Peloponnesian War: the fortification of the Attica coastline by paul Montgomery



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Peloponnesian War: the fortification of the Attica coastline

BY

Paul Montgomery

Thesis M.A.

Ancient culture and society Masters Program

University Utrecht, Netherlands

Illustration: "Mourning Athena" Relief from Athenian Acropolis, showing Athena reading a stele, perhaps containing inscribed names of war dead, arranged by tribes. Marble, 470-460 BCE. Acropolis Museum, Athens. (http://www.goddess-athena.org/Museum/Sculptures/Alone/Mourning_Athena.jpg)


Page of contents


  • Title page 1

  • Page of contents 2

  • Thesis Introduction 3

  • History of the Peloponnesian war 5

  • Spartan Tactics by land and by sea 7

  • Athenian tactics by sea and “luck” 11

  • Fortification of Attica: location and motivations 14

  • The loss of Dekelia in 414-413 B.C: the revenge of Alcibiades? 16

  • Archeological information on the fortifications at Rhamnous and Sounion 19

  • Spartans change of tactics 24

  • Conclusion 29

  • Bibliography 34

  • Appendices A 35

  • Appendices B 37

  • Appendices C 38

  • Appendices D 39

  • Appendices E 40

  • Appendices F 42


Peloponnesian War: the fortification of the Attica coastline



Introduction of the thesis question
This thesis will be a combination of the archaeological and historical research into the military tactics used in the Peloponnesian war. The basis of the text will be an examination and explanation of the fortification of the coast of Attica during the Peloponnesian war. In this thesis, I will use a number of historical texts by writers such as Thucydides as a guide to link to the locations and motivations of the construction of forts on the coast of Attica during the Peloponnesian war.

The war itself started in 431 B.C and did not end until 404 BC. The time period I will be dealing with is focused on the later part of the war. Athens, due to their naval supremacy, did not fear the naval invasion from the Peloponnesus; it did little to fortify their costal defenses. The loss of Dekelia to the Peloponnesians in 414-413 B.C. cut off the only overland supply route to Athens forcing them to use the coast to bring supplies to their city. As the war progressed, the Peloponnesians developed a full size fleet that had the possibility to attack the coast of Attica. The normal tactics of the Spartans during the opening parts of the war has been to invade northern Attica by land, but as they developed a navy they started to disrupt the flow of grain, money and supplies that the Athens needed to keep the war and the city going. The logical reaction to the move of the Peloponnesians to the supplies of Athenians would have been to try to remove the embargo by securing a supply source or by keeping control of some part of Attica so they could feed the city. Due to defensive strategies of Athens, which it maintained during the war, Athens should have opted for the securing of their supply source. Athens weakness in land based military actions meant that they focused on their coastal defenses.

In light of this situation I have looked at a number of sites on the coastline in Attica which were under direct control of Athens running from the North East coast along the coast until where Attica meets Megara on the Saronic Gulf. I have investigated these sites for any recorded indication of archaeological evidences of fortification at the start or during the Peloponnesian war. In that process I have consulted texts such as the The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites and referenced my findings by The History of the Peloponnesian War By Thucydides. The result was that only three sites with any fortifications which had been built excluding the major ports of Athens and Island of Salamis which were already in use before the start if the Peloponnesian war. Out of these sites noted below with a #, three of them can be confirmed as having been built during the Peloponnesian war, Rhamonous, Thorikos and Sounion.


  • Oropus

  • Rhamonous #

  • Marathon

  • Araphen

  • Halae Araphenides

  • Brauron

  • Coroneia

  • Thorikos #

  • Lavrion

  • Sounion #

  • Cape of Zoster

  • Phalerion Port of Athens

  • Peiraeus Port of Athens

  • Asropyrgos

  • Kalopiaedi

  • Eleusis

  • Aulis Port of the Island of Salamis

The two sites which can be confirmed as part of the Attic coastal defense were Rhamnous which was fortified in 412 B.C. and Sounion in the same year, both of which were set up in reaction to the loss of northern attic town of Dekelia in the same year. In the case of Thorikos it was fortified at an earlier date than the other two. As opposed to them this site was fortified to function not as a port but rather as a base for the nearby silver mines of Laurion1. Therefore, I will no longer consider this site in my discussion. The information I have found points to two coastal forts that are linked to the homeport of Athens in the coastal supply line. This supply line was multifunctional tool of the state bring in food, trade goods as well as the state revenues and facilitating the working of the empire. In light of the size of Attica as one of the largest states in Greece, the fact that only two points on this huge western coast existed to which Athens was connected seems to make little sense considering Athens was a major naval power.

There are a number of reasons for Attica to fully fortify her coastline. Firstly, the fact that the Peloponnesians were at Dekelia 414-413 B.C. would have been a major motivator. Also the lack of any major damage to the forts at Rhamnous and Sounion during the Peloponnesians war as was the case during the Persian wars and the rebuilding after indicates that they were still functioning part of the state. If this is the case, this meant that there were no outside factors stopping them from fortifying their coastline to deal with problems of coastal attack as they arose. This leaves me with the question of why were both sites chosen to be fortified and for which role?
The other part of the thesis will be the archeological examination of the layout and purpose of the fortifications at Rhamnous and Sounion. I hope to fully examine the lay out of the forts to find out if they were constructed to keep a possible invading fleet out of Attica. This question is motivated by the fact that only one of the forts has naval capabilities as well as the fact that all of them have most of their fortifications aimed at the land rather than at the sea. This brings up the following question since we know they were built to aid shipping it remains unclear as to why there were not more fortified like Piraeus to protect it from the Peloponnesians taking them by sea. Is it possible that Athens was already weakened by Dekelia and the misfortunes of later half of the war since they were already losing the sea war? Hoped to draw the Spartans back on to land?

When we consider the developments of the Peloponnesian war and the vital use of the power of Athens at sea and in the later half of the Peloponnesians at sea. It seem be possible that the lack of Attica’s fortifications could be explained by the idea that Athens wanted the Peloponnesians to fight them on land. This may seem strange considering that the Peloponnesians were the best land solders in Greece. However the Athenians would stand no chance if the Peloponnesians were to control the sea as well as the land. Could it be that the Athenians who were already in a bad position, hoped to rely one their great strength the fleet, that could keep them supplied at the port of Piraeus? By drawing the Peloponnesians onto land, they could remain stable by relaying on there skill at sea. The question of what the Athenians would have preferred remained open: Attica filled with the Peloponnesians troops and the city supplied by ship safe behind its walls or Attica half empty and their real empire the sea of the Aegean and their supplies cut off. It could be pointed out that the Athenians did not need to fortify Attica, as they were safe behind their walls. However as we can see from the pressure being applied on them by the Spartans, Athens needed either a secure supply lines by fortifying the routes along the coastline or a bigger fortified area with in Attica itself.

