The Gods' Bloody Tune: A Classical Greek TL

Prologue: A Joyful Day
  • The Gods' Bloody Tune: A Classical Greek TL

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    ''In those days some hoped that the days of strife might soon come to an end in Hellas. The gods, however, had other plans and mens will long continue to dance to their bloody tune...''
    Xenophon, Hellenica

    Prologue: A Joyful Day
    Demetrios Lysandros, The third day of the month of Hekatombaion of the second year of the 83rd Olympiad (1):

    Demetrios, son of Lysander, wine merchant and proud Athenian felt sorrow. It should have been a joyful day. A few months ago Athenai had believed herself on the brink of destruction, her once mighty and glorious having either been sunk or besieged in the harbour of the island of Mytilene. To build and crew another fleet to relieve the surviving ships the citizens of Athena’s city had to go as far as far to melt some of the golden statues of Nike (2), in her temple on the Acropolis and to offer citizenship to slaves willing to row in the city’s new fleet.

    It was on this inexperienced fleet with a low morale that that the hopes of Athenai layed. It was this cash starved fleet who was sent to face a Spartan fleet made confident by recent victories, kept well paid and supplied by Persian gold and, for the first, time more experienced than their Athenian opponents. It was this fleet that, to save their poleis and her empire, needed to not only win a great victory but to do so quickly, for the depleted Athenian treasury could only keep them at sea for so long. And, against all expectations, they did, the brilliance of their admirals having overcome all obstacles.

    At the Battle of the Arginusae Islands more then half the Spartan fleet had found its doom, their commander, the young and daring Navarch Calitrades, among them. Out 120 spartan triremes 77 now lay the at the bottom of the Aegean. The siege of Mytilene was lifted and what remained of the Spartan fleet, often in rather bad shape, retreated to Chios. The Athenians, for their part, had lost 25 of their 150 triremes. Significant loses, by all accounts, but nevertheless light ones, especially considering what had been achieved. And now the victorious fleet had returned home. Really it should have been a joyful day.

    But a storm had raged in the hours following the battle, preventing any attempts to rescue stranded sailors and recover the bodies of the dead. Enraged at the thoughts of brave sailors abandoned to the tender mercies of the sea, and of mens who had died for the Poleis to be denied proper burials (3), the Athenian peoples soon began to scream for vengeance and look for those responsible. Demetrios and some likeminded individuals had attempted to make their voices heard at the Eklesia, arguing for calm and clemency considering the circumstances and what the mens commanding the fleet had accomplished, but their words had been drowned by the outrage felt by so many.

    Demetrios was thus forced to stand there, powerless as the generals in command of the fleet (4) and the captains who had, at first, been charging with recovering the stranded and the bodies of the dead, accuse his each other. He felt despair rise inside his soul as he could imagine a trial depriving Athenai of some of her most brilliant warriors (5), no matter who prevailed, through the execution of those deemed responsible, just as Sparta was no doubt busying herself rebuilding her fleet with Persian gold! Silently, Demetrios begged the Lady Athene Pelle to help her city…

    And then it came, first it seemed to be simply a whisper in the wind, coming from Piraeus, but then it grew loulder and louder, as it travelled along the Long Walls and toward Athenai's Walls. Soon all in Athenai had heard of the news from the east and, from uncountable throats, rose the same chant of relief and hope. ‘’The Great King is dead! The Great King is Dead! The Great King is Dead! (6)’’

    Soon Demetrios, joined in the chanting. It did, after all, proved to be a joyful day!

    (1) Sometimes in July of 406 BC
    (2) Greek goddess of victory
    (3) Very much a big deal according to ancient Greek religious beliefs and practises.
    (4) Ancient Greece didn’t have the same concept of separation between land and naval forces we have and in Athens the commanders of military forces where usually those elected to the Board of Generals.
    (5) Theramenes and Thrasybulus, the two captains having been put in charge of the rescue mission, had both been generals in the past and had served brilliantly.
    (6) The POD, in OTL Darius II died only two years latter.
     
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    Questions and Answers
  • Q: What the hell is that?
    A: ''That'' is an attempt to make a TL out of a concept that I have been toying with for a while: having the Peloponesian War end in a stalemate, rather then in a clear cut victory for either. Old Hellas will be left in even more chaos then OTL as a result. As an asside, I also want to use this TL to try my hand at in-story POV writing.

    Q: OK, but it isn't like there is a lack of Ancient Greek TL going around, why should I read yours?
    A: A fair criticism, but most TLs I have come accross have tended to focus on either the fifth century BC or on Philip, Alexander and what came after. The third century, the main focus of this TL, hasn't gotten as much screen time. Moreover, we will also deal with how the butterflies affect the rest of the world.

    Q: Well, that sounds midly interesting I suppose but how is a stalemate supposed to come about when, as you yourself even admit in the Prologue, Athens is exhausted?
    A: Again, a fair point but following the Battle of Arginusae the Spartans and their allies in the Aegean are not exactly in good shape either and, more then ever, need Persian money. The earlier death of Darius II will have some interesting consequences on the course of the Peloponesian War...
     
    Chapter I : Shifting Grounds
  • Chapter I : Shifting Grounds

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    Pharnazabus II, Satrap of Phyrgia

    Pharnazabus liked to think himself as a good Persian noble. His father had taught him to ride to shot the bow, tell the truth, treat both his fellows and his inferiors with kindness and serve faithfully whoever Ahura Mazda had chosen to rule as Kings of Kings. Those things where, in Pharnazabus opinion, the matters to which not only a Persian noble but any man needed to attend to if he was to be of value to his fellows. Hellenes often did not particularly like Pharnazabus for, in Pharnazabus opinion, they also often did not understand those things. They tended to saw his loyalty and willingness to accept the world as it was ordered by Ahura Mazada as servility. They preferred their shields and spears to the bow and the horse and, as far as Pharnazabus was concerned, they were all to ready to lie when it served their purposes.

    To be fair, however, Pharnazabus was not particularly fond of the Hellenes himself and, to his own mind if to no one else, he was willing to admit that they often puzzled him as well. The sources of their exaggerated attachments to their small cities, of their frequent dislike for government by one man and their rather obnoxious sense of superiority over other nations often remained mysteries to him. Some might even go as far as to say that Pharnazabus held only disdain for the Hellenes. At the court of the King of Kings, at Susa or Persepolis, it was considered of good tone to diminish the importance of the great defeats the Hellenes inflicted on them all those years ago, or even to avoid mentioning them altogether. That didn’t make them any less real. Foolish was the man who underestimated their triremes and hoplites.

    It was precisely because he was not a fool that Pharnazabus had recently often received the very Hellene he disliked above all others, and had to currently bear the burden of his presence in his palace. In front of him was sitting a lover of debauchery and lies, a man who barely tought more of his friends then of his enemies, a man who had betrayed both the city of his birth and the one who had sheltered him. Pharnazabus could not deny his physical beauty but he could see the rotten soul hiding behind his golden looks. It was that man who had explained to Pharnazabus that it was in his, and his master's, best interest, to help Athenai prevail. If Sparta was to triumph a mighty forces of hoplites would probably cross the sea to help Cyrus the Younger, or the brat of Sardis as Pharnazabus often tought of him, in his bid to throne. With them Cyrus might very well prove able to defeat his half-brother, an event that would spell doom for Pharnazabus and his family (1). Pharnazabus would have dearly loved to turn him down but he could not, for truth had ringed in the athenian’s words.

