DIONYSIUS OF PHOCAEA: Ancient Greek admiral and corsair

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Map above: The location of Phocaea οn the Aegean coast of Asia Minor between the Aeolian Kyme and the Ionic Smyrna.
Below: The Hellenistic theater of Phocaea.
By Periklis Deligiannis
In 494/493 BC a small but formidable Anatolian Greek naval force appeared in the sea around Sicily, causing serious problems to the Carthaginians and the Etruscans. A few months earlier, the Ionic Revolt of the Greeks of Asia Minor against the Persian rule was reaching its end. This revolt was called Ionic because the Ionians were the most numerous among the Greek revolutionary forces but they were supported as well by many Aeolians and some non-Greek Lydians and Carians. The outcome of the war was decided in the naval battle of Lade Islet.
Dionysius of Phocaea was the commander-in-chief of the Greek fleet, being the ablest Ionian admiral. Phocaea was a Greek city-state on the linguistic-dialectic border between the Ionian and the Aeolian Greeks of Asia Minor, on the Aegean coast between the Aeolian Kyme and the Ionic Smyrna. The city was Ionic (with an Aeolian minority) and small comparing to the mentioned neighbouring large cities, but it was a great naval power with many colonies around the Mediterranean, especially in the western part of it. Marseille (anc. Massalia), Monaco (anc. Monoecos Herakles’ Limen), Sain Tropez (anc.  Athenopolis), Avignon (Auenion), Arles (Theline), Nice (Nikaia), Alicante (Akra Leuke), probably Barcelona (Greek Kallipolis, later conquered by the Barcid Carthaginians and renamed to Barcinon) and finally Velia (Elea or Hyele, home of the Eleatic philosophers) are some renowned  modern French, Spanish and Italian cities founded by Phocaean colonists.


THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER THATIS – PART III Scythians, Sarmatians and Greeks struggling in the Cimmerian Bosporus



A masterpiece from the land of the Scythians. A golden comb depicting a battle on its back: Scythian horseman and infantry fighting (from the royal tomb of  Solokha).




By  Periklis    Deligiannis

Eumelos suggested a compromise to his brother, Prytanis, based on the division of the kingdom into two territories, which they would share. But his brother rejected his proposal. Prytanis went to Panticapaeum to ensure his control on the kingdom. The aristocrats and the citizens of the Greek cities could exploit the power vacuum which was created by the dynastic war, overthrowing the tyranny of  the Spartocids. Prytanis’ absence gave the opportunity to Eumelos and his allies to capture the small city Gargaza and other towns, which were probably in the modern Taman peninsula (May 309 BC). When Prytanis secured his authority on Panticapaeum, he returned to the Kuban region joining again his army. But his military forces were already highly stressed by Eumelos’ army, and were finally defeated in a new conflict. Eumelos clustered the enemy army in the region of Lake Maeotis (modern Sea of Azov) and thereby he forced Prytanis to resign the throne. Eumelos was proclaimed king but his brother made a last attempt to regain the throne when he returned to Panticapaeum. Prytanis failed, bringing about the wrath of his brother because of his attempt. Eumelos executed him along with his family and Satyrus’ family (June 309 BC).

The new king was murderous, ordering the killing of many friends of his dead brothers. Thus he ultimately caused the counteraction of his subjects, who were sick and tired of his atrocities. Eumelos realized that he would face a revolution and so he called the people of the capital in a popular assembly, in which he announced economic measures favorable to the merchant class, whose support he was intended for. Thereby he consolidated his authority. The kings Paerisades and Satyrus were active and capable rulers. Eumelos proved worthy of them in his five years of rule. The indigenous peoples of the northern and eastern shores of the Black Sea region, especially the Tauri (Taurians), the Heniochi (‘charioteers’) and the Achaeans (not to be confused with the Greek Achaeans) were conducting piracy against the Greek merchants of the Bosporus, damaging seriously its economy. Eumelos used the Bosporan fleet against them, which he reinforced, and managed to crush them. Thereby he strengthened the Bosporan trade and gained over consistently the strong middle class of traders. He also strengthened the military forces by recruiting more Greeks from the urban centers, who provided by then only a limited number of men in the royal army.


THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER THATIS – PART II Scythians, Sarmatians and Greeks struggling in the Cimmerian Bosporus


By  Periklis    Deligiannis9a

Map  of  the  three  main  phases  of  the  battle  of    river  Thatis  (copyright:  Osprey  publishing). 

