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This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry


The Battle of Abydos was an Athenian naval victory in the Peloponnesian War. In the battle, the Spartan fleet under Mindarus attempted to rescue a small allied fleet that had been driven ashore at Dardanus, but was attacked by the Athenian fleet, under Thrasybulus. The fighting was evenly contested for a great length of time, but towards evening the arrival of Alcibiades with Athenian reinforcements tipped the balance in favor of the Athenians, and the Peloponnesians were forced to flee back to their base at Abydos, suffering heavy losses along the way.

Opponents: Athens versus Sparta and allies
Commanders and leaders:
Athens - Thrasybulus, Thrasyllus
Sparta - Mindarus
Athens - 74 ships + 18 ships (reinforcement)
Sparta - 97 ships
Casualties and losses:
Athens - Minimal
Sparta - 30 ships

After the Athenian victory at Cynossema, the Athenian fleet established a base at Sestos, from where it could quickly respond to any moves by the Spartan fleet at Abydos. Mindarus, the Spartan navarch, summoned the Syracusan commander Dorieus, with his 14 ships, to join him at Abydos, hoping to end the war with a decisive victory. Dorieus, accordingly, sailed north from Rhodes towards the Hellespont. Before reaching Abydos, however, he was spotted by Athenian lookouts and driven ashore. Xenophon reports that he was trapped at Rhoeteum, while Diodorus Siculus reports the location as Dardanus;
Donald Kagan suggests that Dorieus was driven ashore at Rhoeteum, then managed to advance a little farther towards Abydos before being trapped a second time at Dardanus. Learning of Dorieus's plight, Mindarus hurried from Troy, where he had been sacrificing to Athena, to Abydos, while Pharnabazus brought his army up to support Dorieus from the land. Mindarus led his ships out from Abydos to rescue Dorieus; the Athenians, observing this, set out from Sestos to challenge him.

Mindarus, after joining forces with Dorieus, had 97 ships under his command; the Athenian fleet contained 74 ships. The Spartans lined up for battle with the Asian shore of the Hellespont at their backs, with Mindarus commanding the right and the Syracusans holding the left; the Athenians lined up opposite them, with Thrasybulus commanding the right and Thrasyllus the left. The battle began with a signal from the commanders, which was relayed to the fleet by trumpeters. An evenly matched fight ensued, with pilots attempting to ram and disable enemy triremes, while marines on the decks engaged their opposite numbers whenever they came within range of an opposing ship. As the day wore on, neither side was able to gain a decisive advantage until Alcibiades appeared with 18 triremes from Samos. Initially, both fleets believed that the reinforcements might be theirs, but as Alcibiades drew nearer he ran up a red flag, a prearranged signal that told the Athenians the ships were their own.
Realizing this, the Spartan fleet fled to Abydos, but suffered heavy losses along the way, as the Athenians attacked the strung out ships. All told, the Athenians captured 30 Spartan ships and recovered the 15 of their own that the Spartans had taken at the Battle of Cynossema.
In the wake of this serious defeat, Mindarus and the Spartan fleet returned to Abydos to repair and rebuild; Mindarus sent to Sparta for reinforcements and, with Pharnabazus, planned for future campaigns. The Athenians, meanwhile, were unable to press the advantage they had gained. With their treasury low and a crisis ongoing at Euboea, which was in revolt, the Athenians were unable to keep their entire fleet in the Hellespont, and instead dispatched 30 ships under Theramenes to attack the rebels on Euboea. Although unable to prevent the rebels from building a causeway to Boeotia, he did succeed in raising a substantial amount of money by plundering hostile territory in Euboea, Boeotia, and the Aegean. Shortly after the battle, the satrap Tissaphernes arrived from Ionia. Alcibiades, who had served as Tissaphernes' assistant for a time and wished to demonstrate that he was influential with the satrap, sailed to meet him, bringing gifts.
It turned out, however, that Alcibiades had misjudged the situation. The Spartans had complained to the Persian king about the tepid support they had received from Tissaphernes, and the satrap, needing to demonstrate his commitment to opposing actions, arrested Alcibiades and imprisoned him at Sardis. Alcibiades escaped within a month, but his claims of influence with Tissaphernes were destroyed.