The response to this question of the possibility of an Athenian plot to trick the Peloponnesians into fight the war by Athens rules, is what was the possible gain was or loss for the Peloponnesians to invest all their resources is a total land invasion. For the Spartans, the possible gains were vast, as they would take over the position of the Athenians as the dominant power in Aegean. However there was much to gamble as well, because of their position as the best land army that would be weakened by the creation of navy, as they would need to invest their already dwindling amount of troops in risky seafaring venture. As well as risking an uprising from the rest of the Greek states under Athens and in their own Peloponnesian league by trying to take the places of Athens with the help of the Persians, the age old enemy of Greece.
History of the Peloponnesian war

( Map of Greece at the start of the Peloponnesian war ) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Peloponnesian_War.png)



Before I go any further in this text, I will first chronologically lay out the events of the Peloponnesian war. There are a number of opinions as to when we should pinpoint the start of the war and the reasons behind it. For my purpose of military evaluation of the event, I will decided on the commonly agreed upon date of 431 B.C. or the start of the so-called Archidamain war2. As for the reason of the war, there have been hundreds of books written on the subject, but in general the following explanation is given with the manipulation by Athens of the Greek conflict with Persian Empire as the major enemy after the Persian wars, Athens was finally enabled to follow a policy of imperialistic expansion and therefore became a major power block that endangered the well being of the other powerful state in Greece, Sparta.

Between 433 and 431, a series of events occurred that finally drove the Spartans to war. The first of these began as a dispute between Corinth, a member of the Peloponnesian League (a modern name for the Spartan-led alliance) and its colony of Corcyra. When the Corinthians began assembling a fleet to crush Corcyra, the Corcyrans appealed to Athens for assistance. By this point, war between Athens and the Peloponnesian League was regarded as inevitable by both sides. Since the Athenians were unwilling to let the large Corcyran fleet fall into the hands of future enemies, they chose instead to augment their naval strength by signing a defensive alliance with Corcyra. A small Athenian naval force helped the Corcyrans repulse the Corinthian fleet at the Battle of the Sybota Islands in September 4333.



The Corinthians, now firmly opposed to Athens tried to bring the Spartans into war against the Athenian empire. The Athenians handed them a golden opportunity the following year. The city of Potidaea in the Chalcidice, a member of the Athenian empire, also maintained close ties with Corinth, its mother city. The Athenians, anticipating that the Corinthians might induce the Potidaeans to lead a general revolt of the cities in the region, demanded that Potidaea expel its Corinthian magistrates and tear down its walls. Instead of averting the revolt, this Athenian ultimatum triggered it. Before the Athenians could react, a force of 2,000 "volunteers" commanded by the Corinthian general Aristeus had reached the city4. The Athenians immediately gathered their own forces in response, and after a short battle outside Potidaea, Aristeus' army was driven back into the city. With the arrival of Phormio5 with 1,600 more hoplites, the Athenians settled in for a siege6. The Spartans decided that Athens had finally gone too far. In the spring of 431, the Spartan alliance formally voted for war against Athens7. All of Greece began to prepare for war. While the armies mustered, several months were spent in futile last-minute negotiations between the two sides. Open hostilities began when a Theban attempt to take the Athenian-allied city of Plataea by treachery was bloodily repulsed8.
Due to the length and complicated nature of the Peloponnesian war, i will briefly give a chronological outline of the Peloponnesian war, noting the major battles, events and figures that played a role in it development which can be found in appendices A. The war itself is usually broke up in to four sections, which have been given a number of names. The first phase of the war was 431 B.C. to 421 B.C. or the Archidamain war, Second phase or peace of Nicias 421 B.C. to 415 B.C, third phase the Sicilian Expedition 415 B.C. to 413 B.C. and the fourth phase 413 B.C. to 404 B.C or the Deke-leian war9. Throughout the war the two major power blocks, the Peloponnesians under Sparta and the Athenian Empire, fought countless battles all over the Greek world from South Italy to Asia Minor both on sea and land. When a third power block, Persia entered the scene, it became a major factor about midway into the conflict.

Spartan tactics by land and by sea
The Spartan military machine was one of the most effective soldier producing systems in the ancient world. The mode of operation of Spartan state was to produce as many hoplite soldiers and to use them as effectively as they could. In order to do this, the state took in hand every male child born to a Spartan family and was responsible for his education and upbringing, which’s only focus, was on war. This system using pseudo-military social organizations such as the Agoge10, was able to produce a brand of soldier that was by far superior to any found in Greece or the rest of eastern Mediterranean. In the three hundred years before the start of the Peloponnesian war, Sparta was considered to be one of the strongest military states in the entire Greek world. Sparta had many minor battles against other Greek states over the years which were held in high regard but her proudest moments came during the Persian wars at Plataea in 479 B.C. including her “moral victory” at Thermopylae in 480 B.C11. These battles enshrined the ideal of Sparta’s position as the Army of the hoplite par excellence.

All of these successes were based on a well-structured and highly respected military and social code, that was engraved in the minds of every Spartan12. The ideas of adherence to these rules and tradition also made them very conservative. This conservatism had its good and bad points. On the positive note it produced the most effectively trained land based soldiers in the world, which in the typical formalized pitched battle such as the one fought against the Persians at Plataea resulted in victory of the Spartans. On the other hand, it limited them to fighting in set manner on flat ground and information. A military wing such as the cavalry and naval forces were insignificant parts the Spartan army. The military conservatism also meant that in their development they were confined for the most part to the Peloponnesus, as there land based army was only able to travel to locations over land. This meant that the Spartans were able to keep control over the Peloponnesus but would rarely stray away from the Peloponnesian peninsula. This also was due to the economic infrastructure of the state that was dependant on a huge stock of Messenian slaves or helots13. The Spartans were always worried that the helots would revolt and take over the state.



