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Battle of Sybota, an AAR

This time we played the historical battle of the Sybota island of 433 b.c., between Corcyra (the modern Corfu) and its motherland Corinth. This was the battle which sparked the Peloponnesian war. We used He Hemetera Talassa, as usual. We had some special rules for this scenario, so I will provide some wider context.

The battle originated from a quarrel on the control over the smaller polis of Epidamnus, but it was really about who was the in control of the trade routes from Hellas towards the west – Corinth or its colony Corcyra? In 433 b.c. the Corinthians raised a massive fleet, which included Peloponnesian allied poleis, and rowed towards their colony to invade it and establish a pro-Corinthian regime. The Corcyreans, meanwhile, had sent an embassy to Athens asking for an alliance: but the Athenians, fearing that this would spark a major war against Corinth and its ally Sparta, only agreed to establish a strictly defensive pact. So they sent to Corcyra one 10-ships strong squadron, with the order not to engage the Peloponnesians unless they were trying to land on Corcyra.

We had a little pre-battle strategic choice and the Corcyrean admiral decided, as its historical colleague had done, to camp at the Sybota island. This allowed him to have a bigger chanche to meet the Corinthians in the smaller portion of the Corcyrean canal, where the Peloponnesians’ numerical superiority would be negated. And it worked! The Corcyreans met the enemy where they wanted. Both sides entered the field in column.

The Corcyrean arrived first at the strait, occupied it for all its lenght and managed to slip the Athenian squadron out of it, on the Corinthian side, so that it could threaten the Peloponnesians’ left flank. The Athenians had strict engagement orders and could not attack yet, but the Peloponnesians could not be sure about that!

The Corinthian admiral meant to give battle precisely with its left wing, where he placed his stronger squadrons. However, it soon became clear that he had somehow gravely offended the gods! All of his manouvering was frustrated by rolling an impressive series of 1s and 2s. In two turns, all his fleet save for the almost stationary right wing fell in total disorder!

A Corinthian squadron on the left was in such disarray that, seeing itself threatened by the feared Athenians, it routed!

In the center, the Ambraciots and Eleans allies were completely unformed as well. In this dire situation the two “lines” clashed.

The Corinthian admiral kept on rolling 2s… the only high rolls he made were those to determine if one of his admirals was lost in a melee…

It has to be said that his creews put up a fight with real Peloponnesian grit, refusing to abandon the battle.

But, having engaged in a mess, they quickly lost any advantage and were soon grinded down to the last epibates.

The elates Corcyreans erected a trophy. Corcyra was safe! For the record, the Athenians were not even able to join the combat. In fact they were waiting for at least one Corcyrean squadron to break - which did not happen.

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