Revolt of Potidaea - 432 B.C.
The Athenians suspected further hostilities between them and Corinth, after the Battle Of Sybota. The Athenian assembly feared that in Potidaea the Corinthians might stir up trouble and begin to have thoughts of revolt.
As Potidaea was founded by Corinth c.600 B.C. but were now a Athenian tributary and their allie.
Orders came to Potidaea from Athens for them to take down their walls, to give hostages to Athens, to dismiss their Corinthian magistrates with the idea in future not to receive the persons sent from Corinth annually to succeed him.
The Athenians sent off 30 ships to raze the walls and take hostages at Potidaia. Meanwhile, the Potidaias were not sitting on their hands, they too sent envoys to Athens on the chance of persuading them to return their course. Not getting anywhere in their negotiations to obtain anything from them they made their way to Sparta, and with envoys from Corinth as well, the Spartans promised to invade Attica if Athens attacked Potidaia. The Potidaeans favoured by the moment, revolted.
On the arrival of the Athenians, finding Potidaea already in revolt, the commanders considered it quite beyond their fleet to be able to take the town.
Changing course the fleet headed to Macedonia, to help them in a civil war they were having at that time. Corinth eager to help out Potidaia and cause more trouble for Athens, sent volunteers and mercenaries from the rest of the Peloponnese, to aid them, in total 2,000. Athens upped the ante even more by countering, sending 2,000 hoplites and another 40 ships against the place.
When the extra Athenian help arrived it found the initial forces still in Macedonia, and at first helped them with their endeavours there, but soon wrapped things up and together they made their way towards Potidaea.
The Potidaea strategy was simple enough, a straight hoplite battle, using the thin land strip that joined the peninsular to the main land as the battle ground, that way they could not be attacked from behind. The cavalry was to be kept on the mainland close to Olynthos, that way if the Athenians took the bait and attacked then from the main land, the cavalry would be in position to strike at them from behind.
The Athenians arriving from Macedon, brought along some portions of the Macedonian cavalry with them, Macedon being well known for exceptional horse and riders from there. Seeing the defensive position against them, they immediatley organised their hoplites into battle formation and sent the Macedonian cavalry to keep an eye on the Potidaea cavalry near Olynthos.
The ensuing battle did indeed turn out to be a straight hoplite battle. The strengh of each line was on the right side, the left side being decidedly weaker. Aristeus' right wing of Corinthian troops defeated a section of the Athenian line, but elsewhere the Athenians were victorious. Aristeus returned to Potidaea along the seacoast with some difficulty, hoping to avoid the main Athenian army. A reserve force of Potidaeans, located in nearby Olynthus, attempted to relieve Aristeus, but they were defeated as well. The Corinthians and Potidaeans lost about 300 men, and the Athenians about 150, including Callias.
The cavalry played no real part in this battle, as they lined up to offer assitance they were met with the Macedonian contingent aiding Athens. Though they threatened they did not engage, the hoplite battle starting and finishing rather quickly before the cavalry could really be dispatched effeciently, the quickness of the battle is evident by the low amount of casualties that took place.
The Athenians remained outside Potidaea for some time, and were reinforced by another 1600 hoplites under the command of Phormio. Both sides built walls and counter-walls, and the Athenians succeeded in cutting off Potidaea from the sea with a naval blockade.
It was in this battle that representing the Athenians Socrates saved Alcibiades' life during the battle.
"Whilst he was very young, Alcibiades was a soldier in the expedition against Potidaea, where Socrates lodged in the same tent with him, and stood next to him in battle. Once there happened a sharp skirmish, in which they both behaved with signal bravery; but Alcibiades receiving a wound, Socrates threw himself before him to defend him, and beyond any question saved him and his arms from the enemy, and so in all justice might have challenged the prize of valor. But the generals appearing eager to adjudge the honor to Alcibiades, because of his rank, Socrates, who desired to increase his thirst after glory of a noble kind, was the first to give evidence for him, and pressed them to crown him, and to decree to him the complete suit of armor."
'The history of the Peloponnesian Wars' by Thucydidies (written c431 B.C),translated by Richard Crawley 1910.
'Alcibiades' by Plutarch