In his description of the catastrophe that ended the Athenian expedition against Syracuse in probably early October 413, following the surrender of Nicias at the Assinarus River, Th ucydides (7.86.1) concludes with the comment: ‘Th e Syracusans and their allies now brought their forces together into one, took up the spoils and as many of the prisoners as they could, and returned to the city.’ Diodorus and Plutarch, of course, wrote much later, but appear to provide further and potentially interesting details about this momentous event:
Since their escape was blocked on all sides, the Athenians were forced to surrender their arms and themselves to the enemy. Aft er this, the Syracusans erected two trophies, nailing to each of them the arms of a general, and returned to the city. (Diod. 13.19.3-4)
Th e public prisoners were gathered together, and the most beautiful and greatest trees along the river bank were hung with the captured arms and then the victors crowned themselves with laurels, decorated their own horses splendidly while they sheared and cropped the horses of the defeated enemy, and then marched to the city. (Plut. Nic. 27.6)
Is there anything worthwhile to be drawn from these apparent diff erences in detail? Th ucydides is the contemporary source and is surely a sound one, while Diodorus and Plutarch are generally considered less reliable when it comes to matters of detail. Is this also the case here? And what is the signifi cance, if any, of victory trophies mentioned by the later writers but completely omitted by Th ucydides?