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Posted by: Amaral Two naval encounters showing the importance of the dominance of the seas and how tactics and weapons can be used for decisive action. - Aegospotami 405 BC After its defeat at Syracuse, Athens was seriously weakened. The Spartans put the city under almost permanent siege by land; all that they needed for a complete victory was to overcome Athenian domination at sea. The Hellespont was crucial to Athens, for grain convoys passed through it on their way from the Black Sea and without them Athens would starve. The Spartans formed a new fleet with Persian help and recalled their most successful naval comander, Lysander. Lysander entered the Hellespont and captured the city of Lampsacus, the Athenian fleet - under the collective command of six generals - came after him and beached at Aegospotami (opposite Lampsacus). It was a wild location that lacked adequate supplies for the thousands of sailors and marines, forcing the Athenians to bring the Spartans to battle. On four consecutive days the Athenian fleet sortied toward Lampsacus, but each time Lysander refused to be drawn and remained in harbour. He observed that the Athenian sailors and marines had fixed habits: they set sail each morning, paraded on the sea, then returned to shore for lunch. Lysander saw an opportunity not to be missed. A single scout vessel was sent to watch the Athenian base. When a signal flashed from the spy ship, informing Lysander that the Athenians were ashore, the Spartan fleet descended on the enemy, seizing empty triremes and landing marines to butcher the Athenians on the beach. Only eight to ten Athenian warships escaped, under General Conon. Lysander was an arrogant and cruel individual, and claiming to avange past offenses, citing a previous Athenian atrocity when the captured sailors of two ships were thrown overboard, he ordered the execution of Philocles and 3,000 Athenian prisioners. The fallowing year, the Athenians surrendered due to starvation. Plutarch wrote about the battle of Aegospotami in his biography of the Spartan General Lysander: "The Peloponnesians fell upon the rest of te ships, some of which they took entirely empty and other they disabled while their crews were still getting aboard. And the men, coming up unarmed and in straggling fashion, perished at their ships, or if they fled by land, their enemies, who had disembarked, slew them. Lysander took three thousand men prisioners... [and] sailed back... to the sound pipes of and hymns of victory." Aegospotami is one perfect exemple of decisive naval victory. The Spartan nauarch (admiral) Lysander was able to destroy the powerful Athenian fleet in a single stroke, by using patience, surprise, and the Principle of Mass (attacking the Athenians with his marines at the right time and with overwhelming force), once again showing that the "strategic fencing" is a dual between the intelligence of two opposing leaderships rather than the numbers and equipment alone. More important than that, showed that the major concern of every strategist is to hit the enemy's point of gravity in order to achieve decision. - Naulochus 36 BC In the course of the civil wars that succeded the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great, attempted to grab a share of the spoils. In command of the Roman fleet, he captured Sicily, a vital source of grain supplies. Octavian, a member of Rome's ruling triumvirate, entrusted Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (made a consul) with creating a fleet to retake Sicily. Agrippa was a friend of Julius Caesar's adopted son Octavian from childhood, and became the future emperor's right-hand man during his rise to power. He made a reputation as a general on land before, in 37 BC. Agrippa estabilished a naval base, Portus Julius, near modern-day Naples. There he built ships and trained their crews in the latest fighting techniques. They learned to use not only the rock-hurling artillery now standard upon warships, but also a new device known as the arpax, a catapult that projected grappling irons onto an enemy galley. Agrippa also had his ships' hulls reinforced with beams around the waterline to resist ramming. In summer 36 BC, Octavian launched an invasion of Sicily with armies from Italy and North Africa. Agrippa, who was to cover the movement of troops and keep their supply lines open, moved to a forward base on the Lipari islands. From there he made a succesful but inconclusive attack on part of Sextus's fleet at Mylae. Sextus then sent his entire naval force to confront Agrippa in a desperate bid to regain command of the sea, which alone offered him a chance of resisting Octavian's invasion. Almost equal in number, 300 ships each, the two forces approached each other in line abreast along the Sicilian coast in 3 September. Agrippa's ships were, however, slightly more widely spaced. This enabled them to turn Sextus's flank on the seaward side and press their enemy in to the shore. As the battle developed into a close-packed mêlée, Agrippa's well-trained force gained the upper hand. His archers, mounted on towers, shot fire arrows down onto the enemy. His catapults battered hulls and carved deadly paths through crowded decks. The arpax allowed his men to grapple and board ships weakened by the missale barrage. When the fighting stopped, 28 of Sextus's ships had been sunk and almost all the rest had been captured. Only 17 ships escaped out of a fleet of 300 vessels. Sicily fell to Octavian. Sextus slipped away to the east, but the following year he fell into the hands of one of Mark Antony's followers and was summarily executed. For Agrippa, his victories over Sestus at Naulochus and Mark Antony in Actium showed a firm grasp of naval tactics as well as great powers of organization and leadership. He made sure every member of his fleet new what was expected to them before the battle by training them in combined arms operations, with each type of soldier mutally supporting themselves. He also denied the enemy the opportunity to use his best points (Sextus's ships were moremaneuverable) while forcing them to fight on his terms (Agrippa's men were more proficient in boarding ships). Agrippa made a skillful use of technology but didn't depend too much on it. Someone wants to add something?
