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This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry


Arginusae {short description of image}was a group of islands in the Aegean.
The naval Battle of Arginusae took place in 406 during the Peloponnesian Warnear the city of Canae in the Arginusae islands, east of the island of Lesbos. In the battle, an Athenian fleet commanded by eight strategoi defeated a Spartan fleet under Callicratidas. The battle was precipitated by a Spartan victory which led to the Athenian fleet under Conon being blockaded at Mytilene; to relieve Conon, the Athenians assembled a scratch force composed largely of newly constructed ships manned by inexperienced crews. This inexperienced fleet was thus tactically inferior to the Spartans, but its commanders were able to circumvent this problem by employing new and unorthodox tactics, which allowed the Athenians to secure a dramatic and unexpected victory. Slaves and metics who participated in the battle were granted Athenian citizenship. The news of the victory itself was met with jubilation at Athens. Their joy was tempered, however, by the aftermath of the battle, in which a storm prevented the ships assigned to rescue the survivors of the 25 disabled or sunken Athenian triremes from performing their duties, and a great number of sailors drowned. A fury erupted at Athens when the public learned of this, and after a bitter struggle in the assembly six of the eight generals who had commanded the fleet were tried as a group and executed. At Sparta, meanwhile, traditionalists who had supported Callicratidas pressed for peace with Athens, knowing that a continuation of the war would lead to the re-ascendence of their opponent Lysander. This party initially prevailed, and a delegation was dispatched to Athens to make an offer of peace; the Athenians, however, rejected this offer, and Lysander departed to the Aegean to take command of the fleet for the remainder of the war, which would be decided less than a year later by his total victory at Aegospotami.
In 406, Callicratidas was appointed as the navarch of the Spartan fleet, replacing Lysander. Callicratidas was a traditionalist Spartan, distrustful of Persian influence and reluctant to ask for support from the Persian prince Cyrus, who had been a strong supporter of Lysander. Thus, Callicratidas was forced to assemble his fleet and funding by seeking contributions from Sparta's allies among the Greek cities of the region. In this fashion, he assembled a fleet of some 140 triremes. Conon, meanwhile, in command of the Athenian fleet at Samos, was compelled by problems with the morale of his sailors to man only 70 of the more than 100 triremes he had in his possession. Callicratidas, once he had assembled his fleet, sailed against Methymna, on Lesbos, which he laid siege to and stormed. From Methymna, Callicratidas could potentially move to capture the rest of Lesbos, which would clear the way for him to move his fleet to the Hellespont, where he would be able to block the all-important Athenian grain supply line. To defend Lesbos, Conon was forced to move his numerically inferior fleet from Samos to the Hekatonnesi islands near Methymna. When Callicratidas attacked him, however, with a fleet that had swollen to a size of 170 ships, Conon was forced to flee to Mytilene, where, in the Battle of Mytilene, he was blockaded with his fleet after losing 30 ships in a clash at the mouth of the harbor. Besieged by land and sea, Conon was powerless to act against the vastly superior forces that besieged him, and was only barely able to slip a messenger ship out to Athens to carry the news of his plight. The relief force When the messenger ship reached Athens with news of Conon's situation, the assembly wasted no time in approving extreme measures to build and man a relief force. The golden statues of Nike were melted down to fund the construction of the ships, and slaves and metics were enlisted to crew the fleet. To ensure a sufficiently large and loyal group of crewmen, the Athenians even took the radical step of extending citizenship to thousands of slaves who rowed with the fleet. Over a hundred ships were prepared and manned through these measures, and contributions from allied ships raised the fleet's size to 150 triremes after it reached Samos. In a highly unorthodox arrangement, the fleet was commanded collaboratively by eight generals; these were Aristocrates, Aristogenes, Diomedon, Erasinides, Lysias, Pericles, Protomachus, and Thrasyllus. After leaving Samos, the Athenian fleet sailed to the Arginusae islands, opposite Cape Malea on Lesbos, where they camped for an evening. Callicratidas, who had sailed south to Malea with most of his fleet upon learning of the Athenians' movements, spotted their signal fires and planned to attack them by night, but was prevented from doing so by a thunderstorm, and so was forced to delay his attack until morning. At dawn the next day, Callicratidas led his fleet out to meet the Athenians. He had 140 ships to match the Athenians' 150, having left 50 to watch Conon at Mytilene. For the first time in the war, the Spartan crews and commanders were more experienced than their Athenian opposites, as the Athenians' best crews had been at sea with Conon. To counter the Spartans' superior skill and maneuverability, the Athenian commanders implemented several new and innovative tactics. First, the Athenian fleet was divided into eight autonomous divisions, each commanded by one of the generals; second, they arranged their fleet in a double line instead of the traditional single line in order to prevent the Spartans from using the maneuver known as the diekplous, in which a trireme raced into a gap between two enemy ships and then wheeled to strike one of them in the side; if the Spartans attempted this against a double line, a ship from the second line could move up to attack the Spartan ship. The Athenians used an unusual tactic with which they prevented a diekplous. As the Athenians advanced, they extended their left flank out to sea, outflanking the Spartans. The superior Athenian numbers, combined with the tactics they had implemented, created a dangerous situation for the Spartans, and Callicratidas' helmsman advised him to retire without a fight, but the navarch insisted on pushing on. Dividing his force in two to meet the threat of encirclement, Callicratidas led his fleet into battle. Heated fighting ensued for some time, but eventually Callicratidas, leading the Spartan right, was killed when his ship rammed an opposing ship, and resistance on the right collapsed. The left continued to resist for longer, but was unable to stand up to the entire Athenian fleet and soon joined the right wing in flight. All told, the Spartans lost some 70 ships, and the Athenians 25.
