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This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry on the Corinthian War {short description of image}which has illustrations and references


The Corinthian War was a Greek conflict lasting from 395 until 387, pitting Sparta against a coalition of four allied states, Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos, supported by the Persians. The immediate cause of the war was a local conflict in northwest Greece in which both Thebes and Sparta intervened. The deeper cause was hostility towards Sparta, provoked by that city's "expansionism in Asia Minor, central and northern Greece and even the west".

Opponents: Sparta and Peloponnesian League versus Athens, Argos, Corinth, Thebes, with aid from the Achaemenid Empire Other allies
Commanders and leaders:
Sparta - Agesilaus and pro-Sparta Peloponnesian leaders
Allies - Pro-Athens Greek leaders, Artaxerxes II (Persia)

The Corinthian War followed the Peloponnesian War (431–404), in which Sparta had achieved hegemony over Athens and its allies. The war was fought on two fronts, on land near Corinth (hence the name) and Thebes and at sea in the Aegean. On land, the Spartans achieved several early successes in major battles, but were unable to capitalize on their advantage, and the fighting soon became stalemated. At sea, the Spartan fleet was decisively defeated early in the war by an Achaemenid fleet allied with Athens, an event that effectively ended Sparta's attempts to become a naval power. Taking advantage of this fact, Athens launched several naval campaigns in the later years of the war, recapturing a number of islands that had been part of the original Delian League during the 5th century. Alarmed by these Athenian successes towards the end of the conflict, the Persians stopped backing the allies and began supporting Sparta. This defection forced the allies to seek peace. The King's Peace, also known as the Peace of Antalcidas, was signed in 387, ending the war. This treaty declared that Persia would control all of Ionia, and proclaimed that all other Greek cities would be "autonomous", in effect prohibiting Greek cities from forming leagues, alliances or coalitions. Sparta was to be the guardian of the peace, with the power to enforce its clauses. The effects of the war, therefore, were to establish Persia's ability to interfere successfully in Greek politics, to atomize and isolate from one another Greek city states, and to affirm Sparta's hegemonic position in the Greek political system. The Corinthian War was succeeded by the Theban–Spartan War of 378–362, in which Sparta would finally lose its hegemony, this time to Thebes. In the Peloponnesian War, which had ended in 404 BC, Sparta had enjoyed the support of nearly every mainland Greek state and the Persian Empire, and in the months and years following that war, a number of the island states of the Aegean had come under its control. This solid base of support, however, was fragmented in the years following the war. Despite the collaborative nature of the victory, Sparta alone received the plunder taken from the defeated states and the tribute payments from the former Athenian Empire. Sparta's allies were further alienated when, in 402, Sparta attacked and subdued Elis, a member of the Peloponnesian League that had angered the Spartans during the course of the Peloponnesian War. Corinth and Thebes refused to send troops to assist Sparta in its campaign against Elis.
Tens of thousands of Darics, the main currency in Achaemenid coinage, were used to bribe the Greek states to start a war against Sparta. Thebes, Corinth and Athens also refused to participate in a Spartan expedition to Ionia in 398, with the Thebans going so far as to disrupt a sacrifice that the Spartan king Agesilaus attempted to perform in their territory before his departure. Despite the absence of these states, Agesilaus campaigned effectively against the Persians in Lydia, advancing as far inland as Sardis. The satrap Tissaphernes was executed for his failure to contain Agesilaus, and his replacement, Tithraustes, bribed the Spartans to move north, into the satrapy of Pharnabazus, Hellespontine Phrygia or this. Agesilaus did so, but simultaneously began preparing a sizable navy. Unable to defeat Agesilaus' army, Pharnabazus decided to force Agesilaus to withdraw by stirring up trouble on the Greek mainland. He dispatched Timocrates of Rhodes, an Asiatic Greek, to distribute ten thousand gold darics in the major cities of the mainland and incite them to act against Sparta. Timocrates visited Athens, Thebes, Corinth, and Argos, and succeeded in persuading powerful factions in each of those states to pursue an anti-Spartan policy. According to Plutarch, Agesilaus, the Spartan king, said upon leaving Asia "I have been driven out by 10,000 Persian archers", a reference to "Archers" (Toxotai) the Greek nickname for the Darics from their obverse design, because that much money had been paid to politicians in Athens and Thebes in order to start a war against Sparta.The Thebans, who had previously demonstrated their antipathy towards Sparta, undertook to bring about a war.

Initial fighting:
Battle of Haliartus (395) and also
Xenophon claims that, unwilling to challenge Sparta directly, the Thebans instead choose to precipitate a war by encouraging their allies, the Locrians, to collect taxes from territory claimed by both Locris and Phocis. In response, the Phocians invaded Locris, and ransacked Locrian territory. The Locrians appealed to Thebes for assistance, and the Thebans invaded Phocian territory; the Phocians, in turn, appealed to their ally, Sparta, and the Spartans, pleased to have a pretext to discipline the Thebans, ordered general mobilization. A Theban embassy was dispatched to Athens to request support; the Athenians voted to assist Thebes, and a perpetual alliance was concluded between Athens and the Boeotian confederacy. The Spartan plan called for two armies, one under Lysander and the other under Pausanias, to rendezvous at and attack the Boeotian city of Haliartus. Lysander, arriving before Pausanias, successfully persuaded the city of Orchomenus to revolt from the Boeotian confederacy, and advanced to Haliartus with his troops and a force of Orchomenians. There, he was killed in the Battle of Haliartus after bringing his force too near the walls of the city; the battle ended inconclusively, with the Spartans suffering early losses but then defeating a group of Thebans who pursued the Spartans onto rough terrain where they were at a disadvantage. Pausanias, arriving a day later, took back the bodies of the Spartan dead under a truce, and returned to Sparta. There, he was put on trial for his life for failing to arrive and support Lysander at the designated time. He fled to Tegea before he could be convicted.

