The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. — Winston Churchill

Story of Greece - Mary Macgregor

The Walls of Athens Are Destroyed

The last battle of the Peloponnesian War was fought in the Hellespont in 405 B.C. The Athenians had drawn up their ships near a desolate spot named Ægospotami, and they soon found that it was an awkward place from which to get provisions for the army. There were no houses near, from which they could demand help, so the sailors were forced to leave their ships and scour the country round about for food. So dreary was the spot that the Athenians longed to fight at once.

But Lysander was in a strong position on the other side of the strait; he had, too, a plentiful supply of food, so that he did not mean to let himself be forced into a battle.

Again and again the Athenians sailed across the strait, hoping to tempt the Spartans to fight, but Lysander refused to move.

As the weeks passed, the Athenians grew careless of an enemy that seemed too lazy or too cowardly to fight. They left their ships well-nigh unguarded, and wandered over the country in large numbers in search of food.

Alcibiades, from his castle not far off, saw that the Athenians were in a dangerous position, and that they were leaving their ships unprotected. He rode over to Ægospotami to warn the generals to seek a safer position. At Sestos, a town but two miles off, they would be better able to defend themselves from the Spartans, should they be attacked. They would also be able to command provisions.

But the generals did not wish to listen to Alcibiades, and their pride forbade them to follow his advice. They spoke rudely to him, telling him to be gone, that now not he but others had the command of the forces.

The very day after Alcibiades had warned them, the Athenians, leaving their ships for the most part unmanned, set out to search the countryside for food.

Lysander knew how the enemy usually spent the afternoons. Now that they had grown heedless of danger he determined to attack the forsaken ships without further delay.

So he ordered his vessels to row quickly across the strait and he found, as he expected, the Athenian fleet utterly unprepared for battle.

There was indeed no battle fought, for the Spartans easily captured one hundred and seventy ships, and took more than four thousand prisoners, among whom were three or four admirals.

Conon alone, with eight ships, succeeded in escaping. But he dared not return to Athens with tidings of the disaster, for he knew that if he did so he would be condemned to death. So he sent a ship to carry the terrible news to the city.

It was evening when the vessel reached Piræus.

'The noise of wailing spread all up the Long Walls into the city, as one passed the tidings on to another; that night no one slept.' For now there was no fleet to hinder the Spartans from stopping the supply of corn, and the Athenians knew that they must starve or surrender.

For a little while the city refused to yield. But she had no allies, no ships, no money, and no corn could enter the town. The wretched people were dying of hunger before Athens surrendered to the Spartans in March 404 B.C.

She expected no mercy from her conqueror. Even as she had destroyed many a Spartan town, so she thought that now she herself would be utterly ruined.

But Sparta proved less harsh than Athens had deemed was possible. The city was indeed to be 'rendered harmless for ever, but not destroyed.'

All that was left of her fleet was taken away, and the walls of Piræus and the walls leading to Athens were pulled down.

Lysander stood near, looking on, as the Athenians and the Spartans together began to break down the walls.

It was not so gloomy a scene as you might have expected. Perhaps the Athenians were glad that at length the long and desperate struggle had come to an end. Flute players and dancers were present, and added a strange touch of gaiety to the crowd.

Soon after the surrender of Athens, Lysander was ordered to put Alcibiades to death, lest he should encourage the Athenians at any time to throw off their allegiance to Sparta.

Plutarch tells us that 'those who were sent to assassinate him had not courage enough to enter the house, but surrounded it first and set it on fire.

'Alcibiades, as soon as he perceived it, getting together great quantities of clothes and furniture, threw them upon the fire to choke it, and having wrapped his cloak about his left arm, and holding his naked sword in his right, he cast himself into the middle of the fire, and escaped securely through it, before his clothes were burnt.

'The barbarians, as soon as they saw him, retreated, and none of them durst stay to wait for him, or to engage with him, but, standing at a distance, they slew him with darts and arrows.'


Front Matter

The Great God Pan
The Six Pomegranate Seeds
The Birth of Athene
The Two Weavers
The Purple Flowers
Danae and Her Little Son
The Quest of Perseus
Andromeda and Sea-Monster
Acrisius Killed by Perseus
Achilles and Briseis
Menelaus and Paris Do Battle
Hector and Andromache
The Horses of Achilles
The Death of Hector
Polyphemus the Giant
Odysseus Escapes from Cave
Odysseus Returns to Ithaca
Argus the Hound Dies
The Bow of Odysseus
The Land of Hellas
Lycurgus and His Nephew
Lycurgus Returns to Sparta
Training of the Spartans
The Helots
Aristomenes and the Fox
The Olympian Games
The Last King of Athens
Cylon Fails to be Tyrant
Solon Frees the Slaves
Athenians Take Salamis
Pisistratus Becomes Tyrant
Harmodius and Aristogiton
The Law of Ostracism
The Bridge of Boats
Darius Rewards Histiaeus
Histiaeus Shaves His Slave
Sardis Is Destroyed
Sandal Sewn by Histiaeus
Earth and Water
Battle of Marathon
Miltiades Sails to Paros
Aristides is Ostracised
The Dream of Xerxes
Xerxes Scourges the Hellespont
Bravest Men of All Hellas
Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Artemisium
Themistocles at Salamis
Themistocles Tricks Admirals
Battle of Salamis
Battle of Plataea
Delian League
Themistocles Deceives Spartans
Themistocles is Ostracised
Eloquence of Pericles
Pericles and Elpinice
The City of Athens
Great Men of Athens
Thebans Attack Plataeans
Attica Invaded by Spartans
Last Words of Pericles
Siege of Plataea
The Sentence of Death
Brasidas Loses His Shield
The Spartans Surrender
Brasidas the Spartan
Amphipolus Surrenders
Alcibiades the Favourite
Socrates the Philosopher
Alcibiades Praises Socrates
Images of Hermes Destroyed
Alcibiades Escapes to Sparta
The Siege of Syracuse
Athenian Army is Destroyed
Alcibiades Returns to Athens
Antiochus Disobeys Alcibiades
Walls of Athens Destroyed
March of the Ten Thousand
Pelopidas and Epaminondas
Seven Conspirators
Battle of Leuctra
Death of Epaminondas
The Two Brothers
Timoleon exiles Dionysius
Icetes Attacks Timoleon
Battle of Crimisus
Demosthenes' Wish
Greatest Orator of Athens
The Sacred War
Alexander and Bucephalus
Alexander and Diogenes
Battle of Granicus
The Gordian Knot
Darius Gallops from Battle
Tyre Stormed by Alexander
Battle of Gaugamela
Alexander Burns Persepolis
Alexander Slays Foster-Brother
Porus and His Elephant
Alexander Is Wounded
The Death of Alexander
Demosthenes in the Temple