Posted on: 25/03/2014 18:22:00

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Posted by: .George Washington
Total Posts: 164
Joined Date: Friday, 21 June 2013
Never heard of these, I always think of Salamis and Actium.
Posted on: 25/03/2014 18:56:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
There are many interesting naval battles in the Mediterranean, but those were always at sight range of the coast.
Posted on: 25/03/2014 19:48:00
Posted by: Fadrique
Total Posts:
Joined Date: Thursday, 17 October 2019
Hi, Amaral. Agrippa deserves a lot of credit. Sextus had a fleet more experienced and competent than Octavian´s original fleet. In fact Octavian´s first attempt to invade Sicily was a failure. After that he put Agrippa on charge. Agrippa had to build a new port to prevent Pompeian raids. He built a channel to connect a lake with the sea. This way he could train his fleet in the lake without risk. Octavian´s fleet was built around heavy “fives” (quinqueremes) meanwhile the Pompeian navy had a core of agile “fours” (quadriremes).So Agrippa had to adapt his tactics to fight a more maneuverable force and maximize his advantage in “marines” and naval artillery. Here comes the harpax and the reinforced hulls (light and fast ships are better for ramming tactics), as you have said. At Naulochus there was a fight between two diferent kind of fleets, but balanced. As Cassius Dio states: The one side surpassed in the number of its ships, the other in the experience of its sailors; one side was helped by the height of the vessels and the thickness of the catheads and also the towers, but these advantages were counterbalanced by the manoeuvring of the other side, and the superior strength of Caesar's marines was matched by the daring of those of Sextus, the majority of whom fought with great desperation inasmuch as they were deserters from Italy. Consequently, since each side had the points of superiority and likewise of inferiority that I have named with respect to the other, they found their total strength equal as the result of the even balance of their resources; and on this account they at last fought on even terms for a long time.
Posted on: 25/03/2014 20:57:00
Posted by: achim
Total Posts: 40
Joined Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2013
I fully agree! There are many interesting naval battles in Ancient Times! To the Battle of Aegospotami, maybe there is to add, even as the Athenian Fleet was much bloodied during this long war, the Pelopponesians still felt inferior at sea! Thus, an attack as this, basically conquering the beached ships, without having to face them in the open wáter, was ideally suited to Spartan Seafighting Capabilities! .. .. annother interesting Battle would be Salamis 306 BC! Of course, not as well known as the "other Salamis", this one featured the Bigger Diadoch Ships in Battle for the first time! Well, or maybe not for the first time, but the first time we know of! .. .. I always found it strange that the Hellenistic Kingdoms engaged in a very expensive naval building race, with ships of 4, 5, 6, 7 and lateron up to the famous 10 an sixteeners (not counting Ptolemy's FOURTY..., even as most historians agree, this was not a warship, but more of a Status Symbol!! And then we know almost nothing of their use in Battle!!?? Most of them seem simply to vanish! .. .. I do have Murray's Book, the Age of Titans, on this subject, but can not really agree to his conclusión, that this huge Vessels were mainly build to assist in Sieges!