Corrections  in  the  map  according  to  my  point  of  wiew:  Thataeans=  Siraces.  Eumeles=  Eumelos.  The  name  of  Meniskos,  commander  of  the  Greeks  and  Thracians,    should  be  added.  Following  Alan  Webster,  most  of  Eumelos’  troops  were  cavalrymen.  And  In  my  point  of  view,  Satyrus’  left  wing  was  comprised  overwhelmingly  of  light  infantry.



Satyros’  Scythian  army  invaded  the  Thataean/Siracian  territory  supported  by  many  wagons  with  food  and  supplies,  in  order  not  to  face  supply  problems  in  the  hostile  country.  When  they  reached  river  Thatis,  they  found  the  enemy  army  waiting  for  them  on  the  opposite  river  bank.  Satyros  decided  to  cross  the  river  despite  the  threat  by  the  deployed  Siraces.  It  seems,  paradoxically,  that  the  later  did  not  prevent  the  enemy  crossing.  Aripharnes  possibly  wanted  to  fight  the  decisive  battle  at  his  own  territory  and  did  not  attack  the  Scythian  army  during  the  crossing  of  Thatis,  a  move  that  would  bring  perhaps  the  retreat  of  Satyros’  army.  Besides,  Aripharnes  did  not  wish  the  presence  of  a  numerous  enemy  army  for  a  long  time  at  his  territory  (covering  both  of  the  riverbanks  of  Thatis),  that  would  pillage  and  destroy  the  Siracian  lands.  Thus  he  was  aiming  at  a  decisive  battle  and  that  is  why  he  did  not  block  the  crossing.

The  Scythian  army  established  a  fortified  camp  with  its  wagons  near  the  riverbank  of  Thatis,  and  quickly  lined  up  for  battle  in  front  of  the  camp.  Satyros  placed  the  Greek  hoplites  under  Meniskos  (commander  of  the  mercenaries)  at  the  right  wing  of  his  army,  supported  at  the  top  of  the  wing  by  the  Thracian  peltasts.  According  to  the  ancient  sources,  in  the  left  wing  he  arrayed  Scythian  cavalry  and  infantry.  According  to  the  process  of  the  battle,  it  is  most  probable  that  he  placed  there  only  some  Scythian  horsemen  and  cavalrymen  (probably  a  few)  and  a  great  number  of  light  infantry.  In  the  center  of  his  battle  line,  Satyros  placed  Scythian  cavalry  and  infantry  as  well,  but  is  seems  that  in  this  case  the  cavalrymen  were  more  numerous  than  the  infantrymen.  He  also  took  his  place  in  the  center,  commanding  the  bulk  of  the  Scythian  armored  cavalry.

The  composition  of  the  Siracian/Thataean  order  of  battle  is  not  known,  but  the  ancient  quotations  on  the  process  of  the  battle,  provide  enough  data  on  this  composition.  Eumelos  assumed  command  of  the  left  wing,  against  the  Greeks  and  Thracians,  apparently  because  as  a  Bosporan,  he  knew  very  well  their  tactics.  As  it  will  be  discussed  below,  he  rather  commanded  numerous  Sarmatian  cavalrymen,  many  of  whom  would  have  been  elite  troops  (armored  etc.),  in  order  to  ensure  the  disruption  of  the  hoplite  phalanx  and  the  peltasts  that  supported  and  protected  it.  Eumelos  would  also  command  his  few  Bosporan  supporters  (probably  exclusively  cavalry).    Aripharnes  took  his  place  in  the  center  of  his  army,  commanding  Siracian/Sarmatian  cavalry  and  infantry.  It  is  certain  that  Aripharnes’  cavalry  in  the  center,  included  many  elite  cavalrymen  (the  king’s  bodyguard).  The  Siracian  right  wing  included  the  rest  of  the  cavalry  and  light  infantry,  but  it  seems  that  the  infantrymen  there,  were  overwhelmingly  more  numerous  than  the  cavalrymen.


THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER THATIS – PART I Scythians, Sarmatians and Greeks struggling in the Cimmerian Bosporus


By  Periklis    DeligiannisCimmerian  Bosporus
Map  of  the  Kingdom  of  Cimmerian  Bosporus  with  the  stages  of  its  expansion.  The  Scythians  and  the  Siraces  are  noted  in  the  map.  River  Thatis  was  a  tributary  of    the  river  Hypanis  (Kouban).

