The year was the four hundred and thirteenth previous to the Christian era. Athens, then at the pinnacle of her glory, had been solicited by Segesta, to aid her in defeating not alone her immemorial enemy Selinus, but also Syracuse, which likewise was at war with her. Urged on by Alcibiades and other reckless Greeks, who saw in this an opportunity to exploit, if not actually to conquer, Sicily, the Athenian government sent one hundred and thirty-four warships and a powerful army to capture Syracuse. Their general Nicias, however, was hopelessly unequal to the task before him. Disasters multiplied, until he was compelled to call upon his native country for more troops. Athens responded favorably, and a second fleet of seventy-three warships soon arrived, commanded by Demosthenes. The story of the fight which thereupon ensued in the Great Harbor of Syracuse, when Greek met Greek in a tremendous naval duel, has.
The Quarry Of The Capuchins.
descended to us in the thrilling record written by that greatest of historians, Thucydides. To him, to Plutarch, and to modern writers of Greek history, like Grote, the student of the conflict is referred for all details. But the result, at least, of this great battle should be known to every traveler who looks upon this scene of the denouement of the tragedy. The Athenian fleet having at last been hopelessly defeated, some forty thousand soldiers, who were thereby stranded in this foreign land, resolved to march through Sicily to their friends and allies in Segesta. It proved a terrible mistake. Many of them were sick and wounded, and the entire force had practically no provisions. At the end of a week, out of the forty thousand, only seven thousand remained. This broken and demoralized force was soon compelled to surrender; and then, like cattle in a slaughter-house, the wretched men were herded into this capacious quarry, which was at that time only a vast, naked pit, without a particle of mural shrubbery to mitigate its glare, or trees to shield the captives from the burning sun. Here the majority of them slowly died under the pitiless, indifferent stare of Syra-cusans, whose Greek blood only made them more relentless toward their former countrymen. Both Nicias and Demosthenes are said to have committed suicide.
The Quarry's Labyrinth.
One singular fact is worth recording, as illustrative of the age. Among these hapless prisoners, wasting away in agony, those who were able to recite to their aesthetic conquerors passages from the plays of Euripides, were drawn up out of this appalling charnel house, and set at liberty, - a boon which they acknowledged to the dramatist by flinging themselves at his feet in gratitude when they again reached Athens. What a strange civilization, after all, was that of the Hellenic world! Upon the stage the Greeks could not endure the spectacle of suffering, and their tragedians merely announced the violent deaths, which were supposed to have overtaken characters behind the scenes. Yet these same men could stand upon the border of a shadeless quarry, and calmly watch the dying agonies of prisoners, whose haggard faces looked toward them imploringly, and whose emaciated hands fell slipping from the sterile cliffs in a last vain appeal, or in a gesture of supreme defiance and farewell! We shudder at our modern wars, and rightly execrate them as unspeakably absurd and shameful at this stage of man's development; but when we recollect the tender care bestowed now on the wounded of all armies by the noble agents of the Red Cross, and then compare this with the savage cruelty shown by the Syracusans to the troops of Nicias, we are encouraged to believe that, after all, mankind advances, even though its progress be so slow, that to appreciate it one must look back sadly over dreary intervals of time.
The Quarry's Cliffs And Boulders.
The Street Of Tombs, Syracuse.
The Grave Of An American Sailor.
In one of the recesses of this cavernous limestone, my thoughts were suddenly recalled from Grecian to comparatively modern times, as I perceived, carved on the wall a foot or two above the ground, an inscription in the English language. Stooping a little to decipher it, I found that it marked the resting-place of "William K. Nicholson, Midshipman in the Navy of the United States of America, who was cut off from society in the bloom of life and health on the 18th day of September, 1804, and in his eighteenth year".