Battle of Haliartus

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Battle of Haliartus
Part of: Corinthian War
date 395 BC Chr.
place Haliartus
output Victory Thebes
Parties to the conflict

Sparta and its allies without Corinth

Thebes and Haliartus




Troop strength
unknown unknown



Fought in the Battle of Haliartus in 395 BC. An army under Spartan leadership against a Theban army. While the Spartans besieged Haliartos, they were attacked by a Theban relief army and put to flight. The Spartan general Lysander fell in this battle, which marked the beginning of the Corinthian War , which was to last eight years.

Operational intention and starting position

The Persian satrap Pharnabazos had 396/395 BC Timocrates of Rhodes sent as negotiator to the leading Greek cities to offer them financial support in the event of a declaration of war against Sparta. Sparta had for some time drawn the displeasure of the other cities, which now willingly accepted this offer. Thebes was particularly interested in keeping Sparta out of Boeotia or all of central Greece in order to expand its own position there. However, it did not act directly against Sparta, but persuaded the allied Lokrer Phokis , an ally of Sparta, to attack. Thebes was obliged to stand by his ally in battle. At the same time, Thebes had asked Athens for help and concluded an eternal alliance between Athens and Boeotia. In the meantime, Phocis had also asked Sparta for support. The Spartans saw this as a favorable opportunity to eliminate Thebes as competitors in central Greece and planned to lead two armies against Thebes. An army made up of Spartans and Peloponnesian allies, excluding the Corinthians , was to head north under Pausania's leadership. At the same time, Lysander was to lead an army made up of Phocis, Orchomenus and other allies from northwestern Greece to the south. The armies were to be united at Haliartus in order to then operate against Thebes. However, Pausanias' departure from the Peloponnese was delayed. Lysander and his army arrived at Haliartus when the second army was a day's march away.

Course of the battle

Lysander did not want to wait for the arrival of the Spartan civil army , had his Bündner troops march in front of Haliartus and asked the population to break away from Thebes and surrender the city to them. After he was refused this at the instigation of the Thebans present in Haliartus, he attacked the fortifications. In the immediate vicinity was a Theban army of hoplites and cavalry that Lysander had either not cleared up or whose aggressiveness he had underestimated. This immediately took on Lysander, put his army before the walls of the city and defeated them, Lysander fell. Initially without a leader, the Spartan army made up of allies avoided the nearby mountains, but gathered there again and inflicted heavy losses on the Thebans, who were too vigorously pursued and huddled on narrow paths, by throwing javelins, arrows and rolling rocks. The pursuit was broken off after a short time and the remnants of the Theban army withdrew to Haliartus.

Other events

The next day, the fallen Lysander's army disbanded and the contingents retreated to their hometowns. The Thebans' cheering for victory ended abruptly when Pausanias appeared shortly afterwards with his army at the gates of Haliartus. However, he did not attack, but camped outside the city. He did not offer a battle for the next three days either, and the Thebans, for their part, felt too weak to take on the Spartans. According to Xenophon , Pausanias consulted with his officers, with the result that the morale of the troops in view of the many fallen in front of the city, including Lysander, did not allow a battle, and the strong Boeotian cavalry at these consultations should be a compelling argument against a renewed battle have been cited. Nevertheless, tradition required that the fallen should not be left lying there unburied. On the other hand, they did not want to expect the troops to rescue the fallen within a javelin throw from the walls. Three days after the battle, an Athenian relief army appeared, which also set up camp not far from the Spartans. After the balance of power had finally shifted to the detriment of Sparta, Pausanias negotiated with the Thebans about an armistice to rescue the fallen. This was promised to him on condition of the immediate withdrawal from Boeotia and so agreed. On his return to Sparta, Pausanias was accused by Lysander's followers of his late arrival and had to go into exile. With Lysander's death and Pausania's exile, only Agesilaos remained of the main protagonists of Spartan politics , who set the tone in the years that followed.

Importance of the battle

Despite the Thebans' tactical victory and Sparta's subsequent retreat from Boeotia, the battle did not have far-reaching implications. The Corinthian War that had begun was to last another eight years. Since ultimately no victory had been achieved against the Spartans, but only against allies of Spartas under Spartan leadership, the nimbus of invincibility was not damaged either. The only winner was Persia, as Agesilaos had to withdraw his troops from Ionia and Persia had a free hand there again.