|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
BRASIDAS THE SPARTAN
 THE Athenians were encouraged by the victory they had
gained at Sphacteria to hope for still greater success
to their arms, and in 424 B.C. they marched boldly into
the country of Boeotia. At Delium they seized and
fortified a temple, sacred to Apollo.
Now the Boeotians were indignant with the Athenians for
invading their land, but they were still more angry
that they had dared to enter their temple. They at
once marched against the enemy and defeated them with
great loss, but the temple was still left in the hands
of the Athenians.
As was the custom in those days, the defeated generals
asked the victors to allow them to bury their comrades
who had fallen on the battlefield. But the Boeotians
answered "When you give us back our temple you shall
bury your dead."
The Athenians refused to do this, saying that Delium,
the site on which the temple stood, belonged to Attica,
and they had a right to stay in their own land.
"If you are in your own land," retorted the Boeotians,
"do as you wish without asking our consent." It was
easy to say this, for they knew that the defeated army
was not strong enough to defy them.
When the invaders still refused to leave the temple,
the Boeotians determined to drive them away by setting
fire to the wooden barricades with which the Athenians
had fortified the temple.
So they took a large beam of wood, and scooping out the
 centre made it into a hollow tube. To one end they
fastened, by an iron chain, a huge caldron. In the
caldron they placed charcoal and sulphur, while to the
other end of the tube they tied bellows, by which a
strong current of air could be blown through to the
other end. When this was done the charcoal and the
sulphur in the caldron were fanned into a great blaze,
and the fortifications of the temple were soon on fire.
The Athenians tried to quench the flames in vain, and
at length they were forced to flee, leaving the temple
to the triumphant Boeotians, who no longer refused to
let them bury their comrades.
The defeat of Delium was followed by many other
disasters, and was the beginning of the downfall of the
empire of Athens.
Meanwhile Brasidas had recovered from the wound that he
had received at Pylos.
Never had there been so strange a Spartan as Brasidas.
His countrymen spoke as little as possible, and what
they did say they said in a brief, concise manner. In
later days such short, pithy speech was termed laconic.
This name was used because Sparta was also called
Laconia. But Brasidas was not laconic, he spoke
quickly and with ease, and while his comrades liked to
do things in the way their fathers had done, Brasidas
loved new ways and bold adventures.
Spartans were seldom liked by strangers, for they were
rough, often even discourteous in their manner; but
Brasidas had winning ways, and wherever he went he made
friends. He was not only pleasant, he was also just,
and strangers soon learned that his word could be
This was the man who was now sent with an army through
Thessaly. The country was for the most part loyal to
Athens, yet the Spartans reached Macedon unhindered.
Brasidas had been told that the city of Acanthus was
ready to fling open her gates to him, but he found them
 guarded. He asked to be allowed to enter that he might
tell the people why he had come to their city, and
they, won by his kind and simple manner, admitted him.
His first words pleased them, for he told them that he
knew how powerful they were, and that if they refused
to throw off their allegiance to Athens many other
cities would be encouraged by their example.
If they would trust themselves to Sparta, he promised
that their city should be free. "But should you
refuse," and his voice grew stern, "and say that I have
no right to force an alliance on a people against its
will, I will ravage your land, and force you to
consent. And for two reasons will I do this. The
tribute you pay to Athens injures Sparta by making her
foe stronger, and your example will make other cities
resist the claims of Sparta."
The Acanthians were afraid that Brasidas would fulfil
his threat and destroy their fields, and trample on
their grapes which were now ripe and ready to pluck, so
they determined to trust Sparta and throw off their
allegiance to Athens.
Brasidas was pleased, for, as he had foreseen, other
cities quickly followed the example of Acanthus.
Encouraged by his success the Spartan general now
determined to attack Amphipolis, an important town in
Thrace, standing on the bank of the river Strymon.
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