    As a result Pharnazabus had used all his influence to secure the funds needed Alkiabiades had requested (2). The gold had quickly travelled from Susa and was now transferred to the Athenian’s care. As his visitor was about to depart Pharnazabus struggled to find polite words of parting, but at the end he couldn’t.

    ‘’You have what you asked for Athenians! Now go, convince your city and be victorious!’’.

    ____

    Thrasybulus, son Olorophon

    Thrasybulus sometimes wondered why he was so attached to democracy and why he was willing to do so much to defend it. Aboard a trireme or among hoplites his booming voice commanded the respect and obedience of all under him, communicating what needed to be done in laconic intonations that the Spartans themselves would not have disapproved. At the Ekklesia, however, he had often struggled to convince his fellow Athenians for he did not possess the gift of oratory like others.

    Usually he would have despaired of his ability to prevail over a brilliant speaker such as Kleophon, who was brilliant in precious little else. Today, however, he felt a certain degree of confidence for he had simple common sense of his side. Kleophon’s attacks on Alkibiades and the satrap of Phyrgia might be where devastating, none could deny it, and Thrasybulus sometimes struggled to hide his irritation and the insults directed at one of his old political allies. Nevertheless, he simply answered, calmly and in a matter of fact fashion, that to accept the help offered would provide a massive boon for Athenai if, like Cleophon ardently desired, the Poleis decided to turn down Sparta’s offer of peace and continue the war (3).

    ‘’Therefore I ask that this assembly recall Alkibiades, allow him to be candidate to the Board of Generals despite his absence from the Poleis and accept to do all in its power to prevent help to reach to Prince Cyrus at Sardis, in exchange for the support of the satrap of Phyrgia!’’ he concluded. As he looked at the expression painted on the faces gathered around him he could not repress a smile, for he knew he had won!

    ___
    Atipathes, son of Agis

    Atipathes could hear their loud voices coming down from across the long hall of the palace of the Kings of Lydia.

    Despite the Athenian refusal of their peace offer, the old guard in Sparta had put a stiff resistance to his political patron’s return as Navarch (4). It had taken most of the political influence, cunning and popularity Lysander’s possessed to allow him to break the normal constitutional rules regarding such positions in Sparta (5) and attempt to complete what he had started at Notium. Much of the rest had been spent convincing the Gerousia and the Apela to levy a financial contributions on Sparta’s allies to help pay for the campaign. To say that the latter had not been exactly fond of the idea would have a been a gross overstatement and the sums in question had to kept quite low as a result. And then came the news that the Athenian might very well have gained a fair few new friends…

    After the news of Darius II’s death Lysander and Atipathes had originally hoped that the funds they took away with them while salling easterward, alongside whatever funds they could convince their allies to provide, could allow them to rebuild the fleet and gain victory over Athenai without needing too much of the gold they know Cyrus might very well now be more reluctant to give. It was obvious that this hope had come to naught. More then ever, the fate of the Spartan fleet depended on her Persian friends, and the words coming down the hall didn’t do much to calm Atipathes worries in that regard. After all, screams according to which the Spartan Navarch was forgetting himself in front of the Great King, or that the aforementioned Great King was only a child who would do well to give proper respect to his elders where hardly good signs.

    Instants after instants passed in dreadful awaiting for Atipathes, as it became more and more evident that the young pretender was demanding that Sparta help him defeat his half-brother before he could provide them with the same support then in the past, while both he and Lysander knew that Sparta had to prevail over Athenai to be able to make its weight truly felt in the successions crisis. At the Antipathes remained confident that Cyrus would give them at least some gold, the bounds of friendship between him and Lysander were simply too strong for things to turn out otherwise, but the old days when the Spartan fleet seemed to swim in Darics would not return.

    Without the Persian pretender’s massive assistance they would have to not ask for gold and silver from Kios, Miletos, Ephesus and Halicarnassus but demand it, in large quantity. The cities who had rallied to Sparta to no longer pay tribute to Athenai would no doubt resent it. Who knew how their citizens would react?

    At that question Atipathes felt fear creeping toward his heart but he managed to ignore it. He was a Spartan, he was not supposed to be afraid of war!

    ___
    Stratis, son of Philomenos

    Stratis had only still been a boy when his father and grandfather had been butchered by the crowd. They had been a good men, proud citizens of Miletos who had done everything they could to help their poleis to navigate the treacherous waters of Ionian politics, cultivating Athenai's friendship in the hope of eventually seeing the cities’ tribute reduced and also because they truly believed in democracy.

    As a result, when the oligarchs of the poleis had risen up in favour of Sparta he had been deemed a friend of Athens, and therefore butchered. Some had wanted to visit the same faith on Stratis but more moderates voices had prevailed. After all, he was of good noble lineage, one of their class, and could be brought correctly now that his traitorous father and grandfather had descended to Hades. What they did not know, however, was that Stratis had already been gained to the political ideals of his family. A few weeks after the oligarchip coup Stratis had sworn an oath, a bloody oath, a terrible oath, to avenge his father and grandfather and restore democracy to Miletus or die in the attempt.

    Since the arrival of the Spartans he had done everything he could to keep Miletos democratic party alive. Hidden letter after hidden letter he had managed to restore and maintain a degree of communication with some of Athenai’s statesmen, providing them with what information he could and attempting to prepare for the return of her fleet. Now, at least, Stratis had grown into a man and there was hope for the future. Now that Persian gold was no longer flowing to him, Lysander’s rapacity for wealth had been revealed, his heavy handedness had shown to Miletus the true face of Sparta.

    In his atria were assembled many wealthy and influential Miletines, gathered to discuss what was to be done. In spite of their recently acquired dislike for Sparta they hesitated to follow Stratis’ lead in preparing to deliver the poleis to Athenai at the first occasion. Why should they act against one master if it was only to gain another?

    Stratis merely smiled at their objections and, rather theatrically, poured the content of a small bag full of Darics on the table while announcing that more might soon be given to them if they followed his lead! Seeing the hungry expressions they now had he knew that gold had managed to do what word couldn’t and he silently asked Nemesis and Nikée to give victory to the Athenian fleet.

    ___
    Demetrios, son of Lysandros

    As the fleet began to sail away from Piraeus Demetrios watched the crowd who had gathered to see them off depart before turning his eyes toward the rest of the fleet. All around the trireme he now commanded he could see the sails marked by crude drawings of Athene’s owl. Only a blind man could not see the political divide among the seven generals commanding the fleet, with Alkibiades, Thrasybulus and Theramenes on one side, Periclès the Younger, Thrasylus and Erasnides (who, in spite of criticisms still levied on them for their role in the failed rescue mission at Arginusae had still gained enough credit for their role during the battle to be reelected as generals) on the other while the ever apolitical Konon in the middle. Yet Demetrios remained confident, for the last days had seen them apparently willing to put their differences at rest, for the moment at least, to ensure that Athenai could seize the chance offered to her by the gods when they had striken down the Great King Darius.

