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Athenian sea-power in 323/2 BC: dream and reality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 October 2013

J. S. Morrison
Great Shelford, Cambridge
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Books xviii–xx of Diodorus' Bibliotheca Historica have long been regarded, apart from the sections on Sicily and Italy, as closely based on the work of Hieronymus of Cardia, a friend of several of the leading Macedonians, and as giving a reliable, if condensed, account of the events succeeding the death of Alexander. What is said there about the obscure naval events of the crucial year 323/2 must then provide the framework into which any other information about those events is to be fitted.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies 1987

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1 See most recently Hornblower, JaneHieronymus of Cardia (Oxford 1981)Google Scholar who speaks of the Bibliotheca as ‘an extensive epitome of (or more precisely a series of extracts from) a Hellenistic historian’.

2 Diodore de Sicile: Bibliothèque Historique: Livre xviii Texte établit et traduit par P. Goukowski (Paris 1978)Google Scholar (henceforward referred to as Goukowski). He says ad. loc.: ‘L'anacolouthe laisse suspecter une lacune de quelques lignes’. The anacolouthon is perhaps acceptable as it stands.

3 The Greek word δημόκοττοι is hardly respectful.

4 For the text and translation of this article of the decree, see below II.

5 The phrase ‘usual cleverness of speech’, like δημόκοττοι above, seems by its tone to derive from Hieronymus.

6 Goukowski 124: ‘Je croirais plutôt qu'il s'agit ici de navires et de fonds envoyés à Antipatros au moment de l'affaire d'Harpalos’. But if this was so Hieronymus would surely have known about it.

7 The Greek word εὐημερίαι ‘periods of fair weather' bears the implication that the weather will not always be fair.

8 κατασκευάӡειν here should be given its proper meaning (LSJ s.v. ‘παρασκευάӡειν’) to prepare something which one has', so in connection with ships ‘to fit out and prepare for service those already in the dockyards’. ταῑς ὑπαρχουσˊαις accordingly refers to the ships already at sea. Goukowski translates κατεσκεὑασαν ‘construisirent’ (below p. 90).

9 Walek, T.RPh. xlviii (1924) 2330Google Scholar (henceforward Walek) ‘armer, mettre en ligne’; Cary, M.The History of the Creek world from 323–146 BC2 (London 1951)Google Scholar (henceforward Cary) 6, ‘on sea the Greeks mobilised a fleet of 240 vessels’; Geer, Russell M.Diodorus Siculus Loeb ed. ix (London 1962)Google Scholar, ‘prepare’; Ashton, N. G., ‘The naumachia near Amorgos in 322 BC’, BSA lxxii (1977)Google Scholar (henceforward Ashton) ‘commission’; Goukowski ad loc. ‘armer’.

10 IG ii2 1629 808–12.

11 Cary (Appendix 2, 381) nevertheless accepts the position.

12 IG ii2 1629, 1631. The inventory for 323/2 made up at the end of the archon year in July shows that there were some two hundred more triereis in the dockyard after the dispatch of the fleet. Many of these would have been cavalry- and troop-transports, others old and slow, all unsuitable for inclusion in a battle fleet seeking action. There may also have been those for which gear and skilled oarsmen were not forthcoming, or the money to pay them. It is an indication of the value placed on the heavier ships at this time that all but one of the fifty tetrereis available were at sea at the end of the year.

