Revolt of Mitylene 428 B.C.

Revolt of Mitylene 428 B.C.
Why Mitylene Revolted
Mytilenians saw an opportunity (plague in Athens, death of Pericles and continuing war)
of removing themselves from the Athenian Delian League and of establishing their
rule over the whole island of Lesbos.
Mytilene hoped to unify the entire Island of Lesbos under its control.
Methymna, however, was a loyal ally of Athens
Peloponnesian caution as always, had delayed the offer of Mytilenean revolt before the
Tenedians & Mytilenians informed Athens of impending insurrection against Athenian
Revolt of Mitylene
Athens, upon realising that rumours of Mytilene were true, dispatched forty ships to
They were to demand the turnover of Mytilean ships and the tearing down of their
walls. If not, all-out war was to be waged.
Mytileans were informed of the coming of the Athenians and began barricading
themselves inside their town.
After an initial skirmish with the Athenian fleet, the Mytilenians sued for peace. The
offer was accepted and a Mytilenian ambassador was dispatched to Athens to
plead their innocence and in hope of regaining their ships detained at Athens.
However, in case of failure, the Mytilenians also sent an ambassador to Lacedaemon
to plead for assistance. This duplicity would have profound implications for the
citizenry of Mytilene.
Battle of Lesbos
Mytilenian ambassador to Athens returns empty-handed; battle
Athenians & their allies formed a naval blockade of the island
An Anthenian sortie meanwhile ravaged lands along the coast of the
The Mytilenian Ambassador was instructed by the Spartans to come to
Olympia, so that the Peloponnese Alliance could hear his request.
The Mytilenian rationale in this speech is......
Mityleanian Request to Sparta
"Justice and honesty will be the first topics of our speech, especially as we are
asking for alliance;.... long as the Athenians led us fairly we followed them loyally; but when we
saw them relax their hostility to the Mede, to try to compass the subjection
of the allies, then our apprehensions began...
...but the same system also enabled them to lead the stronger states against the
weaker first, and so to leave the former to the last, stripped of their natural
allies, and less capable of resistance...
We accepted each other against our inclination; fear made them court us in
war, and us them in peace...
Our revolt, however, has taken place prematurely and without preparation- a
fact which makes it all the more incumbent on you to receive us into alliance
and to send us speedy relief, in order to show that you support your friends,
and at the same time do harm to your enemies.
Athens Invades
Peloponnese invade Attica (after request of Mytilenians)
Athens ravages Spartan coast
Mytilenians attack Methymna (ally of Athens)
Athens reponds with an invasion force; first by a naval blockade of the
town, reinforced by 1,000 infantrymen under Paches, blockading
Mytilene with a wall either side; by land and by sea.
Salaethus was sent to inform the Mytilenians of forthcoming help from
the Peloponnesians. (40 ships)
Eventually, the Mytilenians realise that no help is forthcoming from
the Peloponnesians, demand that the city authorities sue for peace
with the Athenians. Salaethus' attempt to lead the citizenry in arms
against the Athenians leads to this general consensus of peaceseeking.
Settlement in Lesbos
Paches, the Athenian commander, now took control of Mytilene & seized
Paches sent Salaethus and over a thousand Mytilenians to Athens to await
Paches then settled in Mytilene with the remainder of his forces, dispatching
most of them back to Athens with the prisoners
Debate of Mitylene (427 B.C.)
Debate in Athens: Mitylene
Salaethus was immediately put to death, nothwithstanding his offer of
removing the Peloponnesians from Plataea
Great resentment & anger was felt at the Mytilenian revolt
The Peloponnesian fleet, spotted on its way to relieve the Mytilenian
insurrection against Athens, now became evidence of a long-planned
treachery of Mytilene against Athens.
Many felt that severe punishment should be brought against Mytilene:
1) Kill the entire male population of Mytilene, not just the guilty prisoners
brought to Athens
2) enslave all the females and children of Mytilene
A message was dispatched to Paches, at Mytilene, to carry out these orders.
Cleon: Warmonger & Demagogue?
Cleon, a former opponent of Pericles in the
Athenian Assembly and now one of its most
powerful statesmen, advocated a total
reprisal against the Mytilenian population as
an example to the rest of the Delian League.