The  Kingdom  of  Cimmerian  Bosporus  was  founded  in  438  BC  when  Spartocus,  a  Hellenized  Thracian,  had  established  himself  as  a  tyrant  in  the  Greek  colony  of  Panticapaeum  (modern  Kerch  in  Crimea).  Panticapaeum  was  a  colony  of  Miletus  in  Ionia  (Asia  Minor),  and  the  most  powerful  of  the  Ionic  (Greek)  colonies  in  the  northern  shore  of  the  Black  Sea.  Most  of  these  cities  were  colonies  of  Ionic  Miletus,  and  they  were  founded  mostly  in  the  peninsulas  of  Crimea  and  Phanagoria  (modern  Taman).  Spartocus’  Hellenized  successors,  Satyrus  (his  son,  431-389  BC)  and  Leucon  (his  grandson,  389-349),  conquered  many  of  the  nearby  cities,  reducing  sharply  the  Athenian  military  and  political  influence  in  the  area.  Most  of  the  Greek  cities  of  the  Northern  shore  of  the  Black  Sea  were  Athenian  protectorates  until  then,  with  the  exceptions  of  Chersonesus  (a  Doric  colony  of  Heraclea)  and  Olbia.  Satyrus  annexed  the  cities  Nymphaeon  (an  Athenian  military  colony)  and  Kimmerikon  (Cimmerikon),  but  Leucon  was  the  one  who  made  the  Hegemony  of  Panticapeum  a  real  kingdom:  the  kingdom  of  the  Cimmerian  Bosporus.

“Cimmerian    Bosporus”  was  the  Greek  name  for  the  modern  straits  between  the  peninsulas  of  Crimea  and  Taman.  Leucon  annexed  the  Greek  cities  Theodosia  (modern  Feodosiya),  Hermonassa,  Phanagoria,  Gorgippia,  Parthenion,  Athenaeon  (an  Athenian  military  colony),  Myrmenkion  etc.  The  same  tyrant/king  subjucated  also  the  native  Sindians  and  the  native  as  well  Maeotic  tribes  (Dandarii,  Psessae,  Toretae,  Heniochi  et  al.).  Paerisades  I  (348-310  BC),  Leucon’s  successor,  extended  furthermore  the  Bosporan  rule.  During  his  reign,  the  kingdom  of  Cimmerian  Bosporus  covered  an  area  of  about  30-35,000  sq.  Km.  Athens  had  no  other  option  but  to  abandon  her  rights  in  the  area.  The  Spartocid  dynasty  recognized  only  some  commercial  rights  to  the  Athenians.




By  Periklis    Deligiannisvase painti
A  vase  painting  depicting  a  hoplite,  5th  century  BC.  He  is  armed  with  a  bronze  cuirass,  a  hoplite  sword  and  a  hoplite  shield  of  the  Argive  type.  In  the  interior  of  the  hoplite  shield, you  can  see  the  “antilave” («αντιλαβή»,  handle/handgrip),  the  “porpax” («πόρπαξ»,  fastener  for  the  elbow)  and  the  “telamons” («τελαμώνες»,  shoulder  belts)/ (Paris,  Louvre  Museum)

The  Geometric  Period  (11th-8th  centuries  BC)  preceded  the  invention  of  the  hoplite  warfare  and  the  hoplite  phalanx (about  700  BC).  The  shields  of  the  Geometric  period  belonged  to  two  main  types:  the  “Dipylon” type  shield  and  the  “Herzsprung”  type.  The  Dipylon  shield  is  named  after  the  Athenian  Dipylon  gate,  where  a  number  of  pottery  with  depictions  of  that  type  of  shield,  was  discovered.  It  was  a  large  and  long  shield,  covering  the  warrior  from  chin  to  knees.  It  was  made  of  wicker  and  leather,  without  excluding  further  strengthening  of  wooden  parts.  Despite  its  size,  the  Dipylon  shield  was  light  due  to  its  materials.  It  had  a  curved  form  in  order  to  embrace  the  warrior’s  body.  In  the  middle  of  its  surface,  the  Dipylon  shield  had  two  semicircular  notches  for  the  easier  handling  of  the  offensive  weapons (spear  or  sword).  Notches  also  facilitated  the  hanging (suspension)  of  the  Dipylon  shield  on  the  warrior’s  back,  in  order  not  to  restrict  his  elbows  when  he  walked.  The  shield  had  at  least  one  central  handle  for  its  holding  by  the  warrior  in  battle,  and  one  or  more  shoulder  belts,  in  order  to  hang  it  on  his  back  when  not  used.  These  belts  were  called  “telamones” (τελαμώνες).  The  shape  of  the  Dipylon  shield  denotes  its  origins  from  the  famous  Minoan  and  Mycenaean  eight-shaped  shield.  During  the  Greek  Archaic  Era (7th cent – 479  BC),  the  Dipylon  shield  was  made  mostly  of  bronze  and  had  a  smaller  size:  that  is  the  “Boeotian”  type  of  shield,  named  after  Boeotia,  where  it  was  popular.

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