their bricks. Since everything had been finished at about the rising of Arcturus (i.e. at the autumnal equinox), leaving guards for half of the wall, and the Boeotians guarded the (other) half, they withdrew their army and were dispersed according to their cities. The Plataeans had previously brought out their children and their women and the oldest and the general mass of non-combatants among the men to Athens, and four hundred men, and eighty of the Athenians, and a hundred and ten women, (as) bread-makers, having been left behind, were themselves besieged. Such was the sum total, when they settled into the siege, and there was no one else within the walls, either slaves or freemen. The siege of the Plataeans was prepared for in such a way.


Chapter 20.  The starving Plataeans propose to break out through the blockading lines. The method  of escape.

In the same winter, the Plataeans, for they were still being besieged by the Peloponnesians and the Boeotians, since they were hard pressed by their provisions failing and there was no hope of succour from Athens, nor did there seem any other (means of) safety, they themselves and those among the Athenians being besieged with them plan that all would come out and scale the enemy's walls, if they can force their way, Theaenetus, (the son) of Tolmides, a male soothsayer, and Eupompides, (the son) of Daimachus, who also took command, suggesting the attempt to them; then, half of them shrunk back to some extent from the danger, thinking (it) great, but about two hundred and twenty men in particular stood by (their determination to) escape (as) volunteers in the following  way. They made ladders equal to (the height of) the enemy's wall. They measured (it) by the layers of the bricks, at a point where their wall, not thoroughly plastered, faced towards them. Many were making computations of the course of bricks at the same time and some of  them were likely to make a mistake, but the majority would hit upon the correct calculation, particularly counting (the layers) again and again, and at the same time not being far away, but the wall being easily seen for what they wanted. So, they obtained the length they required for the ladders thus, having calculated the measure from the thickness of the brick.

Chapter 21.  Description of the Peloponnesian lines.

The wall of the Peloponnesians was as follows in its construction. It had two circuits, both against the Plataeans, and in case (lit. if) any one might come from the outside  from Athens, and the circuits were about sixteen feet apart from each other; now this interval (of) sixteen feet was built upon (in the form of) huts allotted to the men on guard, and they were continuous so as to appear (as) one thick wall, having battlements on either side. At intervals of ten battlements there were towers, tall and of equal breadth to the wall, reaching right across to its inner face and the same with regard to its outer (face), so that there was no way through past the towers unless they went through the middle of them. Accordingly, during the nights, whenever there was a rain storm, they deserted the battlements and kept guard from the towers, being at a short distance (from each other) and roofed from above. And so, such was the wall by which the Plataeans were blockaded.

Chapter 22.  Execution of the plan by half the Plataean garrison. They scale the walls.

When (everything) had been prepared by them, having waited for a wintry night with rain, and at the same time moonless, they set out; and (those) who were responsible for the plan were leading. First, they crossed the ditch, which was surrounding them, (and) next they came into contact with the wall, eluding the notice of the enemy's guards, them not seeing (them) amid the darkness and not hearing (them), the wind drowning out the noise of their approaching them; at the same time they kept (lit. were) far apart, lest their weapons clashing against each other should attract attention (lit. offer the means of perception). And they were appropriately arrayed with equipment, and (were) shod only in respect of the left foot, for the sake of security (against stumbling) in the mud. And so, they came into contact with a space between towers, seeing that it was deserted, those carrying the ladders (went) first and planted (them); then twelve lightly-armed men with a dagger and a breastplate climbed up, of whom Ammias, the (son) of Coroebus, was in charge, and he ascended first, and his followers proceeded to climb up after him, six to each of the towers. Then, after these came other lightly-armed men with spears, whose shields other men behind (them) carried, in order that they might advance more easily, and they were to give (them to them) whenever they should be face to face with the  enemy. When a considerable number had managed (to climb) up, the sentinels in the towers discovered (them). For one of the Plataeans, in getting a hold of the battlements, knocked down a tile, which made a loud noise. And at once there was an alarm and the troops rushed to the wall. For they did not know what the trouble was, there being a dark night and stormy weather, and at the same time those in the city of the Plataeans, having been left, having made a sortie, attacked the wall of the Peloponnesians on the side opposite to where their men were climbing over in order that they might hold their attention towards them as little as possible. And so, they were distracted, remaining at their stations and no one ventured to give help from his own (sector of the) watch, but they were at a loss (in) calculating what was happening. However, the three hundred of them, for whom it had been ordained that they should provide assistance, if it were necessary at any time, advanced outside the wall towards the alarm. And danger fire-signals were raised in the direction of Thebes; but the Plataeans in the city also replied with many fire-signals from their walls, prepared beforehand for this very (purpose), in order that the signals of the fire-beacons should be unintelligible to the enemy, and that they should not come to their assistance, thinking that what was happening was something other than it was, until their comrades, who had gone out, should have made good their escape, and made sure of their safety.  