Posted on: 25/03/2014 21:01:00
Posted by: achim
Total Posts: 40
Joined Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2013
I fully agree! There are many interesting naval battles in Ancient Times! To the Battle of Aegospotami, maybe there is to add, even as the Athenian Fleet was much bloodied during this long war, the Pelopponesians still felt inferior at sea! Thus, an attack as this, basically conquering the beached ships, without having to face them in the open wáter, was ideally suited to Spartan Seafighting Capabilities! .. .. annother interesting Battle would be Salamis 306 BC! Of course, not as well known as the "other Salamis", this one featured the Bigger Diadoch Ships in Battle for the first time! Well, or maybe not for the first time, but the first time we know of! .. .. I always found it strange that the Hellenistic Kingdoms engaged in a very expensive naval building race, with ships of 4, 5, 6, 7 and lateron up to the famous 10 an sixteeners (not counting Ptolemy's FOURTY..., even as most historians agree, this was not a warship, but more of a Status Symbol!! And then we know almost nothing of their use in Battle!!?? Most of them seem simply to vanish! .. .. I do have Murray's Book, the Age of Titans, on this subject, but can not really agree to his conclusión, that this huge Vessels were mainly build to assist in Sieges!
Posted on: 25/03/2014 21:01:00
Posted by: scratchbuilder
Total Posts: 51
Joined Date: Saturday, 6 July 2013
Sextus Pompey was the son of a diplomatic marriage between Pompey Magnus and a Celtiberian princess. Because his mother was not of Roman citizen stock the marriage was not recognised under Roman law and Sextus ws both illegitimate and disqualified from Roman citizenship. He must have lived and died as a very bitter man.
Posted on: 25/03/2014 23:55:00
Posted by: kuvaszsleepybear
Total Posts: 290
Joined Date: Wednesday, 7 August 2013
See "Strategy & Tactics" #286 May-June 2014 magazine for article titled Sparta vs. Athens:The Peloponnesian War by Ted Garland on a rivalry between two city-states that started a war that dealt a mortal blow to Classical Greece.
Posted on: 26/03/2014 06:44:00
Posted by: Theanus
Total Posts:
Joined Date: Thursday, 17 October 2019
I wish we could have a Command title on Lysander. Sigh.
Posted on: 26/03/2014 18:31:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
@achim: let's not forget the Spartan defeat at Arginusae. The Spartans were so shocked by their defeat that they dispatched an embassy to Athens seeking peace. They even offered to surrender the Spartan fort at Decelea!
Posted on: 27/03/2014 08:47:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
@Fadrique: I give Agrippa full credit. The was the most able general of Octavian, after his triumph, Octavian bestowed on Agrippa the unprecedented honour of a naval crown decorated with the beaks of ships; as Dio remarks, this was "a decoration given to
Posted on: 27/03/2014 09:06:00
Posted by: achim
Total Posts: 40
Joined Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2013
Arginusae and Aegospotami are linked in a tragic way! . First the Spartans, who were never a Seafaring Nation build with Persian Money their own Fleet, were moderately succesful with it! Then they were heavily defeated by a new and untrained Athenian Fleet! Showing, in my Opinión, the clear Naval Superiority of Athens! . Then came the Trial of the Strategoi and the execution of six of eight accused! This was purely to serve petty internal squabbles in Athens and is reported to have had a very negative impact on Morale in the Upper Class of the City! . The Spartans, under shock from the defeat at Arginusae proposed peace! I find it incredible that after the long years of fighting and their many reverses, the Athenians still found the Arrogance to heed the Firebrand Cleophan and reject Sparta's terms...... . Well, less than a year later came the Battle of Aegospotami, wich you propose as a CAM (and i fully agree to the proposal) and Athens then was finally "finished"!! Those last years of the Pelopponesian War were really a Tragedy in their own right for Athens....
Posted on: 27/03/2014 18:00:00
Posted by: Amaral
Total Posts: 200
Joined Date: Friday, 8 March 2013
A Greek Tragedy indeed.
Posted on: 30/03/2014 04:39:00
Posted by: sassan
Total Posts: 4
Joined Date: Friday, 17 February 2012
To Amaral... "In the 'docudrama' of HBO named Rome, they spend too much time showing him naked and too little time shwoing his military prowess. " First it was not docudrama but classic tv series(although you likely meant it ironically jugdge fro quotation marks). And mainly:They had too much limited budget to show his military prowess and especially limited when it came on naval battles.Why do you think there was only one bigger battle in the entire series?High production costs was also the reason why HBO canceled the series after second season.
Posted on: 02/04/2014 11:40:00

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