People - Ancient Greece: Brasidas
Ancient Spartan officer during the first decade of
the Peloponnesian War.
Brasĭdas in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
（Βρασίδας). The most distinguished Spartan in the first part of the Peloponnesian War (q.v.). In B.C. 424, at the head of a small force, having effected a dexterous march through the hostile country of Thessaly, he gained possession of many of the cities in Macedonia that were subject to Athens; his greatest acquisition was Amphipolis. In 422, with only a handful of helots and mercenary troops, he gained a brilliant victory over Cleon, who had been sent with a powerful Athenian force to recover Amphipolis. Brasidas was slain in the battle. He was buried within the city, and the inhabitants honoured him as a hero by yearly sacrifices and by games.
Thucydides praises alike the eloquence and the liberality and wisdom of Brasidas, and Plato compares him to Achilles.
Brasidas in Wikipedia
Brasidas (Greek: Βρασίδας) (d. 422 BC) was a Spartan officer during the first decade of the Peloponnesian War.
He was the son of Tellis and Argileonis, and won his first laurels by the relief of Methone, which was besieged by the Athenians (431 BC). During the following year he seems to have been eponymous ephor (Xen. Hell. ii. 3, 10), and in 429 he was sent out as one of the three commissioners (o'bu/3ovXoi) to advise the admiral Cnemus. As trierarch he distinguished himself in the assault on the Athenian position at the Battle of Pylos, during which he was severely wounded (Thuc. iv. II. 12).
In the next year, while Brasidas mustered a force at Corinth for a campaign in Thrace, he frustrated an Athenian attack on Megara (Thuc. iv. 70-73), and immediately afterwards marched through Thessaly at the head of 700 helots and 1000 Peloponnesian mercenaries to join the Macedonian king Perdiccas. Refusing to be made a tool for the furtherance of Perdiccas's ambitions, Brasidas set about the accomplishment of his main object, and, partly by the rapidity and boldness of his movements, partly by his personal charm and the moderation of his demands, succeeded during the course of the winter in winning over the important cities of Acanthus, Stagirus, Amphipolis and Toroni as well as a number of minor towns. An attack on Eion was foiled by the arrival of Thucydides, the historian, at the head of an Athenian squadron. In the spring of 423 a truce was concluded between Athens and Sparta, but its operation was at once imperiled by the city of Scione, which it transpired had come over to Brasidas two days after the truce began, which led to the Athenian requiring it to be returned to them. Brasidas refused to return Scione; and also accepted the revolt of Mende shortly afterwards.
An Athenian fleet under Nicias and Nicostratus recovered Mende and blockaded Scione, which fell two years later (421 BC). Meanwhile Brasidas joined Perdiccas in a campaign against Arrhabaeus, king of the Lyncesti, who was severely defeated. On the approach of a body of Illyrians, who, though summoned by Perdiccas, unexpectedly declared for Arrhabaeus, the Macedonians fled, and Brasidas's force was rescued from a critical position only by his coolness and ability. This brought to a head the quarrel between Brasidas and Perdiccas, who promptly concluded a treaty with Athens, of which some fragments have survived (I.G. i. 42).
In April 422 the truce with Sparta expired, and in the same summer Cleon was dispatched to Thrace, where he stormed Toroni and Galepsus and prepared for an attack on Amphipolis. When Cleon brought part of his army forward to probe the defenses, Brasidas recognized an opportunity to defeat his superior force in detail. Brasidas' plan for his final victory was typical of his campaigns in Thrace. It was a boldly aggressive surprise attack aimed to throw the enemy into confusion and it made the best possible use of both his small force of Spartan hoplites and his allies who made up the bulk of his army, in this case mostly Edonians from the city of Myrcinus. Brasidas personally led the Spartans in a sudden charge from Amphipolis, routing the left wing of the Athenian army. His allies sallied from the northeastern gate and attacked from the north, breaking the enemy's right wing. Edonian and Chalcidian cavalry and light infantry pursued the fleeing Athenians, killing 600 men, including Cleon. On the Spartan side only seven fatalities are reported, but one of them was Brasidas, who was mortally wounded at the head of his troops. He was buried at Amphipolis with impressive pomp, and for the future was regarded as the founder (oikistes) of the city and honored with yearly games and sacrifices (see Battle of Amphipolis; Thuc. iv. 78-v. II). At Sparta a cenotaph was erected in his memory near the tombs of Pausanias and Leonidas, and yearly speeches were made and games celebrated in their honor, in which only Spartiates could compete.
Thucydides' characterization of Brasidas suggests that Brasidas united in himself the stereotypical Spartan courage with those virtues in which regular Spartans were most signally lacking. Brasidas was apparently quick in forming his plans and carried them out without delay or hesitation. Furthermore, the rhetoric in speech of Brasidas to the Acanthians is of noticeably higher quality than the other Spartan speeches recorded by Thucydides (Thuc. iv. 84-89).
See in particular Thucydides; what Diodorus xii. adds is mainly oratorical elaboration or pure invention. A fuller account will be found in the histories of Greece (e.g. those of George Grote, Karl Julius Beloch, Georg Busolt, Meyer) and in G. Schimmelpfeng, De Brasidae Spartani rebus gestis atque ingenio (Marburg, 1857).
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