Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 2, Chapter 8 – Third Year of the War—Investment of Plataea—Naval Victories of Phormio—Thracian Irruption into Macedonia under Sitacles

  1. The next year, the Peloponnesians invaded Plataea instead of Attica. Archidamus camped the army in the area & was about to destroy the land when the Plataeans came to him & told him their invasion was unjust. Pausanias had freed them from the Medes so they could live independent lives & now the Spartans of today were breaking his oath to them.
  2. Archidamus responded that there was some truth to what they said but the oath was for them to stay neutral & not be allies with Athens. If they could promise that the Spartans would leave. The Plataeans said they’d have to consult with the Athenians who were holding their families for safe keeping. Archidamus said Sparta would hold their city safe during the war & pay them for leasing it.
  3. The people still wanted to tell the Athenians of the situation they were in. They asked for a truce long enough to go to Athens, discuss the matter & come back. The envoys explained it to the Athenians, who reiterated their oaths to honor their alliance with Plataea.
  4. The Plataean envoys relayed the message & the Plataeans agreed to honor their side of the pledge. They told Archidamus they would not submit. Archidamus invoked the gods to punish those who were the aggressors in the matter, thinking Spartan was not to blame.
  5. Archidamus took his army & enclosed the city in a palisade of the fruit trees to fill it in. They built a mound next to the city wall for 70 days around the o’clock. The Plataeans could see this & built a wooden wall behind the section of wall where the Spartans were building the mound. They even used bricks from their houses to secure its strength. They also thought to pull out the part of their wall to collapse the mounds the Spartans were building.
  6. The Peloponnesians stuffed clay into the mounds to bolster them. This stopped that Plataean plan. So, the Plataeans built a tunnel under their wall & the mound, & they took away the material from the mound through it. So the mound was making no progress. The Plataeans stopping building the wall by the mound & built a crescent wall, so if the Peloponnesians could build their mound high enough, they’d only be trapped inside a ring & would be exposed to projectiles. The Peloponnesians brought in war machines to have a go at the new Plataean wall. They could only do some slight damage & most of the machines were damaged in the process.
  7. The Peloponnesians were finding neither their engines nor mounds were working. They decided to try circumvallation – enclosing the siegers with their own wall to prevent attacks from behind. Then they decided to try to burn the city. They gathers bundles of brushwood, lit them on fire & threw them over the wall. The fire caught & grew to a size no one had ever seen set by humans. But the rain came & put out the fire before it did much significant damage.
  8. The Peloponnesians then decided to leave a small force to maintain the siege & dismissed the rest. The Plataeans had sent their women & children to Athens long beforehand. There were only 400 Plataeans, 150 Athenians & 110 women to prepare the food for the rest.
  9. The same summer, the Athenians sent 2000 infantry & 200 cavalry against the Chalcidians in Thrace & Bottiaea. In Bottiaea, they destroyed the cornfields & hope to use factions in the city of Spartolus to open the city to them. Those with friendly feelings towards Sparta went off to Olynthus. There was a fight in front of the city. The Chalcidian infantry were beat back into the city. But their cavalry & light troops defeated their Athenians counterparts. Reinforcements came from Olynthus to fight the Athenian infantry. The sending of projectiles & Chalcidian horses cause a rout. The Athenians went back to Potidaea, losing 430 men & all their generals.
  10. The Ambraciots & Chaonians convinced the Spartans to send a fleet & 1000 infantry to Acarnania to draw Athenian troops back to defend it & withdraw from attacking Zacynthus & Cephallenia. Sparta sent a few vessels with heavy infantry to Leucas, being able to slip out of the sight of Athenian admiral, Phormio, who’d been placed in Naupactus.
  11. The Acarnanians saw the large army & large navy heading their way. Rather than forming an armed force to meet them, the people went into their homes to defend themselves & sent for Phormio for help. He couldn’t leave Naupactus unprotected, especially with the Spartan fleet being so busy. The Peloponnesians closed in on Stratus, with the intention of attacking the city if it would not surrender. The army divided into sections based on nationality. The Stratians thought defeating one division would discourage the rest. The Chaonian barbarians were singled out & killed, & the others ran off to join the main body of the Greek forces. They would attack the city as one unit. The Stratians went back into the city, slinging at those asking them for a fight.