    In truth, never since the Sikelian disaster had an Athenian fleet seemed so formidable. The Satrap of Phyrgia's gold had ensured that its rowers would be well feed and paid while the victory at Arginusae and the death of the Darius had restored their faith in their final victory. The mastery of the Aegean belonged to Athenai, not to Sparta. Things will be put right and the proper order of the world restored told himself smuggly. With grim determination he continued to watch the rest of the fleet at is sailed east, toward Samos and toward battle.

    (1) Pharnazabus II was satrap of Lydia before Cyrus the Younger used his mother's influence at court to have relegated to Phyrgia, a less important satrapy. As a result the two men tensions have quickly grown between them. Cyrus becoming Great King would be extremely bad news for him.
    (2) In OTL the man first tried to help Sparta just enough for the war to continue, but not enough for it to win, hoping that Sparta and Athens would exhaust each other. After he once more became satrap of Lydia and the main persian policy maker regarding Hellas he then proceeded to ally with Athens, Persia's traditional ennemy, to weaken Sparta as the latter as the latter was trying to keep control of the Ionian city they had promised to return to Persian control during the Peloponesian War. Overall Pharnazabus seem to be a rather canny operator with a realpolitik outlook. I really do believe that it wouldn't be out of character for him to help Athens win if he believed it necessary to ensure his political, and perhaps also physical, survival.
    (3) Both ITTL and OTL the traditionalists in Sparta managed to have a peace offer presented to Athens, where all would conserve their current possessions. In both cases the offer was refused, tough in this TL doing so is not nearly as reckless for Athens as it was in OTL.
    (4) At this point Sparta citizen body is essentially divided in two factions. The traditonalist only seek that their city be secure in her status as a great power of Hellas and that the economic, social and political statu quo in Sparta be preserved. They do not like Persia and would rather find a way to mend fences with Athens rather then to continue to cooperate with the Persians. The imperialist, on their part, want to win the war at sea and make Sparta the master of Hellas. To do so they are willing to make important consessions to Persia.
    (5) Second terms as Navarch where usually prohibited in Sparta.
     

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    Chapter II: The Battle of Chalcedon
  • Chapter II: The Battle of Chalcedon

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    ''As the Athenian fleet was docking in Samos Alcibiades position must have seemed almost unassailable. His exile had been lifted and, in spite of the significant opposition some had expressed to his return, had received a hero’s welcome from the peoples and feasted as the man who had secured for Athens the assistance that would grant her victory. His charisma, as well as the support of Theramenes and Thrasybulus had secured a majority at the Athenian Ekklesia. Among the generals accompanying the fleet he more often then not managed to rally Konon to his cause, as the eminent seamen was conscious of the crucial role played by the Persian gold Alcibiades in the Athenian war effort, allowing to more often than not dictating strategy and tactics. Alcibiades seemed to have become the first men in Athens once more.

    Yet, the fragility of it all could not have escaped the attention of the ever clever politician. It was as the source of Artaxerxes’ gold that he had been welcomed back and restored in a position of, if not supreme power, at least pre-eminence. What was to happen when the war would have come to an end and that gold was no longer needed, and would at any rate no longer been forthcoming? How long would it take for his old enemies to go on the offensive once more? How long would it take for Theramenes and Thrasybulus, the former having wielded great political power in the past and the second having grown in stature among the Athenians during Alcibiades’ absence, before they grew tired of his leadership? Restoring the prestige he had lost at Notium through a spectacular naval victory couldn’t but have seemed to be the obvious solution to most of the problems facing the Athenian trickster. The temptation to provoke a decisive confrontation with Lysander must have been great indeed.

    However, and rather surprisingly considering the sum of his career, Alcibiades successfully resisted it (1). While the rest of the generals commanding the fleet where busying themselves drilling the fleet, trying to instruct the valiant but inexperienced crews who had won the day at Arginusae in some of the more subtle arts of naval tactics, Alcibiades endeavoured to strike a grievous blow to the Spartan fleet without even leaving the harbour of Samos, with Persian gold as his weapon. The pay of the rowers of the Athenian was raised to five oboles per day. Short of extorting so much funds from his remaining allies in the area that a general rebellion would have been all but a certainty Lysander could not hope to equal it. As a result he could only assist helplessly to the desertions multiplying among his rowers, the 150 triremes he could crew at the end of the spring of (X) BCE quickly dwindling to 120 (2). Lysander needed to force a battle, as soon as possible and only one step could allow him to achieve that objective. And thus the Spartan fleet sailed toward the strait, establishing its new base of operation at Abydos and endeavouring to block the grain routes upon which Athens’ survival depended.

    Upon arriving at Abydos Lysander endeavoured to solidify Sparta’s position in the area by convincing some of the Poleis surrounding its waters to surrender to him, or at the very least to extract some money from them to fund his fleet. This proved to be a mistake, as it allowed the Athenian fleet to force the squadron he had left at the entry of the straits to flee without a fight (3), destroying any hopes Lysander’s might have held for a battle among the narrow waters near Sestos and Abydos that would have nullified much of Athens’s 210 triremes superiority in numbers. As a result Lysander had no choice but to flee further east and further north, to go where the importance of that superiority could be lessened as much as was feasible…


    Thus, on a sunny day of the Greek month of Thargelion, the stage was set for the last great battle of the Peloponesian War, the Battle of Chalcedon.''

    Excerpt of A New History of the Peloponesian War.


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    Rouch map of the Position of the fleets at the beguinning of the battle, the Athenians are in blue and the Spartans are in red (please ignore the modern roads, buildings and names) Due Credits to Google Maps

    Atipates, son of Agis

    ‘’FASTER! FASTER!!! FASTER!!!!!!!!!!’’

    The voices of Antipates and his captains ringers in the waters of the straights, their rowers doing everything they could to follow their orders as the Spartan squadron raced around the island of the Proti (4), hoping to strike the Athenian right wing on its flank while they would be busy facing the elite of the of the Spartan fleet, directly commanded by Lysander himself. Against the superiority of the Athenian’s fleet Antipatos’ friend, strategos and political patron had turned to tactical innovation to be able to prevail.

    The tactic adopted by the Spartan admiral could neither be deemed a Periplous (5), nor a Diekplous (6). It was both and neither. The center of the main Spartan’s squadron was to sail directly toward the Athenian right-wing squadron, commanded by Alkibiades in person, and disrupt their formation while, the triremes will proceed to ram the Athenian vessels in the vicinity, hopefully creating a large gap between most of the and the rest of the fleet. Antipates and his ships, having previously hided behind Proti, where then to emerge and attack the already beleaguered Athenian squadron on a second flank, routing it. Deprived of their admiral and left exposed by the flight or the destruction of its right-wing squadron, the rest of the Athenian fleet would then be an easy prey.

    By all accounts it was a sound plan, bearing all the marks of his friend’s tactical acumen. As the squadron he commanded was about to, at last, emerge among the bloody waters where battle had been joined Antipates silently begged Ares to help his favourite sons and, as he finally caught a glimpse of what the bloody scene, it seemed that the God was indeed with his city!

