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Battle of Abydos, 411 BC

Battle of Abydos, 411 BC

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Battle of Abydos, 411 BC

The battle of Abydos (411 BC) was a second Athenian victory won in the Hellespont during 411 BC, and played a major part in securing Athens's food supplies from the Black Sea and in restoring morale after the disaster at Syracuse in 413 BC (Great Peloponnesian War).

This was the first battle to take place after Thucydides ends, and we thus have to rely on the accounts of Xenophon and Diodorus Siculus. Their accounts of the battle are similar in outline, but differ in some details. In both versions the battle begins when Dorieus, son of Diagoras, a Rhodian serving on the Peloponnesian side and commanding a fleet from Rhodes entered the Hellespont. He was spotted by the Athenians, and a chase developed. The Rhodians were forced to run for the shore, where they came under severe pressure. Mindarus, the Peloponnesian admiral in the Hellespont, saw this battle developed and sailed out with his main fleet. A major naval battle then developed between the Athenian and Peloponnesian fleets. This was a hard-fought battle until Alcibiades arrived with Athenian reinforcements. At this point the Peloponnesians made for the shore, where they were saved from a total disaster by their ally the Persian satrap Pharnabazus. The Athenians managed to capture a number of enemy ships and then withdraw having won a victory.

Both of our sources agree on the first moments of the battle. Dorieus and his fleet entered the Hellespont where they were spotted by Athenian lookouts. Xenophon gives Dorieus fourteen ships, Diodorus doesn't mention the size of this fleet. We now come to our first disagreement. Both sources agree that the Athenians put to sea to intercept Dorieus, but disagree on the number of ships involved at this point. Diodorus gives a figure of seventy four ships, the entire Athenian fleet. Xenophon puts the figure at twenty, suggesting that only part of the Athenian fleet was involved at this stage. Dorieus responded by making for the shore, landing at either Dardanus or Rhoeteum. Both of these places were on the southern shore of the Hellespont, and were south-west of the main Peloponnesian base at Abydos.

The Athenians followed Dorieus and attempted to capture his beached ships, but apparently without success. According to Xenophon they eventually gave up and returned to their own base. In both accounts the Peloponnesian admiral Mindarus saw the fighting, and put to sea with his main fleet. Diodorus gives him eighty-four ships in his own fleet and a total of ninety seven once the two fleets were united, suggesting that Dorieus now had thirteen ships. Mindarus took command of the right wing, and his Syracusan allies commanded on the left.

The Athenians responded by bringing their entire fleet to face the new threat. Thrasybulus led their right wing, facing Mindarus, and Thrasyllus the left, facing the Syracusans. Both of our sources agree that the resulting battle was a hard fought and lengthy affair, lasting from early morning to mid-afternoon according to Xenophon. It was decided by chance. Alcibiades, now back in Athenian service, arrived in the Hellespont with either 18 or 20 ships. At first neither side knew for certain whose side the new arrivals would join, but it soon became clear that they were Athenians. The Peloponnesians reacted by attempting to escape to safety back at Abydus, where they would be protected by the Persian army of Pharnabazus.

According to Diodorus the Athenians captured ten ships during the pursuit, but a storm prevented them from pressing the pursuit. By the time they caught up with the Peloponnesians, they had run ashore and joined up with the Persians, and despite their best efforts the Athenians were unable to capture any more ships.

Xenophon doesn't mention the storm, but he does agree that fighting took place on the shore, between the Athenians attempting to capture ships, and the Peloponnesians and Persians. In this account the Athenians are more successful, capturing thirty enemy ships without their crews (presumably by towing them off the beach while their crews were onshore). They also recaptured their own ships lost during the main hard-fought naval battle.

In either case the battle ended as an Athenian victory, and combined with the earlier victory at Cynossema (411 BC) helped to prevent the Peloponnesians cutting of Athens's crucial supply lines to the Black Sea, where much of the city's food came from.

Stargate - The Battle over Abydos

The Battle over Abydos was fought in the finale of the sixth season of Stargate SG-1. In this battle, the combined fleets of the System Lords bring up a force of several Ha&rsquotak (Goa&rsquould motherships) that surround the ship of Anubis. Although not being the most important part of the episode, it allowed us to get a glimpse of the power Anubis wielded through his wisdom as a half-ascended being.

Abydos is, itself, a desert planet inhabited by humans and previously in the domains of Ra. Anubis had sent his ship to Abydos in search of an ancient relic, the Eye of Ra, which, when acquired, would have given him immense power over everything. The SG-1 and the System Lord&rsquos tried to stop him (although they hadn&rsquot planned it in advance and they weren&rsquot allies at Abydos) and, therefore, sent their fleet to Abydos while SG-1 was on the planet taking care of the Eye of Ra. Anubis, however, got the Eye with a promise that he would leave the planet alone. When he received the Eye, he managed to power up a superweapon.

The fleet of the System Lords was led by System Lord Yu. They arrived in orbit around the planet subsequent to Anubis, and encircled his ship. They gave him time to think about surrendering. During the time, Anubis managed to get the Eye and power his superweapon, as stated before. It sent a charge from a spire on Anubis&rsquo ship to the other Goa&rsquould Ha&rsquotak. All Ha&rsquotak opened fire instantaneously, but their weapons were no match for the shields of Anubis&rsquo vessel. A number of Ha&rsquotak fell momentarily, but many continued to fire as well. When only a few were left, the Ha&rsquotak retreated. Lord Yu was aboard one of the vessels that managed to flee.

