Mercenaries in the Classical World: To the Death of Alexander by English Stephen

Mercenaries in the Classical World: To the Death of Alexander by English Stephen

Author:English, Stephen
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781783034550
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Published: 2013-05-21T16:00:00+00:00

Corcyra was a mercenary’s paradise; it was wealthy and undefended, and the Spartans seemingly gave their mercenaries free reign. Members of the expedition of the 10,000 dreamed of a situation like this one, rather than what they actually saw in Asia. The Lacaedemonian forces, after pillaging the land and outlying farmsteads and mansion houses, retired to a hill overlooking both the city and the harbour. From that vantage point they could control access to both the city and the island as a whole. The city of Corcyra was effectively under siege without the Spartans needing any special siege equipment, and without any Peloponnesian loss of life.

The Corcyrians were worried, and they evidently possessed no significant army (and did not have the transport capacity to reach a mercenary recruiting ground with any amount of cash). They had to content themselves with being under a state of siege, and as the food began to run out they approached Athens for aid. The Athenians agreed that they needed to pursue the matter vigorously. Ctesicles with a force of 600 mercenaries was sent to the island, landed under cover of darkness and immediately made their way to the city to strengthen the garrison. They were a mixed blessing, since they were extra mouths to feed but were not enough to defeat the Peloponnesians. 36 The Athenians also attempted to man a fleet, but could not find enough sailors in Athens. She sailed some vessels to the islands under her control in a recruitment drive; the result was that the navy was largely manned by mercenaries. The fleet was commanded by Iphicrates.

On Corcyra the Spartan commander, Mnasippus, was on the verge of victory. Every day deserters from the city were approaching the army in the hope of receiving food. Some he captured and treated as slaves, but when the numbers deserting became too high he drove them back to the city with whips. The inhabitants of the city refused to allow them back in, believing them to be little better than slaves themselves, and many died between the two forces. With victory in sight Mnasippus began to treat his mercenaries rather less favourably. He dismissed some from service and withheld payments from the others so that some were owed up to two months’ wages. This was not because of a lack of funds; many of the allied states of the Peloponnesian League had offered money rather than troops. Rather, this was an act of greed and an example of remarkably poor generalship.37

The mercenaries defending the city, either getting desperate or seeing an opportunity, made a sortie against Mnasippus and killed some of his men, capturing others. The Spartan ordered his men to form up to counter-attack the Athenian mercenaries: 38

And when some captains replied that it was not easy to keep men obedient unless they were given provisions, he struck one of them with a staff and another with the spike of his spear. So it was, then, that when his forces issued from the city with him they were all dispirited and hostile to him.


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