Page images



Be Fore I enter on the relation of the war of Sicily,* it will not be improper to give a plan of the country, and of the nations who inhabited it. Thucydides begins in the same manner.

w It was first inhabited by the Lestrygones and the Cyclops, of whom we do not know any particulars, except what we are told by the poets. The most ancient, after these, were the Sicani, who called themselves the original inhabitants of this country, thougjh they are thought to have come into it from the neighbourhood of a river in Spain, called Sycanus, whose name they gave to the island, which before was called Trinacria: these people were afterwards confined to the western part of the island. Some Trojans, after the burning of their city, came and settled near them, and built Erix andEgesta,* who all assumed the name of Elimei, and were afterwards joined by some inhabitants of Phocis, at their return from the siege of Troy. Those who are properly called Sicilians came from Italy in very great numbers, and having gained a considerable victory over the Sicani, confined them to a corner of their island, about three hundred years before the arrival of the Greeks; and in Thucydides's time they still inhabited the middle part of the island and the northern coast. From them the island was called Sicily. The Phenicians also spread themselves along the coast, and in the little islands which border upon

"Thucyd. 1. vi. p. 410—413. »It is called SegesU by the Romans.

it, for the convenience of trade; but after the Greeks began to settle there, they retired into the country of the Elimei, in order to be nearer Carthage, and abandoned the rest. It was in this manner the barbarians first settled in Sicily.

y With regard to the Greeks, the first of them who crossed into Sicily were the Chalcidians ofEubea, under Theocles, who founded Naxos. The year after, which, according to Dionysius Halicarnassus, was the third of the seventeenth Olympiad, Archius the Corinthian *laid the foundations of Syracuse. Seven years after, the Chalcidians founded Leontium and Catana, after having drove out the inhabitants of the country, who were Sicilians. Other Greeks, who came from Megara, a city of Achaia, about the same time, founded Megara, called Hyblea, or barely Hybla, from Hyblon a Sicilian king, by whose permission they settled in his dominions. It is well known that the Hyblean honey was very famous among the ancients. An hundred years after, the inhabitants of that city built Selinunta. Gela, built on a river of the same name, forty five years after the founding of Syracuse, founded Agrigentum about one hundred and eight years after. Zancle, called afterwards Messana or Messenc by Anaxilas tyrant of Rhegium, who was of Messene, a city of Peloponnesus, had several founders, and at different periods. The Zanclians built the city of Himera; the Syracusans built Acre, Casmene, and Camarina. These are most of the nations, whether Greeks or barbarians, who settled in Sicily.

y A. M. 3294. Ant. J. C. 710.



Athens* was in the disposition above related, when ambassadors were sent from the people of Egesta, who, in quality of their allies, came to implore their aid against the inhabitants of Selinunta, who were assisted by the Syracusans. It was the sixteenth year, of the .Peloponnesian war. They represented, among other things, that should they be abandoned, the Syracusans, after seizing their city, as they had done that of Leontium, would possess themselves of all Sicily, and not fail to aid the Peloponnesians, who were their founders; and that they might put them to as little charge as possible, they offered to pay the troops that should be sent to succour them. The Athenians, who had long waited for an opportunity to declare themselves, sent deputies to Egesta to inquire into the state of affairs, and to see whether there was money enough in the treasury to defray the expense of so great a war. The inhabitants of that city had been so artful as to borrow from the neighbouring nations a great number of gold and silver vases, worth an immense sum of money; and of these they made a show when the Athenians arrived. ". The deputies returned with those of Egesta, who carried sixty talents in ingots, as a month's pay for the galleys which they demanded, and a promise of larger sums, which they said were

•A.M. 3588. Ant. J. C. 416. Thucyd. 1. vi. p. 413^*15. Diod.I. xji. p. 129, 130. Plut. in Alcib. p. 200. In Nic. p. 531.

•A.M. 3589. Ant . J. C. 415.

ready both in the public treasury and in the temples. The people, struck with* these fair appearances, the truth of which they did not give themselves the leisure to examine, and seduced by the advantageous reports which their deputies made, in the view of pleasing them, immediately granted the Egestans their demand, and appointed Alcibiades, Nicias, and Lamachus, to command the fleet, with full power not only to succour Egesta, and restore the inhabitants of Leontium to their city, but also to regulate the affairs of Sicily in such a manner as might best suit the interests of the republic.

Nicias was appointed one of the generals, to his very great regret; for, besides other motives which made him dread that command, he shunned it, because Alcibiades was to be his colleague. But the Athenians promised themselves greater success from this war, should they not resign the whole conduct of it to Alcibiades, but temper his ardour and audacity with the coolness and wisdom of Nicias.

» Five days after, to hasten the execution of the decree, and make the necessary preparations, a second assembly was held. Nicias, who had had time enough to reflect deliberately on the affair proposed, and was still better convinced of the difficulties and dangers which would ensue from it, thought himself obliged to speak with some vehemence against a project, the consequences of which he foresaw might be very fatal to the republic. He said, " That it was surprising so important an affair should have been determined the moment almost it

<• Thucyd. 1. vi. p. 415—428.


was taken into deliberation: that, without once inquiring into matters, they had given credit to whatever was told them by foreigners, who were very lavish of their promises, and whose interest it was to offer mighty things, in order to extricate themselves from their imminent danger. After all, what advantage," says he, "can accrue from thence to the republic? Have we so few enemies at our doors, that we need go in search of others at a distance from us? Will you act wisely to hazard your present possessions, on the vain hopes of an uncertain advantage? To meditate new conquests, before you have secured your ancient ones? To study nothing but the aggrandizing of your state, and quite neglect your own safety ? Can you depend in any manner on a truce, which you yourselves know is very precarious, which you are sensible lias been infringed more than once, and which the least defeat on our side may suddenly change into an open war? You arc not ignorant how the Lacedemonians have always been, and still continue disposed with regard to us. They detest our government as different from theirs; it is with grief and disdain they see us possessed of the empire of Greece; they consider our glory as their shame and confusion; and there is nothing they would not attempt to humble a power which excites their jealousy, and keeps them perpetually in fear. These are our real enemies, and it is they we ought to gusrd against. Will it be a proper time to make these reflections, when, after having divided our troops, and our arms will be employed elsewhere, and unable to resist them, we shall be attacked at once by all the

« PreviousContinue »