The military tactics that the Spartans employed during the Peloponnesian war saw a slow shift from the classical constructive hoplite war, into a total war that was fought all over the Greek world on land and sea. When we view the start of the Peloponnesian war, the Spartans had three main sources of military resources open to them, firstly their army the Spartan hoplites; secondly the land support of Theban cavalry and minor amounts of infantry and lastly Corinth’s navy14. It must be noted that both of these allies were not under Spartan total control, and at points during the war gave little or no support to Sparta. The Spartan strategy during the first part of the war, known as the Archidamian War after the Spartan king Archidamus II15. Archidamus was a classical Spartan military strategist, who employed his troops in 431- 430 B.C to invade Attica during the warmer months. His goal was to hopefully push Athens into fighting a pitched battle by surrounding Athens and cutting them off from their lands. Archidamus II was reluctant to go to war with Athens as he realized that the war would not be finished with in his own lifetime. In reality there was little possibility of them taking over the city due to their military conservatism, they lacked the knowledge of siege warfare needed to takeover Athens. While this attack deprived Athens of the productive farmland around their city, Athens itself was able to maintain access to the sea, and did not suffer much. Many of the citizens of Attica abandoned their farms and moved inside the long walls, which connected Athens to its port of Piraeus16. The Spartans could only occupy Attica for only a few months in the summertime. In the classical tradition of hoplite warfare they need to live off the land if possible only during summer as a well as the fact that the soldiers needed to go home to take care of their own harvest. Moreover, the Spartans slaves who formed the bigger part of the population of the Spartan homeland, needed to be kept under control, and could not be left unsupervised for long periods of time constraining the Spartans military actions17.
One of the side effects of this siege of Athens was that in 430- 429 B.C a plague broke out in Athens due to the overcrowding of the city by refugees driven into the city by the Spartans18. A huge part of the population died, including the main military stagiest and leader of Athens, Pericles who was replaced by Cleon19. By 429B.C, the Spartans come to the conclusion that simply invading Attica every year was not going to end the war. So they started to look for a new way to defeat Athens. That marching season, the Peloponnesian army gathered at the Isthmus of Corinth, but rather than invading Attica it headed north and attacked the centrally located pro-Athenian city of Plataea. Despite the fact that the Plataeans could gather less than 500 soldiers to hold their defenses, the city resisted the best efforts of the Peloponnesians to take it. This was, in fact, typical of Greek warfare at the time. Only very rarely was a fortified city taken by storm. The usual method was simply to surround the city and wait for it to surrender, either by starvation or by treason (which was a commonplace event). After a summer of frustration, the Peloponnesians dismissed most of their allies and the rest settled in for a siege it was to last almost two years 429-427 B.C. To aid them in the siege of Plataea, the Spartan – Theban force made double ring fortification wall around the town. One to keep the native Plataeas in and the other to keep any force from Athens sent to lift the siege, out20. During this period the Spartans also started to pay more attention to other parts of the Athenian empire. The Spartans spent the next three-year encouraging revolts all over Greece; while their allies Corinth tried taking up the front line on the sea. A small Athenian fleet of 20 triremes under Phormio had arrived in Naupactus to blockade the Gulf of Corinth. Early in 429, the Spartan general Cnemus managed to slip across into Acarnania with 1,000 hoplites to help an Ambraciot army attack the city of Stratus. The Corinthians sent out a fleet of 47 triremes to reinforce him, which was intercepted by Phormio's 20 ships. The result was victory for Athens due to Athens maritime skills21. The Peloponnesians were not quite finished. Upon learning that the Megarans had 40 triremes laid up in Nisaea, the Peloponnesian commanders decided on an audacious plan. The Athenians, overly confident in their own naval superiority, had left the harbor of Piraeus open and unguarded. Taking their crews across the Isthmus of Corinth, the Peloponnesians took over this new fleet and left Nisaea by night with nothing to stop them from sailing into Piraeus and possibly ending the war at one stroke. But then their nerve failed them, and instead they contented themselves with plundering the island of Salamis off the coast of Attica.
The summer of 428 B.C again saw a Peloponnesian invasion of Attica, but far more dangerous for the Athenians was the news that the Crocyra and the city of Mytilene on Lesbos was preparing to revolt supported by the Spartans. In 425 B.C. the Spartan found themselves trying to keep out invaders, as an Athenian army took over Pylos resulting in the loss of their tiny fleet and the capture of a number of their troop on Sphacteria22. The loss of these troops and their being held as hostages resulted in an inactive year for Spartans in 424 B.C.23. The next year the Spartans put in action their new war plan for beating Athens, to attack her other Greek holdings, in 424-423 B.C. The Spartan general Brasidas invades Thrace and Chalcidice with an army of mostly freed helots or neodamodeis by land taking the city of Amphipolis. Over the next two years Athens mounted the pressure on Brasidas24, resulting in the battle of Amphipolis in 422 B.C., which Sparta won at the price of their general’s life25. This battle marks what can be seen as the lull of the war as in 421 B.C. Athens and Sparta make the 50 year truce the peace of Nicias, which returns all lands to there pre- Peloponnesian war holders26. Over the next 8 years both sides do not openly fight each other but do come into conflict with each other’s allies, Sparta’s allies came into conflict with Athens allies in 418 B.C at the Battles of Mantinea and Elis27. In 414 B.C. in reaction to the Sicilian Expedition. The Athenians in foolhardy attempt to changes their run of military failures launch and attacks on the pro-Spartan city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily28. Sparta dispatch a general, one Gylippus with a force of four ships and 2,000 men to aid Syracuse in their resistance to Athens attack29. 413 B.C. After a long struggle the Athenian fleet at Syracuse was defeated by a Syracuse-Corinthian fleet, which started a rout of all the Athenian forces in Syracuse30.
This defeat marks the resumption of warfare and the start of the last part of the war with the invasion of Attica in 414 B.C. This land invasion is unsuccessful as it was at the start of the war, by 412 B.C. at the same time a naval struggle for control of Ionia coastline and Aegean Sea is being waged. The lack of successes on both land and sea coupled with the near collapse of the Spartan state due to lack of man power as well as money induces them to seek aid outside the Greek world in the most unlikely of places, her sworn enemy Persia.
In 412 B.C. Sparta and the Persian Empire came to an agreement of sorts, a treaty of non-aggression with a large amount of funds being invested in propping up Sparta and the creation of a new fleet31. On the agreement that the Ionian coastline in Asia Minor be returned to the Persians when its present holders Athens were defeated. One of the results of this interaction is the putting into action of some of the military suggestions of the exiled guest the Athenian general Alcibiades, the most importuned being the sending of an army to the frontier fort of Attica, Dekelia. Dekelia after its fall to Sparta became a permanent base camp for a Spartan army to attack Athens at any time it wanted to. The location of the Dekelia was vital to the Spartans being the main mountain pass over which the Athenians transported food from the northern Aegean. It also due to its central location within striking distances of both Athens and the south coastline of Attica that was essential to the functioning of the Athenian state. Over the next four years 411 B.C to 408 B.C Spartan and her new allies failed to show their combined power by losing a string of naval battles of Cynossema 411 B.C, Cyzicus 410 B.C. In these Battles Athens won a naval battle as well as a land battle over the Spartan and Persian army in the sea of Marmora. Subsequently by 408 B.C, Athens had recaptured Byzantium and control of the Bosporus grain supply32. Sparta after these failures is weakened to the point that she offers peace but this was refused by the Athenian leader Cleophon.