After the Ha&rsquotak fled, Anubis turned the weapon of his vessel towards the planet. As he had promised not to hurt the Abydonians, ascended Daniel Jackson (who had formed the transition of the Eye to Anubis) tried to assault Anubis, but was stopped. Anubis then annihilated everything on the planet with his superweapon.

There is one battle in history that is quite similar to the one over Abydos, in terms of situation and outcome. The Battle of Ager Falernus was fought in 217 BC between Hannibal and Quintus Fabius Maximus, a consul and dictator of the Roman Republic. The Roman forces surrounded Hannibal on the plains of Falernus, from which the only way out was cut by hostile forces (guarding a river and mountain passes).

Quintus Fabius kept a clear line in not engaging the adversary, so this is where the situations differ a little, but not much. Hannibal thought of a way to get out by sending rampaged cattle up the hillside with a few protectors (around 2,000 men along with the cattle). Romans guarding the pass left because they thought it was the main Carthaginian army, but the consul didn&rsquot move out of his camp because he thought that night battles were too treacherous. The main army of Hannibal, thereafter, left through the pass and the people that had remained along with the cattle were also saved due to the actions of the Spanish warriors. They also managed to kill many Romans who were at the pass trying to stop the Carthaginian from leaving.

A history of Gallipoli

The site of Troy on the Asian side, which looks across at Cape Helles, tends to dominate the cultural history of the region. Likewise, Homer, the poet of the Iliad, dominates Western literature like no other single individual.

The presence of Troy just across the waterway did not go unnoticed by those soldiers who had a scholarly engagement with the Classics in the pre-war years, such as Patrick Shaw-Stewart, Compton Mackenzie, John Masefield and Sir Ian Hamilton. Many British soldiers, like Robert Graves, from the great private schools and universities took Classical texts with them to the Western Front. But those destined for Gallipoli understandably felt that they had a special connection with antiquity.

Poet Rupert Brooke could scarcely conceal his delight that he was going to Gallipoli – to the battlefields of Troy – rather than to France or Belgium. As it turned out, he never made it because he died at Scyros, Achilles’ island, just before the first landings at Helles.

Rupert Brooke, an English poet, died before arriving at Gallipoli. michaelrogers, CC BY-NC

There were many other renowned struggles in the immediate area too, including the Greek war with the Persians of 480-479 BC. This war must surely be one of the most significant struggles in European history, given that the very existence of the Greek cities depended on their victory over the enemy.

Herodotus is our main historical source for this struggle. He ends his whole work on the Gallipoli peninsula at the unassuming little town of Eceabat, a short drive from the Anzac battlefield.

Later in the same century, the Athenians and Spartans, along with their allies, fought some monumental sea-battles in the Dardanelles straits. These were part of the Peloponnesian war fought between the two Greek superpowers from 431 to 404 BC. The battle of Cynossema (411 BC, off modern Kilitbahir, near Eceabat) involved about 160 ships. It was fought only a little way up the channel from where the French and British navies came to grief on March 18, 1915.

Similarly, the battle of Aigospotami (405 BC, near modern Gelibolu) saw an even more monumental struggle of about 350 ships. It might be said that this last struggle was the final and decisive conflict of the Peloponnesian war, and produced the imminent defeat of Athens.

In the fourth century, Alexander the Great – probably the peninsula’s most famous visitor – came to the peninsula and sent his army across the narrows from Sestos to Abydos. He went down to tip of the Gallipoli at Helles and crossed from there to Homer’s Troy.

Despite being known for their formidable military, Sparta has actually suffered as many if not more famous defeats as they have won victories in battle. Therefore, we ask, “Is Sparta’s much celebrated military actually overrated?” Please examine the list of their battle record below and let us know your thoughts in the comments using Disqus!

Digging Deeper: 22 Spartan Defeats

In 669/8 BC, the Argives defeated Sparta in the First Battle of Hysiae.

In c. 550 BC, the Arcadians defeated Sparta in the Battle of the Fetters.

20,000 Persian casualties and losses. Nevertheless, the Greek city-states (including Sparta) ultimately won the war against Persia.

In 429 BC, Athens with 20 triremes defeated Sparta, Corinth, and other members of the Peloponnesian League with 47 triremes in the Battle of Rhium. While Athens suffered no casualties or losses, 12 ships, with most of their crews, on the other side were captured.

Also in 429 BC., Athens again defeated the Peloponnesians (League of Corinth and Sparta) in the Battle of Naupactus. This time, Athens had 40 ships against 77 ships. Athens lost 8 ships captured versus at least one ship sunk and 6 ships captured on the Peloponnesian side.

In 425 BC, Athens defeated Sparta in the Battle of Pylos. Athens had 50 ships, 90 hoplites, and

540 light troops. Sparta had 60 ships and an unknown number of troops. Athens lost 8 ships Sparta lost 18 ships.

