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Four The Date of the Dema Wall
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Alterative Historical Occasions

Could the Dema wall actually have been built for, or during, the Peloponnesian War? That suggestion has been advanced in the past, though never defended, and in fact it can easily be excluded from consideration. In the first place, the saltcellar found in the wall establishes strong evidence for a date later than the Peloponnesian War, but it does not absolutely rule out the possibility of a date as early as ca. 425. On this evidence, the wall could not have been built before the war only to be abandoned, but it could only have been built after the last Spartan invasion of the Archidamian War, which took place in 425. There is little reason to believe that the Athenians would have employed such a wall at that time, how-


ever, since it would have been so contrary to the still-successful policy of Perikles of refusing hoplite battle. Still less is there reason to believe that the Athenians had any need for such a wall after 425, since they held Spartan hostages from Pylos, and by threatening to execute these, Thucydides reports, they successfully dissuaded the Spartans from invading Attica until peace was made in 421.[37]

There is likewise no reason to believe that the Athenians built the wall in anticipation of the resumption of hostilities in 413. The Athenians made no attempt to resist the Spartan invasion in that year, and any intention of confronting the Spartans on land was directly contrary to the mood that, according to Thucydides, prevailed at Athens when the Sicilian expedition was dispatched.[38] After 413, the presence of the permanent Spartan camp at Dekeleia would have made it both pointless and impossible to construct such a wall at any time during the later course of the war.

To these considerations we may add that the Dema tower, by itself or with the wall, likewise makes no sense under the conditions of either the Archidamian or Dekeleian War. Its outlook was too restricted and it was too vulnerable to attack for it to have been useful as a permanent installation from the period of these wars. The vantage points of other towers, particularly those around the plain of Athens, might have been used by lookouts during the Archidamian War on occasions when Peloponnesian invasions were anticipated, and more regularly during the Dekeleian War, when lookouts kept watch on the activities of the Peloponnesian garrison at Dekeleia.[39] But a tower or watchpost within the Aigaleos-Parnes gap would have been highly vulnerable to hostile forces abroad in the countryside and could have served no purpose not better served from other vantage points. A permanent watchpost in the Aigaleos-


Parnes gap is comprehensible, like the Dema wall itself, only in terms of a strategy for resisting, at that point, an invasion coming across the western frontiers of Attica. No such strategy existed during the Peloponnesian War, so that era is thus ruled out from consideration.

In view of the archaeological evidence that indicates a date not far from 400 for both the wall and the tower, namely, the saltcellar from the wall and the cups, catalog nos. 1 and 2, associated with the first occupation of the Dema tower, another possible occasion for these works must be considered. This is the suggestion, first proposed by Skias, modified by Kirsten and Kraiker, and now advocated again by Lohmann and others that the Dema wall was built by the Athenians to protect Athens and its surroundings when Eleusis was under the administration of the oligarchy of the Thirty and their most loyal followers, from 403 until 401/0.[40] Once again, historical circumstances are decisively against this possibility.

In terms of the functional interpretation of the defensive work, the only recommendation for this suggestion is that, like the political situation in 403-401/0, the Dema wall reflects a division between Athens and Eleusis. In moving from this simple observation to a closer consideration of the political and military circumstances, the inappropriateness of the wall becomes apparent. In the first place, the wall is not a static boundary or barrier, but as has been noted, it is a tactical device for the support of an army in battle. Likewise, it has already been observed that the planners of the Dema wall envisioned the advent of an enemy too powerful for the Athenians to confront on open ground. These characteristics in no way correspond to the relationship between Athens and Eleusis in 403-401/0.

During the period that Eleusis was under the administration of an oligarchic enclave, Athens and Eleusis were not two independent and hostile states. The Eleusinians retained their Athenian citizenship, and more important, they retained their property rights. Since, according to the agreements of 403, the Eleusinians were specifically prevented only from entering the city of Athens (and they were allowed to do even this if they submitted to legal accounting procedures), it is clear that the Eleusinian oligarchs were permitted, at least legally, free access to all parts of Attica wherever, outside of Athens, they might have had prop-


erty or business.[41] Moreover, from a military standpoint, the men of Athens were far more numerous than the oligarchs of Eleusis, and when hostilities between the two parties did occur, they consisted of a peremptory and preemptive expedition from Athens against Eleusis, a situation which so overwhelmed the oligarchs there that they entered into immediate negotiations rather than offering battle.[42] Athenian concerns in 403-401/0 would therefore never have required and, in view of the potentially offensive message it would send to Sparta, could never have justified the construction of the Dema wall.[43] The implications of the Dema tower again affirm this conclusion. In chapter 3, it was demonstrated that the tower served only to receive and respond to signals coming from Eleusis or from the frontiers beyond Eleusis, which is senseless under the circumstances of 403-401/0.

