Historical Parallels, vol. 3 (of 3)

Arthur Thomas Malkin Historical Parallels, vol. 3 (of 3)
Arthur Thomas Malkin
Рік видання:
2014 р.
Project Gutenberg
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The cautious policy of Pericles, and the plague, combined to render the two first years of the war barren of incidents. The third campaign opened more energetically with the siege of Platæa, the old and faithful ally of Athens. This is the earliest siege of which we have any full and particular account; and some surprise may be felt at the rudeness and inefficacy of the means employed in prosecuting it by the most military nation of Greece. For this, however, all previous history prepares us. To the early Greeks fortifications of any strength appear to have presented insuperable obstacles. Not a city of any note can be mentioned which was taken by fair fighting. Troy was impregnable by force. Eira was taken in consequence of its being accidentally left unguarded. Ithome held out for ten years, and at last obtained honourable terms of surrender. And when Cyrus marched against Babylon, the inhabitants, trusting in their walls and their magazines, “made no account at all of being besieged; but Cyrus became greatly puzzled what to do, having spent much time there and made no progress at all.” The stratagem by which he took it at last is well known: he laid dry the bed of the Euphrates, and introduced a body of troops through the deserted channel; yet danger, even from this quarter, had been foreseen and guarded against, if proper caution had been used. Each side of the river was lined with walls, and gates were placed at the end of the streets which led down to the water side; so that, as Herodotus himself remarks, if the Persians had been on their guard the attempt might have been defeated by merely closing the gates, and the assailants might have been cut off entirely by missile weapons. But, to return to Platæa; the Spartans were notoriously unskilled, even among the Greeks, in this branch of warfare. Military engines they had none; a want arising probably from their national poverty; for the ram was known, and was employed, some say invented, by Pericles, at the siege of Samos, some years before the Peloponnesian war broke out. It is remarkable that from this time downwards to the invention of gunpowder, no material discovery was made in this branch of the military art, except the introduction of moving towers. Lines of circumvallation, as they were the earliest, continued to be the surest means of overcoming the pertinacious resistance of stone and mortar. Such was the case even at Rome, after the vast influx of wealth from conquered provinces had facilitated the construction of the largest and most expensive machines; and the vast scale upon which those temporary enclosures were completed, exhibits most strikingly the laboriousness of the Roman legionaries. This, however, is foreign to our present subject. If the reader has any curiosity respecting these works, he will find some remarkable ones described in Cæsar’s Commentaries.

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