Alliance against Sparta expands:
In the wake of these events, both the Spartans and their opponents prepared for more serious fighting to come. In late 395, Corinth and Argos entered the war as co-belligerents with Athens and Thebes. A council was formed at Corinth to manage the affairs of this alliance. The allies then sent emissaries to a number of smaller states and received the support of many of them. Alarmed by these developments, the Spartans prepared to send out an army against this new alliance, and sent a messenger to Agesilaus ordering him to return to Greece. The orders were a disappointment to Agesilaus, who had looked forward to further successful campaigning. It is said he wryly observed, but for ten thousand Persian "archers", he would have vanquished all Asia. Thus, he turned back with his troops, crossing the Hellespont and marched west through Thrace.

War on land and sea 394:
Battle of Nemea:
After a brief engagement between Thebes and Phocis, in which Thebes was victorious, the allies gathered a large army at Corinth. A sizable force was sent out from Sparta to challenge this force. The forces met at the dry bed of the Nemea River, in Corinthian territory, where the Spartans won a decisive victory. As often happened in hoplite battles, the right flank of each army was victorious, with the Spartans defeating the Athenians while the Thebans, Argives, and Corinthians defeated the various Peloponnesians opposite them; the Spartans then attacked and killed a number of Argives, Corinthians, and Thebans as these troops returned from pursuing the defeated Peloponnesians. The coalition army lost 2,800 men, while the Spartans and their allies lost only 1,100.

Battle of Cnidus: Cnidus
Achaemenid satrap Pharnabazus II, in joint command with self-exiled Athenian admiral Conon, was victorious against Sparta at the Battle of Cnidus. The next major action of the war took place at sea, where both the Persians and the Spartans had assembled large fleets during Agesilaus's campaign in Asia. By levying ships from the Aegean states under his control, Agesilaus had raised a force of 120 triremes, which he placed under the command of his brother-in-law Peisander, who had never held a command of this nature before. The Persians, meanwhile, had already assembled a joint Phoenician, Cilician, and Cypriot fleet, under the joint command of Achaemenid satrap Pharnabazus II and the experienced Athenian admiral Conon who was in self-exile and in the service of the Achaemenids after his infamous defeat at the Battle of Aegospotami. (NOTE: Conon was not in command there)
The fleet had already seized Rhodes from Spartan control in 396. These two fleets met off the point of Cnidus in 394. The Spartans fought determinedly, particularly in the vicinity of Peisander's ship, but were eventually overwhelmed; large numbers of ships were sunk or captured, and the Spartan fleet was essentially wiped from the sea. Following this victory, Conon and Pharnabazus sailed along the coast of Ionia, expelling Spartan governors and garrisons from the cities, although they failed to reduce the Spartan bases at Abydos and Sestos under the command of Dercylidas.

Coronea 394:
By this time, Agesilaus's army, after brushing off attacks from the Thessalians during its march through that country, had arrived in Boeotia, where it was met by an army gathered from the various states of the anti-Spartan alliance. Agesilaus's force from Asia, composed largely of emancipated helots and mercenary veterans of the Ten Thousand, was augmented by half a Spartan regiment from Orchomenus, and another half a regiment that had been transported across the Gulf of Corinth. These armies met each other at Coronea, in Theban territory; as at Nemea, both right wings were victorious, with the Thebans breaking through while the rest of the allies were defeated. Seeing that the rest of their force had been defeated, the Thebans formed up to break back through to their camp. Agesilaus met their force head on, and in the struggle that followed a number of Thebans were killed before the remainder were able to force their way through and rejoin their allies. After this victory, Agesilaus sailed with his army across the Gulf of Corinth and returned to Sparta.

Later events - 393–388:
The events of 394 left the Spartans with the upper hand on land, but weak at sea. The coalition states had been unable to defeat the Spartan phalanx in the field, but had kept their alliance strong and prevented the Spartans from moving at will through central Greece. The Spartans would continue to attempt, over the next several years, to knock either Corinth or Argos out of the war; the anti-Spartan allies, meanwhile, sought to preserve their united front against Sparta, while Athens and Thebes took advantage of Sparta's preoccupation to enhance their own power in areas they had traditionally dominated.

Achaemenid naval campaign and assistance to Athens - 393:
Naval raids in Ionia:
Pharnabazus II followed up his victory at Cnidus by capturing several Spartan-allied cities in Ionia, instigating pro-Athenian and pro-Democracy movements. Abydus and Sestus were the only cities to refuse to expel the Lacedemonians despite threats from Pharnabazus to make war on them. He attempted to force these into submission by ravaging the surrounding territory, but this proved fruitless, leading him to leave Conon in charge of winning over the cities in the Hellespont.

Naval raids on the Peloponnesian coast:
From 393, Pharnabazus II and Conon sailed with their fleet to the Aegean island of Melos and established a base there. This was the first time in 90 years, since the Greco-Persian Wars, that the Achaemenid fleet was going so far west. The military occupation by these pro-Athenian forces led to several democratic revolutions and new alliances with Athens in the islands. The fleet proceeded further west to take revenge on the Spartans by invading Lacedaemonian territory, where they laid waste to Pherae and raided along the Messenian coast. Their aim was probably to instigate a revolt of the Messanian helots against Sparta. Eventually they left due to scarce resources and few harbors for the Achaemenid fleet in the area, as well as the looming possibility of Lacedaemonian relief forces being dispatched. They then raided the coast of Laconia and seized the island of Cythera, where they left a garrison and an Athenian governor to cripple Sparta's offensive military capabilities. Cythera in effect became Achaemenid territory. Seizing Cythera also had the effect of cutting the strategic route between Peloponnesia and Egypt and thus avoiding Spartan-Egyptian collusion, and directly threatening Taenarum, the harbour of Sparta. This strategy to threaten Sparta had already been recommended, in vain, by the exiled Spartan Demaratus to Xerxes I in 480. Pharnabazus II, leaving part of his fleet in Cythera, then went to Corinth, where he gave Sparta's rivals funds to further threaten the Lacedaemonians. He also funded the rebuilding of a Corinthian fleet to resist the Spartans.

