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Commando Raids in the Peloponnesian War Author(s): H. G. Robertson Source: The Classical Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 11 (Jan. 10, 1944), p. 130 Published by: Classical Association of the Atlantic States

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Commando Raids in the Peloponnesian War Author(s): H. G. Robertson Source: The Classical Weekly, Vol. 37,08/2013 12:51 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, re searchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. . Classical Association of the Atlantic States is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Classical Weekly. http://www.jstor.org " id="pdf-obj-0-32" src="pdf-obj-0-32.jpg">

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  • 130 CLASSICAL

WEEKLY

namely, the 'Golden Mean' or, as the Hellenes have

expressedit, 'nothing in excess'.'2 In this present period of world conflict it may be both interesting and instructive to review the pro- nouncementsof ancientwriters on types of government existing two and one-half millenniaago, when demo- cracy stood embattled, even as today, against what

Thucydides called "the lust

for power arising from

greedand ambition."The past is largelya determinant

of the presentas well as a rich body of experience,as Professor Pratt has well observed,3and it is only

"through

the conjunction of historical analysis and

criticalappraisal in the it is finally possibleto

re-examinationof the past that achieve the perspectiveand in-

sight which are requiredfor real human advancement."

UNIVERSITY OF

ILLINOIS

H. L. RUSSELL

Commando Raids in the Peloponnesian

War

One night in the earlywinter of 429 B.C. the Athen- ians had a narrowescape. The crewsof a Peloponnesian fleet had marchedoverland to Nisaea, manned forty ships which were lying there, and put to sea under cover of darknessto raid the harborof Piraeus. No guardshipswere stationedthere and the entrancewas not closed. An attack by sea was the last thing the Atheniansexpected. It was a perfectset-up for a com- mandoraid. Had the Spartancommander persevered, he might have immortalizedhimself and made a notable contributionto the history of combinedoperations. As it was, he contented himself with a smash-and-grab raidon Salamis(Thucydides 2.93-4). Such enterpriseswere not suited to the cautious Spartans.The Athenianshowever were peculiarlyfitted by temperamentand training for commandoraids or their ancient counterparts.Even their enemies recog- nized their recklesscourage (Thuc. 7.2I). Demosthenes

rightly claimedthat they were experiencedin

descentson hostilecoasts (Thuc. 4.IO).

making

Athenianlead-

ers were used to commandingeither military or naval

forces;there was

no problemof dividedcommand to be

overcome.Hence Periclesnaturally included raids on the Peloponnesiancoast as a part of Athens' strategy

(Thuc. I I 42-3).

In the ArchidamianWar Thucydidesmentions sev- eral expeditionsaround the Peloponnese(Thuc. 2. 17.

2J. Penrose

Harland,

From Kingship

to Democracy.

This

is

one of several stimulating

articles

in

a book

of studies honoring

William

Kelly

Prentice,

The

Greek Political

Experience,

Prince-

ton

I941.

The

present comment

is indebted

for several indirect

quotations

and

for the

elan

in

general

that

led

up

to

it

to

those

articles

in

that

book by

Harland,

Harper,

Meritt,

Cole-

man-Norton,

and

MacLaren,

as

well

as

that

acknowledged

 

in

note

3.

3Norman

T.

Pratt,

Jr., The

People

and

the

Value

of Their

Experience,

Prentice

Studies,

see note

2

above.

 

23.

25-6, 30, 56, 69; 3.7, I6, 91, 94, 105; 4.42-5,

IOI).

Some of

their operationswere merely maraudingde-

scents upon unprotectedlands, but others were appar-

ently commandoraids with limited objectivesin

which

they engagedenemy forcesand then withdrewby sea. The seizure of Cythera providedAthens with an ad- vancedbase superiorto Pylos. It was used for a num- ber of raidsand arousedgreat alarmat Sparta (Thuc. 4.53-7). A rising of helots was fearedand, insteadof havingsome of them liquidatedby the SpartanGestapo, the governmentsent severalhundred to help Brasidas in opening a second front in the North (Thuc. 4.80). The strategy of the Sicilian expeditiondid not call for commandoraids, although the Syracusansmay have fearedthem when they built stockadesat the landing places (Thuc. 6.75). After war was resumed with Spartaonly one expeditionwas sent aroundthe Pelo- ponneseand it was content to ravagethe country and

build a fort, even though Argive hoplites were on

board (Tbuc. 6.20,

The Ionian War

26).

offers one striking instanceof the

use of commandomethods when an Athenian squadron sailed unexpectedlyinto the harborof Mytilene and captured the enemy vessels; the crews then disem- barked,defeated the opposingland forces,and captured the city (Thuc. 8.23). Thus an operationwhich may have been plannedas a mereraid developed into a com- plete victory. It was followedby some minor successes in amphibiousoperations against the Chians (Thuc.

8.24).

Commando raids were among the most effective weavonsof the Athenians and might well have been used much more extensively. That they were not so used may have been due to the fact that they were in- consistentwith the defensivestrategy of Pericleswho contemplateda "phonywar."l He may have regarded them merelyas a meansof satisfyingthose who wished more action. The failureto make greateruse of such raidswas one of the blundersof Athens.

UNIVERSITY

OF

TORONTO

H. G. ROBERTSON

The Guardians, Socrates, "in Prytaneion"

and Board

"The guardians will

live a happier life than that men

count most happy, the life of the victors at Olympia." "How so?" "The things for which these are felicitated are a small part of what is secured for these. Their victory is fairer and their public support more complete."

Modern commentators on this passagel give several

 

lFor a criticism of

Pericles' strategy see Henderson, The

Great War between

Athens and Sparta, 47-68.

 

lPlato, Rep. 5.13;

p. 465 D; trans. Shorey, Loeb Class. Libr.

i,

ed. of

1937.