Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 1, Chapter 2 – Causes of the War – The Affair of Epidamnus – The Affair of Potidaea

  1. Epidamnus is at the entrance of the Ionic Gulf & its neighbors are the Taulantians, an Illyrian people. It was originally a colony of Corcyra founded by Phalius of the Heraclid family. The colonists were joined by Corinthias & Dorians. Epidamnus became a large & powerful city until wars & factions weakened it. Nobles were exiled but came back with Barbarians to plunder it by land & sea. The Epidamnians sent for help from Corcyra about the matter but were completely refused.
  2. When they got not help from Corcyra they asked the god at Delphi if they should ask the Corinthians to help them. He said “yes”. They told the Corinthians their founder was from Corinth & they wanted help from their motherland. Corinth agreed thinking it was as much a Corinthian colony as a Corcyraean colony. Plus, they hated the Corcyraeans for having treated them badly in the past. They had 120 galleys to use for their purposes.
  3. The Corinthians were happy to help. They called for volunteer settles along with forces of Ambraciots, Leucadians & Corinthians & sent the off to Epidamnus. They marched to Apollonia, a Corinthian colony, to avoid the Corcyraean fleet on the water. When the Corcyraeans heard about the Corinthians going to Epidamnus they got angry & put 25 ships in the water to be followed by others. They also demanded the Epidamnians to take about the nobles & sent away Corinthian soldiers & settlers, which the Epidamnians ignored. The Corcyraeans sent 40 ships to restore themselves as masters of the city & enlisted Illyrians to help them. They laid siege to the city allowing natives & foreigners to leave unharmed, if not they’d be treated as enemies.
  4. Corinth got wind of this & declared colonists to be political equals, so long as they were willing to pay a 50 drachmae share in the colony or go live in the colony. Corinth got support from allied neighbors.
  5. The Corcyraeans heard of this & sent envoys to Corinth asking them to recall their troops & settlers because Epidamnus wasn’t any of its business. If any claims were to be made, it should be done through arbitration, deciding passion of the colony. They also suggested consulting the Oracle. If these suggestions were refused, they’d have to join up with allies to fight Corinth. Corinth told them if they withdrew their fleet, discussions might be possible. Corcyra required the removal of Corinthian troops when an armistice could be reached & a judgment given.
  6. Once these had been ignored, the Corinthians declared war & got 75 ships & 2000 heavy infantry & left for Epidamnus under the command of Aristeus, Callicrates & Timanor. Troops reached ACtiums. The Corcyraeans sent a messenger warning them not to start a fight. The Corcyraeans manned their ships (80 of them) & lined up for battle. They won, destroying 15 Corinthian ships. Epidamnus itself had to give into the siege. Corinthian POWs were kept.
  7. The Corcyraeans killed all POWS who weren’t Corinthian. The Corinthians went home & left the Corcyraeans as masters of the area. They sailed to Leucos & ravaged the land & burnt the Cyllene, Elean harbor. After the battle, the Corcyraeans harassed by Corinthian & allied ships. Corinth formed an encampment at Actium to protect Leucas. The Corcyraeans set up in Leukimme but refrained from conflict for the summer & both went home in the winter.
  8. Corinth spent next year building its navy, making it stronger & more efficient. They brought in rowers from throughout Greece & the Peloponnese. The Corcyraeans didn’t have a single ally. They sent an envoy to Athens to try to form an alliance. Corinth sent an envoy to Athens to stop this alliance.
  9. The Corcyraeans said: “We know Corcyra hasn’t been close to Athens & we don’t have the right to ask very much from you. But we are in a sticky situation. Our current war with Corinth has left us all alone in the world. We thought that not having alliances would keep up from entering wars. But now we see a navy bearing down on us. We did get rid of the Corinthians but now we see them pandering to the Peloponnesians. We are asking for your help.