In 411 BC, Athens with 76 ships defeated Sparta with 86 ships in the Battle of Cynossema. Athens lost 15 ships Sparta lost 21 ships.

In 410 BC, Athens defeated Sparta and allies in the Battle of Abydos. Athens had 74 ships plus 18 ships as reinforcements against Sparta and allies’ 97 ships. Athenian losses were minimal, but Sparta and allies lost 30 ships.

In 410 BC, Athens defeated Sparta and Persia in the Battle of Cyzicus. Athens’s 86 triremes triumphed over 80 triremes with Athens sustaining minimal losses, whereas Athens’s enemies lost the entire fleet!

In 406 BC, Athens, despite losing 25 of 155 ships, defeated Sparta, which lost 70 of 120 ships, in the Battle of Arginusae. Nevertheless, despite the defeats listed above that occurred from 429 BC to 406 BC, The Pelopponesian League led by Sparta did ultimately win the Peloponessian War over The Delian League led by Athens. Yet, Athens would fight against Sparta again soon enough…

In 403 or 404 BC, Athenian exiles consisting of 700 infantry defeated the Spartan garrison of Athens consisting of 700 infantry and two divisions of cavalry. Athenian exile casualties and losses were light, but 123 Spartans were killed.

In 403 or 404 BC, the Battle of Munichia was fought between 1,000 Athenians exiled by the oligarchic government of the Thirty Tyrants and the several thousand forces of that government, supported by a Spartan garrison. In the battle, a substantially superior force composed of the Spartan garrison of Athens and the army of the oligarchic government attacked a hill in Piraeus (the Munychia) which had been seized by 1,000 exiles, but was defeated. The Athenian exiles’ casualties and losses were light their opponents, however, lost 70 men killed.

In 395 BC, Thebes defeated Sparta in the Battle of Haliartus. The Spartan leader Lysander, the triumphant hero of the Peloponnesian War, died in this battle.

In 394 BC, Athens and Persia’s 90 triremes defeated Sparta’s 85 triremes in the Battle of Cnidus. Athens and Persia’s losses were minimal, but Sparta lost an entire fleet! The war ended inconclusively with Persia dictating peace.

In 391 BC, Athens with a force composed almost entirely of peltasts (light infantry) defeated 600 Spartan hoplites (heavy infantry) in the Battle of Lechaeum. Athenian casualties and losses were minimal, but 250 Spartans were killed. The historical significance of this battle is that it marked the first occasion in Greek history where a force composed primarily of light troops defeated a hoplite force.

In 376 BC, Classical Athens defeated Sparta in the Battles of Naxos.

In 375 BC, 300 from Thebes defeated 1,000-1,800 Spartans in the Battle of Tegyra.

In 371 BC, the Boeotian League led by Thebes, consisting of 6,000–7,000 hoplites and 1,500 cavalry, defeated 10,000–11,000 Spartan hoplites and another 1,000 Spartan cavalry in the Battle of Leuctra. According to Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, the victors lost only 300 versus 4,000+ casualties and losses on the loser’s side.

In 331 BC, 40,000 Macedonians defeated 22,000 Spartans (20,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry) in the Battle of Megalopolis. Macedonian casualties and losses numbered 3,500, whereas Spartan casualties and losses numbered 5,300 and included Spartan King Agis III.

In 222 BC, Macedon and the Achaean League with 28,000 infantry and 1,200 cavalry defeated Sparta’s about 20,000 infantry and 650 cavalry in the Battle of Sellasia. Although Macedonian and Achaean casualties and losses were substantial, Sparta’s casualties and losses were heavy with 5,800 Spartans having died.

In 207 BC, the Achaean League defeated Sparta in the Battle of Mantinea.

In 195 BC, about 50,000 men fought for an alliance of Rome, the Achaean League, Rhodes, Pergamum, and and Macedon against Sparta in the Battle of Gythium. The allies won.

Digging Deeper: 15 Spartan Victories

Sparta has however won a number of victories, although you might notice this list is actually shorter than the list of Spartan defeats. These include the following battles:

In c. 682 BC, Sparta won a decisive victory over Messenia and Arcadia in the Battle of the Great Foss.

In 457 BC, 11,500 Spartans defeated 14,000 Athenians in the Battle of Tanagra. Casualties and losses for the battle are unknown.

In 494 BC, Sparta defeated Argos in the Battle of Sepeia. Argos’s casualties and losses numbered 6,000.

In 417 BC, in the Second Battle of Hysiae, the Spartans captured the Argive town of Hysiae, taking all the male citizens as hostages before subsequently killing the hostages.

In 411 BC, 9,000 Spartans defeated 8,000 Athenians in the Battle of Syme. Spartan casualties and losses numbered 900, whereas Athens’s casualties and losses numbered 2,900!

In September 411 BC, 8,000 Spartans defeated 11,000 Athenians in the Battle of Eretria. Sparta’s casualties and losses numbered 1,100 Athens’s casualties and losses numbered 4,000+.

In 406 BC, Sparta with 90 ships managed to defeat Athens with 80 ships at the Battle of Notium. Sparta suffered no casualties, but Athens lost 15-22 ships.

Also in 406 BC, Sparta’s 170 ships defeated Athens’s 70 ships in the Battle of Mytilene.

