(3.20) During the same winter the Plataeans, who were still besieged by the Peloponnesians and Boeotians, began to suffer from the failure of provisions. They had no hope of assistance from Athens and no other chance of deliverance. So they and the Athenians who were shut up with them contrived a plan of forcing their way over the enemy's walls. The idea was suggested by Theaenetus the son of Tolmides, a diviner, and Eupompidas, the son of Daïmachus, one of their generals. At first they were all desirous of joining, but afterwards half of them somehow lost heart, thinking the danger too great, and only two hundred and twenty agreed to persevere. They first made ladders equal in length to the height of the enemy's wall, which they calculated by the help of the layers of bricks on the side facing the town, at a place where the wall had accidentally not been plastered. A great many counted at once, and, although some might make mistakes, the calculation would be oftener right than wrong; for they repeated the process again and again, and, the distance not being great, they could see the wall distinctly enough for their purpose. In this manner they ascertained the proper length of the ladders, taking as a measure the thickness of the bricks.
(3.21) The Peloponnesian wall was double, and consisted of an inner circle looking towards Plataea, and an outer intended to guard against an attack from Athens; they were at a distance of about sixteen feet from one another. This interval of sixteen feet was partitioned off into lodgings for the soldiers, by which the two walls were joined together, so that they appeared to form one thick wall with battlements on both sides. At every tenth battlement there were large towers, filling up the space between the walls, and extending both to the inner and outer face; there was no way at the side of the towers, but only through the middle of them. During the night, whenever there was storm and rain, the soldiers left the battlements and kept guard from the towers, which were not far from each other and were covered overhead. Such was the plan of the wall with which Plataea was invested.
(3.22) When the Plataeans had completed their preparations they took advantage of a night on which there was a storm of wind and rain and no moon, and sallied forth. They were led by the authors of the attempt. First of all they crossed the ditch which surrounded the town; then they came right up to the wall of the enemy. The guard did not discover them, for the night was so dark that they could not be seen, while the clatter of the storm drowned the noise of their approach. They marched a good way apart from each other, that the clashing of their arms might not betray them; and they were lightly equipped, having the right foot bare that they might be less liable to slip in the mud. They now set about scaling the battlements, which they knew to be deserted, choosing a space between two of the towers. Those who carried the ladders went first and placed them against the wall; they were followed by twelve others, armed only with sword and breastplate, under the command of Ammeas the son of Coroebus: he was the first to mount; after him came the twelve, ascending the wall and proceeding to the towers on the right and left, six to each.11 To these succeeded more men lightly armed with short spears, others following who bore their shields, that they might have less difficulty in mounting the wall; the shields were to be handed to them as soon as they were near the enemy. A considerable number had ascended, when they were discovered by the guards in the towers. One of the Plataeans, taking hold of the battlements, threw down a tile which made a noise in falling: immediately a shout was raised and the army rushed out upon the wall; for in the dark and stormy night they did not know what the alarm meant. At the same time, in order to distract their attention, the Plataeans who were left in the city made a sally against the Peloponnesian wall on the side opposite to the place at which their friends were getting over. The besiegers were in great excitement, but every one remained at his own post, and dared not stir to give assistance, being at a loss to imagine what was happening. The three hundred who were appointed to act in any sudden emergency marched along outside the walls towards the spot from which the cry proceeded; and fire-signals indicating danger were raised towards Thebes. But the Plataeans in the city had numerous counter signals ready on the wall, which they now lighted and held up, thereby hoping to render the signals of the enemy unintelligible, that so the Thebans, misunderstanding the true state of affairs, might not arrive until the men had escaped and were in safety.
(3.23) Meanwhile the Plataeans were scaling the walls. The first party had mounted, and, killing the sentinels, had gained possession of the towers on either side. Their followers now began to occupy the passages, lest the enemy should come through and fall upon them. Some of them placed ladders upon the wall against the towers, and got up more men. A shower of missiles proceeding both from the upper and lower parts of the towers kept off all assailants. Meanwhile the main body of the Plataeans, who were still below, applied to the wall many ladders at once, and, pushing down the battlements, made their way over through the space between the towers. As each man got to the other side he halted upon the edge of the ditch, whence they shot darts and arrows at any one who came along under the wall and attempted to impede their passage. When they had all passed over, those who had occupied the towers came down, the last of them not without great difficulty, and proceeded towards the ditch. By this time the three hundred were upon them; they had lights, and the Plataeans, standing on the edge of the ditch, saw them all the better out of the darkness, and shot arrows and threw darts at them where their bodies were exposed; they themselves were concealed by the darkness, while the enemy were dazed by their own lights. And so the Plataeans, down to the last man of them all, got safely over the ditch, though with great exertion and only after a hard struggle; for the ice in it was not frozen hard enough to bear, but was half water, as is commonly the case when the wind is from the east and not from the north. And the snow which the east wind brought in the night had greatly swollen the water, so that they could scarcely accomplish the passage.12 It was the violence of the storm, however, which enabled them to escape at all.
(3.24) From the ditch the Plataeans, leaving on the right hand the shrine of Androcrates, ran all together along the road to Thebes. They made sure that no one would ever suspect them of having fled in the direction of their enemies. On their way they saw the Peloponnesians pursuing them with torches on the road which leads to Athens by Cithaeron and Dryoscephalae. For nearly a mile the Plataeans continued on the Theban road; they then turned off and went by the way up the mountain leading to Erythrae and Hysiae, and so, getting to the hills, they escaped to Athens. Their number was two hundred and twelve,13 though they had been originally more, for some of them went back to the city and never got over the wall; one who was an archer was taken at the outer ditch. The Peloponnesians at length gave up the pursuit and returned to their lines. But the Plataeans in the city, knowing nothing of what had happened, for those who had turned back had informed them that not one was left alive, sent out a herald at daybreak, wanting to make a truce for the burial of the dead ; they then discovered the truth and returned. Thus the Plataeans scaled the wall and escaped.