Battle of Naryx, 394 BC

The battle of Naryx (394 BC) was a costly victory won by the forces of an anti-Spartan alliance over a Phocian army early in the Corinthian War (395-386 BC).

The war was triggered by a border dispute in between Phocis and Loris in central Greece (west of Boeotia). The Boeotians supported the Locrians, the Spartans the Phocians. Athens supported the Boeotians, and helped free the Theban army to defeat the Spartans outside Haliartus (395 BC). This early success encouraged Corinth and Argos to join the anti-Spartan alliance.

Battles of the Corinthian War
Battles of the
Corinthian War

The outbreak of war and the quick formation of a strong anti-Spartan alliance also encouraged their opponents elsewhere in Greece. Medius, lord of Larissa in Thessaly, asked for help against Lycophron, tyrant of Pherae. The allies sent 2,000 men, mainly Boeotians and Argives. This allowed Medius to capture Pharsalus, in southern Thessaly, defeating a Spartan garrison.

The Boeotians and Argives then turned south and attacked Heracleia in Trachis, a Spartan colony just to the west of Thermopylae. After capturing the city they killed any Spartans they found, but allowed other Peloponnesians to leave, in an attempt to create splits within the Peloponnesian League. The Argives were left as a garrison in Heracleia, while the Boeotians, under Ismenias, continued around the Gulf of Malis into Locris. On the way he convinced the Aenianians (on the gulf)  and the Athamanians (a tribe of western Thessaly and south-eastern Epirus) to rebel against the Spartans and join his army. According to Diodorus this gave him just under 6,000 men.

Ismenias advanced into Locris and camped at Naryx, an inland town. There he was attacked by a Phocian army under the command of a Laconian called Alcisthenes.

Diodorus records a 'sharp and protracted' battle, but doesn't provide many details. The Boeotians were victorious, and pursued the defeated Phocians until nightfall. This must have been a hard-fought battle as the casualty figures given are unusually even - the Phocians are reported as losing 1,000 dead, the Boeotians and their allies 500.

In the aftermath of the battle both armies disbanded and the contingents returned home. For the moment the Spartan position in northern Greece had been weakened, although they retained control of Orchomenus, captured at the start of the war.

This campaign probably took place late in 395 or early in 394, and certainly before the main events of 394, which involved the return of the Spartan King Agesilaus from Asia Minor, the inconclusive Spartan victories at Nemea and Coronea and their crushing naval defeat at Cnidus. Agesilaus chose to return to Sparta overland via Thrace and Thessaly, so his route took him through this same area.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 November 2015), Battle of Naryx, 394 BC ,

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