In 405 BC, 180 ships fighting for Sparta, Persia, Corinth, and the Peloponnesian League won the decisive Battle of Aegospotami over 170 ships fighting for Athens and the Delian League. While Spartan losses were minimal, Athens lost 150 ships and also 3,000 sailors who were executed. Athens was then besieged. Athens’s surrender ended the Peloponnesian War.

In 403 BC, Sparta defeated Athenian exiles in the Battle of Piraeus. Although Spartan losses are unknown, over 180 Athenian exiles were killed.

In 394 BC, 18,000 Spartan hoplites defeated 24,000 hoplites from Thebes, Argos, Athens, and Corinth in the Battle of Nemea at a cost of 1,100 dead or wounded Spartans and 2,800 dead or wounded Thebans, Argives, Athenians, and Corinthians.

In 394 BC, Sparta and Orchomenus with a strength of 15,000 defeated Thebes, Argos, and allies with a strength of 20,000 in the Battle of Coronea. The victors suffered casualties and losses numbering 350 versus the losers suffering casualties and losses numbering 600.

In Spring 272 BC, 2,000+ Spartans and Macedonians defeated 27,000 men and 24 elephants from Epirus in the Siege of Sparta. Casualties and losses were heavy on both sides.

In 227 BC, Sparta defeated the Achaean League in the Battle of Mount Lycaeum. Spartan losses were light, but the Achcaean League’s losses were heavy.

In 226 BC, Sparta again defeated the Achaean League in the decisive Battle of Dyme. Sparta’s forces included 9,000-11,000 as King Cleomenes III (r. 235–222 BC) trained 4,000 new hoplites to his force of 5,000 already active hoplites, while 600 of the total may have been cavalry. The Achaean League had about 20,000 total soldiers of which about 800-1000 were cavalry. Spartan casualties and losses were low, but the Achaean League’s losses were heavy.

Digging Deeper: Two Inconclusive Results

Other battles involving Sparta had less clear outcomes.

In c. 684 BC, Messenia battled Sparta to disputed results in the Battle of Deres.

In 546 BC, Argos and Sparta each pitted 300 men against each other in the indecisive Battle of the 300 Champions with 299 of Sparta’s 300 being casualties or lost and 298 of Argos’s 300 being casualties or lost.

Question for students (and subscribers): Is Sparta’s much celebrated military actually overrated? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

If you liked this article and would like to receive notification of new articles, please feel welcome to subscribe to History and Headlines by liking us on Facebook and becoming one of our patrons!

Your readership is much appreciated!

Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Hutchinson, Godfrey. Sparta: Unfit for Empire. Frontline Books, 2015.

The featured image in this article, Leonidas at Thermopylae (1814) by Jacques-Louis David, is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.

The Ramses II Temple – also called the “Portal Temple”

In addition to building the Temple of Seti I with his father, Ramses II also built his own temple, about 300 yards northwest of his father's. Constructed from limestone with sandstone pillars, this temple is colorful and more modern than the Temple of Seti I. The Ramses II temple boasts door frames made of pink and black granite, with a sanctuary made of alabaster. At the entrance are a ruined pylon and court with a pink granite portal leading into a peristyle court (no roof). The second court is surrounded by pillars that depict Ramses II in an Osirid pose. An Osirid pose resembles the look of a mummy, with arms crossed across the chest. A portico leads to two halls flanked by pillars with chapels off those halls. Dating back to the Middle Kingdom, reliefs of the Battle of Kadesh are found here.

