Thucydides, Comments on The Peloponnesian War
After a hard-fought fight Syracusans took up their wrecks and dead bodies and left. The Athenians were left very discouraged and desired to go back home despite the fact that they still had more ships left than their enemy was. Nicias and Demosthenes, did their best to spur the army on to continue fighting. The Syracusans, however, managed to tow away most of their ships and burn the rest of them. This made it impossible for the Athenians to keep up with their enemy. But the generals did not lose hope. Both of them said speeches to encourage their soldiers and help them believe in the victory.
However, after another disastrous battle the army became totally distressed and tried to escape from the enemy. When Syracusans found that Athenians were gone, they accused Gylippus of intentionally letting them to escape, and hurried after them. They caught up with ...view middle of the document...
After seeing the destroyed army, Nicias surrendered himself to Gylippus, telling him to do whatever to him personally, but to stop killing his soldiers. However, they did not have a fixed agreement for the surrender, as in the case of Demosthenes, and a large number of men was enslaved or killed. Many of those enslaved ran away afterwards. The Syracusans took up their spoils and prisoners and went back home. Nicias and Demosthenes they put to death.
The slaves were treated very poorly and many of them died. This was the end of the Athenian expedition: their army and navy were destroyed, people enslaved, "and, out of many, only few returned".
Historians say that Thucydides probably took part in some of the early actions of the Peloponnesian War. It is very obvious that he was influenced by his own experiences while writing the book. The descriptions of the horrors of the war are too real to be written by somebody who has only heard the rumours about the things happening to the soldiers.
In this passage, Thucydides describes the victory of the Spartans and the miserable defeat of the Nicias' and Demosthenes' army. However, his sympathy seems to be on the side of the Athenian army. This may be explained by the fact that the historian was an Athenian by birth, even though he was exiled from the city for around twenty years. On the other hand, Thucydides may have simply been compassionate towards the men suffering such a disaster because of the war between the city-states.
There is not a single thing that would be amusing to the reader of The Peloponnesian War. The author does not care whether we are entertained, but tries to show us the dreadfulness and terror of the war.
The Peloponnesian War helped me to see more clearly what a war is. Even though I found it to be written in a very dry language, I learned many new things (horrors) about the actions of the war from it. Those chapters explained the reasons the soldiers felt so distressed and discouraged, which made it clear to me why they were making certain actions, or resisting to particular decisions.