How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 August 2011), Battle of Abydos, 411 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_abydos_411.html.


The battle of Abydos in 411 was a second Athenian victory won in the Hellespont during 411, and played a major part in securing Athens's food supplies from the Black Sea and in restoring morale after the disaster at Syracuse in 413 (Great Peloponnesian War). This was the first battle to take place after Thucydides ends, and we thus have to rely on the accounts of Xenophon and Diodorus Siculus. Their accounts of the battle are similar in outline, but differ in some details. In both versions the battle begins when Dorieus, son of Diagoras, a Rhodian serving on the Peloponnesian side and commanding a fleet from Rhodes entered the Hellespont. He was spotted by the Athenians, and a chase developed. The Rhodians were forced to run for the shore, where they came under severe pressure. Mindarus, the Peloponnesian admiral in the Hellespont, saw this battle developed and sailed out with his main fleet.
A major naval battle then developed between the Athenian and Peloponnesian fleets. This was a hard-fought battle until Alcibiades arrived with Athenian reinforcements. At this point the Peloponnesians made for the shore, where they were saved from a total disaster by their ally the Persian satrap Pharnabazus.
The Athenians managed to capture a number of enemy ships and then withdraw having won a victory. Both of our sources agree on the first moments of the battle. Dorieus and his fleet entered the Hellespont where they were spotted by Athenian lookouts. Xenophon gives Dorieus fourteen ships, Diodorus doesn't mention the size of this fleet. We now come to our first disagreement. Both sources agree that the Athenians put to sea to intercept Dorieus, but disagree on the number of ships involved at this point. Diodorus gives a figure of seventy four ships, the entire Athenian fleet. Xenophon puts the figure at twenty, suggesting that only part of the Athenian fleet was involved at this stage. Dorieus responded by making for the shore, landing at either Dardanus or Rhoeteum. Both of these places were on the southern shore of the Hellespont, and were south-west of the main Peloponnesian base at Abydos. The Athenians followed Dorieus and attempted to capture his beached ships, but apparently without success. According to Xenophon they eventually gave up and returned to their own base.
In both accounts the Peloponnesian admiral Mindarus saw the fighting, and put to sea with his main fleet. Diodorus gives him eighty-four ships in his own fleet and a total of ninety seven once the two fleets were united, suggesting that Dorieus now had thirteen ships. Mindarus took command of the right wing, and his Syracusan allies commanded on the left. The Athenians responded by bringing their entire fleet to face the new threat. Thrasybulus led their right wing, facing Mindarus, and Thrasyllus the left, facing the Syracusans.
(Note the problem - if Mindarus is on right then Thrasybulus cannot both be on his right and opposite Mindarus) - same for Thrasyllus and Dorieus)
Both of our sources agree that the resulting battle was a hard fought and lengthy affair, lasting from early morning to mid-afternoon according to Xenophon. It was decided by chance. Alcibiades, now back in Athenian service, arrived in the Hellespont with either 18 or 20 ships. At first neither side knew for certain whose side the new arrivals would join, but it soon became clear that they were Athenians. The Peloponnesians reacted by attempting to escape to safety back at Abydus, where they would be protected by the Persian army of Pharnabazus. According to Diodorus the Athenians captured ten ships during the pursuit, but a storm prevented them from pressing the pursuit. By the time they caught up with the Peloponnesians, they had run ashore and joined up with the Persians, and despite their best efforts the Athenians were unable to capture any more ships. Xenophon doesn't mention the storm, but he does agree that fighting took place on the shore, between the Athenians attempting to capture ships, and the Peloponnesians and Persians. In this account the Athenians are more successful, capturing thirty enemy ships without their crews (presumably by towing them off the beach while their crews were onshore). They also recaptured their own ships lost during the main hard-fought naval battle. In either case the battle ended as an Athenian victory, and combined with the earlier victory at Cynossema in 411 helped to prevent the Peloponnesians cutting of Athens's crucial supply lines to the Black Sea, where much of the city's food came from.


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