Arguments for excluding the era of the Corinthian War have been briefly stated above but deserve closer attention here. The Athenians chose to ally themselves with the Boiotians in making war on Sparta in 395 because they believed that their alliance would be the basis of a powerful confederacy of states that could carry the war against Sparta into the heart of the Peloponnese. Proof of their confidence lay in the fact that they began the war with the fortifications of Peiraieus and the long walls to Athens still in ruins, which left Athens, always dependent upon the sea, dangerously vulnerable if the Spartans were ever to advance on Attica in force.[44] By the summer of 394, when the alliance was put to the test, reality was not so encouraging to the Athenians. It eventually became clear that the battleground would not be in Arkadia or Lakonia but in the Corinthia, uncomfortably close to Attica. Under these circum-


stances, shortly before the two sides met in battle near Corinth, the Athenians began the reconstruction of the walls of Peiraieus.[45] These fortifications, and the long walls joining Peiraieus to Athens, were essential to the defense of Athens if the war in the Corinthia ever took a disastrous turn. Work on them was costly and proceeded slowly, despite a considerable infusion of Persian money and manpower brought by Konon in 393. Bricks were still being laid on the Peiraieus walls in 392/1, and it is probable that the long walls were not yet far along at that time. Ultimately, work on the Peiraieus fortifications was never even finished during the Corinthian War, for we learn that at the time of Sphodrias' raid in 378, the gates of Peiraieus had no doors.[46]

Expense is only half of the explanation for the slow progress of the refortification of Peiraieus. The other half lies in the Athenian strategy for the Corinthian War, according to which the Spartan army was to be prevented from crossing the Corinthian Isthmus. By concentrating sufficient forces at Corinth, the Athenians kept war away from Attica, and as long as their strategy was successful, there was no real urgency to complete even such vital fortifications as the circuit of Peiraieus and the long walls.[47] Only once did the Athenian strategy seem threatened, when, in 392, the Spartans under Praxitas captured the Corinthian harbor of Lechaion, opened a breach in the Corinthian long walls, and captured the towns of Sidous and Krommyon on the Isthmus, thus opening the road to Megara and Attica. Rather than launch an invasion, how-ever, the Spartans invited the Athenians and their allies to consider terms of peace, and in 392/1, ambassadors were exchanged to discuss the matter. After giving the situation serious consideration, the Athenians rejected the Spartan overtures and resumed their defensive strategy in 391 by recapturing Lechaion and repairing the long walls of Cor-


inth.[48] Lechaion was recaptured by the Spartans in the same year, and in 390, Agesilaos attempted to show the Athenians that he could circumvent Corinth by marching to Perachora and Oinoe on the Isthmus. With skill and daring, the Spartans were thus able to raid the far reaches of Corinthian territory, but they were far from threatening Attica. The mercenary and hoplite forces maintained by the Athenians at Corinth required opposing forces to be maintained by the Spartans at Sikyon and Lechaion and thus prevented the Spartans from assembling a strong enough army for an outright invasion. The victory of Iphikrates and his mercenaries over Spartan hoplites between Corinth and Sikyon put an end to Agesilaos' momentary advance onto the Isthmus, and the ensuing recapture of Sidous, Krommyon, and Oinoe by Iphikrates marked a further setback for the Spartans, who never again attempted to operate beyond Corinth.[49]

The war around Corinth, therefore, was tenaciously pursued by the Athenians because they recognized that as long as Athens maintained a stronghold on the Peloponnesian side of the Isthmus, the Spartans would be unable to march on Attica. Along with their commitments to Corinth, the highest priority of the Athenians for the security of Athens was the rebuilding and manning of their navy. Maintenance of these two armaments, the mercenaries at Corinth and the navy, were the greatest financial burdens for the Athenians, and the scarcity of funds for even these essential commitments goes far to explain the slow progress on the Peiraieus fortifications, which must be ranked a distant third in their priorities.[50] Under these circumstances, there were neither the resources nor the need to build a wall in the Aigaleos-Parnes gap.

