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Battle of Aegospotami

1.2 Athenian response

The naval Battle of Aegospotami (/isptma/)[3]

took place in 405 BC and was the last major battle of the
Peloponnesian War. In the battle, a Spartan eet under
Lysander destroyed the Athenian navy. This eectively
ended the war, since Athens could not import grain or
communicate with its empire without control of the sea.


The Athenian eet caught up with Lysander shortly after he had taken Lampsacus, and established a base at
Sestos. However, perhaps because of the need to keep
a close watch on Lysander, they set up camp on a beach
much nearer to Lampsacus. The location was less than
ideal because of the lack of a harbor and the diculty of
supplying the eet, but proximity seems to have been the
primary concern in the minds of the Athenian generals.[9]
Every day, the eet sailed out to Lampsacus in battle formation, and waited outside the harbor; when Lysander
refused to emerge, they returned home.[10]

Lysanders campaigns

1.3 Alcibiadess involvement

At this time, the exiled Athenian leader Alcibiades was

living in a castle near the Athenian camp. Coming down
to the beach where the ships were gathered, he made several suggestions to the generals. First, he proposed relocating the eet to the more secure base at Sestos. Second,
he claimed that several Thracian kings had oered to provide him with an army. If the generals would oer him
a share of the command, he claimed, he would use this
army to assist the Athenians. The generals, however, deOne of Lysanders advantages as a commander was his clined this oer and rejected his advice, and Alcibiades
close relationship with the Persian prince Cyrus. Using returned home.[11]
this connection, he quickly raised the money to begin rebuilding the Spartan eet.[6] When Cyrus was recalled to
Susa by his father Darius, he took the unorthodox step
of appointing Lysander as satrap of Asia Minor.[7] With 2 The battle
the resources of this entire wealthy Persian province at
his disposal, Lysander was able to quickly reconstitute his Two accounts of the battle of Aegospotami exist.
Diodorus Siculus relates that the Athenian general in
He then set o on a series of campaigns throughout the command on the fth day at Sestos, Philocles, sailed
Aegean. He seized several Athenian-held cities, and attacked numerous islands. He was unable to move north ald Kagan has argued that the Athenian strategy, if this
to the Hellespont, however, because of the threat from account is accurate, must have been to draw the Peloponso that the larger
the Athenian eet at Samos. To divert the Athenians, nesians into an attack on the small force
In the event, the
Lysander struck westward. Approaching quite near to
the remainder
Athens itself, he attacked Aegina and Salamis, and even
landed in Attica. The Athenian eet set out in pursuit, but
In 405 BC, following the severe Spartan defeat at the
Battle of Arginusae, Lysander, the commander who had
been responsible for the rst Spartan naval successes,
was reinstated in command.[4] Since the Spartan constitution prohibited any commander from holding the oce
of navarch more than once, he was appointed as a viceadmiral instead, with the clear understanding that this was
a mere legal ction.[5]

Xenophon, in contrast, relates that the entire Athenian

eet came out as usual on the day of the battle, and
Lysander remained in the harbor. When the Athenians
returned to their camp, the sailors scattered to forage for
food; Lysanders eet then sailed across from Abydos and
captured most of the ships on the beach, with no sea ghting at all.[14]

Lysander sailed around them, reached the Hellespont, and

established a base at Abydos. From there, he seized the
strategically important town of Lampsacus. From here,
the way was open to enter the Bosporus and close down
the trade routes from which Athens received the majority
of her grain. If the Athenians were to avoid starvation,
Lysander had to be contained immediately.

Whichever account of the battle itself is accurate, the result is clear. The Athenian eet was obliterated; only nine
ships escaped, led by the general Conon. Lysander captured nearly all of the remainder, along with some three
or four thousand Athenian sailors. One of the escaped
ships, the messenger ship Paralus, was dispatched to inform Athens of the disaster. The rest, with Conon, sought
refuge with Evagoras, a friendly ruler in Cyprus.


[2] Pomeroy et al, p 327. The authors claim 171 Athenian

ships were captured and a handful escaped.
[3] US dict: gsptm
[4] Xenophon, Hellenica 2.1.6-7
[5] Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 469
[6] Xenophon, Hellenica 2.1.11-12
[7] Xenophon, Hellenica 2.1.14


Lysander and his victorious eet sailed back to Lampsacus. Citing a previous Athenian atrocity when the
captured sailors of two ships were thrown overboard,[15]
Lysander and his allies slaughtered Philocles and 3,000
Athenian prisoners, sparing other Greek captives.[16]
Lysanders eet then began moving slowly towards
Athens, capturing cities along the way. The Athenians,
with no eet, were powerless to oppose him. Only at
Samos did Lysander meet resistance; the democratic government there, ercely loyal to Athens, refused to give in,
and Lysander left a besieging force behind him.

[8] Xenophon, Hellenica 2.1.15-19

[9] Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 473
[10] Xenophon, Hellenica 2.1.23
[11] Xenophon, Hellenica 2.1.25-26
[12] Diodorus Siculus, Library 13.106.1
[13] Donald Kagan, The Peloponnesian War
[14] Xenophon, Hellenica 2.2.1
[15] Pomeroy et al, p318
[16] Pomeroy et al, p327

Xenophon reports that when the news of the defeat

[17] Xenophon, Hellenica 2.2.3
reached Athens,
Fearing the retribution that the victorious Spartans might [18] Tod, Greek Inscriptions, page number to follow
take on them, the Athenians resolved to hold out from
the siege, but their cause was hopeless. Without a eet
to import grain from the Black Sea, Athens was on the 6 References
verge of starvation, and the city surrendered in March
404 BC. The walls of the city were demolished, and a
Diodorus Siculus, Library
pro-Spartan oligarchic government was established (the
so-called Thirty Tyrants' regime). The Spartan victory at
Kagan, Donald. The Peloponnesian War (Penguin
Aegospotami marked the end of 27 years of war, placBooks, 2003). ISBN 0-670-03211-5
ing Sparta in a position of complete dominance through Xenophon (1890s) [original 4th century BCE].
out the Greek world and establishing a political order that
Hellenica. Trans. Henry Graham Dakyns.
would last for more than thirty years.

Commemoration of the battle

The Spartans commemorated their victory with a dedication at Delphi of statues of the trierarchs who had fought
in the battle. A verse inscription explained the circumstances:
These men, sailing with Lysander in the swift
ships, humbled the might of the city of Cecrops
And made Lacedaemon of the beautiful choruses the high city of Hellas.[18]


[1] Eggenberger, p 6. The author writes that the Athenians

had 170 ships and that 20 escaped.

Eggenberger, David. An Encyclopedia of Battles.

New York: Dover Publications, 1985. ISBN 0-48624913-1
Pomeroy, Sarah B., Burstein, Stanley M., Donlan,
Walter & Roberts, Jennifer T. Ancient Greece: A
Political, Social, and Cultural History. NY: Oxford
University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-509743-2

7 External links The battle of Aigospotamoi

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