Abydos, city of pilgrimage of the Pharaohs

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The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Historical background The area was occupied by the populations of el-Amra, then of Nagada who built a prehistoric and protodynastic village which later became the city of Abdjou (Abydos is the transcription of the Egyptian name) with protodynastic kings (the Horus) and the Thinites (1st and IInd dynasty), whose capital (This) was slightly further north and whose main necropolis was in the area of Um el-Qaab. Numerous temples, often dedicated to the local divinity, also go back to the Thinites period, as well as two fortresses in Shünet el-Zebib. The importance of Abydos rose with the establishment, with the Vth dynasty, of the cult of Osiris, god and sovereign of the earth. According to mythology, the city harboured his main tomb which contained his head after his brother Seth had dismembered his body. Antef II (2121-2070, beginning of the XIth dynasty) officially made Abydos into the city of Osiris and main centre of the Osiris cult. The Egyptians believed each deceased to be an Osiris: the proximity of the god of the dead thus increased the chances of resurrection and of eternal life. Wishing to be buried there, even if only symbolically, some Pharaohs from the IInd dynasty on and the faithful too erected small brick cenotaphs or stelae representing them near the tomb of Osiris, lord of the underworld. The city thus became one of the most important cultural centres where the mysteries of the god's feastday were celebrated. The Book of the Dead which called Abydos "the island of the Just" contains a specific formula "to enter Abydos and become part of the retinue of Osiris". Most of the monuments of Abydos are based on this belief. On the hill of Kom es-Sultan (in the centre of the ancient sacred city) and dedicated to Osiris after the XIIth dynasty, the Khentamention sanctuary was mostly built of unbaked bricks, hence their disappearance, but the building work continued without interruption during almost the whole of the Egyptian period. These funerary beliefs also explain the existence of huge necropolises from various periods located between the city area and the temples which today are the most important ones, that of Sethi I (1294-1279) and his son Ramses II (1279-1213, XIXth dynasty). Abydos reached the height of its glory under these two kings. For political and religious reasons Sethi I built a funerary temple there for this father Ramses I and another one for himself. There is practically nothing left of the temple of Ramses I whereas that of Sethi I is one of the best preserved masterpieces of ancient Egypt. The temple of Sethi I The temple started by Sethi I, the overall layout, and completed by his son Ramses II (namely the foremost part and the decoration) is an exceptional piece of architecture for various reasons: 1°) its architectural value: a doubly original layout of the plan with a form at right angles instead of following a central axis and has seven parallel axes leading to seven chapels side by side each dedicated to a divinity. 2°) The exceptionally rich and varied documentary value of some reliefs which yield rare and precise information on: a) the list of kings who governed Egypt from the first Thinite Kings (I and II dynasty) up to Sethi I himself (XIXth dynasty) approx. from 2500 to 1290, with the exception of three kings (1359-1342) omitted on purpose including Akhenaton, the heretic king b) the list of 42 nomes of Egypt (22 for Upper Egypt and 20 for Lower Egypt) c) the complete illustration of the Osiris myth where the god Seth, the furious brother of Osiris who represented the forces of evil, is portrayed and it seems that this is the only time when the assassin god Seth is shown in a temple side by side with Osiris. 3°) The esthetic value of the relief sculptures, especially those with Sethi I presenting offerings to Osiris, and enhanced with paintings where the delicate strokes and elegant composition stand out subtly from the background, constitute a real technical feat and establish the "Classical purism" which characterized the art of this period as well as a deep religiosity. The Temple of Ramses II Unfortunately only the lower parts of the architectural structures remain of the temple built by Ramses II to his own glory. There are still some extremely significant remains left of the decoration done with extreme care and infinite patience as well as the famous poem of Pentaoun on the second pylon, about the battle of Qadesh, a piece of bravery of the warrior period of the great king of Egypt whose great temple of Abu Simbel too has one of the most beautiful reliefs. The plan- The first courtyard had disappeared, only the second courtyard survived with a double portico, followed by the sanctuary and then two hypostyle halls at the back of which, in the axis of the temple, are three chapels dedicated to the three gods, Osiris, Isis and Horus, whilst other subsidiary chapels lead to the sides of the second hypostyle. The Osirion Often attributed to Osiris, opinions are however divided as to the destination of this unusual construction: is this the cenotaph of Sethi II or the ritual tomb of Osiris or both at the same time? Description- The central granite platform was surrounded by a canal, like an islet. Ten gigantic central pillars, seven of which are monoliths, served as architraves supporting a probable covering. All around are subsidiary rooms, one of which is a vast hall with a pitch ceiling with an abundant decoration including astronomical motifs and an evocation for the resurrection of Sethi I: is this the room for the king's sarcophagus. There are the remains of a city, a pyramid and a funerary temple, a cenotaph, a temple with terraces and the sanctuaries of queen Tetisheri from the time of Ahmosis I (XVIIIth dynasty). Abydos, at the time of Strabo (58 BC, between 21 and 25 AD) was already only just a small centre whose importance had whittled down to being a cult site.

Internal division and fall

The Peloponnesian War was an ancient Greek war fought by the Delian League led by Athens against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases. In the first phase, the Archidamian War, Sparta launched repeated invasions of Attica, while Athens took advantage of its naval supremacy to raid the coast of the Peloponnese and attempt to suppress signs of unrest in its empire. This period of the war was concluded in 421 BC, with the signing of the Peace of Nicias. That treaty, however, was soon undermined by renewed fighting in the Peloponnese. In 415 BC, Athens dispatched a massive expeditionary force to attack Syracuse, Sicily the attack failed disastrously, with the destruction of the entire force in 413 BC. This ushered in the final phase of the war, generally referred to either as the Decelean War, or the Ionian War. In this phase, Sparta, now receiving support from the Achaemenid Empire, supported rebellions in Athens's subject states in the Aegean Sea and Ionia, undermining Athens's empire, and, eventually, depriving the city of naval supremacy. The destruction of Athens's fleet in the Battle of Aegospotami effectively ended the war, and Athens surrendered in the following year. Corinth and Thebes demanded that Athens should be destroyed and all its citizens should be enslaved, but Sparta refused.

This article concerns the period 409 BC – 400 BC.

This decade witnessed the continuing decline of the Achaemenid Empire, fierce warfare amongst the Greek city-states during the Peloponnesian War, the ongoing Warring States period in Zhou dynasty China, and the closing years of the Olmec civilization in modern-day Mexico.

Thrasybulus was an Athenian general and democratic leader. In 411 BC, in the wake of an oligarchic coup at Athens, the pro-democracy sailors at Samos elected him as a general, making him a primary leader of the ultimately successful democratic resistance to the coup. As general, he was responsible for recalling the controversial nobleman Alcibiades from exile, and the two worked together extensively over the next several years. In 411 and 410, Thrasybulus was in command along with Alcibiades and others at several critical Athenian naval victories.