The state of Athenian defenses at the beginning of the next war with Sparta, in 378, provides the most decisive evidence that the Dema defenses were not in existence before that year. Athenians had collaborated with the Theban conspirators in the overthrow of the Spartan garrison at Thebes in the winter of 379/8, and Athenian forces again stood to arms on their frontiers when Kleombrotos marched into Boiotia in his unsuccessful attempt to save the garrison. After Sparta had been thus


provoked, and a powerful Spartan force had been established under Sphodrias at Thespiai, the Athenians (for reasons to be discussed in chapter 5 below) suddenly affected a conciliatory stance toward the Spartans. While negotiations with Spartan ambassadors were under way at Athens, Sphodrias launched a surprise attack against the Athenians by marching at night across the Kithairon frontier and through the plain of Eleusis in an attempt to seize Peiraieus. He failed only because the distance was too great for his march to be completed before daybreak. His army was reported to Athens by those who chanced upon it, not by any regular lookouts.[51]

If the Athenians already had the system of lookout towers referred to in the previous chapter, then it is inconceivable that they would not have been manned and ready under the conditions of early 378, when, as Xenophon reports, the Athenians were so fearful of the power of the Spartans now that war was on their very borders (Hellenika 5.4.19). Even if the Athenians were making strenuous efforts to placate the Spartans, they could hardly have afforded not to use established watchposts toward the Kithairon frontier if they already existed. The circumstances of Sphodrias' raid indicate that no such regular watchposts had yet been established. The Dema wall and the Dema tower in particular were dependent upon those advanced watchposts, and therefore they cannot yet have existed either. No event could have demonstrated more vividly to the Athenians the need for vigilance against the Spartans than Sphodrias' raid. The primary thesis of this part of the present work is that the defensive network of towers and outposts associated with the Dema wall, and hence the wall itself, was established as a direct result of the raid of Sphodrias, as part of the general mobilization of the Athenians for war with Sparta that followed that event.

The peace treaty of 375 brought a momentary halt to the war between Athens and Sparta and relieved the Athenians of the burden of mainraining their

"watchposts of the countryside," according to Xenophon (Hellenika 6.2.1). The full meaning of this reference will be considered below in chapter 5, but here we may note that this release from watchfulness provides a terminus ante quem for the establishment of the watchtowers associated with the Dema defenses. Thereafter, although parts of the outpost system were certainly again put to use, there was never an occasion that made the defense of the Aigaleos-Parnes gap so vitally important as it had been in 378-375. Therefore, it is decidedly unlikely that the Dema wall was actually built after 375. This point requires demonstration, however, and not mere assertion.


With the resumption of Spartan-Athenian hostilities between 373 and 371, all fighting took place well beyond the confines of Attica, and it is exceedingly unlikely that the Athenians would have manned their territorial defenses at the same level as before 375. In 371, with the peace at Sparta, significant realignments of power and of Athenian defensive concerns were brought about. With that peace treaty, the Athenians disengaged themselves not only from the war with Sparta but also from their commitments to the Thebans, with whom relations over the pre-ceding years had become progressively more strained. The Athenians, now at peace with Sparta and its allies, stood aloof from the confrontation between Peloponnesian and Theban forces at Leuktra in 371 and the Theban operations in the Peloponnese that followed. By 369, in response to appeals from Sparta and its allies, the Athenians joined the Spartans in an alliance and sent forces into the Peloponnese to support them against the Thebans.[52]

By this turn of events, the Athenians and the Thebans became openly antagonistic toward each other. That relationship persisted for the next thirty years, although hostilities were mostly pursued by proxy and actual fighting between Thebans and Athenians took place only on a few occasions, well away from the confines of Attica and Boiotia. Yet the threat of direct conflict was often serious, especially during the height of the Theban supremacy in the 360s.[53] Might this enduring condition of mutual antagonism have resulted in the construction of the Dema wall?