Rebuilding of the walls of Athens, 393:
After being convinced by Conon that allowing him to rebuild the Long Walls around Piraeus, the main port of Athens, would be a major blow to the Lacedaemonians, Pharnabazus eagerly gave Conon a fleet of 80 triremes and additional funds to accomplish this task. Pharnabazus dispatched Conon with substantial funds and a large part of the fleet to Attica, where he joined in the rebuilding of the long walls from Athens to Piraeus, a project that had been initiated by Thrasybulus in 394. With the assistance of the rowers of the fleet, and the workers paid for by the Persian money, the construction was soon completed.
Xenophon in his Hellenica gives a vivid contemporary account of this endeavour: Conon said that if he (Pharnabazus) would allow him to have the fleet, he would maintain it by contributions from the islands and would meanwhile put in at Athens and aid the Athenians in rebuilding their long walls and the wall around Piraeus, adding that he knew nothing could be a heavier blow to the Lacedaemonians than this. (...) Pharnabazus, upon hearing this, eagerly dispatched him to Athens and gave him additional money for the rebuilding of the walls. Upon his arrival Conon erected a large part of the wall, giving his own crews for the work, paying the wages of carpenters and masons, and meeting whatever other expense was necessary. There were some parts of the wall, however, which the Athenians themselves, as well as volunteers from Boeotia and from other states, aided in building. —?Xenophon Hellenica 4.8.9 4.8.10
Athens quickly took advantage of its possession of walls and a fleet to seize the islands of Scyros, Imbros, and Lemnos, on which it established cleruchies (citizen colonies). As a reward for his success, Pharnabazus was allowed to marry the king's daughter.
He was recalled to the Achaemenid Empire in 393, and replaced by satrap Tiribazus.

Civil strife at Corinth:
At about this time, civil strife broke out in Corinth between the democratic party and the oligarchic party. The democrats, supported by the Argives, launched an attack on their opponents, and the oligarchs were driven from the city. These exiles went to the Spartans, based at this time at Sicyon, for support, while the Athenians and Boeotians came up to support the democrats. In a night attack, the Spartans and exiles succeeded in seizing Lechaeum, Corinth's port on the Gulf of Corinth, and defeated the army that came out to challenge them the next day. The anti-Spartan allies then attempted to invest Lechaeum, but the Spartans launched an attack and drove them off.

Peace conferences break down:
Satrap Tiribazus was the main Achaemenid negotiator for the King's Peace. In 392, the Spartans dispatched an ambassador, Antalcidas, to the satrap Tiribazus, hoping to turn the Persians against the allies by informing them of Conon's use of the Persian fleet to begin rebuilding the Athenian empire. The Athenians learned of this, and sent Conon and several others to present their case to the Persians; they also notified their allies, and Argos, Corinth, and Thebes dispatched embassies to Tiribazus. At the conference that resulted, the Spartans proposed a peace based on the independence of all states; this was rejected by the allies, as Athens wished to hold the gains it had made in the Aegean, Thebes wished to keep its control over the Boeotian league, and Argos already had designs on assimilating Corinth into its state. The conference thus failed, but Tiribazus, alarmed by Conon's actions, arrested him, and secretly provided the Spartans with money to equip a fleet. Although Conon quickly escaped, he died soon afterward. A second peace conference was held at Sparta in the same year, but the proposals made there were again rejected by the allies, both because of the implications of the autonomy principle and because the Athenians were outraged that the terms proposed would have involved abandoning the Ionian Greeks to Persia. In the wake of the unsuccessful conference in Persia, Tiribazus returned to Susa to report on events, and a new general, Struthas, was sent out to take command. Struthas pursued an anti-Spartan policy, prompting the Spartans to order their commander in the region, Thibron, to attack him. Thibron successfully ravaged Persian territory for a time, but was killed along with much of his army when Struthas ambushed one of his poorly organized raiding expeditions. Thibron was later replaced by Diphridas, who raided more successfully, securing a number of small successes and even capturing Struthas's son-in-law, but never achieved any dramatic results.
Lechaeum and the seizure of Corinth
At Corinth, the democratic party continued to hold the city proper, while the exiles and their Spartan supporters held Lechaeum, from where they raided the Corinthian countryside. In 391, Agesilaus campaigned in the area, successfully seizing several fortified points, along with a large number of prisoners and amounts of booty. While Agesilaus was in camp preparing to sell off his spoils, the Athenian general Iphicrates, with a force composed almost entirely of light troops and peltasts (javelin throwers), won a decisive victory against the Spartan regiment that had been stationed at Lechaeum in the Battle of Lechaeum. During the battle, Iphicrates took advantage of the Spartans' lack of peltasts to repeatedly harass the regiment with hit-and-run attacks, wearing the Spartans down until they broke and ran, at which point a number of them were slaughtered. Agesilaus returned home shortly after these events, but Iphicrates continued to campaign around Corinth, recapturing many of the strong points which the Spartans had previously taken, although he was unable to retake Lechaeum. He also campaigned against Phlius and Arcadia, decisively defeating the Phliasians and plundering the territory of the Arcadians when they refused to engage his troops. After this victory, an Argive army came to Corinth, and, seizing the acropolis, effected the merger of Argos and Corinth. The border stones between Argos and Corinth were torn down, and the citizen bodies of the two cities were merged.

Later land campaigns:
After Iphicrates's victories near Corinth, no more major land campaigns were conducted in that region. Campaigning continued in the Peloponnese and the northwest. Agesilaus had campaigned successfully in Argive territory in 391,] and he launched two more major expeditions before the end of the war. In the first of these, in 389, a Spartan expeditionary force crossed the Gulf of Corinth to attack Acarnania, an ally of the anti-Spartan coalition. After initial difficulties in coming to grips with the Acarnanians, who kept to the mountains and avoided engaging him directly, Agesilaus was eventually able to draw them into a pitched battle, in which the Acarnanians were routed and lost a number of men. He then sailed home across the Gulf. The next year, the Acarnanians made peace with the Spartans to avoid further invasions. In 388, Agesipolis led a Spartan army against Argos. Since no Argive army challenged him, he plundered the countryside for a time, and then, after receiving several unfavorable omens, returned home.

