|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 LOSES HIS SHIELD
 IN 425 B.C., the seventh year of the war, an Athenian
fleet of about forty ships, under an admiral named
Eurymedon, was forced by stormy weather to seek shelter
on the promontory of Pylos in Messenia. Pylos stood on
the Bay of Pylos, which you now know as the Bay of
To give the men something to do until the storm allowed
them to sail, Demosthenes, an officer on board one of
the ships, bade them begin to build a fort. But it was
not only to employ the men that he did this, but
because he believed that Pylos would make a good
fortress from which to attack the western shore of
At first the men took little interest in the work, for
they expected each day to leave Pylos. But as the
storm continued, they began to work with a will, and
soon a fortress that looked fit to defy an enemy was
It had not been easy work, for the men had no iron
tools. They could not cut stones, but were forced to
pick out those that fitted into each other.
When mortar was needed they had to carry it on their
backs, bending forward that it might not fall, and
clasping their hands behind to help to keep it in
At length the storm was over and the fleet sailed away,
leaving Demosthenes with five ships to hold the new
fortress. Now the entrance to the Bay of Pylos was
almost blocked by a narrow, thickly wooded island
The Spartans soon heard that the Athenians had taken
possession of Pylos, which was on their territory.
 determined to expel them, and an army under Epitadas
was at once sent out and took possession of the wooded
island of Sphacteria, while a Spartan fleet sailed into
the Bay of Pylos. On board one of the ships was a
famous Spartan named Brasidas.
Demosthenes had just time to send to Eurymedon to beg
him to return with his forty ships, when the Spartans
sailed up to the promontory, meaning to attack and
capture the fort.
But it proved impossible to land. Again and again the
Spartan admiral made the attempt, but each time he was
forced to withdraw, lest his ships should be dashed
upon the rocks.
Brasidas refused to give in, and he bade his men wreck
their vessels rather than be beaten back. "Be not
sparing of timber," he cried, "for the enemy has built
a fortress in your country. Perish the ships and force
Spurred on by his words, the men drove their ship upon
the beach, while Brasidas stood fearlessly on the
gangway ready to leap upon the shore. But the
Athenians saw the bold figure too well, and he became a
target for every arrow.
He became a target for every arrow
As he fell back wounded, his left arm hung helpless
over the side of the vessel and his shield slipped off
and fell into the water. The waves washed it toward
the shore, whereupon the enemy dashed down to the edge
of the water and drew it in triumph up to the beach.
After a desperate struggle the Spartans were forced to
withdraw, and the Athenians celebrated their victory by
erecting a trophy of their spoils, placing, where every
eye could see it, the shield of Brasidas.
For two days the Spartans still fought to gain the
fortress but in vain. On the third day, Eurymedon
returned with the Athenian fleet, and as the Spartan
ships did not come to meet him he sailed in at the two
entrances to the bay of Pylos: for the openings had not
been secured by the enemy.
 A desperate battle took place. Many of the Spartan
ships were empty, as their crews were on shore. The
Athenians tried to drag away these empty vessels, so
that the enemy would have no way of escaping from
But the Spartans knew that they must save their vessels
at all costs, so they fought with redoubled fury and
succeeded in rescuing most of the deserted ships. Yet
their efforts proved of little use in the end, for
though only five ships were captured, the rest of the
fleet was so damaged that the Athenians were left in
possession of the bay. They at once began to blockade
Epitadas and his army in Sphacteria.
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