Battle of Koroneia (394 BC)

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The battle of Koroneia took place in 394 BC. Chr. As part of the Corinthian war instead. There were thereby Sparta on one side and Thebes and its allies on the other side opposite. Main sources are Xenophon and Diodor .


Because of their imperial actions after the victory over Athens in 404 BC. BC the Spartans had alienated many allies who saw themselves robbed of the fruits of victory. Corinth and Thebes in particular increasingly distanced themselves from Sparta. When the Spartans in Asia Minor wanted to free the cities of Ionia from Persia - their best ally in the Peloponnesian War - in the summer of 396 , Thebes, Corinth, Argos and Athens took the opportunity to terminate their alliance with Sparta and, in turn, to start a war against Sparta. The Persian king supported this coalition with gold and a new fleet. The Spartans were therefore forced to break off the campaign in Asia Minor against Persia and ordered the Spartan king Agesilaus II back.

The most powerful opponent in the coalition was for Sparta the city of Thebes, which is why they tried to usurp the initiative by invading Boeotia. However, the Spartans suffered defeat at the Battle of Haliartus . Both sides therefore searched for the summer of 394 BC. The decision: The member states of the coalition wanted to advance with a large army on the Peloponnese into the heartland of Sparta, the Laconia region. The Spartans, on the other hand, wanted to stop this advance as close as possible to Corinth and open a second front against Thebes with the troops of King Agesilaos in central Greece, while the Spartan fleet on Rhodes was supposed to prevent the Persian fleet sailing from Cyprus from penetrating the Aegean Sea.

Indeed, by winning the Battle of Nemea , the Spartans succeeded in stopping the coalition's advance. Agesilaus had meanwhile arrived via the Hellespont through Macedonia and Thessaly in Boeotia when a solar eclipse occurred, making the exact date August 14, 394 BC. Can be dated BC . At the same time he learned of the complete defeat of the Spartan fleet under the general Peisandros in the battle of Knidos . He hid this news, however, in order not to unsettle his troops - and especially the Ionian troop contingents. The troops of the Alliance rushed to the aid of the Thebans at the news of the approach of Agesilaus and took up position at the Helikon to prevent the Spartans from marching further on Thebes. The second - and final - great battle between the Peloponnesians and the Allies in the Corinthian War took place in the Koroneia plain .

Troop strength and line-up

The Spartans and their allies were approximately 15,000 hoplites strong. In addition to the Spartans themselves, there were contingents from Ionia, the Aiolis, the Hellespont, and fighters from Orchomenos and Phocis. This was opposed by a coalition of Thebes , Athens , Argos , Corinth , the western and eastern Lokrians and the inhabitants of Evia, which could raise 20,000 hoplites. Both sides had about the same number of cavalry, but the Spartans had more peltasts . These troops were mainly mercenaries from Ionia and, like the Spartans, professional soldiers, which is why their combat strength compensated for the numerical inferiority.

The battle line-up looked like that on the Spartan side, Agesilaos commanded the right wing, while on the left the Greeks from Asia Minor joined first, then the Phocians and finally the Orchomenians on the left wing. The Orchomen stood against the Thebans, the Spartans the Argeier. As usual, the strongest contingents occupied the right wing - the Spartans with the Peloponnesians, the Thebans with the coalition.

Course of the battle

When the two armies were within 200 meters of each other, the Thebans stormed on their wing and put the Orchomenians to flight. In the middle the Asiatic Peltasts of the Peloponnesians stormed in front of Xenophon and the troops of the coalition fled when the skirmishers came at javelin range. It is more likely that these professional soldiers created gaps and disorder in the hoplite ranks of the Athenians and Corinthians with their javelin throws and that they lost the battle and fled even before meeting the actual hoplite ranks of the Peloponnesians. Thus a decision had been made on the Theban wing and in the middle before the Spartans met the Argians. Unlike their stormy troops in the center, the Spartans usually approached the enemy in a steady order, so the clash here was delayed. It fell to the Argians on the coalition's left wing to hold off the Spartans until the right wing and center won victory. But when the Argians saw the middle give way, they no longer offered to fight and fled back to the Helikon with the others.

After the first phase of the battle a victory for the Peloponnesians was certain, with both sides hardly losing any soldiers. The second phase, however, developed quite differently, so that "the fight became more hard than in any other battle of our time" (Xenophon):

When the Peloponnesians noticed that the Thebans had smashed the Orchomenians and were now pouncing on the entourage, Agesilaos regrouped his army and turned in battle lines against the Thebans, who were now separated from their fleeing allies by the enemy troops. The regrouping of the Peloponnesians allowed the Thebans to group themselves into "a deep column" in order to dare to break through the enemy ranks. A long battle broke out, because when part of the Thebans finally managed to break through, evening was already falling. Of the remaining Thebans, 80 soldiers were able to save themselves in a nearby temple, the rest stayed on the battlefield. The Peloponnesians also suffered heavy losses, and King Agesilaos himself was seriously injured. He allowed the Thebans locked up in the temple to retreat with honor. According to Diodorus' report, 600 of the Thebans and their allies and 350 of the Spartans and their allies died at Koroneia.

Consequences of the battle

Even if the Peloponnesians won the battle, the strategic goal - the annihilation of the opposing coalition - was not achieved. The troops of the Athenians, Corinthians, Lokrians and Euboeans suffered only minor losses, the Argeians none at all. Thebans bore the brunt of the defeat. Because of the bitterly won victory, however, the Peloponnesians were too exhausted to hold their position in Boeotia, let alone advance further on Thebes. After some raids through Lokris, which were connected with further losses, Agesilaos evacuated his troops in Boeotia over the Gulf of Corinth to the Peloponnese. Because of the loss of maritime rule over the Aegean Sea, Ionia was also lost to the Persians. The further fighting concentrated in the next few years in the area of ​​Corinth.



  • John F. Lazenby: The Spartan army , Warminster, GB: Aris & Phillips, 1985.