Alcibiades, son of Cleinias /ˌælsəˈbaɪədiz/ Ancient Greek: Ἀλκιβιάδης, romanized:Alkibiádēs, [alkibiádɛːs], from the deme of Scambonidae, was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother's aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominence after the Peloponnesian War. He played a major role in the second half of that conflict as a strategic advisor, military commander, and politician.

Year 411 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Mugillanus and Rutilus. The denomination 411 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Theramenes was an Athenian statesman, prominent in the final decade of the Peloponnesian War. He was particularly active during the two periods of oligarchic government at Athens, as well as in the trial of the generals who had commanded at Arginusae in 406 BC. A moderate oligarch, he often found himself caught between the democrats on the one hand and the extremist oligarchs on the other. Successful in replacing a narrow oligarchy with a broader one in 411 BC, he failed to achieve the same end in 404 BC, and was executed by the extremists whose policies he had opposed.

The naval Battle of Cyzicus took place in 410 BC during the Peloponnesian War. In the battle, an Athenian fleet commanded by Alcibiades, Thrasybulus, and Theramenes routed and completely destroyed a Spartan fleet commanded by Mindarus. The victory allowed Athens to recover control over a number of cities in the Hellespont over the next year. In the wake of their defeat, the Spartans made a peace offer, which the Athenians rejected.

The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian military expedition to Sicily, which took place from 415� BC during the Peloponnesian War between the Athenian empire, or the Delian League, on one side and Sparta, Syracuse and Corinth on the other. The expedition ended in a devastating defeat for the Athenian forces, severely impacting Athens.

The History of the Peloponnesian War is a historical account of the Peloponnesian War, which was fought between the Peloponnesian League and the Delian League. It was written by Thucydides, an Athenian historian who also served as an Athenian general during the war. His account of the conflict is widely considered to be a classic and regarded as one of the earliest scholarly works of history. The History is divided into eight books.

The naval Battle of Cynossema took place in 411 BC during the Second Peloponnesian War. In the battle, an Athenian fleet commanded by Thrasybulus and Thrasyllus, although initially thrown on the defensive by a numerically superior Spartan fleet, won a narrow victory. This victory had an impact out of proportion to its tactical significance, coming when Athens' traditional democratic government had been replaced by an oligarchy and an Athenian defeat could have ended the war. The newly confident Athenian fleet proceeded to win two more victories in the Hellespont in quick succession, the second being the dramatic rout at Cyzicus, which ended the immediate Spartan threat to Athens' Black Sea lifeline.

The Battle of Abydos was an Athenian naval victory in the Peloponnesian War. In the battle, the Spartan fleet under Mindarus attempted to rescue a small allied fleet that had been driven ashore at Dardanus, but was attacked by the Athenian fleet, under Thrasybulus. The fighting was evenly contested for a great length of time, but towards evening the arrival of Alcibiades with Athenian reinforcements tipped the balance in favor of the Athenians, and the Peloponnesians were forced to flee back to their base at Abydos, suffering heavy losses along the way.

Thrasyllus was an Athenian strategos (general) and statesman who rose to prominence in the later years of the Peloponnesian War. First appearing in Athenian politics in 410 BC, in the wake of the Athenian coup of 411 BC, he played a role in organizing democratic resistance in an Athenian fleet at Samos. There, he was elected strategos by the sailors and soldiers of the fleet, and held the position until he was controversially executed several years later after the Battle of Arginusae.

Mindarus was a Spartan admiral who commanded the Peloponnesian fleet in 411 and 410 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. Successful in shifting the theatre of war into the Hellespont, he then experienced a string of defeats in the third and final of these, he was killed and the entire Peloponnesian fleet was captured or destroyed.

The Samian War was an Ancient Greek military conflict between Athens and Samos. The war was initiated by Athens's intervention in a dispute between Samos and Miletus. When the Samians refused to break off their attacks on Miletus as ordered, the Athenians easily drove out the oligarchic government of Samos and installed a garrison in the city, but the oligarchs soon returned, with Persian support.

Hagnon, son of Nikias was an Athenian general and statesman. In 437/6 BC, he led the settlers who founded the city of Amphipolis in Thrace in the Peloponnesian War, he served as an Athenian general on several occasions, and was one of the signers of the Peace of Nicias and the alliance between Athens and Sparta. In 411 BC, during the oligarchic coup, he supported the oligarchy and was one of the ten commissioners (probouloi) appointed to draw up a new constitution.

Classical Greece was a period of around 200 years in Greek culture. This Classical period saw the annexation of much of modern-day Greece by the Persian Empire and its subsequent independence. Classical Greece had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire and on the foundations of Western civilization. Much of modern Western politics, artistic thought, scientific thought, theatre, literature and philosophy derives from this period of Greek history.

Astyochus or Astyochos was a Spartan navarch who served as commander of the collective Spartan naval forces along the coast of Asia Minor from 412� BC. He is regarded by many contemporaries and modern scholars as a key reason for Sparta's early failures in the Ionian War. His expeditions consisting of involvements in Lesbos, Chios, Erythrae and Clazomenae all proved unsuccessful. He also refused requests for help from Chios, causing the Spartan administration to become increasingly dissatisfied with his leadership. Thucydides portrays Astyochus as timid and inept, and also depicts him often in conflict with his peers in Ionia. Toward the end of his role of commander, he exhibited great reluctance to attack the Athenians and also failed to properly pay his troops, leading to riots and violence, and eventually, his removal as commander in 412 BC, to be replaced by the Spartan Mindarus.