With this low point of the war, a new figure made his presence know in the Spartan military command, the navel commander Lysander33. Under the control of Lysander and with the support of the Persian princes and Satrap Cyrus, a new fleet was constructed at the port of Ephesus on the coast of Asia Minor. With the money of the Persians, the fleet was made with a huge contingent of paid rowers, many of them being drawn from Athens and her allies, as the Spartans offered a much higher rate of pay34. By 406 B.C the new fleet of Sparta was ready to be used, the Athenians sent a fleet to Ephesus to try and goad the untested fleet into a battle. The Spartans did not react; they rather waited until some of the Athenian fleet was away and then attacked, resulting in victory for Spartans. At the end of 406 B.C in line with Spartan law Lysander steps down from control of the fleet, as his one-year in office had come to an end35. The year ended with the Spartan fleet, now lead by Callicratidas blockading the port of Mitylene, in which the remains of the Athenian fleet after the battle of Ephesus were hold up. The Spartans besieging fleet was crushed by the newly created Athenian fleet that was made to raise the siege at Mitylene at the battle of Arginsae in late 406 B.C36. The spring of 405 B.C. saw the reinstatement of Lysander due to Spartan desperation and Persian pressure to put a reliable person in charge of the fleet. Lysander attacked the Hellespont coast blocking all maritime traffic in order to cut of the food supply from that region going to Athens. This action leads to the meeting of the fleets of both sides at the northern Aegean port of Aegospotami. The Spartan fleet was helled up by on the other side of the Hellespont, and for four days Conon rowed his fleet over to it, trying to engage the Spartans, who remained inactive. On the fifth day, after repeating this maneuver once more, the Athenians returned, beached their ships and scattered to look for food, water and supplies. In the mean time the Spartan commander Lysander had sent a number of ships as scouts, to shadow the Athenians and report back on there movements. Upon hearing that the ships were unguarded, Lysander quickly brought his troops across and burned nearly all of Conon's 170 ships. Only 9 escaping in time, the flagship of the fleet returning to with news Athens and the other 8 fleeing to Cyprus37. The loss of the majority of Athens' naval power, which was in turn the basis of her empire, and brought Athens to her knees. This victory opened the way for the Spartan king Pausanias to attack Athens by land since the safety of Sparta was no longer at stake. Lysander sailed up to the Athenian port Piraeus and blockaded it, while no allies appeared to help. After enduring six’s month siege of the city, Athens finally surrendered her empire and was dismantled. Furthermore its walls were torn down and Sparta imposed a new government and with that the Peloponnesian War was over.
Athenian tactics by sea and “luck”
The Athenian military state at the start of the Peloponnesian War was one that had been heavily shaped by the Persian wars and the development of the Delian League. During the Persian wars Athens took the back seat on the land offensive battles of Plataea 480 B.C but also at Marathon 490 B.C in which the Athens begged Sparta for help, but were lucky to win on their own. But at the battle of Salamis they established their naval supremacy38. This position of naval power control led Athens in the years after the Persian wars to found the Delian League39: An anti- Persian alliance of Greek city states in Greece and Asia Minor, whose goal was to revenge themselves on Persia as well as keep the Ionian coastline free from Persian control. One of the main features of the league was that is was primarily a naval power based in the Aegean Sea. Between the end of the Persian Wars and the start of the Peloponnesian War Athens made themselves the rulers of the league, moving the base and its funds from Delos to Athens in 454 B.C40. Their involvement in the league encouraged Athens to form a military structure based not on land power but on sea power, as it needed to keep control of states all over the Aegean.
The composition of the military of Athens was that of large fleets that could control the sea, so that Athens was able to move its small citizens-based army around its empire to put pressure on their subjects’ states. The basic material of the army of Attica was the money, which it extracted from its member states, which paid for ships and rowers. This structure is in complete contrast to the Spartan army, which was based on the manpower it could draw from its states and allies. The reality of this can be seen in the development of Athens military action during the Peloponnesian War. At the opening of the war, the leader and main strategist of Athens was Pericles (c. 495 BC - 429 BC). Pericles’s position of power in Athens was due to his skill in politics as well as being a member of one of the most powerful families in the state of Attica, the Alcmaeonids41. During the Peloponnesian War Athens engaged in a two-sided strategy, the first of which was the tactic of non-confrontation on land. In short, Pericles realized that if he followed the normal form of ritualized set hoplite battle he would have no possibility of standing up to the Spartans. So he utilized some of the features of the polis of Athens: her walls and her navy. The majority of the people in Attica and their mobile positions concentrated within the city wall of Athens. From this point the city was linked by sea with supplies of food and resources and was also able to keep control of the rest of its empire. This strategy that was implemented in the opening part of the war had some major drawbacks, some that could be openly seen and some which were harder to see or even predict. In 431- 430 B.C Athens withdraws all land troops to the city in the face of the Spartan invasion force, then starts to send some contingents of ships to attack the coast of the Peloponnesus by sea in hope of razing the siege. In 430- 429 B.C due to the huge amounts of people in the city of Athens, a plague spreads in the city large amounts of the population die. Among them is Pericles who is replaced by Cleon42. In 429 B.C Athens had a string of successful navel battles at Chalcis and Naupactus both of which were credited to the Athenian navel commander Phormio.
429 B.C to 426 B.C Athens remains in the defensive mode only confronting the enemy when it was desperate, such as at the two-year siege of Plataea. In 427 B.C two members of the Delian League revolt, Corcyra and Lesbos, these events encourage them to take a more active role in the war. Over the next two years Athens fights five large battles, a land offensive in Aetolia against Thebes and Boeotia in 426 B.C, unsuccessfully43. One of Athenian generals, Nicias, attacks the island of Boeotia resulting in the Battle of Tanagra, but fails to win44. In 426 B.C, Athens, under Demosthenes, successfully ambushes a bigger Spartan force, at the Battle of Olpae. This success encourages Athens to attempt a full-scale sea invasion of the Peloponnesian coastline. In 425 B.C Demosthenes takes and fortifies Pylos defeating a Spartan contingent capturing their fleet in what is called the battle of Pylos or Navarino bay and stranding them on the island of Sphacteria. In the ensuing battle of Sphacteria, Demosthenes, aided by Cleon, defeats the marooned Spartan army, remarkably taking a number of Spartan captives. Sparta offers terms; Athens refuses. Athens uses these troops as leverage over the heads of the Spartans for a number of years. This allowed Athens to attempt to take control of Spartan allies in Boeotia, but was unsuccessful and was beaten at the battle of Delium in 424 B.C45. For the rest of the first phase of the Peloponnesian War Athens had to deal with the Spartan take-over of Thrace and Chalcidice in 424-423 B.C, culminating in the 422 B.C. Battle of Amphipolis. This, due to its cost and losses forces them in 421 B.C to accept a peace agreement with Sparta brokered by the Athenian general Nicias.