 Chapter 23.  The struggle with the guards; subsequent dangers and difficulties.

Meanwhile, those of the Plataeans climbing up, when the first of them had ascended and had captured each tower, killing the sentinels, and taking up position themselves in the passage-ways between the towers, kept watch that no one should provide reinforcements through them, and, setting up ladders from the wall and sending up several men, some, pelting from the towers, hindered the reinforcements coming up both on the ground and on the wall, and meanwhile others, the main body, setting up many ladders, (and) pushing down the battlements at the same time, climbed over through the space between the towers. Any one from time to time (succeeding in) getting across, formed up at the edge of the ditch and both shot from there and hurled javelins, if anyone, coming along by the wall, might become a hinderer of their passage across. When everyone had got across, those from the towers coming down, the last of them with difficulty, they advanced to the trench, and meanwhile the three hundred coming up, carried torches with them. The Plataeans, standing  on the edge of the trench, saw them well, and they both shot (their arrows) and hurled (their spears) at the unprotected parts (of the body) and could be less well seen themselves, being in obscurity on account of the torches, so that even the last of the Plataeans manage to cross the ditch, but with difficulty and painfully; for ice had formed, not firm so that one could walk on it, but slushy, such as (comes) with the east wind rather than the north wind, and the night, rather snowy in such a wind, had made much water in it, which they got across, scarcely getting their heads above (it). However, their escape happened chiefly through the size of the storm.

Chapter 24.  They reach Athens, for the most part in safety.

Starting from the ditch, the Plataeans went in a body down the road leading to Thebes, keeping the shrine of Androcrates on their right, thinking that they had surmised that they would be least (likely) to turn down the (road) towards the enemy, and at the same time they saw the Peloponnesians with torches following the (road) towards Cithaeron and Dryocephalae, the (road) leading to Athens. The Plataeans went for six or seven stades down the road in the direction of Thebes, then, turning sharply around, they went on the (road) leading towards the mountain, to Erythrae and Hysiae, and, taking to the hills, they made good their escape to Athens, two hundred and twelve men in all; there are some of them who turned back to the city before they climbed over, and one archer was captured at the outer ditch. And so, the Peloponnesians, ceasing their attempt (at pursuit), went back to (lit. were at) their stations; the Plataeans in the town, knowing nothing of the things having happened, and those who had turned back to them having reported that no one had survived, sent out a herald, when day came, to make a truce for the recovery of the dead, but, having learned the truth, they desisted. In this way, the men of the Plataeans, getting across (the wall), were saved.


Chapter 52.  427 B.C.  End of the siege; those still remaining in the town surrender, and are allowed to defend themselves before commissioners sent from Sparta. 

In this summer, at about the same time, the Plataeans no longer having food nor being able to endure the siege, surrendered to the Peloponnesians in the following way. They attacked their wall, and they could not   ward (it) off, and the Lacedaemonian commander, realising their weakness, did not wish to take (it) by storm;  for it had been said to him from Lacedaemon such that, if at some future time peace should happen with Athens, and both sides should agree to give back whatever territories they were holding in the war, Plataea would not be given up, as them having surrendered voluntarily, and he sends a herald to them, saying that, if they wished to surrender the city voluntarily to the Lacedaemonians and to accept them as judges, they were ready to punish wrongdoers, but no one contrary to the law. The herald spoke so many (words); and they, as they were already in the weakest possible (state), surrendered the city. And the Peloponnesians fed the Plataeans for some days until five men arrived from Lacedaemon as judges. And, (when) they came, no charges of theirs were put forward, but summoning them they just asked (them) simply if they had performed any service (to) the Lacedaemonians and their allies in the war having taken place. They, asking (leave) to speak at greater length (lit. a longer speech) and, having appointed as representatives of themselves Astymachus, the (son) of Asopalaus and Lacon, the (son) of Aeimnestus, being the consul, these, having come forward, spoke as follows.