Later campaigns in the Aegean:
After their defeat at Cnidus, the Spartans began to rebuild a fleet, and, in fighting with Corinth, had regained control of the Gulf of Corinth by 392. Following the failure of the peace conferences of 392, the Spartans sent a small fleet, under the commander Ecdicus, to the Aegean with orders to assist oligarchs exiled from Rhodes. Ecdicus arrived at Rhodes to find the democrats fully in control, and in possession of more ships than him, and thus waited at Cnidus. The Spartans then dispatched their fleet from the Gulf of Corinth, under Teleutias, to assist. After picking up more ships at Samos, Teleutias took command at Cnidus and commenced operations against Rhodes. . Alarmed by this Spartan naval resurgence, the Athenians sent out a fleet of 40 triremes under Thrasybulus. He, judging that he could accomplish more by campaigning where the Spartan fleet was not than by challenging it directly, sailed to the Hellespont. Once there, he won over several major states to the Athenian side and placed a duty on ships sailing past Byzantium, restoring a source of revenue that the Athenians had relied on in the late Peloponnesian War. He then sailed to Lesbos, where, with the support of the Mytileneans, he defeated the Spartan forces on the island and won over a number of cities. While still on Lesbos, however, Thrasybulus was killed by raiders from the city of Aspendus. After this, the Spartans sent out a new commander, Anaxibius, to Abydos. For a time, he enjoyed a number of successes against Pharnabazus, and seized a number of Athenian merchant ships. Worried that Thrasybulus's accomplishments were being undermined, the Athenians sent Iphicrates to the region to confront Anaxibius. For a time, the two forces merely raided each other's territory, but eventually Iphicrates succeeded in guessing where Anaxibius would bring his troops on a return march from a campaign against Antandrus, and ambushed the Spartan force. When Anaxibius and his men, who were strung out in the line of march, had entered the rough, mountainous terrain in which Iphicrates and his men were waiting, the Athenians emerged and ambushed them, killing Anaxibius and many others.

Aegina and Piraeus:
The Attack on the Piraeus by Teleutias
In 389 the Athenians attacked the island of Aegina, off the coast of Attica. The Spartans soon drove off the Athenian fleet, but the Athenians continued their land assault. Under Antalcidas' command, the Spartan fleet sailed east to Rhodes but it was eventually blockaded at Abydos by the regional Athenian commanders. The Athenians on Aegina, meanwhile, soon found themselves under attack, and withdrew after several months. Shortly thereafter, the Spartan fleet under Gorgopas ambushed the Athenian fleet near Athens, capturing several ships. The Athenians responded with an ambush of their own; Chabrias, on his way to Cyprus, landed his troops on Aegina and laid an ambush for the Aeginetans and their Spartan allies, killing a number of them including Gorgopas. The Spartans then sent Teleutias to Aegina to command the fleet there. Noticing that the Athenians had relaxed their guard after Chabrias's victory, he launched a raid on Piraeus, seizing numerous merchant ships.

The King's Peace 387:
Peace of Antalcidas:
Antalcidas, meanwhile, had entered into negotiations with Tiribazus, and reached an agreement under which the Persians would enter into the war on the Spartan side if the allies refused to make peace. It appears that the Persians, unnerved by certain of Athens' actions, including supporting king Evagoras of Cyprus and Akoris of Egypt, both of whom were at war with Persia, had decided that their policy of weakening Sparta by supporting its enemies was no longer useful. After escaping from the blockade at Abydos, Antalcidas attacked and defeated a small Athenian force, then united his fleet with a supporting fleet sent from Syracuse. With this force, which was soon further augmented with ships supplied by the satraps of the region, he sailed to the Hellespont, where he could cut off the trade routes that brought grain to Athens. The Athenians, mindful of their similar defeat in the Peloponnesian War less than two decades before, were ready to make peace. The King's Peace, promulgated by Artaxerxes II in 387, put an end to the Corinthian War under the guarantee of the Achaemenid Empire.
Xenophon, Hellenica. The word "independent" in this version, is more generally translated as "autonomous" in the Greek original). In this climate, when Tiribazus called a peace conference in late 387, the major parties of the war were ready to discuss terms. The basic outline of the treaty was laid out by a decree from the Persian king Artaxerxes: King Artaxerxes thinks it just that the cities in Asia should belong to him, as well as Clazomenae and Cyprus among the islands, and that the other Greek cities, both small and great, should be left autonomous, except Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros; and these should belong, as of old, to the Athenians. But whichever of the two parties does not accept this peace, upon them I will make war, in company with those who desire this arrangement, both by land and by sea, with ships and with money. According to the terms of this peace treaty: all of Asia Minor, with the islands of Clazomenae and Cyprus, was recognized as subject to Persia, all the Greek city states were to be "autonomous" in the text, meaning prohibited from forming leagues or alliances, except Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros, which were returned to the Athenians. In a general peace conference at Sparta, the Spartans, with their authority enhanced by the threat of Persian intervention, secured the acquiescence of all the major states of Greece to these terms. The terms were ratified by the city governments over the next year. The reassertion of Spartan hegemony over Greece by abandoning the Greeks of Aeolia, Ionia, and Caria has been called the "most disgraceful event in Greek history". The agreement eventually produced was commonly known as the King's Peace, reflecting the Persian influence the treaty showed. This treaty placed Greece under Persian suzerainty and marked the first attempt at a Common Peace in Greek history; under the treaty, all cities were to be autonomous, a clause that would be enforced by the Spartans as guardians of the peace. Under threat of Spartan intervention, Thebes disbanded its league, and Argos and Corinth ended their experiment in shared government; Corinth, deprived of its strong ally, was incorporated back into Sparta's Peloponnesian League. After 8 years of fighting, the Corinthian war was at an end.

In the years following the signing of the peace, the two states responsible for its structure, Persia and Sparta, took full advantage of the gains they had made. Persia, freed of both Athenian and Spartan interference in its Asian provinces, consolidated its hold over the eastern Aegean and captured both Egypt and Cyprus by 380. Sparta, meanwhile, in its newly formalized position atop the Greek political system, took advantage of the autonomy clause of the peace to break up any coalition that it perceived as a threat. Disloyal allies were sharply punished—Mantinea, for instance, was broken up into five component villages. With Agesilaus at the head of the state, advocating for an aggressive policy, the Spartans campaigned from the Peloponnese to the distant Chalcidic peninsula. Their dominance over mainland Greece would last another sixteen years before being shattered at Leuctra. The war also marked the beginning of Athens' resurgence as a power in the Greek world. With their walls and their fleet restored, the Athenians were in position to turn their eyes overseas. By the middle of the 4th century, they had assembled an organization of Aegean states commonly known as the Second Athenian League, regaining at least parts of what they had lost with their defeat in 404. The freedom of the Ionian Greeks had been a rallying cry since the beginning of the 5th century, but after the Corinthian War, the mainland states made no further attempts to interfere with Persia's control of the region. After over a century of disruption and struggle, Persia at last ruled Ionia without disruption or intervention for over 50 years, until the time of Alexander the Great.