Cleon had proposed the removal of Pericles in
430 BC for 'maladministration of Athenian
Described by Thucydides as a warmonger and
demagogue: Thucydides was exiled due to a
decree by Cleon for 'military incapacity'
Cleon has become infamous in history for his
proposal to genocidally-cleanse Mytilene both
in reprisal and for the sake of setting an
example to all of Athens' rivals
Image:‘Bluster’, from Aristophanes’
depiction of Cleon?
Mitylenian Debate:
"I have often before now been convinced that a democracy is incapable of empire”
“never reflect that the mistakes into which you may be led by listening to their appeals”
“bring you no thanks for your weakness from your allies; entirely forgetting that
your empire is a despotism and your subjects disaffected conspirators, whose
obedience is ensured not by your suicidal concessions, but by the superiority given
you by your own strength and not their loyalty”
“ ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows. The
latter are always wanting to appear wiser than the laws, and to overrule every
proposition brought forward, thinking that they cannot show their wit in more important
“where vengeance follows most closely upon the wrong, it best equals it and most amply
requites it”
“this is not revolt- revolt implies oppression; it is deliberate and wanton aggression; an
attempt to ruin us by siding with our bitterest enemies; a worse offence than a war
undertaken on their own account in the acquisition of power”
Mitylenian Debate:Diodotus
Mitylenian Resolution
Battle of Olpae 426 B.C.
Demosthenes & King Agis
Battle of Pylos & Sphacteria
425 B.C.
Battle of Pylos & Sphacteria
Demosthenes, on his way to put down a
revolt in Sicily, was driven by a storm into
Here, Demosthenes, realising he was on
Spartan territory, instructed his men to
fortify the coast with whatever stone &
wood they could find.
Demosthenes then sent out 2 triremes (ships)
to bring back the Athenian NavyEurymedon - to aid them. He had 5 ships
The Spartan ships, seeing that they're
territory was being held by Athenians,
attempted to blockade them with ships in
the Bay of Navarrino and placing troops
on the island of Sphacteria
Battle of Pylos & Sphacteria
The Spartans, somewhat distracted by a
religious festival and their annual
invasion of Attica(15 days) at this
time, were slow to respond.
When they did, the Peloponnese
occupied the mainland and brought
60 ships in to surround the Athenian
They occupied the island of Sphacteria
with 420 men under Epitadas
The Spartans intended to blockade both
the inlet by Pylos (2 ships) and the
entrance to the Bay of Navarriono (89 ships)
Day 1:
Demosthenes brought 60 of his heavy
infantry and a few archers outside his
fortifications to repel any assault by
landing craft
Spartan assault by land & sea: 43 ships
under Thrasymelidas
Brasidas led the most courageous of
assaults on the fortification, but
upon landing, was eventually
severely wounded and beaten back –
his shield was picked up by the
Athenians and used as a trophy
Demosthenes' Speech at Pylos
•“In emergencies like ours calculation is out of place; the sooner the danger is
faced the better...
•...One of the points in our favour is the awkwardness of the landing...
•...supposing that we succeed in repulsing him, which we shall find it easier to
do, while he is on board his ships, than after he has landed and meets us on
equal terms...
•Large as they may be he can only engage in small detachments, from the
impossibility of bringing to...
• to stand fast in the present emergency, beat back the enemy at the water's
edge, and save yourselves and the place."
Battle of Sphacteria & Pylos
Day 2:
Day 3:
Battle of Amphipolis 422 B.C:
Death of the 'War-Hawks'
Battle of Amphipolis
March 422 B.C.
-2,000 hoplites
•-1,500 Athenians
-Some allies
-Attack or Siege??
Battle of Amphipolis
Cleon Hesitates while Brasidas takes the High Ground
• Cleon, attempting to launch an attack against Amphipolis, first took the
town of Torone and captured up to 700 prisoners.
• Having set up a trophy, Cleon then sailed onto Amphipolis, where Brasidas
was fortifying the defenses.
• Cleon then made his base in Eion, and called for reinforcements from
• Brasidas observed the inaction of Cleon’s forces at Eion, and took an
observation point at Cerdylium. This, according to Thucydides, was a point
“commanding a view on all sides”
• Brasidas called up 1,500 Thracian mercenaries and Chalcidian targeteers,
heavy infantry (approx. 2,000) & 300 “Hellenic horse”
• 1,500 were stationed on high ground with Brasidas at Cerdylium, the rest
reinforcing the town of Amphipolis
Battle of Amphipolis:
Cleon advances towards Amphipolis
• Thucydides states that Cleon was forced into premature action as:
“His soldiers, tired of their inactivity, began also seriously to reflect on the
weakness and incompetence of their commander, and the skill and calour
that would be opposed to him, and on their own original unwillingness to
accompany him.”