From 421 to 416 B.C both sides remain on a war footing but do not deploy troops in battle but rather come into conflict with each other through their allies46. 416 to 415 B.C marks the start of the third phase of the war known as the Sicilian Expedition. On the suggestion of newly elevated politician and General Alcibiades, Athens attacks Syracuse with a huge fleet and army under Nicias, Alcibiades47 and Lamachus48. Syracuse, with the aid of Sparta and Corinth, defeats the Athenian fleet in 413 B.C which starts a rout of all the Athenian forces in Syracuse. The last part of the war, 413 to 404 B.C, sees a continuation of the tactics used by Athens earlier in the war: Athens as defensive base using its navy to fight the war. From 411 B.C onwards Athens, due to actions of its naval commander Alcibiades, has some major successes49. The battlefront is mainly in the northern Aegean. In 411 B.C Alcibiades wins the navel battle of Cynossema, while in 410 B.C., at the battle of Cyzicus, Alcibiades wins a naval and land battle over the Spartan and Persian army in the sea of Marmora and in 408 B.C. Alcibiades with an Athenian fleet recaptures Byzantium and control of the Bosporus grain supply. The last part of the war revolves around the conflict between the opposing fleets, which was drawn out over 4 years. This conflict comes to its head at the battle of battle of Aegospotami in 405 B.C, where Sparta under Lysander destroys the navy of Athens. The last movements of Athens’ struggle were enduring a six-month land and sea siege: Spartan king Pausanias attacks Athens by land and Lysander by sea. In 404 B.C. the city of Athens surrenders, her walls and empire are dismantled.
Fortification of Attica: location and motivations
With the build-up of tension between the two major power blocks of pre- Peloponnesian War Greece, the Athenian Empire and the Peloponnesian league, both sides slowly prepared themselves for war. One part of these preparations is the formation of a battle strategy as I have already noted in my short summaries of the actions on both sides during the Peloponnesian War. In the case of Athens its prime designer of military actions was Pericles. To make clear why Pericles adopted the strategies he did, I will first inform you of the facts about the task that he and Athens were facing. The location of Attica is at a meeting point of the central Greek mainland and the Peloponnesian peninsula. Attica has huge land borders with states in both of these regions50. This means that it was possible for armies from both the central Greek mainland and the Peloponnesian peninsula to travel overland into Attica. The geographic border of the region is set by a number of middle-sized mountain groups that function as a natural border. In the mountain range there are at least seven routes by which an army can pass in or out of the region51. The other front, the coastline, was kept in order by two costal forts and with the city port of Attica, Piraeus, as the central costal point52. All of these sites were manned by the numerically large but quality-wise poor citizen’s army of Athens, at the center of which was the fleet. Athens fleet was not of the best quality as it due to the inter-workings of the Athenian state was more of policing force for the naval empire of Athens, deal more is controlling trading routes and something shows of forces, if needed. Athens feet was in short not a battle fleet. With these tools the leaders of Athens were presented with the task of keeping the combined forces of the Peloponnesian league from taking over Athens and her empire, part of which was the Spartan hoplite army. Pericles must have realized that if his troops would come into a pitched battle with the Spartans that would result most likely in a defeat, losing on average a high percentage of his troops, and leaving the rest either prisoners or totally demoralized. Therefore, in order to avoid this he brought the majority of citizens in Attica within the city walls, relying on its naval supremacy to keep the city free and in control of the rest of its empire. This strategy also avoided the one advent that would signal a defeat of Athens, the loss and subsequent treaty that would have followed a hoplite battle. In this age and in years before, the common way of formalized battles was that the both parties would meet and hold a pitched battle, the victor winning and pushing the loser off the field. In turn the loser would ask for a cessation of battle to get back there dead, thereby conceding defeat53.
So as to avoid having to concede damaging defeats Pericles refrained from sending a major army into the field, unless it was sure that they would have a good possibility of winning such as the invasion of Pylos in 425 B.C. He chose a time that was advantageous to him, when the majority of the army of the Spartans was not at home54. He also stationed in troops in Attica at important points so as to be able to keep some kind of security on the areas around the walls and at major points such as the ports of Attica. These troops, most likely a mixture of cavalry and light infantry, were in place to hinder any forces that were in Attica. The effectiveness of these troops is debatable but there are two certainties, one that they would be of no use against a major hoplite army, secondly that they could be used to keep some kind of control of the farmer areas around the city, which were subjects to raids by small groups of enemy soldiers in search of plunder and food55. The use of these light troops was to range over large amounts of land, searching for small parties of foragers who due to their small number would not be able to form a defensive formation such as a phalanx to protect themselves56. This tactical advantage is one of the reasons that in the opening phases of the war Athens was not badly damaged, because the presence of these troops in attack would have made the destruction of Athenian farmlands difficult. There also is a psychological aspect to the use of light infantry and cavalry in this context, if you consider what the long-term effect of a siege would be on the citizens of Athens. The majority of citizens would, after a short number of years, have come to the point of surrendering to Sparta just to end their constant mental strain and position of being seen a nation of cowards for not entering into battle with an enemy who was destroying their homelands in full view. The use of these troops solved the huge amount of negative opinions in the city that would have formed, by sending them into a controlled conflict in which the real enemy remained clear in hope of then venting the collective anger of the people of Athens, preventing the formation of anti-Athenian feeling within the city.
This strategy of land defense was coupled with a cautious use of the offensive capability of the navy of Athens. Athens realized that it was in a superior position in relation to its naval capabilities just as it was inferior in land-based troops to the Spartans. The fleet of Athens at the start of the Peloponnesian War was the largest in Greece, with a total of about 300 ships57, without any real competitors such as Corinth58 who was only barely within distance of it. We can be sure of its dominance in both numbers and skill as there leadership of the of the Delian league, gave them a huge amount of resources. This naval advantage had both good and bad sides to it. In the opening years of the war the Athenian admiral Phormio fermented the domination of the sea at the naval battles of Chalcis and Naupactus for the majority of the war59. But this faith in its ability and naval supremacy could also result in things not going its way in major problems. The best example of this is the events surrounding the Sicilian Expedition (415 B.C), the wayward brainchild of Alcibiades. Athens assumed that the distance from Greece to Sicily by sea would keep the ill prepared Peloponnesian fleet and therefore its army from intervening in their conquest of Syracuse. But as history showed its single loss to a Syracuse-Corinth fleet in 413 B.C coast Athens a whole marine invasion force as well60. These expeditions reflect both sides of the coin in using your assets during a war: they are vital to your survival but if used too much they can be your downfall. The logic behind this defense strategy has been debated over the centuries. One of the more common perceptions is that in the minds of the leaders of Athens the only option open to them was a defense. As one military historian, H.D. Westlake, formulated the strategy of it: the longer the city could hold out the more likely it was that the attacks on Peloponnesian League territory would achieve their purpose and cause the enemy to sue for peace61.

