Battle of Solygia, 425 BC

The battle of Solygia (425 BC) was a minor Athenian victory during a raid on Corinth, but one that had little long term impact (Great Peloponnesian War). In the summer of 425 the Athenians sent an expedition to raid the eastern shores of the Isthmus of Corinth. The expedition consisted of 2,000 hoplites and 200 cavalry carried on eighty ships, and commanded by Nicias son of Niceratus. The Athenians were also supported by a number of Allied contingents.

The Corinthians had received advanced warning of the Athenian plans, and had been able to gather most of their army in the Isthmus and were on guard. Despite this the Athenians managed to catch the defenders out by sailing at night and were able to land on a beach overlooked by the hill of Solygia. The Athenian right landed close to Chersonese, the left near to Rheitus. Although the exact location of these last two places is unclear, the overall picture is clearer. Ancient Corinth was inland, with two ports, one on each side of the Isthmus. The eastern port of Cenchriae was located at the western end of a bay. The coast then ran south, before turning east to run around a headland (possibly the Chersonese in question). The hill of Solygia was in the middle of this headland. The Athenians thus landed with their left wing threatening Solygia and their right wing somewhere on the coast nearer to Cenchriae.

The Corinthians split their army into three. Half of the army stayed at Cenchriae to guard against any Athenian movement in that direction. One company of troops from the other half of the army, under the command of Battus, occupied Solygia. The main part of this half of the army, under Lycophron, attacked the Athenians.

The first Corinthian assault hit the Athenian right, but the fighting soon spread along their entire line. Thucydides gives most details for the fighting on the Athenian right. The Athenian and Carystian troops on this wing must have been close to their ships when they were first attacked. The Corinthians were pushed back, and retired up a slope. They charged the Athenian line again but without success, until a fresh contingent of Corinthian troops arrived. The Athenians were then pushed back to their boats for a second time, but the Corinthians were unable to break through.

On their left the Athenians were the ones attacking, advancing towards Lycophron at Solygia. The Corinthians held their ground against the Athenian infantry, but according to Thucydides the Athenians were the only ones to have cavalry. In some unexplained way the Athenian cavalry was decisive, and the Corinthians on their right retreated in some disorder onto the hill of Solygia. Lycophron was killed during this near rout. Along the rest of the line the Corinthians were pushed back, but in good order, and were able to take up a defensive position on higher ground.

This ended the fighting. The Athenians gathered the bodies of their dead, stripped the Corinthian dead, and built a trophy to celebrate the victory. The Athenians lost just under 50 men in the battle, the Corinthians 112. Meanwhile the other half of the Corinthian army was approaching from the north, and reinforcements from Corinth were approaching from the west. The Athenians saw these new troops and believing them to be reinforcements from the Peloponnese took to their ships and retired to some nearby islands. 

In the aftermath of this victory the Athenians sailed along the coast, raiding Crommyon before moving south-east to capture and fortify the peninsula of Methana. A garrison was left in Methana, and the rest of the fleet then returned to Athens.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 June 2011), Battle of Solygia, 425 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_solygia.html

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