  12. That night, Peloponnesian command Cnemus took his army back to the Anapus River, 9 miles from Stratus, joined by the Oeniadae. Before enemy reinforcements could arrive, they all went home.
  13. The fleet from Corinth to work with them to prevent the Acarnanians from crossing over to the mainland. They couldn’t join the Battle of Stratus because the Athenian ships at Naupactus. Phormio wanted to attack them on the open sea. The Corinthians & co. had no idea of this & were using their ships for transportation of troops & not for sea battles, even if they had 47 to Athens’s 20. They tried to cross the strait from Patrae to Acarnania & had to fight mid-passage. The Peloponnesians formed their ships in a circle to prevent threats from the Athenians.
  14. The Athenians sailed around & around them & force their circle to contract & started bumping into the Peloponnesians. Phormio had them hold off from an actual attack until he gave the signal. He was hoping the commotion would cause the Peloponnesian ships to damage each other & a good gust of wind could do equal damage. He felt he had control over the battle because his sailors were better & his ability was better than the Spartan commanders. The wind & the cramped quarters were indeed doing damage. The captains couldn’t do any damage control. Phormio gave the signal & the Athenians attacked. They disabled every ship they came across. There was no resistance & those still alive & not captured fled for Patrae & Dyme. The Athenians captured 12 ships & went back to Naupactus.
  15. The Spartans sent 3 commissioners to the fleet to prepare them & tell them not to be beaten by just a few Athenian ships. They couldn’t accept the fact that the Peloponnesian navy was so inferior but instead thought some mishandling by commanders caused the loss. It’s clear these commissioners had been sent in anger by the political leaders. In the meantime, Phormio asked Athens for reinforcements & gave news of his victory. He was expecting the battle to renew at any moment. Athens sent 20 ships but they went down to Crete to put down Cydonia instead of joining Phormio.
  16. While the Athenian reinforcements were in Crete, the Peloponnesians got ready for battle & went along the coast to Panormus to meet up with the army. Phormio went to Molycrian Rhium with his 20 ships to anchor in an area friendly to Athens. At this point, the sea is only ¾ a mile from North to South. The Peloponnesian navy had 77 ships. They sat on opposite shores for a week, waiting for the other to move. The Spartans were still reeling from the previous loss. The Athenians weren’t looking for a fight in these straits without reinforcement.
  17. Cnemus, Sparta commander, spoke to his men: “I see how apprehensive you are about a battle. Our object is to fight on land, not at sea. The loss was down to inexpensive instead of cowardice. We may have flubbed the plan but it wasn’t for lack of bravery. Our bravery more than makes up for their experience. A faint heart will wipe out any skill in battle. Fear takes away presence of mind. We’ll set our valor against their experience. Remember, we also have superior numbers & are on our home territory. These signs don’t point toward defeat. If we stick to our plan & our stations, we’ll be rewarded with victory.”
  18. The Peloponnesian commanders encouraged their men like this. Phormio had some concerns about his men. He called them to give them a boost in confidence. He’d had the habit of telling them that numerical inferiority was no problem due to their experience:
  19. “I see you’re afraid of the numbers of Peloponnesians against us. First of all, we’ve already defeated these same men. Not even they think they are a match for us. They don’t come to us to fight on even terms. They rely on their natural courage & only have this as a reason to think they’d be successful. But land success does not translate to naval success. The advantage is completely ours. They aren’t braver than us & they definitely are not more skilled than us. You are much scarier to them than they are to us. As for the battle itself, I will avoid fighting in the strait which would expose to vulnerability to their superior numbers & doesn’t allow us to use our greater ability. But it’s necessary to listen to your captains & liver up to the reputation that our previous exploits have given us. We can do it because we have done it before.”
  20. The Peloponnesians saw that the Athenians weren’t making the first move, so they set out at dawn into the gulf. They put their best ships on the right to make Phormio think they were going towards Naupactus & the Athenians might not be able to fight them off. Phormio was alarmed at what he saw. The Messenian land forces followed his movements. The Peloponnesians saw him moving his ships along the shore. They bore down on the Athenians hoping to cut off their squadron. 11 Athenian ships were able to escape to open waters but the others were caught up to & were driven ashore. Their crews were killed. The Peloponnesians were about to take these ships when the Messenians on land took the empty boats from them.