  10. “There are many reasons to help. First, you will be helping a victim of injustice. Second, everything we hold dear will be taken if we lose & you can stop that. Third, second only to you, we have the greatest naval power in Greece. If you think a full scale war is far away, you’re wrong. The Spartans are watching you with jealousy. Our enemy, Corinth offers you an alliance. We ought to make plans against Corinth rather than having to respond to its plans against us.
  11. “If Corinth says you should ally with a colony of hers against her, let her know parent states don’t usually antagonize their colonies. Colonists aren’t slaves to the parent city but equals. They wouldn’t do an arbitration but declared war on us instead. Don’t listen to their lies or give into their requests.
  12. “If they say an alliance with us would be a breach of treaty, just know that we are neutral to the treaty. You are allowed to align with neutral states. We can’t accept that Corinth takes men from its allies – including Athens – but we can’t do the same. We are in trouble & we need your help. Why push us – we who aren’t your enemy – away & then comply with your enemy’s requests? Don’t let your enemies make you follow their rules.
  13. “If you would join us, there’d be benefits. Your enemy is at war with us. You ought to prevent other naval powers from arising. If you can’t do that, get the strongest allies you can – that’d be us, the number 2 naval power. If you stand up to aggressors, you will make them afraid or speed up any war that was inevitable anyway. The other naval powers are in Italy & Sicily. They are allied with the Peloponnesians. We ought not to allow them to assist one another.”
  14. The Corinthians spoke: “The Corcyraeans spoke not just of an alliance but of an injustice at our hands. We need to address that claim first. They say their policy has been to avoid alliances for the sake of moderation. But in reality it was a policy of evil. They are so far removed from the rest of the Greeks that it they are allowed to be a haven for pirates, cheats & other various criminals. They don’t have to answer for aiding & abetting these criminals with the rest of us. They won’t admit to that fact.
  15. “They are supposed to be our colony & how we are completely estranged from them. They say we mistreat them. But look at the rest of our colonies. They all honor us & we treat them well. We didn’t start an unjust war against them. It’s never so apparent than in what occurred when they took Epidamnus.
  16. “They claim they wanted arbitration. But the takeover was a fait accompli which always influences these things. They didn’t mention arbitration before laying siege to the city. Now they want you to do their dirty work. That’s the only reason they want an alliance with Athens.
  17. “With all these complaints we’ve made against Corcyra, you can’t consider them as simple & innocent suppliants. It’s true that the treaty allows for side alliances. But this proposed alliance is purely to injure Corinth. The treat only allows for protection & not aggression. You can’t joint them & expect friendly relations with us. If you join them, you will suffer the same consequences. The best you can do is remain neutral. You are present in a treat with us. You have no agreement at all with Corcyra. Did Corinth ever stop you? We told you the rest of the treaty members you had the right to put the revolt down. Why would you refuse us the same courtesy?
  18. “We are entitled to do as we please with Corcyra, according to the treaty. We have no beef with you. In fact, we don’t have much contact with one another enough to create problems. We helped in your war against Egina before the Persians showed up. But we’ve always allowed you to pursue your own interests & never stood in your way.
  19. “Think about what we’ve said. Usually, the straightest path is the wisest one. The Corcyraeans have tried to scare you with the prospect of a huge war in Greece. We don’t know what’ll happen with that but don’t be coerced out of fear & go into war with Corinth. It’d be wise to overcome the knock to your reputation with your dealings with Megara by showing us kindness. Don’t contribute any injustice or be seduced by a naval alliance.
  20. We ought to be able to put down revolts according to the treaty. We’ve allowed you that right & we expect you to do the same for us. Don’t receive them in an alliance & don’t be an accomplice to their crimes.”
  21. After hearing both sides, 2 assemblies were held. The first preferred what Corinth has said. The second preferred what the Corcyraeans had said. It would be a defensive alliance, not offensive. It wasn’t going to violate the treaty. Athens could not be asked to attack Corinth. It was an agreement of assistance in the case of invasion. The feeling was that a Peloponnesian war was going to start sometime soon & having a naval ally would be a tremendous help. They would probably end up at war with Corinth soon anyway.
