Bryn Mawr Classical Review 98.6.12

Victor Parker, Untersuchungen zum Lelantischen Krieg und verwandten Problemen der frühgriechischen Geschichte. Historia, Einzelschriften, 109. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1997. Pp. 189. ISBN 3-515-06970-4.

Reviewed by Adolfo J. Dominguez, Department of Ancient History, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. SPAIN,

The present book contains, widely modified, the author's Doctoral Dissertation, submitted to Heidelberg University in 1992. The overall layout of the book is quite classic but very effective. It begins, in Chapter I, with an "Einführung in die Quellen" in which Parker (henceforth P.) deals firstly with the name of the conflict ("Lelantine War" being a modern name) and with doubts advanced by modern scholars on its reality. After recalling some archaeological proofs in favour of the reality of this war (mainly the destruction of Lefkandi-Xeropolis at about 700 B.C.), P. reviews the main sources mentioning the war between Chalcis and Eretria: Archilochus (Fr. 3 West and Fr. 105 West), POxy 2508 (Archilochus?), Herodotus (5.99; 1.18.3), Thucydides (1.15, and Scholion to this passus, and 1.20), Aristotle (Pol. 1289b). The main point in this chapter is to decide whether the sources can give confident information on the development of the war. P.'s conclusion resolves affirmatively this question and puts forth three primary items to be further developed: there was, certainly, a war between the two cities; both Chalcis and Eretria were helped by allies; it was a long war. These facts, although apparently meagre, are certainly a good starting point.

Chapter II, "Einführendes zu Chalkis, Eretria und Xeropolis", is devoted to the history and archaeology of those three cities, wholly involved, in different stages, in the war. Chalcis, established in the 11th century in a very favourable place, is not, however, a very well known city. It played an important role in the metal trade, and the aristocracy responsible for it is mentioned in a well known passage by Hesiod (Works, 654-656). The excavations in Eretria, carried out during many years, have not been yet fully published. Notwithstanding, Eretria is better known than Chalcis. The city was founded in the 9th century in a place with an excellent harbour. It was named after the noun E)RE/TES (rower), being "the city of the rowers" in the same way as Chalcis would be "the city of the bronzeworkers". It controlled the islands of Andros, Tenos and Keos, it built a city wall in the early 7th century, and soon after an extraordinary series of post-depositional offerings began to appear in a funerary plot containing tombs of warriors. This last fact is interpreted by P. as the proof of increasing military difficulties in Eretria, against the opinions of some scholars. P. develops further the issue of the construction of the city-wall, embracing all the city, and he returns to the heroon by the West Gate of the city, whose closest parallel is seen by P. to be the Chalcidian Amphidamas mentioned by Hesiod (Works, 654-656). The third city considered is Xeropolis-Lefkandi. It is also a well excavated site, whose publication is in progress.1 The city in Xeropolis would control the eastern part of the plain of the river Lelas, while Chalcis controlled the western. Although Xeropolis had no harbour, it benefited from trade with the East, as archaeology shows. The final destruction of the site at about 700 B.C. by fire must be related to the war; dismissing a reference by Strabo (9.2.6 and 10.1.10) to a city called "Old Eretria" as not relevant to the problem,2 P. suggests, according to a well established line, that Xeropolis-Lefkandi was the metropolis of Eretria or, better, that Eretria was the main harbour of Lefkandi which would explain the name given to it.

In Chapter III, "Die Euboiische Kolonisation", P. addresses a subject already pointed out in the previous chapters, the joint colonization of both cities during a good part of the eighth century. This is a good chronological milestone in relation to the war because the Lelantine War must be necessarily later than those common entreprises. Consequently, P. analyzes the different regions touched by Euboean traders and colonists. He begins with Chalcidike, where Euboean colonization has been sometimes questioned and, after stressing the reality of this enterprise, argues in favour of a joint colonization of the main poleis of Euboea in this region. The absence of reliable excavations in the area prevents a better knowledge of the chronology of this colonization, while the information given by the chronographers is not very usable for chronological purposes. P. accepts an Euboean (and mainly Chalcidian) colonization in Chalcidike "lange vor 700" in part resting on the contemporary existence of joint enterprises in the Levant and in the Western Mediterranean, which are considerably better documented.3 As usual in these contexts, Al Mina is mentioned to show the reality of the presence of Chalcidians and Eretrians in the Levant at least during the second half of the eighth century.4 In the Western Mediterranean Pithekoussai plays an important role, as the first permanent Greek settlement in those waters. P. accepts a date for its foundation in the second quarter of the eighth century5 and he also accepts the participation in it of both Chalcidians and Eretrians, as in the case of the foundation of Cumae. The rest of the Euboean colonies (Naxos, Zankle and Rhegion) are briefly addressed, and P. accepts that the process had finished in the later eighth century.6 Lastly, P. deals with Corcyra, whose Eretrian origin seems sure. The main conclusion to be extracted from this chapter is that Chalcis and Eretria colonized together in several regions, Rhegion being the last city founded, in the last years of the eighth century. This would be the terminus post quem for the outbreak of the Lelantine War.