13 Ashton 7, cf. Walek 29.

14 Thucydides uses the word παρασκευάӡειν in the active voice on two occasions (ii 80.1 and iii 16.3, cf. Xen. HC i 4.11) to describe the activity which Diodorus describes here, i.e the assembly of ships from the various cities of a league and their preparation for sea. In Demosthenes' speech On the trierarchic crown (li) the treasurer is said to have been instructed to give the crown to the trierarch τῷ πρώτῷ παρασκευάσαντι τὴν τριήρη, and this activity is shown to consist of launching the ship (i.e. drawing the ship allocated to him from the dockyard), fitting it out, manning it and giving it a sea-trial. It is not preparing the ship for sea only but drawing it as well. The use of the word in Demosthenes Against Euergus (xlvii) 23 may be compared, where the speaker says that in all his many trierarchies he has never yet drawn items of gear from the public store ἀλλ' αὐτὸς ỉδίᾳ παρεσκεύαӡον (‘but I myself acquired them at my own expense’). In Diod. xiv 39.4 Conon is said to have sailed to Cilicia with forty of the hundred ships Pharnabazus had instructed the Cypriot kings to send him, since the whole fleet was not yet παρεσκευασμένος. The word might be taken to mean just ‘prepared' but in view of the passages cited and of the circumstances it is likely that it means ‘assembled’ i.e. delivered by the kings and fitted out. In general contexts the word παρασκευάӡειν (active) means to acquire as well as to make ready what has been acquired: e.g. xi 48.3 σύστημα ξένων παρασκευάӡειν, xii 46.2 μηχάνας τε γὰρ παντοδαπὰς παρεσκεύασε πολιορκητικάς cf. also xiii 75.2, xvi 31.7, xix 51.2. The active verb is also used often in Diodorus of the acquisition of abstract things: health i 82.2, safety ii 19.9, pleasure xiii 82.5, peace xix 65.4.

15 Cf. also Arr. Anab. vii 1.1–4, Curt, x 1.17–18. The plan has often been dismissed as a work of later imagination. Hornblower (n. 1) 69, for example, regards it as ‘incredible, unbelievable, fantastic’ and thinks that the ‘plan section’ in Diodorus comes from the Alexandrian vulgate, not Hieronymus but Cleitarchus. P. A. Brunt (Arrian Loeb edition ii [London 1965] Appendix xxiii 5), however, most recently, is cautiously unsceptical. It may be remembered in this connection that Diodorus, again probably relying on Cleitarchus, speaks of Hephaestion's tomb in the foundation course of which ‘were set golden bows of pentereis close together, two hundred and forty in all’ (xvii 115.1–2: see Morrison and Williams Creek oared ships [Cambridge 1968] 285, henceforward GOS). This account again is incredible and fantastic, but probably true.

16 Diod. xix 62.7–8.

17 Ptolemy, Diod. xx 49.2; Demetrius, ib. xx 50.3.

18 In the years 326/5, 325/4, 323/2 the part of the inventory relating to ship-sheds is preserved (IG ii2 1628 552–9, 1629 1020–6, 1631 252–6) 372 in all, 82 in Munychia, 198 in Zea and 94 in Cantharos. But this number does not indicate the number of ships held, which was regularly from 400 to 410 in these years. It is unlikely that between 330/29 with 417 ships and 325/4 with 410 there would have been an unexplained reduction to 372 in 326/5. The overall number of ships held in 326/5 is likely then to have been in the neighbourhood of 400 and the number of tetrereis accordingly 40–50.

19 p. 5. An alternative to Ashton's supplement is proposed by J.-M. Schmitt (Les premières tétrères à Athènes, REG lxxxvii [1974] 80 n. i) ∣∆∆∆∆∣Γ∣∣∣∣ i.e. 89, which brings the total holding of tetrereis to 90, and the overall total of ships to 406 (315 triereis and 90 tetrereis). Since the overall total in 330–329 is 410 (392 tr. + 18 tetr.), in 326/5 ?400 (360 tr. +40? tetr.), and in 325/4 410 (360 tr. +50 tetr.), Schmitt draws the reasonable conclusion that there was a policy in these years to keep the overall total of ships around 400/410, and that therefore with only 315 triereis in 323/2 the number of tetrereis must be put at 90. The difficulty with this final extrapolation is that the 323/2 inventory was made at the end of a year when two of the three unsuccessful naval engagements had almost certainly been fought by Euetion, in one at least of which the Athenian fleet lost many ships, probably in both. It is possible, as Ashton (8) has argued, that the last off Amorgus took place too late for the casualties to affect the inventory, but this is not certain. The overall total in the inventory, whatever the policy may have been, is then likely to reflect substantial battle casualties and unlikely to show the normal figure. The normal figure cannot accordingly be used to deduce the number of tetrereis in the inventory. An overall total of 365 ships (315 tr. +50) seems preferable for the position at the end of that year.