  21. Up to this point, the Peloponnesians were victorious & the Athenian fleet was destroyed. The Peloponnesians chased the 11 Athenian ships in open water. All but one of those got away to Naupactus. The Peloponnesians came toward the land where the Athenians had moored their ships singing the paean. The remaining Athenian ship was chased by a Leucadian ship. But there was a merchant ship lying at anchor in the water that the Athenians sailed around. However, the Peloponnesians ran into it & sink it. They got so happy that they either dropped their oars & ran aground.
  22. The Athenians pounced on the enemy’s mistake. Those Peloponnesians fled to Panormus. The Athenians took 6 ships & recovered their own. They killed some of the crews & took others prisoners. Spartan, Timocrates, killed himself over the mistake. Athenians & Peloponnesians both claimed victory.
  23. The Peloponnesians were persuaded by the Megarians to attack Piraeus due to its ability to perpetuate Athenian naval power. They sailed to the Isthmus & carried their boats over land rather than sail around the Peloponnese. They would get to Megara & went on to its port in Nisaea. They thought Athens would never suspect a thing. But they went to Salamis to stop anything going anywhere near Megara. They attacked the fort on the island & laid waste to the rest of the island.
  24. Fire signals were sent to alarm Athens & a panic resulted. They thought the enemy was already at Piraeus. Those in Piraeus thought they’d be attacked soon. The next morning, the Athenians launched their ships & went off to Salamis. The Peloponnesians knew that the Athenians were on their way. However, the fact that Peloponnesian ships weren’t watertight caused their men to be scared of sailing. They landed at Megara & went to Corinth on foot. The Athenians went back home since there was no one to fight. They drew up plans to guard Piraeus & its harbor better.
  25. At the same time, Sitacles made an expedition on the Thracian king, Perdiccas. His plan was to force Perdiccas to fulfill his promise to reconcile with the Athenians. On his side, Sitacles promised to end the Chalcidian War. He brought Amyntas, son of Philip of Macedonia, Athenian envoys & commanders, & a fleet.
  26. He called for allies in Thracian tribes, hordes from the Danube near the Euxine Sea, who were mostly mounted archers. He had Thracian mercenaries & volunteers, as well as many from Paeonian tribes in his empire.
  27. The Thracian Odrysian Empire went from Abdera to the Danube by the Euxine Sea. This journey takes 4 days by sea & 13 by land. Eventually the successor to Sitacles brought them in to tribute to the tune of 400 talents a year. There was more shame in not providing what was demanded than demanding & being refused. The Odrysian Empire became powerful, rivalling the Scyths.
  28. Sitacles had prepared his army & marched to Macedonia through his own territory through the Cercine Mountains to arrive at Doberus, only losing men to illness. Many independent Thracians joined his army, hoping for a chance to plunder. The army was said to have 150000, 1/3 being cavalry.
  29. Once they were assembled at Doberus, they descended on Lower Macedonia where Perdiccas ruled but other tribes had independent governments in Macedonia. The Macedonians were originally from Argos. They built their empire by conquering neighboring tribes & by this time, Perdiccas was king.
  30. Since the Macedonians didn’t dare fight such an army, they holed themselves up in their walled cities. They took Idomene by force & other cities through negotiations. They laid siege to Europus but failed to take it & moved on further into Macedonia, but laying waste along the way to many places. The Macedonians didn’t dare fight with the infantry. They fought the Thracians with horses, cuirasses, etc. but they risked damage & stopped engaging the in this way.
  31. Sitacles started negotiating with Perdiccas, finding the Athenians hadn’t arrived with their fleet yet. All the cities were paralyzed with fear that the army to move on them. Before any city caved, Sitacles ravaged the countryside. But he was running out of supplies. He decided to break off the advancement on the advice of Seuthes, who happened to be in the employ of Perdiccas.
  32. After the Peloponnesian fleet was dispersed, the Athenians went to Astacus & disembarked & marched into Acarnania with 400 Athenian infantry & 400 Messenians. They expelled suspect residents in Stratus, Coronta & other places, restoring Cynes to Coronta. They went back to their ships after deciding the Oeniadae weren’t worth the bother in the winter, as the rivers flooded all the roads in the area.
  33. The Athenians & Phormio left Acarnania & went to Naupactus & then on to Athens. They exchanged their prisoners man for man with the Spartans.

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