    Alcibiades and the squadron holding the Athenian right flank had been separated from the rest of the fleet and, slowly but surely, they were pushing further and further away from it. Soon Atipathes and his triremes had joined the fray, ramming the Athenians triremes on their exposed flank with all the speed they could muster, only accentuating their apparent disarray. Chants of ‘’Sikelia, Sikelia, Sikelia!’’ spread among the Spartans triremes and, for one wonderfull and glorious, it seemed that Lysander’s genius might just prevail, after all, and that Sparta would be made the high city of Hellas.

    And then, from behind the Athenian lines it came, a lone and booming voice, somehow rising above the clamor of the battle and seemingly louder then Zeus’ own thunder:

    ‘’ATHENE!’’

    The voices of the crews of dozens of Athenian triremes, who had apparently been left behind to form a reserve squadron, soon answered at once:

    ‘’NIKÉ’’

    Again and again, the war cries rose into the sky.

    ‘’ATHENE! NIKÉ!’’

    ‘’ATHENE! NIKÉ’’

    Atipathes had never heard the lone booming voice before. He had, however, heard tales of the disaster of Kyzikus, and he instinctively the name of the man to whom the voice belonged and his blood turned to ice.


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    Another Rough Map, this time at the key moment of the battle, when Alcibiades' squadron is in difficulty and the reserves under Thrasybulus are about to intervene. No game changers elsewhere but the rest of the Spartan line is already being slowly pushed toward the shore, its left flank dangerously exposed

    Demetrios, son Lysandros

    Demetrios liked to think of himself as a couragerous man, a man of Arete (7), a man who would accept to plunge among blood and screams without taking pleasure in it and only to do his duty to his Polis. He had never imagined he would enjoy it, and truly he didn’t for there was nothing to savour in the chaos of battle. And yet, in the middle of suffering and tragedies great and small, Demetrios was smilling, for Niké was once smilling on Athenai.

    Few could make their voices heard by Alkiabiades but his old brother in arm Thrasybulus was one of them. When, on the day before the battle, he had predicted that the Spartan would use the island of Proti to organise some kind of ambushes Alkibiades had listened and had placed him in command of a reserve of 40 triremes, placed near the Athenian right-wing and presumably ready to respond to any bad surprise the Spartans might have in store, Demetrios’ trireme was among them.

    As a result they had found themselves perfectly well placed to come to the rescue of Alkiabiades' triremes. Soon Lysander’s and the triremes directly under his command had found themselves facing a masterfully executed Diekplous by Thrasybulus’ squadron and who had to fend off the blows of the ships who had constituted Athenai’s right win, as the arrival of reinforcements had lead them to abandon all ideas of flight and to rally and reform their lines. Lysander’s and the ships directly under his command had resisted, for a time, but numbers and the superior tactical position of the Athenian’s made the outcome inevitable. In a storm of wood, blood and water the flower of the Spartan fleet had died, with only a precious few managing to flee, presumably in the hope of reaching Abydos. Lysander had not been among them.

    Some of Athenai’s warship had turned southward and eastward, to pursue them and also neutralise the ships who had emerged from behind Proti. Demetrios had not been among them, however. Like most of the triremes who faced Lysander he and his mens had turned their eyes toward the rest of the Spartan fleet. Escape was to be denied to them, they where to be driven and, finally destroyed. For Athenai’s sake Sparta’s naval power needed to die.

    ___
    Atipathes, son Agis

    As his trireme was racing away from the battle site Atipates could only look helplessly at the, presumably final, destruction of the fleet on which so much of his hope and dream had once rested. He had not even dared to enquire as to whether anyone knew of Lysander’s, for he had forbidden himself any hope for his friend survival.

    It was then that he saw it, the man standing at the prow of the trireme who the chances of battle had dictated his fleeing ship would pass close by. Despite the distance only a glance was needed to recognise the man who had betrayed Sparta after she had sheltered him. Without a tought he grabed a bow close by and the arrow soon raced, striking Alkibiades close to his neck. As his vessel continued to make his way toward relative safety he could see the Athenian remove it, almost immediately, but something in him knew the injury would nevertheless be fatal.

    Despite the defeat Antipates allowed himself a degree of grim satisfaction.

    ___
    Arakus, son of Amphidamos

    Arakus was a Spartan of the old school and, has a result, he had never liked Lysander. As far as he was concerned the Athenian could have the Aegean as taking it away from her was simply not worth the price. No wealth in the world was worth turning to medism by betraying their fellow Helenes to the Medes (8), no wealth in the world was worth betraying Sparta’s soul by giving Spartiates more power then he legally should have held or venerate him like the heroes of old. A most impious act if there was any. Victory achieved by those means was simply not worth it.

    Many Spartans had disagreed, however, and when Athenai had refused the peace that was offered Lysander was made Navarch once more in all but name, allowing him to resume his Medism, and he, Arakus, was forced to wear an empty title. Because of his minor victory at Notion Lysander had been allowed to defile all the tradition of the Polis and praised for it and, at the end, he had been proved to be a false hero.

    Today the Athenians where rewarded for having refused the peace and Sparta was seeing what remained of his hope at sea die. After Lysander had presumably drowned, swarm of Athenian triremes had descended upon Arakus’ ships, and those of his brother and arm Cleomedes. For hours they had fought on, desperately trying to escape the jaws of the trap that where closing on them. A handful had managed to do so but most had not found a way out and, slowly but relentlessly, had been pushed toward the shore before being forced to beach their ships, hoping that the gods would give them to time to prepare for the inevitable onslaught on land that would follow the rout at sea.

    The gods where not with Sparta on that day, however, and a mighty force of Athenian marines (9) had managed to land before the chaos reigning among the Spartan crews could have been master. Now fighting with the energy of despair Arakus managed to kill two Athenians before, quick and sudden, a lance came and ended Arakus' war for good.


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    The last moments of the battle (again, rough map)

    Thrasybulus, son of Olorophon

    As he stood above the dead body of his old political partner and brother in arm Thrasybulus could barely hold his tears.

    The death of the fleet defacto commander had been kept as well guarded a secret as it could be but now, as victory had been secured, there was time to mourn.

    ‘’How?’’ he at last asked.

    ‘’One arrow killed him, like so many before and so many to come’’ answered an oddly familiar voice

    At that he nodded and, as his thoughts turned to past events, a tinge of guilt began to share his thoughts alongside his sorrow. It was Alkibiades who had exhorted Sparta to help Syrakousai, making possible the disaster in Sikelia possible. It was Alkiabiades who had spoken in favour of the establishment of the fortress at Dekelia, leading to the occupation of Atika. It was Alkiabiades who had done whatever he could to convince Sparta’s to turn toward the Medes… He had betrayed Athenai and done her great harm and would have undoutebly done so again if he believed it was in his interest to do so, for that was the kind of man Alkibiades was.

    And yet, Alkibiades mourned him. What kind of man was he then?

    ‘’You knew his fault, just like I did, and yet we loved him anyway. That is Philé, the purest for me of love’’ added the voice, seemingly reading his toughts.

    At last Thrasybulus turned around and saw the famously ugly face of the man whom the Oracle of Delphi had once called the wisest in Hellas, a face who nevertheless seemed to radiate with compassion and kindness.

    For a few moments, the General and the Sophist cried together.

