First of all, it is feasible to say that one of the most important reasons for the Athenian defeat was due to the fact that they were essentially not ready for another battle. The importance of prepraredness was exemplified by Percile's in his War speech, he was recollecting the Athenian ancestors success against the Persians and he stated it was "more good planning than good luck." The problem is that the Sicilian expedition was spontaneous and unanticipated, thus unplanned. As Thucydides recounts "that same winter, immediately after the destruction of Melos, Athens decided to attempt the conquest of the Greeks on Sicily."
However, they were not "well informed about the relative strength of their allies and their enemies in Sicily" . The Athenians had sent some ambassadors in early spring to Egesta to evaluate the situation. Instead of bringing back useful information, they brought back some ambassadors and sixty talents of uncoined silver (which was only one months pay for the Athenian naval fleet).
Although the Athenians were still not properly informed, they still set out a date to take o...
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...ion of their retreat; Demosthenes wanted to leave and save his troops, while Nicias' was afraid of the embarrassment he will have to suffer if they left. However, the vote was in favor of leaving, just as they were about to do so, a lunar eclipse occurred. A Thucydides tell us ."..most of the Athenians took the eclipse to heart and called on the generals to stop",a wise leader would have order his troops to keep going. Yet " Nicias who put to much faith in divination and such practices said he wouldn't consider moving..untill they waited twenty seven days prescribed by the soothsayers" . If the leaders were wise they could have escaped army and the losses would have not been so drastic. The outcome was that the procrastination of the Athenian army is what gave Syracuse and its allies the time to beat them at sea and on land, and there eventual crushing defeat.
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