The loss of Dekelia in 414-413 B.C: the revenge of Alcibiades?

If there was one major point during the Peloponnesian War that outlines the effectiveness of the Athenian and Spartan military tactics the events of the years 414 B.C/ 413 B.C would be it. Athens up to this point had been keeping up its defensive policy of withdrawal into the city, coupled with its use of its maritime power to keep control of its empire. The limit of the effectiveness of this strategy can be seen to have been reached with the Sicilian expedition, which, regardless of the offensive nature of the plan, was in short an expanded model of Pericles’s plans for Athens during the war, when seen in the light of the invasion of Pylos in 425 B.C62. Sparta at this point was running out of ideas. From the start of the war there were regular invasions of Attica and Sparta’s attempts to break up the empire of Athens had been of minimal success. It is believed that at the start of the Sicilian expedition, Alcibiades the general of Athens from fear of being put to death for mocking and committing sacrilege on the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Hermes statues of the city of Athens, fled from Sicily to Sparta as a defector63. While in Sparta as an honored guest he gave the Spartans a number of pieces of advice on how to beat Athens. One of these points was that the Spartans should make a permanent base camp inside of the geographic region of Athens64. This suggestion, whether intended or not was taken into account and in 413 B.C was implemented. The reason I question his motivations for telling this to the Spartans are that there may have been a pro-Athenian motivation behind it. Alcibiades as a general of Athens would have known that the greatest threat to Athens was the loss of her control over the sea. So why did he not tell them to concentrate on the sea empire and destroy Athens’ fleet?, rather then concentrating their allies’ naval forces at Athens fleet.


His advice to Sparta outlines a number of points; firstly pressure on the city of Athens from a land force not the most effect strategy as the early battle of the war showed, secondly the long-term investment of troops in a land attack of Athens, a positive effect. Lastly the presences of Spartan troops in the area forced the closer of the valuable mines at Laureion, destabilizing as the more Athens.

In the view of their strength and weakness, he had in fact placed Sparta in the position of attacking Athens’ strongest points on land. When compared to the possible side effects of his advising them to attack the fleet, he chose the lesser of two evils. In short Alcibiades had got Sparta to do the one thing that, when we consider the strategy of Athens, would have insured Athens’ survival from his point of view. When taking into consideration, the later cunning actions of Alcibiades’s in abandoning the Spartans and convincing the Persian Satrap Tissaphernes to not aid them fully, thereby keeping the possibility of Persia-Athens treaty alive65. It seems a good possibility that either on his own or with Athens’ support. Alcibiades followed a plan to keep Athens alive, but was undone by the development of the Peloponnesian fleet. An event that prompted his desertion to the Persians in the hope of stopping this development from happening is attested to in Plutarch live of Alcibiades66. This idea can be disputed as me reading too much into the actions of Alcibiades, but when I look at the representation of him in ancient works such as Plutarch’s life of Alcibiades the person I find represented in these work seems to me as a person who is capable of engineering his position of power within three of the most powerful bodies in the Peloponnesian war, Athens, Sparta and Persia. I do not consider it to be beyond the limits of reason, that while in exile Alcibiades was able to play on the desires and weaknesses of his hosts and to influence them to take actions, such as the takeover of Dekelia, with the final goal of keeping himself safe and sound and at the same time maintaining the stability of the one state he had any real loyalty to, Athens. This cannot be questioned, as before the battle of Aegospotami he, regardless of the fact that he was in exile and no longer in any state’s protection, attempted to warn the generals of the error of their tactics but was rebuffed67.



The fortification of Dekelia was no small feat; Thucydides notes that the Spartan contingent that arrived at Dekelia came ready to construct a major fortification68. From the strategic point of view there are a number of factors that must be pointed out in order to understand the significance of this action. The first vital factor was the location. The site chosen to be the new base camp of a full time attacking force in Attica, it was approved of by the Spartans for number of reasons, all of them related to the Spartan plan of attack. Dekelia, northwest of the city of Athens was, before its fall to the Peloponnesians, one of the major land routes from the north of Greece to Athens69. Before the start of the war the pass was already a major viaduct for supplies that the city of Athens consumed. It is most likely that there was a small fort / guardhouse on the site before the start of the war, which served as monitor for traffic. The geographic location of the site, being elevated on a hillside, gave it a clear view of the area around it as well as a view of the city of Athens to the south east of it. This factor meant that the fort would be within striking distance of the very walls of the city of Athens70. Therefore the city could be in theory under constant harassment from the Spartans at Dekelia.
The location also meant that other sites such as the silver mines at Laurion near the coastline south east of Attica were shut down, as there was no reliable way for working the mines with the Spartans at Dekelia. Also the mines were worked by a huge army of slaves who, if taken by the Spartans, would be a major problem for Athens. This problem also actually affected the city of Athens as during the war it was noted that up to 20.000 slaves that ran away from their masters and were at Dekelia, serving as a makeshift laborer source/army for the Spartans71. There were also other major economic factors to be taken into account; the Spartan presence in Attica also had a huge affect on the day-to-day economic working of the state and its people. As we already know the Spartans had, in the years of the war before 413 B.C., invaded the land of Attica randomly during the summer months for a short period up to 40 days, disrupting and destroying the agricultural infrastructure of Attica. But due to the limitations of time and supplies and the possibility of helot uprising in Sparta, they could only do this when the conditions were ideally suited to it. The actual effect of these short raids into Attica before the fortification of Dekelia was not very affective. Hanson in his book on Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece72, points out that during the opening phase of the war, the Archidamian war, the amount of damage was minor73. This lack of damage to agriculture was due to the fact that the Spartans were only in for short periods of time, while the strength of plants such as vines and olive trees made them able to return to bloom after damage, and the grain, unless it was fully ripe (not green) was very hard to destroy74. With the setting up of a fort at Dekelia, the yearlong possibility of stopping the people of Athens from farming became feasible; their livestock was either taken or degenerated from lack of pasture. In terms of people lives, the fatality rate must have started to rise as on a regular base the citizens of Athens and the Spartans came face to face in the countryside of Attica.
In monetary terms there were two major costs endured by Athens. Firstly, the area around Athens was one of the richest areas in Attica. I assume that its location near the city made it attractive to many of wealthy citizens of Attica, who took part in the political life of Athens75. With the destruction of their lavishly decorated homes and slaves, much of the private-owned wealth of Athens would have fallen into Spartan hands. The second major cost would have been the loss of locally produced foodstuffs. This would have forced the city to import massive amounts of food from the northern Aegean. These imports were made even more costly because with the loss of Dekelia all imports were shipped from the north via the ports of Rhamnous and Sounion76. The damage that was inflicted on Attica was not totally the Spartans’ doing, as, the area of law and order of Athens was confined to the city, and the rest of Attica was open to plundering by neighboring state such as the Boiotians as well, some of who were not at war with Athens77. Also as well as the economic cost there were also effects on the everyday life of the people of Athens, which went further than the cost of grain. During this period the city of Athens was in a state of mental decay as in this period, unlike the Archidamian war, Athens became a battleground. In the Archidamian war the attacks on the city of Athens were infrequent and short, the longest lasting 40 days, and there was a lack of a major destruction of the fields and crops of Athens due to everything from lack of time to harassment by Athens’ cavalry. But during the Dekeleian war, there was a major force of enemy troops in Attica year-round, any possibility of conducting a normal life was gone. Incessantly year after year the crops of Attica were taken over and either eaten by the enemy troops or destroyed. Little remained of their old lives, after the effects of the great plague of 430 B.C and the failed Sicilian Expedition 415 B.C, trapped in their own city which was now badly supplied. This state resulted in a slow falling of power of Athens on all fronts, but as we will see the real loss of Athens only started with the arrival of the new Peloponnesian fleet.