How to cite this article: Rickard, J (6 November 2015), Corinthian War (395-386 BC) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/wars_corinthian.html


The War Causes of the War 395 - 394 - 393 - 392
Winter 392/1 391 - 390 - 389 - 388 - 387 -386
The Corinthian War (395-386) saw the Spartans, with eventual Persian aid, defeat an alliance of Thebes, Corinth, Argos and Athens and apparently remain the dominant power on mainland Greece. However the early part of the war took place at the same time as a Persian-Spartan War (400- 387) that saw Sparta lose her short-lived maritime empire, and it was quickly followed by an intervention at Thebes that ended in disaster.

In 404 Sparta finally won the Great Peloponnesian War (with Persian help). Athens was forced to dismantle her walls, lost her empire, was only allowed a tiny fleet and the democracy was dismantled. For a brief time Sparta became the dominant Greek naval power, although most of her ships came from allies. Over the next few years the Spartans made poor use of their dominance. They became involved in a war with Elis that ended in 400 with a Spartan victory, but didn't make them many friends. In Athens a pro-democratic revolt soon broke out against the oligarchy. The Spartans intervened, but King Pausanias decided to allow the restoration of democracy. Further afield the Spartans quarrelled with their Persian allies. They supported the revolt of Cyrus the Younger against his brother Artaxerxes II, but this ended with the death of Cyrus at Cunaxa in 401. This left the Greek cities of Asia Minor exposed to Persian attack, and they called for aid from Sparta. The Spartans responded to that call, triggering a long war (Persian-Spartan War, 400-387 BC). The early campaigns of this war were conducted with little energy on the Spartan side, but it did trigger the construction of a new Persian fleet, with command of an Asian Greek contingent going to the Athenian leader Conon. Sparta responded by sending Agesilaus II to Asia Minor with reinforcements. Corinth, Boeotia and Athens all refused to provide contributions to this army, and the Corinthians even disrupted its departure. Agesilaus arrived at Ephesus in the spring of 396 and began a more effect campaign. He won a battle at Sardis in 395, and was rewarded with command of a strong fleet, but soon after this he was withdrawn to fight in Greece.
The War - Causes of the War:
In 404 a Spartan led alliance that included Thebes and Corinth had finally defeated Athens, ending the Great Peloponnesian War. Spartan arrogance in the aftermath of that victory helped to pave the way for the Corinthian War, in which her former allies sided against her. Corinth and Thebes had wanted to see the city of Athens totally destroyed after the war, but the Spartans had refused. Their allies had also been denied any of the spoils of the victory. In the years after the end of the war the Spartans had strengthened their position in Thessaly, an area that Thebes considered to be within her sphere of influence. As a result both Corinth and Thebes had refused to cooperate with Sparta, first when the Spartans intervened to help end a period of political chaos at Athens, then in a war against Elis and finally in the expeditions to Asia Minor. The Athenians had provided troops for the conflict with Elis, and for Thibron's expedition in Asia Minor, but in 396 they refused to provide troops for Agesilaus's expedition. The Spartan-Persian War also saw Persian envoys visit Greece, carrying with them sizable bribes. Their first envoy had been captured by the Spartans, but a second, Timocrates of Rhodes, reached the mainland safely and visited Thebes, Corinth, Argos and possibly Athens. Timocrates won friends wherever he went, presumably aided by the absence of Agesilaus and his troops in Asia Minor. According to our sources the Thebans provided the spark that actually started the conflict. Boeotia was bordered on the west by Phocis, the region that included Delphi, a sizable area that stretched north from the Gulf of Corinth almost all the way to the Gulf of Euboea. Phocis sat between the Eastern (or Opuntian) and Western (or Ozolian) Locrians. Eastern Locris was a narrow strip of land on the Gulf of Euboea, while Western Locris was a larger area, similar in shape to Phocis. The Phocians and Locrians were long-standing rivals, although most of the time their rivalry was limited to raiding.


In 395 the Theban leadership needed to find a way to force the rest of the Boeotian League into a war with Sparta. Boeotia was allied with Locris, and they decided to provoke a conflict between Locris and Phocis. The Theban leaders convinced the Locrians to levy a tax in a disputed area. The Phocians responded with an invasion of Western Locris. The Locrians called for help from the Boeotian League, which responded by preparing to invade Phocis.

Battles of the Corinthian War:
The Phocians responded by sending envoys to Sparta to plead for help. In Sparta they easily won over Lysander, the great leader of the last phase of the Peloponnesian War, who had just returned from a fairly unsuccessful intervention in Asia Minor, and probably also got the support of King Pausanias. The Spartans ordered the Boeotians not to intervene, but unsurprisingly the Boeotians ignored this demand. The Spartans mobilised their forces and prepared for a two-pronged invasion of Boeotia. The Spartans decided to invade Boeotia from east and west. Lysander was given command of the western invasion, which was to be launched from Phocis, using Phocian and Spartan allied troops. The main Spartan army and their Peloponnesian allies were to concentrate at Tegea under the command of King Pausanias, advance through Corinthian territory and invade from the east. The two forces were meant to meet up at Haliartus, west of Thebes, close to the southern shores of Lake Copais. Lysander moved quickest. He successfully detached Orchomenus, on the western shores of Lake Copais, from the Boeotian League, and then advanced around the lake towards Haliartus. He arrived outside the city a few days ahead of Pausanias, but after the Thebans had thrown a garrison into the city. The Thebans had also convinced the Athenians to agree to an alliance, a remarkable resurgence for a city that had suffered a crushing defeat in the previous decade. The Athenians moved quickly, and they were able to take over the defence of Thebes, allowing the Theban army to move to Haliartus. In a battle outside the walls Lysander was killed and his army forced to retreat (battle of Haliartus, 395). Pausanias arrived within a day or two, but chose not to risk a battle against the combined Theban and Athenian armies close to the walls of a hostile city. Instead he arranged for a truce, recovered the bodies of the Spartan dead, and then retreated west into Phocis. Lysander was buried just across the border. The Spartans left a garrison on Orchomenus and then returned home. In the aftermath of this defeat Pausanias was put on trial, charged with moving too slowly, failing to fight to recover Lysander's body and his earlier decision to allow Athens to restore her democracy. He was condemned in his absence, and spent the rest of his life in exile. His was succeeded by his underage son Agesipolis, so for a short period Sparta was without a senior leader in Greece.