In the immediate aftermath of the battle, the Athenian commanders had to decide which of several pressing tasks to focus their attention on. Conon was still blockaded at Mytilene by 50 Spartan ships, and decisive action against those ships could lead to their destruction before they had a chance to join the remainder of Callicratidas' fleet. At the same time, however, the survivors from the 25 Athenian ships sunk or disabled in the battle remained afloat off the Arginusae islands. The generals decided that all eight of them would sail with the majority of the fleet to Mytilene, where they would attempt to relieve Conon, while the trierarchs Thrasybulus and Theramenes would remain behind with a smaller detachment to rescue the survivors; both of these missions, however, were thwarted by the sudden arrival of a storm which drove the ships back into port. The Spartan fleet at Mytilene escaped, and rescuing the drowning sailors proved impossible.
At Athens, the public relief at this unexpected victory was quickly subsumed in a bitter rhetorical battle over who was responsible for the failure to rescue the sailors. When the generals learned that the public was angry over the failed rescue, they assumed that Thrasybulus and Theramenes, who had already returned to the city, were responsible, and accordingly wrote letters to the assembly denouncing the two trierarchs and blaming them for the disaster. The trierarchs responded successfully to the allegations brought against them, and public anger now turned against the generals instead. The eight generals were deposed from their office and ordered to return to Athens to stand trial; two of them, Aristogenes and Protomachus, fled, but the other six returned. Upon their return, they were imprisoned, and one of them, Erasinides, was brought to trial and convicted of several charges involving misconduct in office; this trial may represent an attempt by the generals' enemies to test the wind, since Erasinides, who had proposed abandoning the survivors altogether during the deliberations after the battle, may have been the easiest target among the six. The question of how the generals should be tried for their failure to rescue the survivors was then brought before the assembly. On the first day of debate, the generals were able to win the sympathy of the crowd by placing the blame for the tragedy entirely on the storm that had thwarted the rescue attempts. Unfortunately for them, however, this first day of debate was followed by the festival of the Apaturia, at which families met together; in this context, the absence of those drowned at Arginusae was painfully evident, and when the assembly next met the initiative passed to those who wished to treat the generals harshly. A politician named Callixeinus proposed that, without further debate, the assembly should vote on the guilt or innocence of the generals. Euryptolemus, a cousin of Alcibiades, and several others opposed the motion on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, but they withdrew their opposition after another politician moved that the same penalty applied to the generals be applied to them. With the opposition from the floor now silenced, the generals' accusers sought to bring their motion to a vote. The presiding officers of the assembly were the prytaneis, randomly selected councilmen from whichever tribe was assigned to oversee the assembly in a given month; at each meeting of the assembly, one of the prytaneis was appointed epistates, or president of the assembly. By chance, the philosopher Socrates, holding public office for the only time in his life, was epistates on the day that the generals were tried. Declaring that he would "do nothing that was contrary to the law", Socrates refused to put the measure to a vote. Emboldened, Euryptolemus rose again to speak, and persuaded the assembly to pass a motion ordering that the generals be tried separately. Parliamentary maneuvering, however, undid this victory, and in the end the original motion was carried; a vote was taken, and all six generals were found guilty and executed, including Pericles the Younger. The Athenians soon came to regret their decision in the case of the generals, and charges were brought against the principal instigators of the executions. These men escaped before they could be brought to trial, but Callixeinus did return to Athens several years later; despised by his fellow citizens, he died of starvation. At Sparta, the defeat at Arginusae added to a long list of setbacks since the war in the Aegean had begun in 412. The fleet, now stationed at Chios, was in poor condition, Spartans at home were discouraged, and supporters of Callicratidas were displeased by the notion that his rival Lysander would rise to power again if the war were to continue (Sparta's allies in the Aegean were demanding his return). With all these concerns in mind, the Spartan government dispatched an embassy to Athens, offering to surrender the Spartan fort at Decelea in return for peace on the basis of the status quo in the Aegean. This proposal, however, was rejected by the Athenian assembly at the urging of Cleophon. The war continued, but Athens' decision was to prove costly less than a year later when Lysander, in command of the Spartan fleet once more, decisively defeated the Athenian fleet at Aegospotami; within two years of the dramatic Athenian victory at Arginusae, the city surrendered and its walls were torn down.