• Cleon apparently heard these rumours and decided to advance just as he
had at Pylos
• Without waiting for his reinforcements, his plan to surround and besiege
the city was now hopeless and advancing meant engaging with the enemy.
There was, from his viewpoint, no apparent defences in the town. Posting
his forces on a hill opposite Amphipolis, he again waited.
Battle of Amphipolis:
Brasidas’ Counter-Strategem
• Brasidas came down from Cerdylium to the town upon seeing Cleon’s
• Brasidas took 150 heavy infantry, leaving the rest under his subordinate,
Clearidas, and decided to attack the Athenians just as they were retiring
from their vantage point on the hill opposite.
Brasidas instructed Clearidas to follow with the rest of the
Amphipolitans once he had struck “terror” in “their centre”
• Brasidas decided on this ‘strategem’ as he knew reinforcements would not
long be arriving for Cleon.
• Brasidas delivered a speech to his men, explaining why they were taking
such a risky move:
Brasidas’ Speech
Battle of Amphipolis
• “I imagine it is the poor opinion that he has of us, and the fact that he has
no idea of any one coming out to engage him, that has made the enemy
march up to the place and carelessly look about him as he is doing”
• “..the most successful soldier will always be the man who most happily
detects a blunder like this..”
• “ seizing the opportunity of the moment...”
• “do the greatest service to our friends by most completely deceiving our
• “...while their careless confidence continues...more of retreat than of
maintaining their position...while their spirit is slack...”
• “...take them by surprise and fall with a run upon their centre...”
Battle of Amphipolis
• Cleon was finally made aware of the great trap that was forming, and
having been informed further of the waiting forces inside the gates of
Amphipolis, gave the order for retreat to be effected by the left wing
moving in the direction of Eion.
• Cleon, in his urgency, pushed the right wing into retreat as well and
according to Thucydides, thereby;
• “..thus turning its unarmed side to the enemy..”
Brasidas, upon seeing this general disarray and hurry within the
Athenians’ retreat, shouted to his soldiers:
• “Those fellows will never stand before us, one can see that by the way their
spears and heads are going. Troops who do as they do seldom stand a
charge. Quick, someone, and open the gates I spoke of, and let us be out
and at them with no fears for the result.”
Battle of Amphipolis
• Brasidas’ forces emerged from behind the gates and ran directly at the
centre of the retreating Athenians, while Clearidas emerged with the
remainder of the forces from the Thracian gates to support him.
• Attacked on both sides, the Athenians were routed by surprise, confusion
and broken in two by their left flank advancing earlier to Eion.
• Brasidas was struck down in the fight, while Cleon, attempting to escape,
was cut down by a Myrcinian targeteer.
• The Athenian infantry was entirely surrounded at one point, before being
totally destroyed and/ or dispersed among the hills, escaping back to Eion.
Battle of Amphipolis:
• Brasidas lived long enough to hear of the victory and Clearidas set up the
• Brasidas was buried at the town’s expense, and thereafter was honoured
by the people with sacrifices and the honour of the games
• Thucydides account regarding Brasidas’ stature after the Battle of
“...for they considered that Brasidas had been their preserver, and courting
as they did the alliance of Lacedaemon for fear of Athens, in their present
hostile relations with the latter they could no longer with the same
advantage or satisfaction pay Hagnon his honours.”
• Thucydides describes the battle succinctly as an;
• “...affair of accident and panic that I have described”
Peace of Nicias 421 B.C.
From ‘Hawks to Doves’
Peace Settlement or Strategic
Peace of Nicias 421 B.C.
From Hawks to Doves
•Thucydides gives a number of
reasons for both sides wanting peace
at this time.
•- Spartans were eager for peace,
having being reluctant to enter war
in the beginning
•- With the death of Cleon, many
Athenians felt that peace was a
strategic positive
Peace of Nicias 421 B.C.
