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Battle of Nemea
Part of the Corinthian War

A Greek hoplite

Date: 394 BC
Location: Nemea, Peloponnese, present-day Greece
Result: Spartan victory
Casus belli:
Territory changes:
Combatants
Sparta Thebes
Argos
Athens
Corinth
Commanders
Aristodemus Unknown
Strength
18,000 hopites 24,000 hoplites
Casualties
1,100 dead or wounded 2,800 dead or wounded
Greek Wars of the 4th century BC

The Battle of Nemea (394 BC) was a battle in the Corinthian War, between Sparta and the allied cities of Argos, Athens, Corinth, and Thebes. The battle was a decisive Spartan victory, which, coupled with the Battle of Coronea later in the same year, gave Sparta the advantage in the early fighting on the Greek mainland.

Prelude

Following the declaration of war, the forces of the anti-Spartan alliance gathered at Corinth to decide on their strategy and choose a commander. It was decided that they would try to force a battle in or close to Spartan territory. The Spartans, meanwhile, also decided to send out a force; since Agesilaus was in Asia, and the other king, Agesipolis, was a boy, the force was commanded by his guardian Aristodemus. While the allies remained at Corinth, debating over who should command their army, Aristodemus marched up through the Peloponnese, picking up contingents from Sparta's allies along the way, and arrived in Corinthian territory. The allies were thus forced to fight much closer to home than they had intended. As the Spartans marched up through Corinthian land, burning and plundering along the way, the allies marched out to meet them. The two armies found each other near the river Nemea.

The battle

The Spartan army was composed of some 18,000 or 19,000 hoplites, with associated light troops; of the hoplites, 6,000 were Spartan, with the remainder coming from the other states of the Peloponnesian League. On the allied side were about 24,000 hoplites, and the associated light troops; Thebes, Athens, and Argos each provided about one quarter of the troops.

The Spartans and their allies lined up for battle with the Spartans on the right and the allies on the left. The opposing coalition was divided over how to arrange themselves; the Athenians wanted to line up on the right, but ultimately had accede to the demand of the Boeotians that they take the left, while the Boeotians took the right. This meant that the Athenians were opposite the Spartans, while the Boeotians and other allies faced the Spartans' allies.

As the two phalanxes closed for battle, both shifted to the right. (This was a common occurrence in hoplite battles—hoplites carried their shield on their left arm, so men would shift to the right to gain the protection of their neighbor's shield as well as their own.) This shift meant that, by the time the armies met, both of them extended past their opponents' left flank. Consequently, the right flanks of both armies were victorious, while the left flanks of both were defeated.

The Spartans then turned from their defeat of the Athenians to face the soldiers from the allied right wing who were returning from their pursuit of the Spartans' allies. The Spartan phalanx took first the Argives, then the Corinthians, and then the Boeotians in the side, inflicting heavy losses on all three. At the end of the day, the Spartans had inflicted 2,800 casualties, while suffering only 1,100.

Aftermath

Following the battle, the Spartans and their allies seem to have returned home, since we have no further accounts of their actions. The anti-Spartan coalition, however, was soon in action again against a different Spartan army at the Battle of Coronea. There they were defeated again, reinforcing the dominance of the Spartans in land combat at this period.

References

  • Xenophon, Hellenica
  • Diodorus Siculus, Library

Links

  • The relevant passage from Xenophon
  • The relevant passage from Diodorus

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