Phrynichus was an Athenian general (strategos) during the Peloponnesian War who supported the Athenian coup of 411 BC which briefly replaced the Athenian democracy by an oligarchy.

Peisander was an Athenian from the demos of Acharnae, who played a prominent part in the Athenian coup of 411 BC, which briefly replaced the Athenian democracy by an oligarchy controlled by a group called the Four Hundred.


Alcibiades was the last famous member of the Alcmaeonidae family, and a close relative of Pericles. He was blessed with great beauty, and an agreeable disposition, but was spoiled, vain, and self-willed. Although he had outstanding leadership ability, and did Athens great service, he did her far more harm, due to his incontinence and selfishness. But the real interest in the life of Alcibiades is not so much an exposition of his own personal flaws, but the fact that the Athenian people as a whole, when confronted with a leader with such obvious defects, chose to overlook and excuse them, and continued to stake the fate of their entire city on a leader with such obvious character deficiencies.

Alcibiades took part in early battles in the Peloponnesian war, and during this time befriended Socrates. Although he respected Socrates a great deal, he was utterly unable to live up to his example of virtuous living. The great personal popularity Alcibiades enjoyed caused him to become interested in politics, and in a short while he was the leader of the pro-war party. When the Peace of Nicias was declared and hostilities with Sparta were suspended, the pro-war party looked about for ways to reignite the conflict, and the plan of an attack upon the wealthy city of Syracuse was hatched. Alcibiades led the charge and was able to convince a population that was finally at peace after ten years of futile fighting, that it should resume the mantle of war, and attack another city unprovoked. Nicias, the head of the pro-peace party, strongly opposed the mission, but was over-ruled. In spite of his opposition however, he was drafted to lead the expedition, along with Lamachus, and Alcibiades. Only a month into the mission, Alcibiades was recalled to Athens on charges of vandalism and impiety, but instead of returning, he escaped to Sparta, and vengefully advised the Spartans how best to flout the plans of the Athenians. In spite of his luxurious and excessive personal habits, he was welcomed into Sparta, where he assumed the ascetic mannerisms of a true Lacemaedonian. With Alcibiades counsels, Sparta managed to turn the tide against Athens not only in Syracuse, but also in Attica. The war was officially resumed, and Athens suffered a disastrous defeat in Syracuse.

But Alcibiades could not stay out of trouble in Sparta, he feuded with King Agis II, and had to flee again, this time to Tissaphernes in Asia Minor. Here he dressed and adopted the mannerisms of a luxurious eastern despot, and began to interfere with Tissaphernes' alliance with Sparta. He now decided to throw in his lot with Athens, and raised a fleet to aid the Athenian Navy in the Aegean Sea. After winning several important victories, he returned to Athens in triumph, apparently forgiven for his treachery. But his new found popularity could not sustain him through even one military setback, and after suffering a single defeat, he was again exiled, first to Thrace, and then finally, after the fall of Athens to Phrygia. But the enemies of Alcibiades would finally catch up with him. The Satrap of Phrygia, under pressure from the Spartans, arranged for his assassination. Thus ended the life of the notorious Alcibiades, in the same year the city of Athens, that he had misled, beguiled, and betrayed, finally surrendered in despair.

The Flower of Life at the Osirion

The flower of life ‘engraved’ on a megalithic block at the Osirion. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Another fascinating feature we found at the Osirion is the Flower of Life.

The shape was not painted but was engraved in the rock. This means that even though so scratch of a piece the curious symbols remains. It is carved a few centimeters into the rock.

There are those who dare to say that the symbol seems as if it was engraved with some sort of laser. Of course, there isn’t actually evidence to support this claim, other than the fact that ‘it looks like that’.

Facts About Abydos

  • Abydos evolved into a centre of gravity in ancient Egypt’s rich religious life
  • Centre of the cult worshipping the Egyptian god of the underworld, Osiris
  • Only three of the ten originally built main temples remain, the Ramses II Temple, the Great Osiris Temple and the Temple of Seti I
  • The L-shaped Temple of Seti I is the best preserved surviving temple
  • Highlights of the Temple of Seti I are its mysterious hieroglyphs, the Abydos King List and its seven chapels
  • The climactic Festival of Osiris was once staged in Great Osiris Temple which today lies in ruins
  • Reliefs from Ramses’ famed Battle of Kadesh adorn the Ramses II Temple.

Abydos’ Pre-Dynastic and First Dynasty Tombs

Archaeological evidence suggests Egypt’s First Dynasty (3000-2890 B.C.) kings and the final two Second Dynasty (c. 2890 to c. 2686 B.C.) kings built their tombs in Abydos. These tombs were furnished with everything the soul required during its journey through the afterlife in large, stored in a complex of chambers.