The first objection to the association of the Dema with the Theban threat to Attica is that the Dema is part of a system which protects Athens and the greater part of Attica against a danger that lay specifically to the west. As discussed earlier in this chapter, there is no evidence that measures comparable to the Dema were taken along any of the northern approaches to Athens. The Thebans certainly could have menaced Attica from the north, and after the Theban seizure of Oropos in 366, the threat to this quarter must have been as apparent as anywhere else along the Attic-Boiotian frontier. If, as all evidence indicates, the Dema wall was built according to a comprehensive plan of defense in a particular crisis, then that crisis could not have involved a threat from Thebes unless the defensive scheme was left incomplete.

Let us suppose for a moment that the Dema was built as part of a system that was never completed. A decision to build such a defensive


system would have to have taken into account the fact that such fortifications could not be built in one or two days to avert an immediate crisis. To build two extensive walls and related outworks would have required as much as a week.[54] A decision to build must therefore have been made under circumstances of foreseeable and persistent threats, not as a re-action to a sudden and immediate crisis. The threat of hostilities with Thebes between 369 and 338 waxed and waned from time to time but was ever present. The momentary abatement of a particular crisis never brought with it a complete sense of relief. There is no recognizable occasion during that period which could explain why a project undertaken in view of persistent dangers would be abruptly abandoned, wasting substantial investments of manpower and money. For building the Dema but not the other works required in the north would be like building only one long wall to Peiraieus—a half-finished job would be essentially useless. Although the Athenians of the mid fourth century could be accused of adopting half-hearted and inadequate measures in opposing their enemies abroad, in an undertaking as concrete and immediate as the construction of defensive works around the plain of Athens, it is hard to believe that the demos could have reversed itself, as on a whim, and aborted such a project after it was well under way.

It is indeed doubtful in the first place that the Athenians would have thought that fieldworks like the Dema wall would be an effective deter-rent to the Thebans. As has been described previously, the Dema was useful only when it was manned in strength. To mobilize forces for its defense required adequate forewarning of the approach of the enemy. But Thebes was the immediate neighbor of Athens, and the mobilization and onset of Theban forces could conceivably take place without adequate time for the full deployment of Athenian forces to their various fieldworks.[55] Moreover, the Athenians had already faced the Thebans under Epameinondas from behind such fieldworks at the Isthmus in 369, and the Thebans had succeeded in crossing them.[56] Barrier walls


like the Dema were thus not an obvious answer to the danger of a The-ban invasion of Attica. They might prove serviceable under certain circumstances, but they could not be relied upon to provide a secure cordon of defense. The numbers of Athenian hoplites and cavalry and the support of strong allies were more important deterrents. Native Athenian and Boiotian troops were more or less evenly matched in numbers, so that if one army were to invade the country of the other, it would have no overwhelming advantage unless it was supported by a large al-lied contingent.[57] Diplomacy was therefore a more important deterrent than barrier walls (as Demosthenes was fond of pointing out, Second Philippic 23-24, On the Crown 299-302). For these reasons, and because of the evident inadequacy of the defenses which actually were built, it is unlikely that the Dema was planned and constructed specifically to counteract the threat of a Theban attack.

Some of the same reasons count against the likelihood that the Dema was constructed in response to the threat posed to Attica by the forces of Macedon from the time of the battle of Chaironeia to the end of the Lamian War. The most serious objection, once again, is the fact that the Dema provided inadequate defense against a threat from the north. Further objections may be raised on historical grounds against the association of the Dema with any of the crises of 339-335 and 322.

When Philip arrived at Elateia in the autumn of 339 and the threat of invasion was suddenly brought home to the Athenians, preparations were from the first devoted to meeting him in battle as far from the frontiers of Attica as possible. Athenian infantry and cavalry were mobilized immediately and sent to Eleusis, to await there the conclusion of a treaty with the Thebans about the conduct of a joint campaign against Philip.[58] From this point on, every effort was devoted to overmastering Philip in the contest to be fought on the western frontiers of Boiotia. It is unlikely that the possibility of defeat would have been so openly admitted as to divert funds and manpower to a major wall-building project in Attica at this time.[59]

Once the Athenians were defeated at Chaironeia and defense beyond the frontiers of Attica was no longer possible, other measures were adopted for the safety of Athens. The aftermath of Chaironeia is the period in which the Dema has been placed in the study by Jones, Sackett, and Eliot, which is the most cogent attempt to date the wall offered until now. Eliot, the author of these conclusions, distinguishes two phases of the Athenian reaction to the defeat at Chaironeia:


We have seen that the Athenians engaged in work on their fortifications directly after the battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C. and then started again in 337 B.C. The first operation was hastily done—an emergency measure—and had a single aim, the defence of the city. The second, on the other hand, was methodically organized and may well have embraced the needs of the country as well as of the city. If the Dema Wall is to be ascribed to either of these occasions, it must be to the second.[60]

The methodical fortification work of 337 was that undertaken in the spring of that year by the commissioners who, on the motion of Demosthenes, were elected by each of the ten tribes. Eliot suggests that these ten teichopoioi , of whom Demosthenes was one, were responsible for more than simply repairing the defenses of Athens and Peiraieus. He argues that they must have performed substantial work on the forts of the Attic countryside and that, conceivably, they also undertook to build the Dema wall.[61]

Beyond these circumstances, there is no further evidence adduced by Eliot in favor of this dating of the Dema, and his concluding comments serve only to emphasize the inadequacy of the wall for the purposes of stopping a Macedonian army under Philip or Alexander. This is not inappropriate to Eliot's argument, however, since he believes that archaeological evidence shows that the wall was never completed, evidently because the Athenians suddenly realized how inadequate it was. The archaeological evidence taken to indicate incompleteness, however, is to be explained by later modification and reuse of the wall (see chapter 2 and appendix II), and for reasons given above, an argument predicated on the abrupt abandonment of the project does not carry conviction, especially without a sudden emergency to explain such a change of mind. Eliot does suggest that the destruction of Thebes by Alexander in 335 "would have left few in doubt as to the weakness of such a fortification and the futility of completing it," but this event, more than two years after the commission of the teichopoioi , is hardly sudden enough to account for the abandonment of a project to close the major passes into the plain of Athens, if this in fact had been part of the work begun in 337.[62]

In looking back over this period, Demosthenes makes several allusions to the defensive measures adopted by the Athenians, but never does he hint that an attempt was made to block the ways into Attica with fortifications. Though the preparation of walls and entrenchments is


mentioned, whenever these can be identified, they are seen to be the walls and outworks of the city and Peiraieus.[63] At one point, Demosthenes characterizes the full scope of Athenian defensive measures when he declares that, though he takes pride in his work (as creator of the commission of teichopoioi and as one of their number) in building walls and digging trenches, he takes far more pride in his diplomatic achievements by which Athens was surrounded with strong allies:

Out of these I created a bulwark around Attica, so far as human calculation allows, and by these I fortified our countryside , not just the circuit of the Peiraieus and the city.[64]

By contrast with his diplomatic efforts, Demosthenes implies, the actual wall building of his commission did not serve to fortify the countryside of Attica but only to strenghten the defenses of Athens and Peiraieus. Lykourgos similarly excludes any scheme of territorial defense at this time when he states that the men who fought at Chaironeia chose to rely on their own courage to protect Attica and did not abandon the Attic countryside to the enemy by relying on walls, that is, city walls, for protection.[65] These passages make clear the dichotomy of potential Athenian responses to the advance of Philip: face him in open battle (which was done at Chaironeia) or retreat within the walls of the city (which was done after the defeat of Chaironeia). There was no intermediate step; once the effort to drive Philip back at Chaironeia had failed, there was no military measure that might protect Attica as a whole. There is there-fore no place for the Dema wall, or any other territorial defense scheme, in the Athenian defensive preparations of the 330s.

This being the case, it is even less likely that the Dema would have been developed as a response to the final crisis of the Lamian War of 323-322. Once again, the war began when the confidence of the Athenians in their army's strength abroad was high. For several months, this confidence was fully justified. The tide of battle was irreversibly turned, however, through the crushing defeat of the Athenian navy at Amorgos. This blow not only destroyed all hope of preventing a concentration of Macedonian land forces but, more important, made it impossible for


Athens to maintain its vital maritime grain supply. A blockade and eventual siege of Athens was therefore inevitable, whether or not the Athenians attempted to defend a line in their countryside, and the capitulation which was soon made to Antipater was the only possible safeguard of Athenian lives and property.[66]

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Four The Date of the Dema Wall
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