Battle of Amphipolis

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Battle of Amphipolis
Part of the Peloponnesian War
Date 422 BC
Location Amphipolis
Result Decisive Spartan victory
Belligerents
Athens Sparta
Commanders and leaders
Cleon ,
Nicias,
Thucydides
Brasidas ,
Clearidas
Strength
About 2,000 About 2,500
Casualties and losses
About 600 8

The Battle of Amphipolis (Greek: Μάχη της Αμφίπολης) was fought in 422 BC during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. It was the culmination of events that began in 424 BC with the capture of Amphipolis by the Spartans.

Capture of Amphipolis, 424–423 BC[edit]

In the winter of 424–423, around the same time as the Battle of Delium, the Spartan general Brasidas besieged Amphipolis, an Athenian colony in Thrace on the Strymon river.[1] The city was defended by the Athenian general Eucles, who sent for help from Thucydides (at that point a general, later a famous historian), who was stationed at Thasos with seven Athenian ships.[2]

In order to capture the city before Thucydides arrived, Brasidas offered to let everyone who wished to stay keep their property, and offered safe passage to those who wanted to leave.[3] Amphipolis surrendered, despite protests from Eucles.[4] Thucydides arrived at the nearby port of Eion on the same day the city surrendered, and defended it with help from those who had left Amphipolis.[5] Meanwhile Brasidas began to ally with more Thracian towns, as well as Perdiccas II of Macedon, and he attacked other towns in the area, such as Torone. The Athenians were afraid that their other allies would quickly capitulate, as the Amphipolitans had, if Brasidas offered them favourable terms of peace.

Thucydides, who recounted the capture of Amphipolis in his History of the Peloponnesian War, is often considered to be partially or entirely responsible for the fall of Amphipolis. Some have seen his actions as "gross negligence," although he claimed he was unable to arrive in time to save the city. He was recalled to Athens where he was tried and exiled.[6]

Armistice of 423 BC[edit]

In response to the fall of the city, Athens and Sparta signed an armistice. Athens hoped they could fortify more towns in preparation for future attacks from Brasidas, and the Spartans hoped Athens would finally return the prisoners taken at the Battle of Sphacteria earlier in 425 BC. According to the terms of the truce, "It is proposed that each side should remain in its own territory, holding what it now holds...The armistice is to last for one year."[7] While the negotiations were going on, Brasidas captured Scione and refused to give it back when news of the treaty arrived. The Athenian leader Cleon sent a force to take it back, despite the treaty.

Battle of Amphipolis, 422 BC[edit]

When the armistice ended in 422, Cleon arrived in Thrace with a force of 30 ships, 1,200 hoplites, and 300 cavalry, along with many other troops from Athens' allies. He recaptured Torone and Scione; at Scione, the Spartan commander Pasitelidas was killed. He then took up position at Eion, while Brasidas took his position at Cerdylion (also Latinized as Cerdylium). Brasidas had about 2,000 hoplites and 300 cavalry, plus some other troops in Amphipolis, but he did not feel that he could defeat Cleon in a pitched battle. Brasidas then moved his forces back into Amphipolis and prepared to attack; when Cleon realized an attack was coming, and being reluctant to fight before expected reinforcements arrived, he began to retreat; the retreat was badly arranged and Brasidas attacked boldly against a disorganised enemy, achieving victory.

In an excerpt of Brasidas' brief pre-battle speech, he specially addressed the allied Lacedaemonian forces, whom he assigned under Clearidas' leadership, while for himself he handpicked a hundred and fifty Spartan hoplites; he said: "..bear in mind that the three virtues of a good soldier are zeal in battle, sense of honor and obedience to the leaders..and I will reveal that I will conduct myself in action following the advice I give to my comrades."[8]

In the rout that followed, Brasidas was mortally injured, although the Athenians did not realize it. Cleon was also killed when he was attacked by troops under the Spartan commander Clearidas. The entire Athenian army fled back to Eion, although about 600 of them were killed before they reached the port. Only seven other Spartans were killed.[9]

Results[edit]

Brasidas lived long enough to learn of his victory, and was honorably buried in the agora area of Amphipolis. The Amphipolitans began to regard him as a hero and the founder of the city.[10] After the battle, neither the Athenians or the Spartans wanted to continue the war (Cleon and Brasidas being the most hawkish members from each side), and the Peace of Nicias was signed in 421 BC. This treaty was also eventually broken. Thucydides was exiled for his failure to protect Amphipolis, thus ending the period of the war in which he directly participated.

Ch. Koukouli-Chrysanthaki in her three decade research at Amphipolis offers evidence of the recovery and identification of Brasidas' burial at the ancient Amphipolis' agora.[11]

References[edit]

  • Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910. [3]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Thucydides 4.102.1
  2. ^ Thucydides 4.104.4-5
  3. ^ Thucydides 4.105.1-2
  4. ^ Thucydides 4.106.1-2
  5. ^ Thucydides 4.106.3-4.107.1: [1], [2]
  6. ^ Thucydides 5.26.5
  7. ^ Thuc. 4.118
  8. ^ Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Book V, IX. 9-10.
  9. ^ Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Book V, XI.
  10. ^ Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Book V, XI
  11. ^ A. Agelarakis, “Physical anthropological report on the cremated human remains of an individual retrieved from the Amphipolis agora”, In “Excavating Classical Amphipolis” by Ch. Koukouli-Chrysantkai, <Excavating Classical Culture> (eds.) Stamatopoulou M., and M., Yeroulanou, BAR International Series 1031, 2002: 72-73