The next recorded campaign took place in the north, in southern Thessaly, around the Gulf of Malis. Medius, ruler of Larissa in Thessaly asked for help in his war against Lycophron, tyrant of Pherae. The allies sent 2,000 men, mainly from Boeotia and Argos, under the command of Ismenias of Thebes. Together with Medius they captured Pharsalus. The Boeotians and Argives then moved south and took Heracleia in Trachis, where the Spartans had a garrison. In an attempt to divide the Peloponnesians any captured Spartans were executed while other Peloponnesians were allowed to go home. The Argives were left as a garrison and Ismenias advanced into friendly territory in Locris. On the way he convinced the Aenianians (at the western end of the Gulf of Malis) and the Athamanians (from western Thessaly) to join with him, giving him around 6,000 men. The Phocians sent an army to face him, but this was defeated in a costly battle at Naryx in 394. The Boeotians and their allies lost 500 men, the Phocians 1,000. Both armies were then disbanded, and the various contingents returned home. Attention now turned to the Corinthian front, with the returning Agesilaus II a looming presence. The anti-Spartan allies met at Corinth and decided to invade Laconia, but they then wasted time deciding who would command the army (eventually deciding to rotate command between the four main powers) and how deep their battle line would be. In the meantime Aristodemus, the guardian of Agesipolis, raised a fresh army and led it north to Sicyon, two miles from the Corinthian gulf and twelve miles west of Corinth. The two armies clashed on the coastal plain between Corinth and Sicyon (battle of Nemea). According to Xenophon the Spartans were outnumbered (although his figures miss out a Achaean contingent that he then mentions in the battle). Along most of the line the allies defeated Sparta's own allies, and pushed them off the battlefield. However both lines had drifted to the right, and so the Athenians, on the allied left, were badly outflanked by the Spartans. The Spartans crushed the Athenians, and then advanced along the battle line, defeating the Argives, Corinthians and Thebans in turn. The survivors escaped back to Corinth, where at first they were denied access to the city. The battle of Nemea was a clear Spartan victory, but it didn't open the road to Attica or Boeotia. With Corinth still held against them by a powerful army, the Spartans decided to wait for Agesilaus to return from Asia. The summons home had come as a bitter blow to Agesilaus, who was in the middle of planning a major campaign in the east. He obeyed his orders, and decided to return at the head of a powerful army.
The Greeks of Asia Minor were happy to move west, but his own Spartan troops weren't so tokeep on fighting other Greeks and had to be enticed back with the promises of prizes for the best contingent. He probably had around 15,000 men, but his choice of the land route meant that he would need them. He left Asia Minor in mid-summer, leaving his son in law Peisander in command of the war against Persia. Agesilaus had to fight off attacks as he marched west across Thrace. He learnt of the Spartan victory at Nemea while atAmphipolis in Thrace, and ordered the messenger to spread the news amongst Sparta's allies. He was able to bluff his way through Macedon, but once again came under attack on his way through Thessaly. He won a significant cavalry victory over the Thessalians on the way south, and soon afterwards crossed into pro-Spartan territory.
We now reach one of the few secure dates in this war. On 14 August 394 a partial eclipse of the sun took place. On that day Agesilaus had just entered Boeotia from the north-west, when news reached him of the disastrous Spartan naval defeat at Cnidas. The Spartan fleet had been destroyed and Peisander had been killed. In order to maintain the morale of his men, many of whom came from cities that were now exposed to Persian attack, he announced that the battle had actually been a victory, although he did acknowledge the death of Peisander. The allies responded to the new threat by dispatching an army north from Corinth. According to Xenophon this included contingents from Boeotia, Athens, Argos, Corinth, Aeniania, Euboea and Locris. Given that Corinth still had to be defended, the Athenian, Corinthian and Argive contingents were probably not large. Agesilaus also had a composite force. He had been sent one Spartan 'mora' from the Corinthian front, and half a 'mora' from Orchomenus. He already had a force of enfranchised helots who had been fighting with him in Asia Minor, along with the troops from Asia Minor and reinforcements raised in Orchomenus and Phocis. He had a numerical advantage in light infantry, and matched his opponents in cavalry.
The resulting battle of Coronea and Coronea in 394 was described in more detail than normal by Xenophon. At the start the Spartans were successful on their right, where the Argives fled without a fight. The Spartans allies in the centre were also successful, although after some fighting. On the left the troops from Orchomenus were defeated, and the Thebans advanced into the Spartan camp. Agesilaus turned his main force around, and the hardest fighting took place as the Thebans attempted to rejoin their defeated allies. Eventually some broke through, but it was clear that the battle was a Spartan victory. Even so the allied army was still largely intact. Agesilaus decided not to try and push his way past them, and instead retreated west into Phocis. A Spartan raid into Locris ended in disaster when the polemarch Gylis and eighteen Spartans were killed, and after that Agesilaus disbanded his army and returned to Sparta. The next few years were dominated by a stalemate around Corinth, which lasted into 390. The Spartans raided east from Sicyon into Corinthian territory, and the allies responded to the raids. The Spartans were unable to carry out a siege of Corinth while the allied army remained intact.

