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Five The Defense of Attica, 378-375 B.C.
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Reckoning the Balance

In the spring of 378, Spartan forces held the passes of Kithairon open for a possible invasion of Attica, and Sphodrias' raid provided proof enough that what the Spartans could do, they would do. The Spartans had at their disposal an allied army of some 30,000 infantry, the vast majority of them hoplites. This force was roughly double what the Athenians could raise under the pressure of war in Attica. The Athenians might have been able to call up as many as 10,000 hoplites, and these could be augmented by perhaps 2,000 mercenaries of various arms and an unknown number of citizen light-armed infantry, in all hardly likely to exceed 16,000 infantry, if even near that amount. A Theban contingent might increase the total force by some 3,000 to 4,000 infantry; but recognizing that some portion of the Athenian force would have to stand guard on the walls of Athens, Peiraieus, and the garrison forts, by the most optimistic count the Thebans and Athenians could expect to march out at barely half the potential strength of the Peloponnesians in the event of an invasion of Attica.[27]

Just as Perikles had recognized in 432/1, it would have been the height of folly to meet the Peloponnesians in the field with such odds. The Periklean alternative, however, was equally unacceptable. The Athenians could not afford to withdraw within their walls as they had done in 431, for then they were able to rely on their imperial revenues and


capital reserves to provide for the import of essential foodstuffs and ma-tériel and to sustain their primarily naval war effort. Now they had neither imperial revenues nor significant reserves, and their war effort had to include a plan to support their major ally, Thebes, in a land campaign.

Necessity was the inspiration for novel solutions, both for the generation of revenue without empire and for the prosecution of a land campaign while decidedly outnumbered on land. The two concerns were directly connected, for the primary method of raising revenue by direct taxation in wartime, the eisphora , was based on the evaluation of the real property of the Athenians, the greater part of which consisted of land and houses outside of the walls of the city. Reliance on the eisphora for revenue therefore required measures to protect the property of the Athenians in the countryside. The importance of the eisphora to the Athenians at this time is demonstrated by the fundamental reorganization of the eisphora system that took place in 378. In that year, the taxable property of Attica was reassessed, and a new and more efficient method of converting it into revenue was instituted.[28] Reliance on eisphorai made the Athenians so much the more vulnerable to Peloponnesian might on land than they were in 431, since repeated invasion possibly, and hostile occupation certainly, would destroy a major revenue base for the state. Other military considerations aside, therefore, this demonstrated concern with eisphorai is inconceivable unless the Athenians at the same time had a plan for the defense of Attica against Peloponnesian invasion.

In the winter of 379/8, Theban and Athenian commanders had already recognized the utility of the Kithairon massif on the Attic-Boiotian-Megarian frontier as a barrier against Peloponnesian armies. Now, in the spring of 378, the Spartans were in control of the chief passes through that mountainous frontier. To the Thebans, this meant that they would have to confront the Peloponnesian army at the borders of their own land, in the open and gently rolling hill country of the Asopos basin, terrain that Mardonios had chosen a century earlier as suitable for pitting his numerically superior army against the forces of the Greeks. The terrain gave few and only slight local advantages to weaker defending forces. These constraints gave birth in the spring of 378 to the remarkable Theban stockade and earthwork, closing off the


most accessible parts of Theban territory along a line at least twenty kilometers long.[29] On the Athenian side, the way now lay open for Agesilaos to follow literally in the footsteps of his father, to enter the plain of Eleusis, and to proceed with a general invasion of Attica. The plain of Athens was shielded from Eleusis by the substantial ridge of Aigaleos, and east of this barrier lay approximately 90 percent of the cultivable land and more than 90 percent of the demes of Attica. Only one opening through this barrier was suitable for the passage of an invading army. This was the Aigaleos-Parnes gap, which was precisely the route used by Archidamos in 431.[30] Here the Dema wall was constructed in the spring of 378.