Archeological information on the fortifications at Rhamnous and Sounion
As I have already outlined in 413 B.C the forces of the Peloponnesian league invaded Attica and set up a permanent base at the mountain pass of Dekelia in the northwest of Attica. This point marks the start of the failure of power of Athens, which resulted in the loss of the war to the Peloponnesian league. But the Athenians did attempt to lessen the affect of the Spartans in Attica. One of the ways in which they did so was to change the layout of their defensive system within Attica. With the loss of the mountain pass of Dekelia and its strategic location within range of all of the other north-to-south supply routes of Athens, as well as the year-round presence of enemy troops within sight of the city, cutting off any possibility of getting a suitable amount of food from the farmland around the city, supplying the city with food became a major problem. To solve this problem Athens had two options: one was to remove the Peloponnesians from the pass or, alternatively, to secure food from somewhere outside Attica that the Peloponnesians could not affect. The Athenians took on this problem logically; they realized that the possibility of them being able to confront and remove the Peloponnesians, their land-based military superiors, from Dekelia was very small. Even in the best possible conditions78 they would fail and in the worst be drawn into a major pitched battle, which would result in a massive loss of troops and possibly losing the war. So Athens used the one major offensive advantage they had over the Peloponnesians, their naval supremacy.
The Athens reaction to Sparta’s occupation was to set into motion a plan that fortified a number of points on their coast to serve as stop points for the ships, which would bring food to the city. This coastal defense system was formulated to fit into the pre-Peloponnesian war shipping structure of Athens. The origin of the majority of Athens’ grain was the Greek colonies friendly to Athens in the north of the Aegean and the Black Sea via Byzantium79. The course of the fleet would be from the Hellespont down along the cost of Greece heading south; they could hold this heading until they reached the north of Attica, as in 413 B.C the only enemy of Athens was Boeotia, which had a small fleet based in a number of small ports on the west coast of central Greece. But they were in no position to attack the fleet of Athens, as during the Peloponnesian war they were a major cavalry power and later, due to the fading of the Spartans after the end of the Peloponnesian war, became a hoplite power. From their entry in Attic coastal water there were only two points at which they could stop so that they could be assured to get supplies or shelter from a bad weather, before they reached Athens. These two points on the coastline of Attica were Rhamnous and Sounion. Of one of these points, Sounion, we can be sure without any archeological information, as it is noted by Thucydides as being fortified in 413 in reaction to the fall of Dekelia80. The importance of the fortification of Dekelia and the subsequent reaction in the fortification of these points on the Attic coastline have major significance in relation to the strategies for the rest of the war.
Before I go any further I will outline the layout and structure of both sites, calling on a number of archeological sources as well as observations I made when present at both sites during the spring of 2005, during a field trips we made to both sites as well as others as part of the “Ancient Tourism Pausanias” course of the University of Utrecht. My motivation for elaborating on these sites is that when looked at in the context of the developments of the later half of the Peloponnesian war, there is a question about some aspects of their construction that I have observed as to their real purpose during the war.

The initial point that I noted was the fact that the ships on their way to Athens would have stopped at would have been Rhamnous81. The region of Rhamnous,82 was an ancient deme in northeast Attica, on the Euboian gulf. The site has had a religious importance as it is one of the most prominent sanctuaries of the goddess Nemesis on mainland Greece83. Archaeological evidence shows that there was a sanctuary here from the late 6th or early 5th century B.C84. The archaic temple, which stood on the site, was destroyed by the Persians in the attack of 480-479 B.C, as were many other buildings in Attica85. Due to its location Rhamnous was a major link in the workings of the Athenian state and played a major role at one point during the Peloponnesian war, in 414-413 B.C. This cut off the only route of supplies to come overland to Athens, forcing them out onto the coast86. The most famous story told about Rhamnous tells us that the Persians, when they took Rhamnous during the Persian wars, brought a stone block with them to make a monument to mark their victory over the Greeks. The goddess Nemesis took offence at their hubris and the destruction of her temple, and aided the Greeks in their fight and the battle of Marathon87. Pausanias tell us that the stone block that the Persians left behind was made into the statue of Nemesis that was found in Rhamnous88.


As you stand on the road, the site is elevated as the temple and later fortifications were built on higher ground overlooking the sea. The site of the temple is relatively flat as the peak of the hill was removed to enable building of a platform. This platform is made of a terrace, which is about 150 feet wide89. On this platform there are two temples, the smallest being the temple of Themis and the larger being the temple of Nemesis. The first you come to is the smaller temple90 of the goddess Themis91.

Moving closer to the sea on the platform you come to the biggest temple of the site: the temple of Nemesis. The original site had held an archaic temple that was destroyed in 480 BC by the Persians. The temple was a peripteral building with 6 columns by 12 columns on the outside. The temple was lavishly decorated with ionic friezes above each porch and griffins as part of the corners of the roof92. Its construction was supposedly begun on the Athenian celebration day in 436 B.C after the end of the Persian threat and was rededicated in 45 AD, but was never totally finished93.