    ___

    ''Out of the 120 triremes that had sailed for Sparta at the beginning only 27 managed to escape. The Athenians, saw 39 of their triremes found their final rest at the bottom of the Propontis, most of them lost during the initial phase of the battle or at the hands of desperate Spartan triremes. Significant loses, without doubt, even if their importance was diminished by the ever willy Alcibiades, who had done what he could to ensure that triremes sailed and rowed by mens rallied to Athens by Golden Darics would suffer most of the casualties, while those crewed and rowed by Athenian themselves would be somewhat protected.


    Many historians have theorised that at Chalcedon the Athenians had sought to replicate their previous victory at Cyzicus. If it was the case they failed, for Chalcedon fell far from the quasi-tactical perfection of Cyzicus, in spite of Athens’ far stronger position. Nevertheless, from a strategical and geopolitical perspective Athens’ success could not be denied. Abydos surrender to Athens a mere few days after the battle while Milet, Ephesus, Hallicarnus and other smaller Ionian cities soon saw pro-athenian and democratic parties reassert themselves and move to open the gates of their Poleis to the victorious Athenian fleet. The strength of oligarchic resistance proved stronger in some cities then in others but, when all was said is done, Athenian domination of Ionia and Caria had been quickly re-established.

    Only in Chios did the Athenians find stiff resistance as, alone among the members of the Delian League, the island had always managed to avoid housing an Athenian garrison and paying tribute. After the Sicilian Disaster they had been the spark who had begun the great revolt among Athens’s subject. Athens’ victory meant the end of Chian authonomy, and so even the city’s democrats did not prove willing to help the enemy. Nevertheless, a naval blockade was soon established and a land fort was built and staffed by an Athenian garrison. Chios resistance could not last eternally.

    In many ways Chalcedon was for Athens at sea what Mantinea had been for Sparta on land 13 years before. Just like Athens during the sixth year before Chalcedon, a series of defeat had lead Sparta to tether on the brink of destruction until a great victory on land, in a battle where defeat might very well have spelt doom, restored their reputation, their control over their hegemonia and their immediate security.

    The specter of imminent defeat had, at last, ceased to haunt Athens and the Spartan naval challenge was at an end.


    The war had reached an impasse.''

    Excerpt of A New History of the Peloponesian War.

    (1) The fact that Lysander did defeat him at Notion only a few years before had made Alcibiades more cautious.
    (2) Lysander and the Spartans had used the same trick against Alcibiades and the Athenians in 406 BC, leading to the defeat of the latter at Notion. He his rather enjoying returning them the favour, truth be told.
    (3) In OTL Lysander would not have made that mistake but he also didn't face a major cash shortage (in comparaison to his ennemies) that dictated much of his strategy.
    (4) Today Kinaliada.
    (5) A traditional Ancient Greek naval tactic, who consisted in beating your opponent through speed to be able to ram the ennemy's triremes vulnerable sterns.
    (6) Another traditional Ancient Greek naval tactic, who this time consisted in sailing through the ennemy lines to be able to outmaneuver it.
    (7) Ancient Greek term that roughly translate as moral excellence.
    (8) The Persians.
    (9) The term is definitely a bit jarring but it is how established classicists call Athens' naval infantry so I decided to go with it.

    Author Note: Well, that was a dosy! Please let me know if you have any opinion regarding the lenght, as I am worried it might be a bit too long. Alternatively, I do hope that the battle was not too confusing (and that the maps help), they where often rather messy affairs in real life, something that I tried to reflect.

    Next chapter will touch on the end of the Peloponesian War itself and will put some seeds to the grounds regarding future conflicts!
     

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    Chapter III: The Peace of Theramenes and Pausanias
  • Chapter III: The Peace of Theramenes and Pausanias

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    Atipates, son of Agis

    As his fleet was anchoring in Chalcis’ harbour Atipathes wonder what impiety he might have commited to be subject to the fury of the Moirais (1)? How was he to otherwise, explain the last few months.

    After Khalkedon he had found himself at the head of what remained of the Spartan fleet, fleeing toward Hellas as fast as they could. While they were doing so news of the rapid collapse of the Spartan naval empire reached them but they could do nothing to prevent it. While they where rowing toward the other side of the Aegean pleas for help from their besieged Chian allies and from their Oligarchic friend facing Athenian reprisals. Atipates could do not but ignore them and order his rowers to row faster.

    During their flight Atipathes had hoped that of his dead friends’ work, that Sparta could save something of her aborted maritime empire. Euboa, after all, still stood and did not appear to be in any hurry to return to Athenai’s fold. Maybe, just maybe, the great and wealthy island could be salvaged for the Peloponesian League. Even those hopes had been dashed, however, when the remnants of the once great fleet approached the island.

    They had expected to find, at last, refuge and rest in the city of Khalkis. A place where they could confer with the commanders of the island’s garrisons and with their local allies and determine what should be done if the Athenians where to come. Instead, they had found Chalkis’ habour filled with hoplites and Peltastes (2), many of the formers with shields painted with Herakles’ mass. Here and there Atipathes’ could also see archers, clustered around torches needed to make the flaming arrows that could destroy sails and decks… Thebai’s had betrayed them.

    A few hours where needed but a meeting between Atipathes, and a handful of captains, and the Thebans leader was aranged. There the Spartan seamen learned that, with the complicity of the locals they had crossed the waters between it and Boetia and occupied Euboa’s Poleis without a blow being strucked. Inferior in numbers, the garrisons Sparta had left in Eretria and Khalkis could do nothing but retreat to the Poleis’ acropolis, submitted to sieges in all but name. The Thebans then proceeded to explain that they did not desire war with Sparta and that, in many ways, Atipathes arrival was a gift of the Olympians: he could ferry these garrisons back to Lakonia, with no further troubles needed.

    ‘’We were allies!'' Atipathes almost spitted, his voice full of anger.

    ‘’You cannot hold the island now, the Athenians will not be besieging Khios forever and the Spartans Khalkis in Euboa only have so much bread with them’’. One of the Thebans reported matter of factly and, as much as the Spartan captain hated to admit it, he had spoken the truth.

    The Theban offer was accepted and thus, the last piece of dream that Atipathes had once dreamed went away.

    Theramenes, son of Gorgias

    For the thousandth time since he came to Pylos Theramenes wondered if he was mad. Athenai had only just escaped complete disaster multiple times during the past year and the empire had yet to be completely secured, for Khios still held. Moreover, Atika itself was still occupied, for the Spartans still held guard at Dekelia. In such conditions attempting to sneak past Sparta’s guard and rebuild Athenai’s old fort on the Messenian coast, near the very heart of Sparta’s power. And yet, there nevertheless stood Theramenes.

    Ironically, it was precisely in the apparent madness of it all that Theramenes’ hopes layed. If the gods favoured Theramenes the Spartans would never suspect, not even for an instant, that the Athenians would return to Pylos so soon and before news of the construction of a fort in so sparsely populated an area could reach Sparta it would have been well underway. So well underway in fact that it would have been over before the red capes of the Spartiates would be seen. The fort which Spartans feared so much that they had repeatedly offered to trade it for Dekelia and Atika would be a diplomatic chip in Athenai’s pocket once more and, perhaps, would be what finally brought it a peace that would leave her empire mostly intact.