In 393 the Peloponnese came under direct attack when the Persian fleet under Conon and Pharnabazus II crossed the Aegean and began to raid the coastline. They attacked Pherae in Messenia, in the south-west of the Peloponnese, attacked a number of other areas, and then captured the island of Cythera, off the southern tip of the Peloponnese, to use as a base. Next Pharnabazus travelled to Corinth to meet with the allies and offer them money. Conon was then sent to Athens to help restore the long walls and the fortifications of Piraeus. Conon provided money, and the crews from his ships carried out much of the work. The Corinthians used their share of the money to build a fleet, which under the command of Agathinus gained control of much of the Corinthian Gulf. This was a short-lived success. The first Spartan commander, Podanemus, was killed in a minor attack. His second in command, Pollis, was forced to retire wounded. He was replaced by Herippidas, who had more success. During his time in command a new Corinthian admiral, Proaenus, evacuated Rhium (on the northern shore of the gulf), which was reoccupied by the Spartans. Herippidas was later replaced by Agesilaus's half-brother Teleutias, who regained control of the Gulf of Corinth.

In 392 Corinth was weakened by civil strife. A peace or pro-Spartan party began to form, and the war party decided to strike first. Many of the pro-Spartan leaders were massacred on the last day of a religious festival. Some of the others fled into exile, while a few remained within the city. At about this time Corinth and Argos merged into a single legal community - a novel legal idea, and one that angered the exiles even more. Two of the leaders who had remained within Corinth offered to let the Spartans into the Long Walls. Praxitas, the Spartan polemarch at Sicyon, decided to take them up on their offer. He was let into the gap between the walls, where he fought off an allied counterattack and captured Leuchaeum, the northern port of Corinth, connected to the city by the Long Walls. He then went on to capture positions on the opposite side of the Isthmus of Corinth, opening the road to Attica and Boeotia. During 392 the Spartans made a first attempt to end the war with Persia. Antalcidas was sent to Sardis to negotiate with the satrap Tiribazus. The Spartans argued that Conon and his fleet actually posed a greater danger to Persia than the Spartans did. The allies responded by sending envoys from Athens, Boeotia, Corinth and Argos, who countered the Spartan arguments. Antalcidas's proposal was that Sparta would abandon her support for the Greek cities of Asia. In return the cities and islands would be declared autonomous. Tiribazus was won over, but the other Greek powers opposed these proposals. The Athens were said to have feared that they would lose control of Lemnos, Imbros and Scyros, key points on the shipping route to the Black Sea, Thebes that she would lose the Boeotian League and Argos that she would lose her merger with Corinth. Without orders from Artaxerxes, Tiribazus was unable to accept these peace terms, although he did arrest Conon and provide financial support for the Spartans.

Winter 392/1
Peace negotiations continued at Sparta during the winter of 392/1. The Spartans had some success. The Athenian delegation, led by Andocides, accepted the Spartan offer to acknowledge their rule of Lemnos, Imbros and Scyros, but not any further expansion. Thebes would be allowed to keep all of the Boeotian League apart from Orchomenus. Argos remained hostile as the Spartans refused to accept her merger with Corinth. In any event the Athenians turned down the peace terms, and the war continued.

Soon after the failure of the peace talks the allies recaptured Lechaeum and the Long Wall, but they would prove unable to hold them for long.

In the spring of 391 Agesilaus led the first Spartan invasion of Argive territory of the war. This may have been a diversionary tactic to pull allied troops from Corinth, for Agesilaus then turned back and recaptured the Long Walls while his brother Teleutias captured Lechaeum from the sea. In the east Sparta suffered a setback in her war with Persia. The pro-Spartan satrap Tiribazus had attempted to argue his case in front of Artaxerxes at Susa, but lost his case and was replaced as satrap of Sardis by Struthas, who was more pro-Athenian. The previously disgraced leader Thibron was sent back to Asia Minor to take command of a new campaign, but he was defeated and killed in an ambush. In the autumn of 391 Ecdicus, the Spartan navarch for 391/390, was sent east with eight ships to support a group of oligarchic exiles from Rhodes, who had been ousted by a pro-Athenian democracy. Ecdicus had some success, convincing Samos to change sides, but he discovered that Rhodes was firmly held by the democrats and he was outnumbered by two-to-one. He decided to spend the winter of 391-390 at Cnidus.

In the spring of 390 Ecdicus was replaced by Teleutias, the Spartan naval commander at Lechaeum. Teleutias took his own twelve ships with him, and gained another 14 on the way. He then captured ten Athenian ships that were on their way to support Evagoras of Salamis of Cyprus, who was involved in a revolt against Artaxerxes. This was a dangerous move for the Athenians, who began to alienate Artaxerxes. Also in the spring of 390 Agesilaus invaded Corinthian territory once again. He captured the Piraeum peninsula, where the Corinthians had their main herds of cattle. He may then have moved back towards Corinth in an attempt to support a coup by the exiles based at Lechaeum, but if so this was crushed by Iphicrates before the Spartans could arrive. Agesilaus did capture the site of the biannual festival of Poseidon at Isthmia, and the exiles conducted the festival. After the Spartans withdrew the Argives reoccupied the site and held a second festival. The Spartan successes encouraged the Boeotians to begin fresh peace talks, but the situation was changed by a dramatic and unexpected Spartan defeat. Spartan warfare was often disrupted by religious ceremonies and festivals. On this occasion it was the biannual Hyacinthia, celebrated by the people of Amycles. Agesilaus allowed all of the Amyclaeans in the army to gather at Lechaeum at the start of their journey home. They were escorted out of Corinthian territory by the Spartan mora and cavalry based by Lechaeum. Their commander then led his 600 hoplites back towards Lechaeum without any cavalry escort. The Athenian commanders Iphicrates and Callias decided to attack, and inflicted a heavy defeat on the Spartans. Agesilaus was forced to temporarily abandon his campaign, and the peace talks ended.
Later in the year the Athenians sent out a fleet of forty warships, commanded by Thrasybulus, to counter the temporary increase in Spartan sea power. His original orders were to help the democrats of Rhodes, but he soon decided that they didn’t need his help, and so instead he moved north to the Hellespont. He was able to form an alliance with the Thracian kings Amadocus and Seuthes and won control of Byzantium, Chalcedon and part of the Hellespont region. He was able to re-impose a 10% tax on all ships coming from the Black Sea, an important source of income for Imperial Athens. In about 390 Athen's old enemy of Aegina joined the fray. The Spartan harmost on the island, Eteonicus, began to raid the Attic coast. The Athenians built a fort on the island, and resisted a first Spartan attempt to capture it.