20 There are seven pentereis in the dockyard in 325/4 (IG ii2 1629 808) but there is no mention of them either at sea or in the dockyard in 323/2.

21 See D.J. Blackman in GOS 181: ‘The number of ship-sheds was probably always somewhat less than the number of ships in the fleet: the balance will often have been at sea, but we do hear of ships standing in the open air.’

22 See Morrison, J. S. and Coates, J. F.The Athenian trireme (Cambridge 1986) 86, 126, 166Google Scholar.

23 Goukowski 128 in a note on (v) above seems to take it as a list of three engagements in chronological order, i.e. he regards the skirmish ‘near the Echinades’ as taking place after the two pitched battles. He says: ‘Diodore fait allusion à trois batailles navales livrées par Cleitos à Euetion, dont deux sont anterieures à la decision de construire les nouveaux navires qui combattirent au cours de la troisième’. He identifies the first battles as taking place at Abydus and Amorgus.

In the first place, since the three engagements undoubtedly took place in the same campaigning season it is impossible to suppose that ships laid down after the first two battles were ready in time for the third engagement. It is equally impossible, as a matter of interpretation, to take the statement in (vi) referring to the balance of sea-power as alluding to a state of affairs after the two battles and before the skirmish, all three of which it subsequently proceeds to mention. And thirdly, Amorgus owes its importance to the fact that it was the final decisive battle. It is hardly conceivable that an Athenian fleet would have been sent to the Malian gulf to meet Cleitus immediately afterwards.

24 Ashton 7, Goukowski 126.

25 Cary (Appendix ii 381) argues that Leonnatus had crossed earlier and that Euetion was attempting to prevent Craterus crossing when he was challenged by Cleitus.

26 Walek 28, Ashton 8 n. 55, Goukowski 128. Cary (Appendix ii 382) prefers the alternative of two battles only.

27 Strabo ix 4.4.

28 Strabo ix 5.10, 5.13, and 5.22.

29 29, IG ii2 682 and Strabo x 1.6; Diod. xviii 11.2.

30 Cary (Appendix ii 382) argues convincingly that Cleitus' 240 ships must have included the squadron of 110 triereis.

31 Cf. IG ii2 457. 65–6.

32 Cf. IG ii2 43.68.

33 IG ii2 72 (433/2) 5 and 19 στρατεγοἰ ἐκπλέοντες (with a fleet to Corcyra), 622B (200–170 BC) ἐκπλεύσαντι ἐπὶ οτρατεἰαν Κύπρον. For the regular use of ἐκπλεῑν and καταπλεῑν for leaving and returning to port see SIG 4 Index s.v. ἐκπλεῖν.

34 Hdt. vi 117, vii 167; Plato Laws 833a; Plut. Demetr. 16.

35 24, followed by Goukowski 128.

36 Cary suggested (Appendix ii) that the reinforcement bringing the number of Euetion's fleet up to 170 (v) may have been replacements for losses suffered, in his view, in the first of the two naumachiai, i.e in the Hellespont. If losses were incurred by Euetion in the Malian gulf before the two naumachiai, as is argued here, the reinforcements could equally well have been replacements for these. This latter hypothesis would mean that the total forces sent to sea by Athens in 322 would have exceeded 170 by about the number of ships lost in the Malian gulf; and the total losses up to the time when the number of ships at sea was recorded in the inventory as 143 would have exceeded 27 by the same number. The attraction of this hypothesis is that it makes it more likely that Euetion would have risked battle at the Hellespont if his fleet had been brought up to strength (i.e. 170) after the losses in the gulf than if it had not. Athenian fleets readily took on superior numbers in the Peloponnesian war and were often successful, but times, and tactics, had changed.

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