If, however, one party cannot be induced to risk an open
battle; or if, despite a defeat, it allows the enemy to ravage the
fields, and yet persists in defending the walls of its town,—the war is
likely to be tedious and indecisive. It is notorious that Greeks dislike
hard sieges. The soldiers are the fellow townsmen of the generals. If
the latter order an assault with scaling ladders and it is repulsed with
bloody loss, the generals risk a prosecution when they get home for
"casting away the lives of their fellow citizens."
In short, fifty men behind a stout wall and "able to throw anything" are
in a position to defy an army.
The one really sure means of taking a town is to build a
counter wall around it and starve it out,—a slow and very expensive,
though not bloody process. Only when something very great is at stake
will a Greek city-state attempt this.
There is always another chance, however. Almost every Greek town has a
discontented faction within its walls, and many a time there will be a
traitor who will betray a gate to the enemy; and then the siege will be
suddenly ended in one murderous night.