In 389 Agesilaus was distracted by a campaign in Acarnania, to the north-west of the Gulf of Corinth. Sparta's Achaean allies had taken control of Calydon, a city in south-west Aetolia, and had enrolled the Calydonians as citizens. The city was now being threatened by the Acarnanians, with the support of Athens and Boeotia. The Achaeans demanded help from Sparta, and hinted that they would have to end their alliance if they didn’t get it. The Spartans bowed to this pressure and sent Agesilaus, with two mora and an allied force, supported by an Achaean army. This army crossed the gulf and reached the Acarnanian border. Agesilaus sent a message to the Acarnanian assembly, demanding that they swapped sides. When this was turned down he invaded, and ravaged the area. The Acarnanians moved their cattle into a remote mountain area, but Agesilaus caught them out with a sudden eighteen mile march and captured most of the animals. This success was short-lived - on the following day a force of light infantry took up a position on high ground above the Spartans and forced them to retreat. The Acarnanians almost trapped the Spartans in the mountains, but Agesilaus managed to force his way out. He continued his raid into the autumn, but despite several attempts was unable to capture any cities. He left just before it was time to sow the next year's crops, arguing that the Acarnanians would be more likely to accept peace terms in the next year if they had a crop to protect. He then marched east through Aetolia and crossed the Corinthian Gulf from Rhium.
In the spring of 389 Thrasybulus took his fleet south from the Hellespont. He found some support for Sparta along the coast, and despite losing 23 ships in a storm managed to capture Eresus and Antissa. He was then forced to head towards Rhodes, where the democrats had suffered a defeat, but he was killed at Aspendus while his troops were plundering the area. The rest of his fleet safely reached Rhodes. In the Hellespont region Athens sent a force under Agyrrhius, while Sparta sent Anaxibius to try and restore their position. The Spartans had the best of the early fighting, but began to suffer after Iphicrates was sent to take control on the Athenian side. Probably in the following year Iphicrates ambushed and killed Anaxibius. In the summer of 389 the Spartan commander Gorgopas was posted at Aegina with a fleet of twelve ships. This forced the Athenians to evacuate their fort, and they then based a squadron of warships commanded by Eunomus at nearby Cape Zoster to watch the Spartans.

In the spring of 388 Agesilaus announced that he was about to return to Acarnania, and as he had predicted they sued for peace. The Acarnanians formed an alliance with Sparta and made peace with the Achaeans, leaving the Spartans free to campaign elsewhere. The Argives had avoided invasions in 390 and 389 by moving the sacred month of the Carnea to match the Spartan preparations. After accepting this for two years, King Agesipolis visited the oracles and Olympia and Delphi to get permission to ignore this trick. The oracles agreed, and the king led an invasion of Argive territory. On the first day there was an earthquake, which many would have taken as a bad omen, but Agesipolis publically interpreted it as a sign of divine support. The raid continued on until a thunderbolt hit the camp, killing several men. By this point the Spartans had done a great deal of damage and were happy to withdraw. Further afield the Persians began to turn against the Athenians. As well as supporting Evagoras, the Athenians also allied with an Egyptian rebel. This helped convince Artaxerxes that the Athenians were indeed his main enemy, and Tiribazus was restored as satrap at Sardis. The pro-Athenian satrap Pharnabazus was also recalled, and replaced by Ariobarzanes, a friend of the Spartan diplomat Antalcidas. This encouraged the Spartans to appoint Antalcidas as navarch, and he set off for Susa in the company of Tiribazus. The Spartans won a minor naval victory during 388. The Athenian squadron of warships at Cape Zoster opposite Aegina attempted to intercept the fleet that had transported Antalcides to his new post. After a day-long chase the Athenians gave up and returned to their base. Gorgopas, the new harmost of Aegina, followed the retreating Athenians under the cover of darkness and ended up taking four of their twelve triremes. The rest escaped back to the Piraeus.
In 387 the Athenians decided to send Chabrias, their commander at Corinth, to help Evagoras on Cyprus. He picked up reinforcements at Athens, and decided to attack Aegina. He landed his light troops at night and placed them in ambush. He then landed his hoplites in daylight and waited for Gorgopas. The Spartan commander attacked, and fell into the trap. Gorgopas and around 350 of his men were killed. The Spartans sent Teleutias to rally the survivors. He began with a daring raid on the Piraeus, in which he captured several ships. The profit from this raid paid his troops for a month. Antalcides's visit to Artaxerxes at Susa had produced results. Artaxerxes had agreed to support the Spartan peace terms, and to enter the war on Sparta's side if the allies didn’t accept them. Antalcides then conducted a skilful naval campaign and ended up with a fleet of 80 ships, with which he was able to block the grain route from the Black Sea. In the autumn of 387 Tiribazus summoned all of the Greek powers to come to Sardis to hear the new peace terms, and every major Greek power responded by sending envoys.

There were two terms at the heart of the new peace deal. First, the cities of Asia Minor, Cyprus and Clazomenae (built on an island very close to the coast) would be ruled by Persia. Second, every other Greek city would be autonomous, but Athens would keep Lemnos, Imbros and Scyros. The Peloponnessian League was also allowed to survive, but Thebes had to dissolve the Boeotian League and the merger between Corinth and Argos ended. This 'King's Peace' or Peace of Antalcidas effectively acknowledged that the Persians were the arbiters of Greek politics, and gave them relatively uncontested control over the Greeks of Asia Minor (the issue that had first triggered the Greek-Persian Wars over a century earlier). It also gave Sparta a position of enhanced power, and responsibility for implementing the peace (in fact, if not in the treaty itself). This apparent increase in Spartan power wouldn't last for long. In 382 a passing Spartan army took control of Thebes. Three years later the Thebans revolted, triggering the Theban-Spartan War (379-371 BC). Just as this war appeared to be coming to an end, the Spartans suffered the crushing defeat at Leuctra in 371 that ended their long series of victories in major hoplite battles and exposed the Peloponnese to the invasions that crushed Spartan power.


Map of the Corinthian war battles


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