Pylos and Sphacteria 425 BC: Sparta's island of disaster by William Shepherd

Posted On March 23, 2017 at 5:55 pm by / Comments Off on Pylos and Sphacteria 425 BC: Sparta's island of disaster by William Shepherd

By William Shepherd

Within the 7th 12 months of the second one Peloponnesian or 'Archidamian' battle the Athenians occupied the promontory of Pylos at the west coast of the Peloponnese as a counterstroke to Sparta's repeated invasions of Attica. Over days of battling the small garrison beat off the Spartan military and fleet's made up our minds efforts to dislodge it, after which the returning Athenian fleet received a crushing victory within the within reach waters of what's referred to now as Navarino Bay. for this reason, a contingent of elite Spartan hoplites used to be stranded at the island of Sphacteria within the bay simply to the south of Pylos for numerous weeks of inconclusive siege and blockade operations and an unproductive interval of truce. The Athenians had complete regulate of the ocean. With the campaigning season drawing to a detailed, they eventually made up our minds to mount an assault at the island utilizing unconventional strategies. An amphibious evening assault overran the Spartan outpost overlaying the seashores and light-armed missile troops landed at break of day in overwhelming numbers. The Spartans have been slowly pushed again to their stronghold on the tip of the island, wasting males gradually and not allowed to interact within the hand-to-hand scuffling with at which they excelled. They held their ultimate defensive position for it slow till, as at Thermopylae, they discovered themselves additionally lower than assault from the rear. Then, exhausted and out of water, with their commander useless and his deputy incapacitated by way of wounds, and a wide Spartan military close-by at the mainland yet powerless to assist them, the 292 survivors surrendered. This used to be a tremendous and stunning blow to the Spartans' wonderful and fearsome acceptance, and those prestigious prisoners-of-war served the Athenians rather well as bargaining counters within the diplomatic job that punctuated the hostilities that endured for the following 4 years. The Athenian victory additionally prompted the longer term behavior of the struggle by means of highlighting the constraints of the conventional hoplite approach and strategies, and the battle-winning capability of light-armed troops, the hoplites' inferiors.

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The Athenians’ attack on Melos was motivated by the need to add to their sources of tribute, but, though officially neutral, the island was originally a Spartan colony and was a potential source of financial support for the enemy. The Athenian strike into Boeotia was an aggressive response to the pressure the Athenians felt from Sparta’s northern allies. The first Sicilian expedition in 427 bc had opened a new front with significant new strategic objectives: denying the Spartans potential naval and financial support from their powerful connections on the island; securing important trade links, grain imports especially; and ultimately adding Sicily or as many of its cities as possible to the empire.

It significantly reduced his numbers, but Demosthenes undoubtedly retained both ship’s complements of hoplites and archers and probably some members of the deck crew. This would have lightened the triremes, enabling them to The north end of Pylos, topped by remains of the substantial fort established by the Franks in the 13th century, added to by the Venetians in the 15th and further enlarged by the Ottoman Turks in the 16th. The Athenians’ northern defences, the natural bastion reinforced where necessary with stone and timber, would have followed much the same line.

To Cyparissia Voidokilia Bay Pylos Strea Athenian Fort Spartan Camp Sikia Channel Remains of ancient fort m To Sparta HARBOUR CHELONISI SPHACTERIA Spring Spartan Camp N 0 0 Athenian fortifications Cliff Spartan attacks 1 mile 1km To Methone Athenian triremes Spartan triremes also had its effect, and there are now no points along the western or southwestern shoreline of Pylos at which it would be possible to run a trireme up the beach. The edge falls away steeply and in places underwater rocks come close to the surface.

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