CHAPTER XIII. THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR. - THIRD PERIOD, FROM THE SICILIAN EXPEDITION TO THE END OF THE WAR, B.C. 413-404.
The battle of Arginusae led to a deplorable event, which has for ever sullied the pages of Athenian history. At least a dozen Athenian vessels were left floating about in a disabled condition after the battle; but, owing to a violent storm that ensued, no attempt was made to rescue the survivors, or to collect the bodies of the dead for burial. Eight of the ten generals were summoned home to answer for this conduct; Conon, by his situation at Mytilene, was of course exculpated, and Archestratus had died. Six of the generals obeyed the summons, and were denounced in the Assembly by Theramenes, formerly one of the Four Hundred, for neglect of duty. The generals replied that they had commissioned Theramenes himself and Thrasybulus, each of whom commanded a trireme in the engagement, to undertake the duty, and had assigned 48 ships to them for that purpose. This, however, was denied by Theramenes. There are discrepancies in the evidence, and we have no materials for deciding positively which statement was true; but probability inclines to the side of the generals. Public feeling, however, ran very strongly against them, and was increased by an incident which occurred during their trial. After a day's debate the question was adjourned; and in the interval the festival of the APATURIA was celebrated, in which, according to annual custom, the citizens met together according to their families and phratries. Those who had perished at Arginusae were naturally missed on such an occasion; and the usually cheerful character of the festival was deformed and rendered melancholy by the relatives of the deceased appearing in black clothes and with shaven heads. The passions of the people were violently roused. At the next meeting of the Assembly, Callixenus, a senator, proposed that the people should at once proceed to pass its verdict on the generals, though they had been only partially heard in their defence; and, moreover, that they should all be included in one sentence, though it was contrary to a rule of Attic law, known as the psephisma of Canonus, to indict citizens otherwise than individually. The Prytanes, or senators of the presiding tribe, at first refused to put the question to the Assembly in this illegal way; but their opposition was at length overawed by clamour and violence. There was, however, one honourable exception. The philosopher Socrates, who was one of the Prytanes, refused to withdraw his protest. But his opposition was disregarded, and the proposal of Callixenus was carried, The generals were condemned, delivered over to the Eleven for execution, and compelled to drink the fatal hemlock. Among them was Pericles, the son of the celebrated statesman.
In the following year (B.C. 405), through the influence of Cyrus and the other allies of Sparta, Lysander again obtained the command of the Peloponnesian fleet, though nominally under Aracus as admiral; since it was contrary to Spartan usage that the same man should be twice NAVARCHUS. His return to power was marked by more vigorous measures. He sailed to the Hellespont, and laid siege to Lampsacus. The Athenian fleet arrived too late to save the town, but they proceeded up the strait and took post at AEgospotami, or the "Goat's River;" a place which had nothing to recommend it, except its vicinity to Lampsacus, from which it was separated by a channel somewhat less than two miles broad. It was a mere desolate beach, without houses or inhabitants, so that all the supplies had to be fetched from Sestos, or from the surrounding country, and the seamen were compelled to leave their ships in order to obtain their meals. Under these circumstances the Athenians were very desirous of bringing Lysander to an engagement. But the Spartan commander, who was in a strong position, and abundantly furnished with provisions, was in no hurry to run any risks. In vain did the Athenians sail over several days in succession to offer him battle; they always found his ships ready manned, and drawn up in too strong a position to warrant an attack; nor could they by all their manoeuvres succeed in enticing him out to combat. This cowardice, as they deemed it, on the part of the Lacedaemonians, begat a corresponding negligence on theirs; discipline was neglected and the men allowed to straggle almost at will. It was in vain that Alcibiades, who since his dismissal resided in a fortress in that neighbourhood, remonstrated with the Athenian generals on the exposed nature of the station they had chosen, and advised them to proceed to Sestos. His counsels were received with taunts and insults. At length, on the fifth day, Lysander, having watched an opportunity when the Athenian seamen had gone on shore and were dispersed over the country, rowed swiftly across the strait with all his ships. He found the Athenian fleet, with the exception of 10 or 12 vessels, totally unprepared, and he captured nearly the whole of it, without having occasion to strike a single blow. Of the 180 ships which composed the fleet, only the trireme of Conon himself, the Paralus, and 8 or 10 other vessels succeeded in escaping. Conon was afraid to return to Athens after so signal a disaster, and took refuge with Evagoras, prince of Salamis in Cyprus.