    As the soldiers and rowers he had brought with him where busying themselves, erecting a palisade as fast as they could, Theramenes could only glare at the horizon. Every single moment during which nothing appeared brought him closer to his goal.

    Cleomenes, son of Pleistoanax

    Born in an old Spartan family Cleomenes had, from the moment he was able to understand the world around, be brought up in the conviction that Sparta was inherently different, indeed superior, to all other Poleis of Hellas. Throughout his life Cleomenes had always believed in the truth of these words and had never questioned them, until today.

    For most of the day the Apela (3) had been the theater of scenes Cleomenes would have been smugly thought where the preserve of the Athenian Ekklesia. The Athenian Theramenes had come to offer peace, a peace where Pylos would be returned to Sparta in exchange for their Polis evacuation of Attika.

    Some had advocated to accept the peace, pointing out that the war at sea had been lost, that Sparta did not have the wealth to rebuild, that word of the return of the Athenian to Pylos had already come to the Helots and then there was Thebai… Others, however, believed that if Sparta left the current occasion pass they’re will never be another one. Athenai would recover, her grip on her empire would strengthen and her internal divisions would heal. Sparta needed to extract from her remaining allies whatever sums where needed to rebuild a fleet, even at the risk of a rebellion.

    The debate had long raged, accusations of cowardice, foolishness, hybris, love for Athenai, Medising (4) and, above all, willingness to act against the best interests of Sparta to further one’s ambitions freely flied. Sign of the great division among Spartans, both sides could count a king among their spokesman: Agis II, victor of Mantinea, lending his voice to war and Pausanias, who had assumed the leadership of Sparta’s traditionalists, for peace.

    When all was said and done, however, when the Spartiates (5) where asked to make their opinion be heard by screaming and banging their spears on their shields and Cleomenes joined the voices for peace, it could only end with their triumph. Spartans where simply too conservatives when it came to foreign policy, too warry of seeing what Cleomenes and all true Spartans knew in their heart to be a most fragile construction, tough they would never admit, to follow the course followed by the War Party. Moreover, the return of the Athenians at Pylos had awakened the old fear of a Messenian revolt and nothing could prove more powerful to a Spartan mind.

    For a few moments Cleomenes was relieved, the nightmare of a Sparta loosing everything in the pursuit of a fabled naval empire was banished, things would remain as they were. Then his eyes fell on those who had wanted to pursue such a dream, especially the Motboxs and those in danger of becoming Inferiores (6). For those men victory over Athenai was everything, it was the hope of becoming sufficiently wealthy or preeminent to make their way in Sparta’s society, or at the very least to avoid loosing everything by not being able to bring their share to the Sysiphe(7). As he saw the hatred shining in their eyes Cleomenes shivered.

    Dromeus, son of Lysicrates

    Dromeus had lived to be an old man and, has he reflected has he took place on one of Megakles’ house, in many ways this was his curse.

    He had grown up in the Miletos of decades ago, when the glorious memory of the great victory over the Medes was still fresh, when the Delian League was still an Hegemonia and was not yet an Archai (8) and when Athenai was still supposed to lead the Poleis of Ionia, Karia and the Aegean in a sunny future where Demokratia would reign and all Poleis would be free.

    These days had passed, however. Miletos became a mere subject, rather then an ally, of Athenai and, when news came of the disaster in Sikelia, had to stand with either those who whised Miletos to be independent once more and those who, like him, believed in Demokratia. Dromeus stood with the first and time would prove he had chosen wrong. Under Sparta’s lead the Oligarchy having taken power in Miletos became ever more narrow and, under Lysander’s Dekarkhy (9), ever fanatic in their pursuit of those who didn’t share their loyalty to Sparta. Miletos had merely exchanged a stern and severe master for a boorish, greedy and intemperamental one. When news of Khalkedon came to Miletos the democrats, lead by the young Stasis, had risen in revolt. Their wrath had been terrible, tough in all justice Dromeus could not say that the Oligarchs with whom he had collaborated had been kinder in their days of power, and the blood of Sparta’s friends had ran throughout the Polis. Dromeus and a few of his grandchildren had managed to escape to Amphipolis. Most of his family had not been so lucky.

    Dromeus and fellow Milletines exiles where now to condemned to dwell in Amphipolis, beging for their bread and wine and shown around at social occasions, nothing more then living ornaments of the city’s power, in the hope of somehow one day gain the supporters they would need to return home.

    Tonight had, at first, seemed to be nothing more then another of these occasions, from which nothing would come. Megakles was known throughout Amphipolis has a lightweight, a man who was clever enough but who prefered to spent most of his time feasting then to bother with politics and wars. As the night whent on, however, the tone of his host's voice and the expression in his eyes had changed. Moreover, Dromeus also quickly came to notice that, little by little, the other guests where trickling out of the room, leaving him along with Mekagles…

    Soon the conversation turned to the circumstances of Dromeus’ exile and Megakles listened to him, intently, before answering that, while he probably could not ensure that Dromeus would see Miletos, he would see his grandchildren return to their city.

    ‘’How?’’ Dromeus asked, startled, not quite sure of the direction the conversation had just taken.

    ‘’Amphipolis will become a new Athenai’’ he answered matter of factly ‘’not an Athenai like the one we have now but an Athenai as it should have been. The Athenai you believed in during your youth! Leader and not master! At the head of an Hegemonia and not an Archay!’’

    For a moment Dromeus remained speechless, paralized by surprise‘’But you have no fleet of note! You are not a Demokratia! You have statues of Brasidas everywhere in the Polis (10)!’’ he finally managed to utter

    ‘’Statues can be toppled, Demokratia instaured and a fleet build. Athenai had Laurion and silver we will have Paganion and gold’’ Megakles countered with the same quiet confidence. ‘’I expect, however, that some would accuse us of wanting to bring Athenai’s back when we will move but if a man like you, a man who lost everything at Athenai’s hands was to talk to some other men…’’ he trailed.

    Much of Dromeus’ instincts screamed that he needed to refuse but there was something in Megakles’ voice, something that seemed like a candle lightening the darkness and showing a way out. At that moment Dromeus remembered a story his father’s told him years ago, of when he had met the victor of Salamis…

    Atipathes, son Agis

    ‘’You and Lysander deserved better!’’

    Coming from his back as he was leaving the Apela with a heavy heart, the voice surprised Atipathes while its familiarity displeased him. He was about to politely dismiss the young Spartan who had approached him but, before he could do so, the man added that ‘’Where it not for Lysander’s enemies in Sparta you would have gotten the gold the fleet needed to defeat Athenai!’’ These where, audacious and dangerous words, to be sure, for they accused powerfull mens, but Atipathes believed in them all the same.

    ‘’Many Perioicos (11) and Inferiores believe as we do!’’ Atipathes new acquaintance continued. ‘’If they could voice their toughts in the Apela we would have won!’’

    ‘’Yes, but they cannot’’ Atipathes simply replied before he saw a mischevious smile that drew itself in the face in front of him, remembering him of Lysander, before it neared his ears and whispered ‘’perhaps we could change that?’’

    A mere few years he would instantly reported what he had heard to the Ephors but the times had changed and he was now willing to think the unthinkable.

    ‘’What is your name?’’ Atipathes answered after a moment of hesitation.

    ‘’I am Cinadon, my friend!’’