Differing Motives
-Strategem of annual invasions into
Attica had proved fruitless
-Humiliation at Pylos had greatly
unnerved her resolve
-Desparate to gain return of captured
Spartan soldiers (Pylos & Sphacteria)
who were related to ‘first families’ and
therefore the governing body
-Helots were deserting
-30 Year Treaty with Argos about to
expire: Argives demanding the return
of Cynuria
-Two successive defeats at Delium
(424) & Amphipolis (422) had left
their ambitions in tatters
-Death of Cleon had removed a ‘warhawk’ from a principal position in
-Concerned about recent losses
tempting her allies to rebel
Peace of Nicias 421 B.C.
• Thucydides also makes another reference to the two great opponents of
peace on both sides;
• Cleon, who according to Thucydides had opposed peace because;
• “he thought that, if tranquility were restored, his crimes would be more
open to detection and his slanders less credited..”
• &
• Brasidas, who according to Thucydides had opposed peace because;
• “...from the success and honour which war gave him...”
Peace of Nicias 421 B.C.
• Thucydides now makes reference to the two ‘heirs’ in both Athens &
• Nicias, who according to Thucydides, wanted to;
• “ his good fortune, to obtain a present release from trouble... Hand
down to posterity a name as an ever-successful statesman...keep out of
danger...commit himself as little as possible to fortune...”
• &
• Pleistoanax, whom Thucydides describes as being assailed by opponents
at home;
• “...regularly held up by them to the prejudice of his countrymen, upon
every reverse that befell them, as though his unjust restoration were the
cause....accusation that he and his brother had bribed the prophetess at
Peace of Nicias 421 B.C.
Terms of the Treaty (1)
Restore Athens’ territories taken in war * Restore Sparta’s territories taken in war
(except Nisea)
1) Touching the national temples, passage by land and by sea to all who wish sacrifice, travel,
consult and attend the oracle or games, according to the customs of their countries
2) Temple & Shrine of Apollo at Delphi and the Delphians shall be governed by their own laws, taxed by their own state,
3) Treaty shall be binding for 50 years, by Athens & her allies, and by Lacedaemon & her allies, without fraud
or hurt by land or by sea
judged by their own judges, the land & the people, according to the custom of their country
4) It shall not be lawful to take up arms, with intent to do hurt, either for the Lacedaemonians & their allies
against the Athenians & their allies, (vice-versa as per Athens) in any way or means whatsoever. But should any
difference arise between them they are to have recourse to law and oaths, according as may be agreed
between the parties.
Peace of Nicias 421 B.C.
Terms of the Treaty (2)
5) Lacedaemonians shall return Amphipolis to the Athenians. In the case of cities given up by the
Lacedaemonians to the Athenians, the inhabitants shall be allowed to go where they please & take their
property with them: and the cities shall be independent, paying only the tribute of Aristides.
•Pericles: Leader of Athens
•Cleon: Opponent of Pericles, ‘Hawk’, Demagogue
•Demosthenes: Strategoi, Master-Tactician
Agis II:
Cleon: A Critical Account
“Cleon, son of Cleaenetus, . . . the most violent man in Athens, and at that time by far the most
powerful with The People, came forward . . . .”
Commercial class – son of Cleaenetus – inherited a lucrative tannery business
– reactionary – opponent of Pericles and his democratic reforms - indicted
Pericles of 'maladministration of public finances in 430 B.C. - argued in
favour of Mitylenian massacre in 427 B.C. - rabble-rouser, warmonger
('hawk') - powerful voice, natural orator – trebled the pay of jurymen
(politicking) – hatred of nobility & aristocrats – hatred of Sparta – 'lost the
peace' in 425 B.C. - exiled Thucydides for failed military campaign* - sent
relief fleet to Demosthenes at Sphacteria – doubled the Delian League
contribution of Athens' allies – killed at the Battle of Amphipolis, which
paved the way for the Peace of Nicias (421 B.C.)
Can we trust Aristophanes' & Thucydides' account of Cleon?
Post-Periclean Athens
•Cleon: Warmonger & Demagogue?
•Mitylenian Debate:
•Mitylenian Debate:
•Mitylenian Resolution
•Battle of Olpae 426 B.C.
•Demosthenes & King Agis
Battle of Pylos & Sphacteria
425 B.C.
•Battle of Amphipolis:
Death of the 'War-Hawks'
•The Uneasy Peace: 420 – 415 B.C.
•The Sicilian Expedition: Alcibiades,
Nicias & Demosthenes
•The Oligarchic Coup 411 B.C.
•Spartan-Persian Alliance: Final Defeat of

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