Summary of chapters 53-59.  Defence or 'protest' of the Plataeans.

We are cruelly surprised to find executioners where we looked for judges, and to observe that a defence is no more asked of us than it will be regarded by you: so that it is in protest, rather than in defence that we speak. Your question is a mockery: we are your enemies, but it is you that have forced us to become so. Was it not for you, as well as for the rest of Greece, that we fought the Persians when the rest of Boeotia betrayed you; was it not for you that a third part of our citizens bore arms at Ithome? But when we in turn sought aid against the Thebans it was to the Athenians you sent us, it was the Athenians who aided us. Were we then to desert our alliance for you? And for hostility to the Thebans we are surely not to blame; they attacked us in time of peace; and so far as their hatred of us has brought us in conflict with you, whatever offence there is in our honourable adherence to Athens should be condoned by our no less honourable adherence to you at a time when the Thebans deserted you. Surely your own honour, which has stood so high in Greece, will not allow you to obliterate from the roll of Greek states the very name to which your fathers gave so distinguished a place on the Delphian tripod. Will you slay your suppliants for the mere asking of these wicked Thebans? Will you destroy the guardians of the sepulchres of your fathers to replace them by their murderers? Will you enslave the land in which the liberty of Greece was won? We entreat you by the common gods of  Greece, do no such thing. It was to you and not to the Thebans that we surrendered. 

Chapter 60.  The Thebans claim a reply.

The Plataeans spoke such (words). The Thebans, fearing lest the Lacedaemonians might be moved to some extent with regard to their address, coming forward, declared that they themselves wished to speak also, since, contrary to their own view, a longer speech had been given to them than the answer to the question  (asked). And, when they told (them to do so), they proceeded to speak as follows.

Summary of chapters 61-67.  Reply of the Thebans.

After this burst of self-glorification from the Plataeans, we must be heard in reply. They talk of our wickedness, but they are of the same race as ourselves, it is their own kindred they have deserted to join the Athenians. True, we went over to the Persians, we had no choice: ever since then we have appeared, as we now appear, on the side of freedom. They talk of their resistance to the Persians: this was as much of necessity as our submission: and yet they would parade it as a virtue at the expense of Greece. As for our attack upon their city, it was the best and foremost of their own citizens who invited it, and they themselves would at first have submitted to it, until they saw an opportunity for perjury, and for the treacherous slaughter of our men. The have no virtues, or if ever they had, their baseness has now dishonoured them, and their punishment should be double. An appeal to the memory of your fathers comes ill from those who have thus vilely butchered our sons. They are the criminals; ask them the question decided upon, and let their answer seal their fate.

Chapter 68.  The Lacedaemonians, having heard both sides of the question, put all the Plataeans to death. 

The Thebans spoke such (words). The Lacedaemonian judges, deciding that the question from themselves, whether they had received any service from them in the war, would be properly (asked), because they had , so they said, repeatedly desired them according to the ancient treaty of Pausanias after the (defeat of the) Mede, both on other occasions, and, particularly, when afterwards, just before the siege, they had proposed to them being neutral in accordance with that (treaty), which (proposal) they had not accepted, considering that they, as (being) now released from the terms of the treaty by their own just intention, had suffered injuries at their hands, (and) bringing forward and asking each one again whether they had performed any service (to) the Lacedaemonians and their allies in the war, when they said (they had) not, taking (them) away, they killed (them), and they made no one an exception.  They killed no less than two hundred Plataeans and twenty-five Athenians, who were besieged with them; the women they sold into slavery. The Thebans gave the city to (some) men from Megara, having been banished following civil strife, and such men among the Plataeans devoted to their own way of thinking, (who) had survived, to dwell in for about a year. Afterwards, razing it all to the ground, they built from the foundations on to the sanctuary of Hera an inn of two hundred feet all round, having rooms in a ring, downstairs and upstairs, and they made use of the roofs and doors of the Plataeans and the rest which was movable property within the walls, copper and iron, (and) equipping couches, they dedicated (them) to Hera, and they built a stone temple of a hundred feet to her. Having confiscated the land, they let (it) out for ten years, and Thebans occupied (it) as tenants. The Lacedaemonians
became so inveterately hostile in the whole business concerning the Plataeans mainly for the sake of the Thebans, considering that they would be useful in the war just then being waged. Thus was the end of the  matters about Plataea in the ninety-third year after they became allies of the Athenians.

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