  22. Corcyra was also on the coast on the way to Sicily & Italy, allowing possible control of the Ionian Sea. They agreed to the alliance & sent 10 ships to Corcyra. Their orders were just to be a presence & avoid any breach of the treaty.
  23. The Corinthians sailed to Corcyra with 150 ships between themselves & their allies. From Leucas, they landed on the continent opposite the island of Corcyra. They anchored in Chimerium, not too far from the Elean city of Ephyre. They formed an encampment.
  24. The Corcyraeans manned 110 ships with 10 Athenian ships on the side. They posted infantry on Port Leukimme. The Corinthians had no land troops & borrowed some from Barbarians.
  25. When the Corinthians had prepared, they had 3 days’ worth of provisions & pulled up anchors in the middle of the night. At day, they saw the Corcyraean fleet headed their way. They lined up against one another.
  26. Once they were ready the fighting began. Both sides had heavy infantry on decks, with lots of archers & darters. It was much more like a land battle where each side charged one another, relying on the infantry aboard to do the fighting as the ships stood still. It had much more to do with luck than skill. It was absolute chaos. The Athenians sat on the side just to scare the Corinthians, without actually fighting. The Corcyraeans routed the Corinthian right & chased it all the way to the continent. They burned Corinthian camps & tented & plundered their gear. On the other side of the battle, the Corinthians were successful due to the fact that 20 Corcyraeans ships had chased the Corinthian defeated ships. Once things looked shaky for the Corcyraeans, the Athenians jumped into the fight.
  27. Afterwards, the Corinthians slaughtered their prisoners. Some allies were killed by mistake in the rush to punish the enemy. It was difficult to distinguish one side from the other. After that, the Corinthians chased the Corcyraeans to land & then headed back to Sybota, their rendez-vous point. They gathered there & sailed back to fight the Corcyraeans again. Now, they had to fact the Athenian accompaniment. 20 more Athenian ships arrived who feared the 2nd attack from the Corinthians.
  28. The Corinthians suspected there’d be more Athenian ships on their way. They decided to call it a day & go back. The Corcyraeans were in Leukimme when the new 20 Athenian ships arrived, scaring everyone, appearing to be enemy ships.
  29. The next day, the 30 Athenians ships sailed to Sybota, accompanied by Corcyraean ships. The Corinthians sailed out & formed a line but had no intentions of going on the offensive. They saw Athenian reinforcements & had to guard their POWs & repair their ships. They had their minds on going home. They were afraid the Athenians would consider the treaty dissolved & would block their departure from the area.
  30. They put some men on a boat without a herald’s flag, as an experiment. The boat approached & the men spoke: “Athenians you’re breaking the treaty & beginning a war. If you’re trying to stop us from going to Corcyra or anywhere else, just declare war & be done with it.” The Athenians responded: “The Corcyraeans are our allies. We aren’t beginning a war, or breaking the treaty. We are only here to help them. If you want to go anywhere, feel free to do so, except if you’re going to attack Corcyra. Then we’ll stop you.”
  31. Hearing that, they started to leave. The Corcyraeans began rummaging through the wreckages & dead. Both sides claimed victory. The Corinthians had done significant damage to the Corcyraean fleet of 70 ships & took over 1000 POWs. The Corcyraeans held their ground, with the help of Athens, & Corinth did have to back down.
  32. On the way home, the Corinthians took Anactorium. Since the place was ½ Corcyraean & ½ Corinthian, the place was easily taken by treachery. They set up Corinthian settlers there & went home. They sold off 800 & kept 250 as slaves. They treated these well in case of when they were freed, they’d have good things to say about Corinth. Most of the slaves were of higher positions. So Corcyra maintained its political independence & the Athenian ships went home. This is considered the first cause of the war – Corinth & Athens fighting in spite of the treaty.