Battle of Arginusae - 406 BC


Rickard, J (31 August 2011), Battle of Arginusae, 406 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_arginusae.html


The battle of the Arginusae Islands (406 BC) was the last major Athenian victory of the Great Peloponnesian War, but after the battle six of the eight victorious generals were executed for failing to rescue the crews of the twenty five Athenian warships lost during the battle. At the start of the campaigning season in 406 BC the Athenians had a fleet of 70 ships in Asia Minor, commanded by Conon, while the Peloponnesians had 140 ships under the newly appointed Callicratidas. He achieved a series of early successes, capturing Delphinium in the territory of Chios and Methymne on Lesbos. He then chased Conon into Mytilene, sinking or capturing thirty of the seventy Athenian ships, and began a siege of Mytilene. When this news reached Athens a new fleet was scraped together. Our two main sources agreed on the eventual size of the Athenian fleet, but not on its composition. According to Xenophon 110 ships came from Athens, ten were at Samos and thirty were provided by other allies, for a total of 150. In Diodorus Siculus sixty ships came from Athens, ten from Samos and eighty from other Athenian allies, again for a total of 150. The fleet came together at Samos, and sailed up the coast towards Lesbos, pausing on the night before the battle at the Arginusae Islands, east of Lesbos and close to the mainland. Callicratidas decided to intercept the Athenian fleet, a sign of the greatly increased confidence of the Peloponnesian fleet. He left fifty ships at Mytilene, and took one hundred and twenty with him. The Athenian fleet was drawn up in two lines. At the far left was Aristocrates with fifteen ships, and with Pericles (son of the famous statesman) behind him. Next was Diomedon with fifteen ships and Erasinides behind. In the centre were the ten Samian ships, ten ships commanded by the Athenian taxiarchs, three by the navarchs and other allies. Next was Protomachus with Lysias behind him, both with fifteen ships. Finally on the far right Thrasylus commanded the front line and Aristogenes the rear. The Athenian left wing pointed out to open sea, the right towards the shore and the Arginusae islands were in the centre of the line. The Athenians hoped that this formation would prevent the Spartans from breaking their line, while the islands extended their line and would make it harder for the Spartans to outflank it. Callicratidas was effectively forced to split his fleet in two. He commanded on the right, while the Boeotians, commanded by Thrasondas of Thebes, held the left. Neither Xenophon or Diodorus give us any real details of the battle, other than to agree that it was hard fought and lasted for some time. Callicratidas was killed during the battle, although our sources disagree on how. According to Xenophon he fell overboard after his ship rammed an Athenian ship, and was drowned. In Diodorus he was killed fighting onboard his ship, after becoming entangled with Pericles' ships. Our sources also disagree on which wing of the Peloponnesian fleet was defeated first - the right wing goes first in Diodorus and the left wing in Xenophon. In both sources most of the Peloponnesians fled south to Chios. Our sources give largely similar casualty figures, with the Peloponnesians loosing 70-77 ships and the Athenians twenty ships along with most of their crews. This loss of crew would lead to the most controversial aspect of the battle. The Athenian commanders apparently decided to split their fleet, sending some ships to lift the siege of Mytilene and some to rescue their shipwrecked comrades, but a storm blew up, and the fleet was forced to return to shore without achieving either objective. This gave Eteonicus, the Peloponnesian commander at Mytilene, time to evacuate his army and fleet. Conon was able to emerge from the blockaded city, and joined up with the main Athenian fleet. Meanwhile news of the battled reached Athens, where the initial celebrations of victory were marred by the news of the heavy losses. The generals were blamed for failing to rescue the shipwrecked men, and were dismissed. Conon, Adeimantus and Philocles were appointed to replace them. Of the eight generals in command during the battle Protomachus and Aristogenes decided not to return to Athens. Pericles, Diomedon, Lysias, Aristocrates, Thrasylus and Erasinides returned to the city, where they were put on trial and after a somewhat lengthy process condemned and executed. The Athenian people soon regretted their decision, but it was too late. The execution of six victorious generals had a double effective - it removed most of the most able and experienced commanders, and it discouraged the survivors from taking command in the following year. This lack of experience may have played a part in the crushing Athenian defeat at Aegospotami that effectively ended the war.


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