The main archaeological feature of the site, which concerns us, is the fort of Rhamnous, which is located 500 meters north of the sanctuary on a hill at the shoreline. Due to the fact that the Persians took this site during the invasion of Attica it can be assumed that its pre-Peloponnesian war defenses were poor or possibly none at all, due to Athens’ control of the adjoining region of Oropia94. The fortress of Rhamnous comprises an outer system wall of 800 m. long and a smaller interior circuit enclosing the top of the hill95. The main entrance of the outer system is at the south and it is protected by square towers at each side of the gate. Within the circuit, private and public buildings have been found, notable among which are the theatre and the gymnasium. Within this same area is also the agora of the deme. Military establishments such as the barracks of the soldiers who were stationed there stood at the top of the hill - within the interior circuit of the fortification. From walls to coast the town is laid out in three areas of use and, due to its role as fortification, of a defense. As the outer ring was the wall on the lowest part of the hill it was required to be built wide with a high outer point of the wall. This lay out can be confirmed by the part of the wall around the hill that can still be seen today. It had two major advantages: it gave the defenders a high point to defend the wall – even though the location of the closest high ground is within a kilometer, any approaching enemy would have go down below the wall level to get near it. Secondly there was only one entrance in and out of the fort, which was surrounded by two towers on the side of the wall flanking this only weak point in the wall96. This position meant that any enemy trying to force their way into the gate would have had to endure rocks and other projectiles being dropped on them from the height of the tower and walls above. The middle circle of the fortification was the urban settlement of the homes of the people who lived in the fort. The demarcation point between the urban area and the middle and also highest point on the hill that served as the barracks as well as citadels, was a smaller defensive wall. This meant that even if the outer wall of the site would fall to an enemy, the inner wall could also be used as a defense point. The only drawback I can see is that the gates of both walls are almost in line facing south; this is a flaw in its design as it means that the enemy has a short route to take to the next gate. If they had constructed the inner gate as facing east or west, it would have been much more secure. In the layout of the site there seems to be one major problem: on the coast below two small inlets - facing the eastern and the western side - served the ships that patrolled the Euboian channel as well as the safe harbours for the grain ships of Attica. However, these harbours lie on the most eastern and western points of the site with only one part of the walls covering the shore of the harbors. It seems illogical to me for the Athenians to build a major fortification for a set purpose but not take in the most vital parts of the port.
The second stop point is on the eastern coastal plain of Attica, to the southernmost point of the peninsula, at a site called Sounion97. The site at the southernmost part of the Attica mainland is a rock outcrop that juts out into the sea, which surrounds it on three sides. The sanctuary of Poseidon is one of the most important points of worship in Attica. Sounion location as a staging point for ships traveling to and from Athens meant it was used as anchorage as well as a sacred point to sacrifice to the god of the sea, Poseidon98. There are some archaeological fids that indicate that it was staging point for ships coming from Egypt99. The earliest recorded mention of Sounion is in Homer’s Odyssey in which "Sounion Hiron" (sanctuary of Sounion) is first mentioned as the place where Menelaos100 stopped during his return from Troy to bury his helmsman, Phrontes Onetorides101. The site was under the control of the Athenians in the classical age, as we know that every four years there were festivities at Sounion, which involved a battleship race in honor of the god Poseidon102.
Walking up the road toward Sounion, the first monument you come to on the eastern side of the road is a sanctuary of the goddess Athena about 500 m. from the sanctuary of Poseidon. The sanctuary had in times past a set of walls; there are still two parts of it remaining today: a western wall 46.50 meters long and a south wall 44 meters long103. The largest building in this sanctuary is the temple of Athena. It has a rectangular shape, measuring 14.62 x 19.175 m104. The temple is almost unique as there is an outer colonnade only on the east and south sides. In between the sanctuaries that hold the temples of Athena and Poseidon is the fortress that was fortified in 412 B.C. during the Peloponnesian War, in order to control and secure the ships carrying cereals to Athens105. The fort wall starts at the northeast corner, extends to the north and turns to the west; the sanctuary of Poseidon occupies the south end of the fortress. The wall is 146 meters long and has 11 towers with a large bastion on the northeast, as you can see on the map of the site in Appendix F106. Some of the towers, numbers 4 and 5, have steps that would have let the defender mount them to gain advantage over their attackers; they were also put there as at this point in the level of the ground and the wall they are at their closest, making it the weakest point in the wall107. The wall itself is about 3 meters thick, made of the local limestone’s108. It should be noted that the wall itself was not very well constructed as it was made of a weak limestone and at number of points it is made out of rubble such as at the wall at tower 1 109. The gate of the wall was probably in between towers 2 and 3 as that was where the only road leading to the site went to the temple; the fortification on the site was fitted onto the layout of the sanctuary. Also large amounts of worked stone have been found at this point, a necessity for the construction of a gate house to strengthen the weakest point of the wall110 The military installation also has a shipyard for the sheltering of two small war ships which were built on the coast, at the west end of the north branch of the fortification111. Inside the fortress wall, excavations have brought to light part of a central town street, remains of houses, and water cisterns, all of which was at its peak inhabited by 800 people or less112. Seemingly the site was constructed to be an isolated location from the city of Athens as all the things a citizen of the city of Athens would need if in residence in this fort was there. The temple of Poseidon’s outer sanctuary wall is linked to the bastion of the fortress. It is situated in the southernmost, highest part of the promontory. The area was evened off and supported by means of retaining walls on the north and west sides. A stoa was constructed on the north side with porticoes along the north and the east for the accommodation of the pilgrims coming from the city of Athens113 or possibly for soldiers during times of war. There were two points that ships could be put into: a small cove on the east side of the peninsula and a much bigger harbour on the west side. Oddly it seems that both of these ports were not enclosed by the fortress wall, such as at Piraeus, just as at Rhamnous the harbours were not. There seem to be two possible reasons for this mistake in the construction: firstly, regardless of the ports the wall had to be located on the slope of the hill so as to aid in the defenses of the site, with walls being on the hill it gave the defenders the upper ground on any attacking forces from their position on the walls. Secondly, in the cause of Sounion, the fact that the two slips for small guard-attack boats on the south side of hill meant that the Athenians who when they constructed this fort believed that their dominance of the waves would enable them to control the sea traffic of the fort. Considering that the forts were constructed in 412 B.C before the loss of the larger fleet to a combined Syracuse-Corinth fleet during the invasion of Sicily, it is not hard to believe that Athens in 413 B.C, when looking at any aspect of the war and its possibility of victory, always took their power on the waves as something that would remain the same for ever. But as I will explain in the next section on the changes in Spartan military strategy, it did. Yet during the reminder of the war 413 B.C to 405 B.C there are no indications that they attempted to change the form or function of the fortification on the coast of Attica.

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