Siege of Naupactus, 426 BC

The siege of Naupactus (426 BC) was a short-lived Spartan attempt to capture a key Athenian naval base on the northern shores of the Gulf of Corinth. Naupactus was a city located towards the western end of Locris, the coastal area on the northern side of the Gulf of Corinth, and had been an Athenian naval base for much of the Great Peloponnesian War. The area had been the base for an unsuccessful Athenian-led invasion of Aetolia (the largely mountainous to the north of Locris), which had come to grief at the battle of Aegitium (426 BC), but even before this campaign the Aetolians had sent messengers to Sparta and to Corinth asking for an army to help them capture Naupactus.

The Spartans agreed to this request and sent an army of 3,000 allied hoplites, commanded by Eurylochus, a full Spartan, and accompanied by only two other Spartans. In the autumn of 426 this army moved to Delphi, from where envoys were sent out to threaten the neighbouring Locrians. Although the Locrians had agreed to support the Athenian invasion of Aetolia earlier in the year, most of them now agreed to support the Spartans, with many actually providing troops. Oeneon and Eupalium, two towns that refused to support the Spartans, were captured as they advanced west through Locris towards Naupactus.

The Spartan attack on Naupactus began well. The outskirts of the city, outside the city walls, were quickly captured, and the small garrison in Naupactus when the attack began was clearly not large enough to hold the entire circuit of the walls. The Spartans had a short window of opportunity to take the city, but they failed to take it. The Athenian commander Demosthenes had remained in the area after his defeat at Aegitium. He reacted to the news of the siege by persuading the Acarnanians to provide him with 1,000 hoplites to help with the defence of the city. Demosthenes was then able use his fleet to move this relief army into the city.

Once it was clear that Naupactus was properly garrisoned Eurylochus abandoned the siege. His new target was Amphilochian Argos (modern Amfilochia), at the eastern end of the Gulf of Ambracia. His hope was that the capture of this city would allow him to subdue all of Acarnania, a success that would have largely eliminated the Athenian presence in north-western Greece. Instead he suffered a crushing defeat at Olpae (426 BC).

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (29 April 2011), Siege of Naupactus, 426 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_naupactus.html

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