Lysander (died 395 BC, _el. "Λύσανδρος", Lýsandros) was a Spartan General and the commander of the Spartan fleet in the Hellespont which was victorious against the Athenians at Aegospotami in 405 BC. The following year, he was able to force the Athenian leadership to capitulate, bringing the Peloponnesian War to an end.

Early life

Little is known of Lysander's early life. Lysander's father was Aristoclitus, who was a member of the Spartan Heracleidae (a Dorian order, whose members claimed descent from Heracles). Nevertheless, Lysander's family was poor and when he was young he needed sponsorship to be able to participate in the Spartan training to be a soldier. He later became the erastes of Agesilaus, the youngest son of the Spartan king, Archidamus II.Plutarch, Lives. Life of Lysander. ( [ University of Massachusetts] /) ]

The Battle of Notium

Lysander was appointed Spartan Nauarch (Admiral) for the Aegean Sea in 407 BC. It was during this period that he gained the friendship and support of Cyrus the Younger, a son of Darius II of Persia and Parysatis.

Lysander then undertook the major project of creating a strong Spartan fleet based at Ephesus which could take on the Athenians and their allies.Plutarch, Lives. Life of Lysander. ( [ University of Massachusetts] /) ] Xenophon, Hellenica. (/ [ Gutenberg Project] )]

Alcibiades was appointed commander-in-chief with autocratic powers and left for Samos to rejoin his fleet and try and engage Lysander in battle. The Spartan nauarch Lysander refused to be lured out of Ephesus to do battle with Alcibiades. However, while Alcibiades was away seeking supplies, the Athenian squadron was placed under the command of Antiochus, his helmsman. During this time Lysander managed to engage the Athenian fleet and they were routed by the Spartan fleet (with the help of the Persians under Cyrus) at the Battle of Notium in 406 BC. This defeat by Lysander gave the enemies of Alcibiades the excuse they needed to strip him of his command. He never returned again to Athens. He sailed north to the land he owned in the Thracian Chersonese.

The Battle of Arginusae

However, Lysander ceased to be the Spartan nauarch after this victory and, in accordance with the Spartan law, was replaced by Callicratidas.

In 406 BC, Callicratidas assembled a fleet and sailed to Methymna, Lesbos, which he then besieged. This move threatened the Athenian grain supply. Athens sent their admiral, Conon, to relieve the siege. When Callicratidas attacked him, Conon retreated to Mytilene, where he was blockaded by Callicratidas’ Spartan fleet.

To relieve Conon, the Athenians assembled a new fleet composed largely of newly constructed ships manned by inexperienced crews. While this fleet was inferior to the Spartans, the Athenians employed new and unorthodox tactics, which allowed them to secure a dramatic and unexpected victory in the Battle of Arginusae, near Lesbos. The blockade of Conon by the Spartans was broken, the Spartan force was soundly defeated and Callicratidas was killed during the battle.

The Battle of Aegospotami

After Sparta was severely defeated at the Battle of Arginusae and with the death of the Spartan nauarch, Callicratides, Sparta's allies sought to have Lysander reappointed as nauarch. However, Spartan law did not allow the reappointment of a previous nauarch, so Aracus was appointed as nauarch with Lysander as his deputy. Nonetheless, Lysander was effectively the commander of the Spartan fleet.

Once back in command, Lysander directed the Spartan fleet towards the Hellespont. The Athenian fleet followed him there. In 404 BC, the Athenians gather their remaining ships at Aegospotami (near the Thracian Chersonese). The Athenian fleet under Admiral Conon was then destroyed by the Spartans under Lysander in the Battle of Aegospotami. Conon withdrew to Cyprus.

Then, Lysander's forces went to the Bosphorus and captured both Byzantium and Chalcedon. They expelled the Athenians living in those States. Lysander also captured Lesbos Island.

The defeat of Athens

Following the victory at Aegospotami, the Spartans were in a position to finally force Athens to capitulate. The Spartan king, Pausanias, laid siege to Athens while Lysander's fleet blockaded the port city of Piraeus. This action effectively closed the grain route to Athens through the Hellespont, thereby starving Athens. Realising the seriousness of the situation, Theramenes started negotiations with Lysander. These negotiations took three months, but in the end Lysander agreed to terms at Piraeus. An agreement was reached for the capitulation of Athens and the cessation of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC.

The Spartans required the Athenians to raze the walls of Piraeus as well as the Long Walls which connected Athens and Piraeus; that the Athenians should abandon their colonies, and that Athens should surrender all their ships to the Spartans. However, Theramenes did secure terms that saved the city of Athens from destruction. Greek towns across the Aegean Sea in Ionia were again to be subject to the Achaemenid Empire.

Lysander in Command in Athens

Lysander then put in place a puppet government in Athens with the establishment of the oligarchy of the Thirty Tyrants under Critias which included Theramenes as a leading member. The puppet government executed a number of citizens and deprived all but a few of their former rights as citizens of Athens. Many of Athens' former allies were now ruled by boards of ten (decarchy), often reinforced with garrisons under a Spartan commander (harmost). The practice starting the period of Spartan hegemony.

After storming and seizing Samos, Lysander returned to Sparta. Alcibiades, the former Athenian leader, emerged after the Spartan victory at Aegospotami and took refuge in Phrygia, northwestern Asia Minor with Pharnabazus, its Persian satrap. He sought Persian assistance for the Athenians. However, the Spartans decided that Alcibiades must be removed and Lysander, with the help of Pharnabazus, arranged the assassination of Alcibiades.

