But the Plataeans fearing that even thus they might not be able to hold out
against the superior numbers of the enemy, had yet another invention.
They stopped working at the large building in front of the mound, and
starting at either end of it inside from the old low wall, built a new one
in the form of a crescent running in towards the town in order that in the
event of the great wall being taken this might remain, and the enemy have to
throw up a fresh mound against it, and as they advanced within might not
only have their trouble over again, but also be exposed to missiles on their
While raising the mound the Peloponnesians also brought up engines against
the city, one of which was brought up upon the mound against the great
building and shook down a good piece of it, to the no small alarm of the
Others were advanced against different parts of the wall but were lassoed
and broken by the Plataeans; who also hung up great beams by long iron chains from either extremity of
two poles laid on the wall and projecting over it, and drew them up at an
angle whenever any point was threatened by the engine, and loosing their
hold let the beam go with its chains slack, so that it fell with a run and
snapped off the nose of the battering ram.
After this the Peloponnesians, finding that
their engines effected nothing, and that their mound was met by the
counter-work, concluded that their present means of offence were unequal to
the taking of the city, and prepared for its circumvallation.
First, however, they determined to try the effects of fire and see whether
they could not, with the help of a wind, burn the town as it was not a large
one; indeed they thought of every possible expedient by which the place might be
reduced without the expense of a blockade.
They accordingly brought faggots of brushwood and threw them from the
mound, first into the space between it and the wall; and this soon becoming full from the number of hands at work, they next
heaped the faggots up as far into the town as they could reach from the top,
and then lighted the wood by setting fire to it with sulphur and pitch.
The consequence was a fire greater than any one had ever yet seen produced
by human agency, though it could not of course be compared to the
spontaneous conflagrations sometimes known to occur through the wind rubbing
the branches of a mountain forest together.
And this fire was not only remarkable for its magnitude, but was also, at
the end of so many perils, within an ace of proving fatal to the Plataeans; a great part of the town became entirely inaccessible, and had a wind blown
upon it, in accordance with the hopes of the enemy, nothing could have saved
As it was, there is also a story of heavy rain and thunder having come on
by which the fire was put out and the danger averted.
Failing in this last attempt the
Peloponnesians left a portion of their forces on the spot, dismissing the
rest, and built a wall of circumvallation round the town, dividing the
ground among the various cities present; a ditch being made within and without the lines, from which they got their
All being finished by about the rising of Arcturus, they left men enough to
man half the wall, the rest being manned by the Boeotians, and drawing off
their army dispersed to their several cities.
The Plataeans had before sent off their wives and children and oldest men
and the mass of the noncombatants to Athens; so that the number of the besieged left in the place comprised four hundred
of their own citizens, eighty Athenians, and a hundred and ten women to bake
This was the sum total at the commencement of the siege, and there was no
one else within the walls, bond or free.
Such were the arrangements made for the blockade of Plataea.
The same summer and simultaneously with the
expedition against Plataea, the Athenians marched with two thousand heavy
infantry and two hundred horse against the Chalcidians in the direction of
Thrace and the Bottiaeans, just as the corn was getting ripe, under the
command of Xenophon, son of Euripides, with two colleagues.