Although there was a bright moon they saw each other only as men do by
moonlight, that is to say, they could distinguish the form of the body, but
could not tell for certain whether it was a friend or an enemy.
Both had great numbers of heavy infantry moving about in a small space.
Some of the Athenians were already defeated, while others were coming up
yet unconquered for their first attack.
A large part also of the rest of their forces either had only just got up,
or were still ascending, so that they did not know which way to march.
Owing to the rout that had taken place all in front was now in confusion,
and the noise made it difficult to distinguish anything.
The victorious Syracusans and allies were cheering each other on with loud
cries, by night the only possible means of communication, and meanwhile
receiving all who came against them; while the Athenians were seeking for one another, taking all in front of
them for enemies, even although they might be some of their now flying
friends; and by constantly asking for the watchword, which was their only means of
recognition, not only caused great confusion among themselves by asking all
at once, but also made it known to the enemy,
whose own they did not so readily discover, as the Syracusans were
victorious and not scattered, and thus less easily mistaken.
The result was that if the Athenians fell in with a party of the enemy that
was weaker than they, it escaped them through knowing their watchword; while if they themselves failed to answer they were put to the sword.
But what hurt them as much, or indeed more than anything else, was the
singing of the Paean, from the perplexity which it caused by being nearly
the same on either side: the Argives and Corcyraeans and any other Dorian
peoples in the army, struck terror into the Athenians whenever they raised
their Paean, no less than did the enemy.
Thus, after being once thrown into disorder, they ended by coming into
collision with each other in many parts of the field, friends with friends,
and citizens with citizens, and not only terrified one another, but even
came to blows and could only be parted with difficulty.
In the pursuit many perished by throwing themselves down the cliffs, the
way down from Epipolae being narrow; and of those who got down safely into the plain, although many, especially
those who belonged to the first armament, escaped through their better
acquaintance with the locality, some of the newcomers lost their way and
wandered over the country, and were cut off in the morning by the Syracusan
cavalry and killed.
The next day the Syracusans set up two
trophies, one upon Epipolae where the ascent had been made, and the other on
the spot where the first check was given by the Boeotians; and the Athenians took back their dead under truce.
A great many of the Athenians and allies were killed, although still more
arms were taken than could be accounted for by the number of the dead, as
some of those who were obliged to leap down from the cliffs without their
shields escaped with their lives and did not perish like the rest.
After this the Syracusans, recovering their
old confidence at such an unexpected stroke of good fortune, despatched
Sicanus with fifteen ships to Agrigentum where there was a revolution, to
induce if possible the city to join them; while Gylippus again went by land into the rest of Sicily to bring up
reinforcements, being now in hope of taking the Athenian lines by storm,
after the result of the affair on Epipolae.
In the meantime the Athenian generals
consulted upon the disaster which had happened, and upon the general
weakness of the army.
They saw themselves unsuccessful in their enterprises, and the soldiers
disgusted with their stay;
disease being rife among them owing to its being the sickly season of the
year, and to the marshy and unhealthy nature of the spot in which they were
encamped; and the state of their affairs generally being thought desperate.
Accordingly, Demosthenes was of opinion that they ought not to stay any
longer; but agreeably to his original idea in risking the attempt upon Epipolae,
now that this had failed, he gave his vote for going away without further
loss of time, while the sea might yet be crossed, and their late
reinforcement might give them the superiority at all events on that element.