Lysander was able to gain a huge fortune from his victories against the Athenians and their allies. Nonetheless, in accord with Spartan tradition, he wished to transfer this fortune to the ephors at Sparta. Lysander commanded the Spartan general Gylippus to undertake this task. However, Gylippus could not resist the temptation to enrich himself and stole a significant amount. When it was discovered what had happened, Gylippus went into exile and was condemned to death in his absence.

Resistance by Athens

The Athenian general Thrasybulus, who had been exiled from Athens by the Spartans' puppet government, led the democratic resistance to the new oligarchic government. In 403 BC, he commanded a small force of exiles that invaded Attica and, in successive battles, defeated first a Spartan garrison and then the forces of the oligarchic government (which included the Spartan general, Lysander) in the Battle of Munychia. The leader of the Thirty Tyrants, Critias, was killed in the battle.

The Battle of Piraeus was then fought between Athenian exiles who had defeated the government of the Thirty Tyrants and occupied Piraeus and a Spartan force sent to combat them. In the battle, the Spartans narrowly defeated the exiles, with both sides suffering large numbers of casualties. Despite opposition from Lysander, after the battle Pausanias the Agiad King of Sparta, arranged a settlement between the two parties which allowed the reunification of Athens and Piraeus, and the re-establishment of democratic government in Athens. The remaining oligarchic Thirty Tyrants were allowed to flee to Eleusis. Thrasybulus restored democratic institutions to Athens and granted amnesties to all except the oligarchic extremists.

Involvement in Cyrus' revolt against the Persian King Artaxerxes II

During 401 BC Lysander still had a continuing influence in Sparta despite his setbacks in Athens. He was able to persuade the Spartans to select Agesilaus II as the new Eurypontid Spartan king following the death of Agis II. He was also able to persuade the Spartans to support Cyrus the younger in his unsuccessful rebellion against his older brother, Artaxerxes II of Persia.

Cyrus started out with about 20,000 men, of whom around 10,000 were Greek mercenaries, including Spartans. When he reached the Euphrates River at Thapsacus, he announced that he was marching against Artaxerxes II. He advanced unopposed into Babylonia; but Artaxerxes II, warned at the last moment by Tissaphernes, hastily gathered an army.

The two forces met at the Battle of Cunaxa, north of Babylon, where Cyrus was slain. The Greek mercenaries fighting for Cyrus were left stranded after Cyrus’ defeat. They fought their way north through hostile Persians, Armenians, and Kurds to Trapezus, on the coast of the Black Sea under Xenophon. He was an Athenian who became their leader when Tissaphernes, Persian satrap of Caria and Lydia, had Clearchus of Sparta and the other senior Greek captains captured and executed by Artaxerxes.

Xenophon's men made their way back to Greece, with most of the men enlisting with the Spartan Army. Xenophon's successful march through the Achaemenid Empire encouraged Sparta to turn on the Persians and begin a series of wars against the Persians in Asia Minor.

Lysander's final years

Hoping to restore the juntas of oligarchic partisans that he had put in place after the defeat of the Athenians in 404 BC, Lysander arranged for Agesilaus II, the Eurypontid Spartan king, to take command of the Greeks against Persia in 396 BC. The Spartans had been called on by the Ionians to assist them against the Persian King Artaxerxes II. Lysander was arguably hoping to receive command of the Spartan forces not joining the campaign. However, Agesilaus II had become resentful of Lysander's power and influence. So Agesilaus II frustrated the plans of his former mentor and left Lysander in command of the troops in the Hellespont, far from Sparta and mainland Greece.

Back in Sparta by 395 BC, Lysander was instrumental in starting a war with Thebes and other Greek cities to be known as the Corinthian War. The Spartans prepared to send out an army against this new alliance of Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Argos (with the backing of the Achaemenid Empire) and ordered Agesilaus II to return to Greece. Agesilaus set out for Sparta with his troops, crossing the Hellespont and marching west through Thrace.

The Spartans arranged for two armies, one under the Spartan general Lysander and the other under the Pausanias of Sparta, to rendezvous at and attack the city of Haliartus, Boeotia. Lysander arrived before Pausanias and persuaded the city of Orchomenus to revolt from the Boeotian confederacy. He then advanced to Haliartus with his troops. In the Battle of Haliartus, Lysander was killed after bringing his forces too near the walls of the city.

Following his death, an abortive scheme by Lysander to increase his power by making the Spartan kingships collective and that the Spartan king should not automatically be given the leadership of the army, was "discovered" by Agesilaus II.Cornelius Nepos, Life of Eminent Greeks . [] ]

There is argument amongst historians as to whether this was an invention to discredit Lysander after his death. Any analysis of Lysander's life is made difficult by the strong hostility of many of the sources of Greek history at that time due to Lysander's strong support of oligarchic governments after the defeat of the Athenians.

Lysander remains an ambiguous figure. While the Roman biographer Cornelius Nepos charges him with "cruelty and perfidy", Lysander – according to Xenophon – nonetheless spared the population of captured Greek poleis such as Lampsacus, perhaps in order to gain a useful reputation for mildness.


ee also

*Battle of Aegospotami
*King Agesilaus II
*Aegean Sea
*Battle of Notium
*Peloponnesian War
*King Pausanias
*Thirty Tyrants
*Corinthian War
*Battle of Haliartus

External links

* [ Ancient/classical history (Lysander)] –
* [ Lysander by Plutarch] – The Internet Classics Archive on MIT

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