Chabrias, whose election to the generalship is reported by Diodoros in the spring of 378, immediately upon the declaration of war on Sparta, is the only general of this year known to us to have had prior experience in the field. Since his experience included the construction of stockades, entrenchments, and other fortifications along the Egyptian-Palestinian frontier, and since he emerged later in 378 as the commander responsible for Athenian support to Thebes and was generally the most renowned commander on the Athenian-Theban side in the campaigns around Thebes in 378 and 377, it is highly probable that Chabrias was directly responsible for the design and construction of both the Dema wall and the Theban stockade.[31]

In terms of Chabrias' prior experience, the Theban stockade and earthworks bore a much closer resemblance than the Dema wall to the fieldworks he had supervised in the flat delta land of Egypt. How closely they may have resembled each other we do not know, from the brief accounts that survive. It is clear, however, that the Egyptian works contained many elements inappropriate to the Greek setting, in particular, channels to divert water and to flood the landward approaches to fortified positions. The sheer scale of these undertakings is, however, a re-


markable feature common to both projects, and there can be no doubt that so ambitious a scheme at Thebes in Boiotia was envisioned and encouraged by Chabrias' experience in Egypt.

In terms of scale, the Dema wall, a mere three kilometers in length, was by far the less ambitious undertaking. But its short length was offset by the more intractable building material it required. Here no trenches could be dug, mounds piled, or stakes set. The wall had to be built out of limestone, hewn out of bedrock on the spot, with the mass of the wall heaped up by hand but with the larger stones of the wall face dressed at least roughly by masons with some skill. The plan of this wall, crossing more undulating and precipitous ground than either the Theban or the Egyptian works, called for different principles in laying out its course and in developing its tactical refinements. The chief refinement here—not an innovation but a local adaptation—was the frequency of sally ports, which were to be used exclusively by foot troops, whereas on Theban terrain allowances had to be made for the regular deployment of cavalry. Here again, Chabrias' Egyptian service provided him with no precedents for these details in the Dema wall. But Chabrias' practical experience in forming and leading troops in the typical landscapes of Greece provided all the precedent needed for planning these features. The modulations from long and narrow wall-sections across steep ground to short and massive sections on level ground correspond to the proportionate depths and widths of each platoon, or lochos , as it might be arrayed across such a landscape.[32] Likewise, the course of the wall corresponds to the most sensible line for drawing up a defending force across the terrain in this pass.

Construction of the Dema wall must have been carried out in the space of a few days, certainly less than a week, by a military call-up of all able-bodied citizens and residents of Athens. Such a mass levy, consisting of

(Thucydides 4.90.1) had been deployed to Delion in 424, where well over ten thousand , mostly unarmed, had turned out in this for the purpose of constructing the fortifications of Delion, which were mostly completed in the space of two and a half days (Thucydides 4.90, 94). A similar expedition was sent out from Athens to Corinth in 391 for


the purpose of rebuilding the long walls from Corinth to Lechaion. The force was

, en masse, and included stonemasons and carpenters (many of whom may have been foreigners or metics), and it completed the west long wall, facing Spartan forces at Sikyon, "in a few days," while the east wall was completed "in a more leisurely manner" (Xenophon Hellenika 4.4.18).[33] The stonemasons and carpenters of 391 were those who were at that time finishing the restoration of the circuit walls of Peiraieus. In the years that followed, after first rebuilding their own ruinous long walls, the Athenians also rebuilt substantial portions of the circuit of Athens, walls which had not been destroyed in 404 but were now in need of refurbishing. In view of the fact that Peiraieus did not yet have doors on its gates by the spring of 378, it is possible that this refurbishing work had also proceeded slowly and had only just been completed, if it even was complete, by 378. In any event, the general stylistic resemblance between the masonry of certain of the more care-fully worked portions of the Dema wall and the masonry of the early fourth-century (so-called Kononian) phase of the city walls of Athens can now be explained by their close contemporaneity.[34]

Simultaneously, the system of lookout and signal towers noted in chapter 3 was constructed. It is significant that no tower that can be associated with the system by its form and plan was constructed any farther into the western mountains than the Velatouri tower. This tower, with Plakoto, was an intermediary between the garrison forts of Panakton and Oinoe on the frontiers and Eleusis and the rest of Attica, and these forts marked the limits of Athenian control of the frontier area at the beginning of the summer of 378. Beyond them lay a skirmishing zone, where both sides would contend for control of the passes but where, in the spring of 378, the Spartans momentarily held the advantage.

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