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During the Peloponnesian War the Athenians occupied the promontory of Pylos to counter Sparta's repeated invasions of Attica. Over two days of fighting the small garrison beat off the Spartan army and the returning Athenian fleet won a crushing victory in the nearby waters, stranding a contingent of elite Spartan hoplites on the island of Sphacteria. With the campaigning season drawing to a close the Athenians mounted an attack on the island using an unconventional amphibious night assault they overran the Spartan outpost covering the beaches and light-armed missile troops landed at daybreak in overwhelming numbers. The Spartans were slowly driven back to their stronghold, losing men steadily as they were prevented from engaging in the hand-to-hand fighting at which they excelled. With their commander dead and his deputy incapacitated by wounds, the 292 survivors surrendered. This was a surprising blow to the Spartans' glorious reputation, and these prestigious prisoners-of-war served the Athenians very well as bargaining counters in the diplomatic activity that punctuated the hostilities that continued for the next four years.
William Shepherd studied classics at Clare College, Cambridge, in the 1960s and then embarked on a career in publishing, which finally brought him to Osprey, retiring from the position of chief executive in 2007. He is author of The Persian War (Cambridge, 1982), translated from Herodotus. He has also written reading books for children and articles in the Osprey Military Journal, of which he was joint editor, and makes regular contributions to the Osprey blog. He lives in the Cherwell Valley, north of Oxford.Peter Dennis was born in 1950. Inspired by contemporary magazines such as Look and Learn he studied illustration at Liverpool Art College. Peter has since contributed to hundreds of books, predominantly on historical subjects, including many Osprey titles. A keen wargamer and modelmaker, he is based in Nottinghamshire, UK.
Origins of the campaign
Orders of battle
The battlefields today