    ___

    There is plenty of evidences to believe that the Peace of Theramenes and Pausanias was seen at the time as little more then a truce, a lull in the great duel between Athens and Sparta, just like the Peace of Nicias had been 15 years before. Certainly, very few suspected that it would mark the beginning of a new era in the political history of Ancient Greece.

    Athens and Sparta remained, for the moment at least, the two most powerful poleis of the Greek world but they emerged from the conflict severely weakened. To be sure, the might of Athens’ fleet remained formidable and, despite the loss of Corcyra, Ambracia, Chalcidique and Euboa, her empire still stood far taller than any other polity in the Greek world, making her a true Mediterranean superpower. In other areas, however, Athens had not fared so well: between the Great Plague and the Peloponesian War Athens’s the Athens of Thrasybulus had only half of the citizens of the Athens of Periclès. Moreover, despite the Persian gold its treasury was nevertheless in a bad shape and, in spite of victory in the east and of the bad memories the short-lived oligarchic regime had left, the oligarchic threat remained ever present, just as the supporters of an hoplitic regime where ever more active.

    In appearance Sparta had fared better, but the war had exacerbated her demographic woes while her incapacity to truly defeat Athens had dealt serious blow to the prestige of a city whose whole reputation was in her martial excellence. The Agogee (12) produced magnificent hoplites but it also caused their numbers to be ever dwindling. The days when 5 000 Spartiates could be mustered to fight at Platea where long gone and the Apela was ever more slightly filled. To demographic concerns social tensions soon added themselves, as the Motboxs refused to accept to see themselves as inferiors to other Spartiates when they fought for their Polis as much as they while Inferiores, and soon to be Inferiores, where increasingly unlikely to accept their faith. The Imperialist Party in Sparta had hoped to see the wealth gained through a maritime empire solve most of these issues but Athens’ victories at Cizicus, Arginusae had left those hopes dashed.

    In many ways the true victors of the Peloponnesian War had either been neutral or secondary players. Her geopolitical position greatly improved, Thebes could turn toward her old ambitions in Central Greece, while Argos and Corinth could do the same in the Peloponnese and in the West. Other Poleis, once mere pawn in the great game, would also make their presence felt on the scene, Amphipolis one of the first among them.

    Athens and Sparta had both fought to break the bipolarity of the Greek World, to achieve unipolar hegemony over their breathen. Both had sometimes seemed about to achieve it but, at the end, their ambitions came to naught. In Boetia, Mantinea and Sicily Athens’ phalanx had been defeated, just like Sparta’s triremes had been in the Golf of Corinth and in the Aegean. The two cities had bathered each other into exhaustion. The Peloponesian War had destroyed the bipolar order who had governed Hellas since the Persian Wars but, instead of the triumph of one city, it had layed the groundwork for a multipolar Greek world. To borrow Xenophon’s words, the Greeks would long still dance the Gods’ Bloody Tune.


    Excerpt of A New History of the Peloponesian War

    (1) The divine weavers in whose tapistry the future of all things where weaved, and who where the incarnation of inexorable faith, according to Ancient Greek mythology.
    (2) The light infantry of the time.
    (3) The assembly of Spartiates.
    (4) Essentially the Ancient Greek term for collaborators, specifically targetted at those seen as betraying their fellow Hellenes to Persia. Lysander's dealings with Cyrus have fully come to light after Khalkedon and this isn't good for Sparta.
    (5) Sparta's soldier-citizens.
    (6) The Motboxs where men with a Messanian mother and a Spartan father who, as long as their father's familly had enough land to give them some, where allowed to go through the Agogee (see footnote 12 further down) and to become Spartiates if they succeeded. They where nevertheless still looked down upon in Spartan's society and tended to be less wealthy then other Spartiates. Inferiores where Spartans who would have otherwise been Spartiates, but who either failed to successfully complete the Agogee or where unable to pay their share at the Sysiphe. Inferiores who where relegated to such a status where rather common in Sparta at the time. Obviously neither group is filled with happy bunnies and many among them, alongside less wealthy Spartiates who feared become inferiores, saw the acquisition of a maritime empire as the source of wealth and/or glories they needed.
    (7) The common meals of the Spartans. A Spartiates needed to contribute to the Sysiphe if he wished to retain his status as an hoplite-citizen and not become an Inferiores.
    (8) In the ancient greek understand an Hegemonia was league of free Poleis, where the hegemon held military command and could, at most, ask for financial contributions to pay for the campaign but no more. Archay was closer to our understanding of empire.
    (9) Council of ten invididuals, governing in the name of a very narrow oligarchy. Decarchy where the system of government Lysander tended to default too when he installed government in Ionia, the Straits and the Aegean.
    (10) Amphipolis had been an Athenian colony until an audacious expedition lead by Brasidas had lead to their expulsion from most of the area. Brasidas, widely known as one of Sparta's foremost war leader during the Peloponesian War, had been revered as the city's second founder since.
    (11) Citizens of the other cities of Laconia, under Sparta politically but allowed to handle their local affairs. They where very much NOT Spartiates, however.
    (12) The training system through which all future spartan hoplites needed to go and successfully pass if they wished to become Spartiates. It had a strong atrition rate that really didn't help Sparta's demographic issues.
     
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    Chapter IV: The Shaky Throne
  • Warning: Brief mention of child abuse in the second POV

    Chapter IV: The Shaky Throne

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    Aremnes, son of Pamenes

    Some of the less perceptive minds around the Great King, Aramnes sometimes had to refrain himself from thinking younger minds, had managed to themselves that everything was going well.

    In fairness, a few successes a few victories had, indeed been won. Betrayed by many of his subordinates, Pharnazabus had been forced to find refuge further east and the whole of the Persian Empire west of the Euphrates and north of Egypt soon found themselves recognising Cyrus as Great King. His army had then marched south, following the Euphrates with Susa has its final objectives. Babylon, the great city itself, now found itself besieged by Cyrus.

    Aramnes, however, had lived long enough to see matters as they truly were, and to understand that winning a few battles was not enough to win the war. It was the mighty Phoenician triremes that Aremnes and his king had in mind when they courted the satrapes of the coast. With these ships in their possessions they would have been to add their numbers to Lysander’s fleet and, once they Athenians would have been defeated, a mighty mercenary hoplite army could have been recruited. The Phoenician sailors and their admirals had, however, proved loyal to Artaxerxes and sailed south, toward Egypt and beyond Cyrus’ reach. Lysander has been defeated, Sparta had made the peace and Athenai’s triremes where now patrolling the Aegean, turning back any who might wish to enter the King of King’s service, limiting the Greek mercenaries they had indeed managed to recruit to mostly oligarchic exiles from Ionia and Caria. Worse, the siege of Babylon had bogged down and words of a mighty army gathering at Susa under Artaxerxes soon reached Aramnes’ ears... Fear had begun to grip the hearts of many of those who had been so confident of victory and some quickly began to despair.

    As one of Cyrus’ main advisor Aramnes had done what he could to display confidence, to show a retained faith in final victory. Now, however, now that the pretender great army had reached Babylon and was arraying in front of his eyes, he had to admit, to himself if to no one else, that the situation was dire indeed. Not only did the pretender had amassed a great army but among the ranks of his supporters where many men who had fought since childhood, who had guarded Persia’s northeastern borders with fearsome Scythians and Massagetae, men who formed the flower of the Persia’s army. That army could simply not be defeated.