North of Abydos’ royal tombs lies cemeteries U and B, housing Pre-Dynastic tombs predating Egypt’s First Dynasty. Archaeologists believe some of Abydos’ Pre-Dynastic royal tomb complexes house “proto-kings” who reigned over large parts of Egypt.

It is challenging to distinguish between early tombs built to house their kings through all eternity and those for the elite at Abydos. Engraved objects unearthed in some of these tombs contain fine examples of early Egyptian writing.

Grave Boats And Royal Enclosures

About 1.5 kilometres (one mile) north of Abydos’ royal tombs sits an enigmatic complex of enclosures build from sun-dried mud brick. These appear to be dedicated to Abydos’ kings and a queen. Each structure has its own chapel and is enclosure by imposing mud brick walls. Curiously, this complex is oriented northwest to southeast, rather than east to west.

The purpose of these monumental enclosures remains a mystery. Eight of the enclosures have been attributed to First Dynasty rulers with two more enclosures belonging to two later Second Dynasty kings. Three of these enclosures are dedicated to the pharaoh “Aha” with one honouring queen Merneith. Archaeologists speculate more enclosures are yet to be excavated at the site.

As with their royal mausoleums, the First Dynasty structures contained the burials of servants sacrificed to serve their king in his afterlife. In some enclosures, there are hundreds of sacrificial burials. By far the most imposing enclosure is that of the Second Dynasty King Khasekhemwy. His enclosure measures 134 meters (438 feet) by 78 meters (255 feet) and its walls are believed to have originally been 11 meters (36 feet), with entranceways being cut into all four sides of the walls. Khasekhemwy’s chapel, discovered inside his enclosure, housed a labyrinthine series of chambers including a modest chamber containing traces of libations and incense burning.

At the crossroads of the western mastaba and King Djer’s enclosure located northeast of Khasekhemwy’s enclosure are 12 boat graves. Each grave contains a complete ancient wooden boat some even have a crudely worked rock anchor. Evidence suggests the boats were buried around the same time, as the enclosures were constructed. Boats played a significant part in Egyptian religious rituals. Full-size boats were discovered near the Great Pyramids. The visual imagery inscribed on temple walls and in tombs depicts boats and an enormous fleet used by deceased kings and their deities, to sail through all eternity.

Osiris’ Temple

Beginning in Egypt’s Middle Kingdom (c. 2050 BC to 1710 BC), Abydos became the centre of an Osiris cult. A sprawling temple complex was built for the deity close by Abydos’ “Terrace of the Great God.” The site’s precise location has so far proven elusive, although two architectural layers from buildings date to the reigns of kings Nectanebo I (c. 360 to 342 BC), and Nectanebo II (c. 360 to 342 BC). Nectanebo II was the third and last pharaoh of Egypt’s Thirtieth Dynasty. While yet to be fully excavated, progress with the excavation indicates earlier temples may sit underneath the two earlier phases.

Egypt’s Last Royal Pyramid

Around 3,500 years ago Abydos was the site selected for Egypt’s final royal pyramid. Constructed by the 18th Dynasty’s founding king Ahmose, his pyramid, appears to have never been completed, and all that remains is a 10-meter (32-foot) high ruin. Researchers estimate the pyramid once was 53 meters (172 feet) square, comparatively modest compared to Giza’s Great Pyramids.

A nearby pyramid temple yielded shards of decorative work containing scenes depicting the Hyksos invaders being defeated by the king. An engraved stele discovered to the south narrates how a pyramid and its enclosure was constructed for the king’s grandmother, Queen Tetisheri. This claim was supported by a magnetometry survey, which revealed a 90 by 70 meters (300 wide by 230-foot deep) brick enclosure wall lying under the sand, awaiting excavation.

Seti I’s Temple

Abydos is home to numerous monuments including Seti I’s (c. 1294 BC to 1279 BC) temple. Known as the “House Of Millions Of Years,” today his temple remains one of the best preserved in all Abydos.

The primary temple structure built using limestone measures 56 by 157 meters (183 by 515 feet) and is set within a typical mud brick enclosure. The temple ascends in graceful terraces following the gradient of the surrounding desert. The lowest terrace houses an artificial lake complete with quay. Behind it, rises the first pylon with royal statue pillars bringing up its rear. Originally, each chapel held a boat-shaped palanquin to transport the deity’s image during the ceremonial procession.

The Osireion

This enigmatic structure is set behind the temple. In its surviving form today, the central room has an unfinished almost megalithic appearance. An imposing 128-meter (420-foot) passageway leads visitors to the Osireion. One hypothesis for the structure is it could have served as “Osiris-Seti’s” tomb depicting Seti as Osiris.

The Osireion’s main hall layout comprises an island, which may have held Osiris-Sety’s now vanished sarcophagus. The island is surrounded by a deep moat. The room’s ceiling was 7 meters (23 feet) across and was held up ten massive granite pillars, estimated to each weigh 55 tonnes set in two rows. The Osireion was a monumentally massive structure in one of Egypt’s oldest sites that witnessed the flow of thousands of years of Egypt’s religious evolution.

Reflecting On The Past

Enigmatic Abydos was once one of Egypt’s most powerful religious centres. Today, where desert sand now blows, once stood thousands of worshippers participating in the annual parade of Osiris’ image around the city.