Battle of Samos

The war in Samos was an important military event in ancient Greece before the Peloponnesian War. Samos had strengthened its fleet in such an effective way that it seemed able of depriving the Athenians of their naval pre-eminence.[1]

In 440 BC Samos was at war with Miletus about Priene, an ancient city of Ionia on the foot-hills of Mycale, which lay between them. Worsted in the war, the Milesians came to Athens with loud complaints against the Samians.[2] Athens intervened, playing the role of mediator. The Athenians mediated against Samos and the Samians subsequently refused to submit to the Athenian findings. When the Athenians ordered the two sides to stop the contest and submit the case to arbitration at Athens, the Samians would not obey.[3] So Pericles took a naval force of 40 ships to Samos and imposed Athens' will, overthrowing Samos' oligarchic regime and imposing an interim local government pleasing to them.[4] At the same time, Pericles took 50 grown men and 50 boys hostages and settled them in Lemnos and imposed a fine of 80 talents. Pericles left the island, having appointed an Athenian Garrison to restore the public order. A group of a Samians, fled the island before the arrival of the Athenian navy, released the hostages in Lemnos and declared that they did not recognise the regime imposed by Athens. Athens withered the rebels and a naval force of 60 ships, led by Pericles and the other 9 generals, crashed the sedition and defeated the Samian navy coming from Miletus. Pericles then ashored a landing force in Samos and besieged the Samians. After the arrival of a reinforcement of 40 more ships the Samians lost another battle but the siege did not end because of the Samians' stubbornness.

Finally, Pericles imposed Athens' will after a tough besiege of 9 months, which resulted in huge discontent by the Athenian sailors. Samians were obliged to surrender their ships, demolish their forts and pay Athens' expense during the period of the besiege.[5]


1. ^ Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, 8.76
2. ^ Thucydides, I, 115
3. ^ Plutarch, Pericles, XXV
4. ^ Plutarch, Pericles, XXV
5. ^ Plutarch, Pericles, XXVIII


'The history of the Peloponnesian Wars' by Thucydidies (written c431 B.C),translated by Richard Crawley 1910.

Although Samos and Miletus were divided by the sea, they were not far apart and each were on opposing side in the Lalentine War some 300 years beforehand.

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