Battle of Aegospotami - The Battle

The Battle

Two accounts of the battle of Aegospotami exist. Diodorus Siculus relates that the Athenian general in command on the fifth day at Sestos, Philocles, sailed out with thirty ships, ordering the rest to follow him. Donald Kagan has argued that the Athenian strategy, if this account is accurate, must have been to draw the Peloponnesians into an attack on the small force so that the larger force following could surprise them. In the event, the small force was immediately defeated, and the remainder of the fleet was caught unprepared on the beach.

Xenophon, in contrast, relates that the entire Athenian fleet came out as usual on the day of the battle, and Lysander remained in the harbor. When the Athenians returned to their camp, the sailors scattered to forage for food; Lysander's fleet then sailed across from Abydos and captured most of the ships on the beach, with no sea fighting at all.

Whichever account of the battle itself is accurate, the result is clear. The Athenian fleet was obliterated; only nine ships escaped, led by the general Conon. Lysander captured nearly all of the remainder, along with some three or four thousand Athenian sailors. One of the escaped ships, the messenger ship Paralus, was dispatched to inform Athens of the disaster. The rest, with Conon, sought refuge with Evagoras, a friendly ruler in Cyprus.

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