Chabrias, d.356

Chabrias (d.356) was an Athenian commander who had some successes against Sparta, especially at the naval battle of Naxos, but who was killed at the battle of Chios (357 or 356 BC). During his career he was appointed an Athenian general thirteen times.

Chabrias first appeared in the Corinthian War. The successful Athenian commander Iphicrates had made himself unwelcome at Corinth, and had to be replaced. Chabrias took over this key post, suggesting that he was already an experienced soldier. In 388 he was called back to Athens in order to lead an expedition to aid Evagoras, king of Salamis on Cyprus, who was then involved in a revolt against the Persians. Before he could leave for Cyprus, Chabrias was asked to deal with the aftermath of an embarrassing naval defeat near Aegina. Chabrias decided to take the fight to the Aeginetans. He split his expedition into two halves. He and the peltasts landed at night and prepared an ambush. The hoplites landed on the following morning and lured the Aeginetans and their Spartan allies into the trap. Gorgopas and the entire Spartan contingent  (amongst them nine full Spartiates) were killed in the resulting battle. This didn't end the fighting in the area, and Gorgopas's successor Teleutias even led a raid into the Piraeus.

Battles of the Theban-Spartan War, 379-371
Battles of the
Theban-Spartan War,
379-371 BC

In 379 Thebes expelled a Spartan garrison, triggering the Theban-Spartan War (379-371). At first Athens stayed neutral, and Chabrias was given the task of defending the routes into Attica in order to defend that neutrality. This ended after the Spartan Sphodrias carried out a sudden raid into Attica. Athens formed an alliance with Thebes and sent troops to help defend the city. Chabrias took part in a defeat of Spartan troops outside Thebes in 378, where he adopted a novel defensive tactic, ordering his men to receive the Spartan charge kneeling on one knee with the shield resting on the ground. Agesilaus II, leader of the Spartan Army, decided not to risk an attack on this defensive position and instead issued a challenge to the Thebans and Athenians to come down from their hill and fight the Spartans on the plain. After they refused all he could do was ravage some of the local area and then retreat back home, leaving the Thebans and Athenians with a moral victory.

In 377 he took part in fighting in Boeotia when Agesilaus managed to get past the defenders of the area, but was still unable to capture Thebes itself.

At some point during this period (possibly in 377), Chabrias agreed to command a force of mercenary troops in the service of Nectanebo I, pharaoh of Egypt. The Persian satrap Pharnabazus objected to this breach of the peace between Athens and Persia, and Chabrias was forced to withdraw.

In 376 he was given command of an Athenian force that was besieging Naxos, with a fleet of 83 triremes. The Spartans sent Pollis, with 65 triremes, to try and lift the siege. The Spartans attacked and defeated the Athenian left wing, but Chabrias sent reinforcements to bolster his left and then defeated the Spartan left. The Athenians sank 24 Spartans ships and captured eight, while losing eighteen ships themselves, so the fighting was fairly even. In the aftermath of this victory Chabrias probably raided Laconia, and he was said to have reached Sellasia, to the north-east of Sparta, and then driven captured cattle across the Spartan border. This naval battle of Naxos (September 376) was the first purely Athenian naval victory since the end of the Great Peloponnesian War.

In 373 he was given joint command of an Athenian force heading to Corcyra (along with Iphicrates and Callistratus) where the Athenians successfully lifted a Spartan siege of the city.

In 368 he commanded an Athenian contingent that was sent to help the Spartans resist Epaminondas of Thebes's second invasion of the Peloponnese, and fought off a Theban attack on Corinth.

In 366 he was accused of treason against Athens for his role in the loss of Oropus, but was acquitted, possibly with the aid of Plato.

In 361 he entered the service of Pharaoh Tachos of Egypt, just before he was overthrown by Nectanebo II. Nectanebo was supported by Agesilaus II of Sparta, while Chabrias remained loyal to Tachos.

In 358 he replaced Athenodorus as Athenian commander in Thrace, but he only arrived with one ship. As a result Charidemus, a mercenary commander then working for the Thracians, renounced the treaty he had agreed with Athenodorus (in which Athens received the Thracian Chersonese) and insisted on a less advantageous one. This second treaty was later overthrown when the Athenian leader Chares arrived with a more powerful fleet).

In 357 members of the Second Athenian League rebelled, having once again been provided by overly harsh Athenian rule. Chabias joined a fleet that was sent to restore control of the island of Chios, but he was killed in the Athenian naval defeat at Chios (357 or 356 BC).

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 January 2016), Chabrias, d.356 ,

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