Battle of Aegospotami

Fri Aug 14 16:41:13
There are two accounts of the Battle of Aegospotami. Xenophon was alive at the time of the battle, well versed in military matters and a generally reliable source. He tells us that the fleet “disembarked and dispersed along the shores of the Chersonesus (a practice, it should be mentioned, which had grown upon them from day to day owing to the distance at which eatables had to be purchased, and out of sheer contempt, no doubt, of Lysander, who refused to accept battle)…” (Hellenica 2.1.27)

The other account begins with “Since the enemy refused to accept battle at sea and famine gripped the army…” (Bibliotheca historica 13.106.1) yet then has Philocles inexplicably set sail and confusion ensues from Lysander’s attack. The description reads a bit like Xenophon’s after they realized the Spartan attack and attempted to return to the ships but it lacks motivation or plausible causal connections. This account comes from Diodorus, living three centuries later, who uses Ephorus as his source. Polybius thought that when it came to details of military matters Ephorus can often be “quite ridiculous, and betray his entire ignorance and want of personal experience of such matters.” (Histories 12.25)

I would have to side with Xenophon and say that the need for food, the distance needed to find the food, Athenian confidence in their navy and an assuption of Lysander’s cowardice—refusing battle five times in a row—led them to be far less cautious than they probably should have been.

 

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~ by severalfourmany on August 14, 2009.

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