    It could be, however, beheaded. At Aramnes’ suggestion the Greek mercenary Cyrus did have where massed in the center of his army, with one order and one order only: reach Artaxerxes and kill him.

    Diomedes, son of Xanthipus

    Diomedes’ father was a most devout man. Once, when Diomemes was but a small boy, a whim of his had lead him had lead him to decide that Diomedes needed to accompany him in the trip from his farm to Artemis’ great temple in Ephesos, where they would left some offerings for the goddess. As Diomedes’ father was busy giving proper due to the Lady of the Hunt his son noticed that some other devout believers had left some of the very honey cakes whom Diomedes loved so much. The future hoplite mercenary simply could not help himself and, before his father noticed what he was doing, had already swallowed enough to keep a grown man alive for a day. As soon as his father’s eyes had turned toward he had raised his arm in protection, anticipating the sound beating he was sure he was about to receive.

    Instead, he simply heard his father’s voice, lower then a whisper, softer then silk but also colder then ice: ‘’You have offended a goddess boy, a being of a far higher state you can ever hope to reach! No man nor woman on earth knows when but she will have her revenge, do not doubt it! The only thing you can do is hope that she will be quickly sated!’’

    At the time Diomedes had barely been able to hide a smug smile, believing he had escaped punishment for his misdeeds.

    Now, however, now that he was probably living his last moments, Diomedes at last saw the truth of his father’s words.

    A wealthy and aristocratic landowner he, like many others of his kind, had played a key role in the revolt against Athenai and had joyously welcomed Lysander and his Dekarky. Even when he had grown increasingly uneasy with their actions, and with the persecutions of Ephesos’ demokrats in particular he had held his tongue, and continued to stand behind the oligarchic regime. After all, it would have been foolish to do anything else, Sparta victory seemed so close…

    Then, the winds of fate had blown it all away. The Great King had died, the Athenian fleet had won at Arginusae and Khalkedon and the Demokrats of Ephesos had risen to open the Polis’ doors to Athenai. Diomedes, like many others, could do nothing but flee. For a time he lived in quasi-poverty, with seemingly no prospect for the future, until the Morai seemed to smile on him once more. Cyrus the Younger was recruiting hoplites for his army, and, lusting after the throne of the Great Kings as he was, was willing to make truly extravagant promises to all who agreed to fight for him. Many did so, blind to the fact that they had taken their first steps toward Hades.

    It was only a few hours ago, when he first saw Artaxerxes’ army, that Diomedes understood that Artemis’s vengeance was at hand. Soon he found himself in the hearth of the battle, in the thickest of the battle. He and his fellow Hellenes where surrounded by an ocean of men and found themselves the target of an hurricane of arrow. Desperately they continued to try to make their way to the Great King, paralyzed in place as he presumably did not dare take a further step back by fear of seeing his whole army routh. For what seemed eternities Diomedes continued to fight, the Great King seemed both so close and so far. For each he slayed another seemed to take his place and, then at last, he felt a sudden an intense pain coming from his side and he knew everything was over. In one last moment of defiance he threw his spear toward Artaxerxes, hurling it toward him rather then aiming him.

    He did not live long enough to see that it had found his target.

    Aremnes, son of Pamenes

    As he looked around him Aremnes tought, with some irritation, that whether it was Ahura Mazda’s House of Song or the Elision of the Hellenes (1), the image most men would have of the land where the virtuous and the heroic went after their death would look allot like Cyrus’s camp. For a week music, laughter’s and joyful conversations could be heard everywhere one could turn his ears, as men indulged in all the pleasures this world had to offer while they discussed the glorious and prosperous future they would have at the side of the King of Kings.

    Had the pretender died earlier Aramnes might have very well joined them. As things stood, however, too many loyal men had died under the walls of Babylon, and too many supporters of the pretenders had managed to flee. Too many men who had all to fear from their triumph and, even if pardoned, could expect themselves to be excluded from the halls of power, where still at large with steel in their hands and might still be willing to fight Cyrus. They should marching further south and east instead of feasting, securing Susa and Persepolis as well as the loyalty of most Persian nobles as fast as possible…

    As he watched his king indulging himself in celebration of his victory in a war that had yet to be truly won Aramnes could only hope that the King of Kings’ foolishness would not cost them all too dearly.

    Prince Oxathres

    Oxathres and his brother Cyrus had never seen eye to eye. The Satrap of Lydia and, tough he did not know it at the time, future pretender, had always been too proud, too haughty too hot tempered to get along well with his younger brothers. Arsames, on the other hand, kind and gentle Arsames, had been everything an older brother should be. It was he who had accompanied Oxathres as he learned to ride and shot the bow, as he made his first steps in the road toward being a proper man and a proper prince. When Arsames had become Artaxerxes II, King of Kings, Oxathres had been among those who had knelt and cheered, convinced as he was that the Ahura Mazda would allow him to triumph him over Cyrus and the Lord of Lies (2).

    The news of the Battle of Babylon turned Oxathres’ life upside down. In an instant, all certainties had died and Oxathres, alongside his younger siblings and a good portion of the Persian treasury, where smuggled out of the court by a handful of loyal minister. For days they fled ever more northward, every shadow seeming, in the young boy mind, to hide would be assassins.

    Thus when, outside the wall of Ectabana, his group suddenly found themselves surrounded by lords of Bactria and Sogdiana, fierce in appearance and in reputations, drawing their swords Oxathres tough his last hour had come. To his own surprise however, they did not move to end his life but, instead, knelt and hailed him as Arthaxerxes III, King of Kings. The boy king was afraid, he could not deny it, but he did all he could not to show it. He would show himself a worthy successor of the true Cyrus, he would save his empire and he would avenge his brother.

    ___

    In many ways Cyrus’ victory at Babylon proved to be a catastrophy for the Persian Empire. The death of Arthaxerxes II was enough to save Cyrus, for the time being at least, and open him the doors of Susa and Persepolis, giving him the throne he had long coveted. It was not, however, enough to ensure that allow him to sit at ease. His brother had escaped and, shielded by the satraps of the North-East, was proclaimed King of Kings as Artaxerxes III. Having a war chest of truly immense proportion at their disposal, as well as the loyalty of the flower of the Persian military and the best cavalrymen in the world, the enemies of Cyrus III fought on.

    The next years would see the Achaemenid dynasty continue to tear itself appart, the absence of clear rules governing its successions coming, at last, back to haunt it. In truth, it is quite surprising that it took so long to do so.

    Excerpt of The Great Persian Succession Crisis

    (1) From my understanding more or less the Zoroastrian equivalent of heaven and the Olympian equivalent of Valhala, respectively, altough greek criteria to enter Elision where more based on overall virtue then simply on dying sword in hand.

    (2) Again, more or less the Zoroastrian equivalent of God and Satan.

    Author Note: A smaller update overall, in part due to the fact that my knowledge of Ancient Persian history doesn't allow me to go as deep into details then in Greek history, sadly. Next week we will handle the West before we return to Hellas, to cover the two defining events of the ATL early 3rd century BC Greek political history.
     
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