By that time the Syracusans were both in better spirits and better prepared; their troops were better organized, and they had built a wall from north to south across Epipolae, taking in Tyche and Temenites, so as to screen them from attack on the side of Epipolae on the north-west.
They did not, however, occupy Euryelus, at the western extremity of the high ground of Epipolae, and this omission allowed the Athenians to obtain possession of the whole plateau, and to begin the investment of the city.
The Syracusans had been at first thoroughly cowed; but they were cowed no longer, and they even plucked up courage to sally out and fight the enemy on the high ground of Epipolae.
They were beaten and driven back; but at the suggestion of Hermocrates they carried a counter-work up the slope of Epipolae, which, if completed, would cut in two the Athenian lines and frustrate the blockade.
The Syracusans' work was destroyed by a prompt and well-executed attack; and a second counter-work carried across marshy ground some distance to the south of Epipolae and near to the Great Harbour was also demolished after a sharp action, in which Lamachus fell, an irretrievable loss.
He left a gap to the north of the circular fort which formed the centre of the Athenian lines, the point where Epipolae slopes down to the sea, and he omitted to occupy Euryelus.
The second act of the drama may be said to open with the irretrievable blunder of Nicias in letting the Spartan Gylippus first land in Sicily, and then march at the head of a small army, partly levied on the spot, across the island, and enter Syracuse by way of Epipolae, past Euryelus.
The military skill of Gylippus enabled the Syracusan militia to meet the Athenian troops on equal terms, to wrest from them their fortified position on Plemmyrium, which Nicias had occupied as a naval station shortly after Gylippus's arrival, and thus to drive them to keep their ships on the low beach between their double walls, to take Labdalum, an Athenian fort on the northern edge of Epipolae, and make a third counter-work right along Epipolae in a westerly direction, to the north of the circular fort.
Demosthenes decided at once to make a grand attack on Epipolae, with a view to recovering the Athenian blockading lines and driving the Syracusans back within the city walls.
At the time of the Athenian siege Syracuse consisted of two quarters - the island and the "outer city" of Thucydides, generally known as Achradina, and bounded by the sea on the north and east, with the adjoining suburbs of Apollo Temenites farther inland at the foot of the southern slopes of Epipolae and Tyche west of the north-west corner of Achradina.
Profiting by the experience gained during the Athenian siege, he included in his new lines the whole plateau of Epipolae, with a strong fortress at Euryelus, its apex on the west; the total length of the outer lines (excluding the fortifications of the island) has been calculated at about 12 m.
His assault seawards was made mainly on Achradina,1 but the city was defended by a numerous soldiery and by what seems to have been still more formidable, the ingenious contrivances of Archimedes, whose engines dealt havoc among the Roman ships, and frustrated the attack on the fortifications on the northern slopes of Epipolae (Liv.
Information was given him in the spring of 212 (two years from the commencement of the siege) that the Syracusans were celebrating a great festival to Artemis; making use of this opportunity, he forced the Hexapylum entrance by night and established himself in Tyche and on the heights of Epipolae.
Here the wall gained the top of the cliffs which mark the southern edge of the plateau of Epipolae, which from this point onwards it followed as far as Euryelus.
The south wall of Epipolae, considerable remains of which exist, shows traces of different periods in its construction, and was probably often restored.2 It is built of rectangular blocks of limestone generally quarried on the spot, about 53 ft.
The point where the terrace of Epipolae narrows down to a ridge about 60 yds.
The front of the castle is formed by five massive towers: behind it are two walled courtyards, to the north of the easternmost of which is the well-guarded main entrance to the plateau of Epipolae (narrower minor entrances are to be seen on both the north and the south sides) communicating by a long underground passage with the inner ditch in front of the castle proper.
On the north side of Epipolae the cliffs are somewhat more abrupt; here the wall, of a similar construction to that on the south, is also traceable: but here it is apparently all of one period.
The upper plateau (Achradina, Tyche, Epipolae itself) is now largely cultivated at the east end, less so at the west end.
Their presence there was definitely proved by the discovery in 1905 of a rock-cut tomb of the beginning of the second Sicel period (see Sicily) on the west side of the island (Orsi in Notizie degli Scavi, 1905, 381), while similar tombs may be seen both on the north and south edges of the terrace of Epipolae, and on the peninsula of Plemmyrium.
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