Battle of Cnidus, 412/11 BC

The battle of Cnidus (412/411 BC) was an inconclusive naval battle which meant that the Athenians were unable to prevent two Spartan fleets from uniting on the coast of Asia Minor (Great Peloponnesian War). In the winter of 412/411 the Athenians were besieging Chios, in the centre of the western coast of Asia Minor. The Spartans had a fleet at Miletus, some way further south along the coast. This fleet was commanded by Astyochus, but he was not entirely trusted in Sparta. When a fresh fleet of 27 ships was sent to join him, a group of officers were sent to work alongside him, and if necessary relieve him. This fleet ran into a small Athenian force on the way, and decided to divert to Crete, and then to Caunus, on the south-western coast of Asia Minor. The Athenians, who had a fleet based at Samos (between Chios and Miletus), discovered this, and sent a squadron of twenty ships under Charminus south in an attempt to intercept the new arrivals.

When Astyochus learnt that his reinforcements were at Caunus he decided to bring his fleet around the coast to join them. He passed Cos, and reached Cnidus, at the south-western tip of Asia Minor. There he learnt that the Athenians were close by, and sailed on towards the island of Syme in an attempt to catch them. In bad weather the Spartan fleet was scattered. In the poor visibility the Athenians sighted the Spartan left wing and incorrectly identified them as the fleet coming from Caunus. Charminus put to see with as many ships as were ready (not his entire force of twenty ships). The initial encounter was won by the Athenians, who sank three ships and disabled others. The rest of the Spartan fleet then came into site, and the Athenians found themselves surrounded. The Athenians managed to break out of the trap, although six ships were lost. The survivors then escaped south to the island of Teutlussa, from where they moved north to Halicarnassus.

In the aftermath of this battle the Spartans returned to Cnidus where they were joined by the twenty seven ships from Caunus. The defeated Athenians were joined by the rest of the fleet from Samos, but even reinforced they didn't dare risk another battle, and returned to Samos

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 July 2011), Battle of Cnidus, 412/11 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_cnidus.html

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