Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
 THE admiral of the Spartan fleet in the last years of the
Peloponnesian War was a man named Lysander. He was brave,
but he was also cunning and frequently gained the victory by
laying a trap for his enemy. It is said that he used to
tell his officers, "When the lion's skin is too short you
must patch it with that of a fox." This was another way of
telling them that if they could not succeed by force they
must try cunning.
After Alcibiades had been dismissed from the command of the
Athenian fleet a commander named Konon was appointed to
succeed him. Lysander decided to set a trap for him. The
two fleets came in sight of each other off the shore of the
Hellespont, near a place called Ægos Potamos, which
means Goat's River. One morning, at break of day, Lysander
drew up his ships in line as though he intended to give
battle. Later in the day the Athenians rowed toward the
Spartans and challenged them to fight, but not a Spartan
vessel moved. The Athenians concluded from this that
 the Spartans were either not prepared to fight, or were
afraid. The next day the challenge was again given by the
Athenians, and again the Spartans paid no attention to it.
The same thing happened the third day and the fourth. By
this time the Athenians felt sure that Lysander was afraid
of them. Many therefore went on the shore, some in search
of provisions, some to take a stroll, some to sleep. Only a
small guard was left with the fleet.
THE MARKET PLACE OF ATHENS
As soon as Lysander saw that the Athenians ships were
unprotected he rowed swiftly to the place where they were
lying and captured nearly the whole fleet. Of one hundred
and eighty ships only about ten escaped. Three or four
thousand men were taken prisoners, and all were put to
One of the vessels that escaped rowed direct to the
Piræus to carry the terrible tidings. It arrived at
night, and a sadder night was never known in Athens. The
news spread through the city. Every house became a house of
mourning. Nobody slept. All feared that Lysander would sail
into the harbor with his victorious fleet. This was exactly
what he did. All the seaports of Athens were blockaded by
the Spartan vessels. The wheat supply was cut off, so that
the people of the city were soon half starving.
 The Athenians had now neither army nor fleet. After a three
months' siege, during part of which time there was a severe
famine, the city surrendered.
The only hope of the citizens was that their conquerors
might be generous. But in this they were disappointed. The
Spartans' terms were hard and cruel. One mile of each of the
Long Walls was to be pulled down. Athens was to have no
larger fleet than twelve ships of war. The Spartans were to
name her rulers.
To wound the pride of Athens as much as possible Lysander
had the long walls pulled down to the sound of music, and a
part of the work was done on the anniversary of the battle
of Salamis, a day always celebrated in Athens in memory of
her great victory over the Persians.
Thus ended the Peloponnesian War (404 B.C.). It had been a
fierce struggle, and all Greece had suffered. Thucydides,
who wrote the history of this war, says that never had so
many cities been made desolate, never had there been such
scenes of slaughter.
Athens was ruined. She had lost her ships and her army, and
she was helpless in the hands of Sparta. Thirty men were
appointed by the Spartans to govern the city. They are known
 as the "Thirty Tyrants." Their rule was very harsh. They
allowed only 3,000 Athenians to live in Athens. The rest of
the people had to leave the city, and Sparta forbade all
other Grecian cities to give them refuge. Thebes and Argos,
however, boldly defied this cruel order, and many of the
banished Athenians went to live in these cities.
RUINS OF THE LONG WALLS
After eight months the Athenians, under a leader named
Thrasybulus, overthrew the "Tyrants." But in that short
time no less than fourteen hundred Athenians citizens had
been put to death.
Lysander's capture of Athens made him so popular in Sparta
that for some years he was the
 real head of the government,
and he made up his mind to seize the throne.
Before he could carry out his plans, however, he was put at
the head of a Spartan force and sent to the city of Thebes,
against which the Spartans had declared war. His army was
routed by the Thebans and Lysander himself was among the