  33. Directly after this battle, differences started popping up between Athens & the Peloponnesians. Corinth was thinking of ways to retaliate. Athens was growing suspicious of them. The Potidaeans were a colony of Corinth but allies with Athens. They were ordered to destroy the wall looking towards the Pallene (the peninsula to the south), to give hostages, to dismiss Corinthian magistrates & not accept new ones. Athens feared that Perdiccas & the Corinthians would persuade them to revolt & start a chain of revolts in Thrace.
  34. After the Battle of Corcyra, the Athenians took precautions against the Potidaeans. Corinth, & the Macedonian king, Perdiccas, were openly hostile & now enemies with the Athenians. The Macedonians had been their enemies since being convinced by the Corinthians & Spartans to join their alliance. He’d been trying to gain Potidaea by way of a revolt, as well as Chalcidia & Bottiaea. The Athenians wanted to anticipate the revolt by sending 30 ships & 1000 troops to take hostages of the Potidaean captains, destroy its wall & be alert for revolts in the area.
  35. The Potidaeans sent envoys to Athens to ask them to slow down their activity in the area. They also went to the Spartans with the Corinthians for help. But they got nowhere with the Athenians. So, they got a promise from Sparta to invade Attica if Athens invaded Potidaea. Then the Potidaeans formed an alliance with Chalcidaea & Bottiaea, & revolted. Perdiccas convinced the Chalcidians to move inland to Olynthus & build a fort while the battle with Athens went on.
  36. The 30 Athenian ships showed up & found these cities in revolt. The commanders didn’t think they could got to battle with Perdiccas, who’d invaded from inland.
  37. As the Potidaeans were in revolt, the Athenian ships went to Macedonia. The Corinthians sent a volunteer force along with mercenaries – 2000 troops in all. They arrived 45 days after the revolt.
  38. When Athens heard of the revolt, they sent 2000 more troops & 40 ships under the command of Callias. They arrived in Macedonia. They found the other 1000 Athenian troops whod just taken Therme & were working on Pydna. They joined forced. They came to terms with Perdiccas & formed an alliance. They left Macedonia & went to Potidaea with 3000 of their own & many allies, including 70 ships. They camped by Gigonus.
  39. The Potidaeans & Peloponnesians were camped on the Olynthian side of the isthmus, waiting for the Athenians. Perdiccas left the alliance with Athens as soon as he had entered into it. He took his cavalry to the isthmus. The plan was for Aristeus (the Corinthian commander) to keep his men on the isthmus & wait for the Athenians to attack. Perdiccas would attack the Athenian rear. When Callias & his men sent the Macedonian cavalry to Olynthus to prevent movements, the Athenians marched towards Potidaea. They saw the enemy & started fighting. Aristeus’s men were successful but the rest of his army were badly defeated by the Athenians, & took refuge.
  40. Aristeus saw most of the army was defeated. He faced 2 risky choices : A – go to Olynthus or B – go to Potidaea. He gathered his men into a tight space & forced his way to Potidaea. They were shot at & thrown at but they were mostly able to arrive safely. Potidaeans in Olynthus – 7 miles away tried to help during the battle but were blocked by the Macedonian horses. Once Athenian victory was evident, they went back behind the wall. The Athenians gave the Potidaeans their dead – around 300. The Athenians only lost 150 but included general, Callias.
  41. The side of the wall with works on it was now controlled by Athens. The other side had no works. The Athenians didn’t think that they could establish a garrison & keep it, & were afraid Potidaeans would take advantage of their divided forces. The Athenians at home sent another 1600 troops under Phormio. He led his army against Potidaea & ravaged the countryside in the Pallene.
  42. Aristeus couldn’t prevent this unless Peloponnesian forces magically appeared so he suggested that everyone except 500 men catch the next wind & sail out for home. He was willing to stay behind. He stayed with the Chalcidians fighting the war, laying an ambush near Sermylia. But after establishing himself in Potidaea, Phormio & his men ravaged Chalcidice & Bottiaea.

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