Chapter IV, "Die Datierung des Krieges", begins with a short historiographical review, only to show that scholars have variously dated the war between 750 and 550 B.C. We enter with this chapter into the core of the book, chronology, one of the subjects in which P. has made important contributions in recent years. Several items are considered: Archilochus' date, Archilochus and the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Theognis, and "King" Amphidamas. As Archilochus wrote about the war, it is important to determine his chronology. In order to do it, P. analyzes the chronological milestones present in his work: the eclipse (Fr. 122 West), the reference to Gyges and the Cymmerian raids and the destruction of Magnesia (Fr. 19 and 20 West), Archilochus' relationship to the foundation of Thasos. This is a well documented chapter, and very cogently argued; the reconstruction of the Ionian history in the seventh century is very convincing and P. destroys some "myths" on Archilochus' life (for instance, he denies that Archilochus could be the son of the founder of Thasos). P. concludes that Archilochus' best dated poems can be safely placed between 655 and 645 B.C. and, consequently, that the reference to a war in Euboea must correspond to mid-seventh century. With respect to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo and to Theognis (or better the Corpus Theognideum) it is difficult to establish their relationship to the war. Lastly, on Hesiod's fragment on Amphidamas P. suggests that the death of this warrior can be dated to the later eighth century, more or less in the same time in which the aristocrat buried by the Western Gate in Eretria died. In the Zusammenfassung of this chapter, P. recalls the conclusions of the two previous chapters to draw an overall vision of the chronology of the war: it was a long process perhaps begun ca. 710 and finished about 650 B.C. It was, consequently, a very long war, which is not an uncommon fact (the Messenian Wars, the war between Megara and Athens for Eleusis). While accepting this long duration is the only means to account for the different dates advanced by the different sources dealing with it, this proposal has the virtue, in my opinion, of building a likely stage in which to place (more) comfortably the multitude of episodes and the great number of participants transmitted by our sources. The next two chapters are devoted to those topics.

In Chapter V, "Das Kampfwesen während des Krieges", P. dissects all the information in the sources on the military tactics used in the war. The chapter begins with the information related to infantry. This is certainly an important topic because while hoplite tactics were already known to Archilochus (for instance Frag. 2 and 5 West), the sword is the main weapon used by Euboean Abantes (Archilochus, Frag. 3 West). This topic is developed by P. taking also into account the references to the treaty between Chalcis and Eretria dealing with the regulations in the use of throwing and hand weapons (Str. 10.1.12-13). P. concludes that in the first half of the seventh century the co-existence of hoplites armed either with spear and sword was still possible, thus reinforcing the chronological framework assigned by P. to the war. Cavalry is also considered only to be dismissed as a true weapon; horses would be, according to P., only a means of transport of noble warriors (Hippeis and Hippobotai) to the battlefield. Besides, sea-fighting is attested by Amphidamas' death in a sea battle. As a result, P. envisages a somewhat old-fashioned hoplite fighting with noble warriors going to the battlefield on horseback only to dismount in the moment of the fight, and, although knowing and using the spear, preferring the sword in close fighting.

Chapter VI, "Die Bundesgenossen", deals with one of the most difficult questions in the topic of the Lelantine War. P. envisages a series of criteria which the candidates must fulfill to be considered true allies of one of the two parties. First, we must have references to the participation of that presumed ally in a war with another city in the time of the Lelantine War and, secondly, that city must show its friendship to either Chalcis and Eretria and, at the same time, the relationship to Euboea of the city against which the supposed ally fights must be clear. Consequently, P. draws a complete panorama of inter-city wars during the Archaic age. As a result, the author accepts the participation in the war of Samos, Corinth and Thessaly helping Chalcis and Miletus and Megara allied to Eretria. Among these, only Samos, Miletus and Thessaly are directly attested (Hdt. 5.99.1). He rejects the participation of Erythrai and Chios, Paros and Naxos, Sparta and Messene, Croton and Sybaris, Argos, Aegina, Delphi.

Chapter VII, "Die Kriegsursachen", explores the causes of the war. P. distinguishes three: (1) the dispute for the control of the Lelas plain, (2) the destruction of Xeropolis, and (3) conflicts on trade and colonial matters. While the first two are easily observable, the third is more problematic. Consequently, P. summarizes the views advanced in the previous chapter and, after (rightly) rejecting the existence of 'trade-leagues' many years ago proposed by Burn,7 he looks for additional causes of enmity between the cities. P. suggests that stasis in Pithekoussai could have been an additional reason for war, although he recognises that it is not possible to know whether the conflict was between Chalcidians and Eretrians or not. To justify the participation of Samos and Miletus, P. supposes the existence of previous relations between those cities and the Euboean world in the Levant (around Al Mina) and he also supposes the apparition of conflicts in the Aegean caused by the opposite interests of the two Ionian cities in those waters. In any case, the uncertainty is great, and we are left only with probability: "Auf jeden Fall hätten sich in Al Mina oder in der Kykladen Beziehungen anknüpfen können, die Samos und Milet in der Krieg der Chalkidier und Eretrier schliesslich verwickelten" (p. 158). With respect to Corinth and Megara P. suggests that the enmity between the two cities may have been developed from the friendship between Corinth and Chalcis, perceived by Megarians as contrary to their interests and expressed in the expulsion of Megarian colonists from Leontinos by Chalcidians, with the approval of Corinthians from Syracuse. The participation of Thessaly is explained through the relationship between the Chalcidian aristocrats (Hippobotai) and Thessalian aristocracy.

The last chapter, "Ergebnis des Krieges", summarizes the different arguments in favour of a Chalcidian victory in the war. The Lelantine War, finished at mid-seventh century, provoked the end of the Golden Age of both Euboean cities; it was, as P. suggests, a war without winners because both Chalcis and Eretria lost the impulse they had shown in the previous centuries.

P.'s approach is, in general, cautious and he proceeds step by step, but this reviewer feels a certain embarrassment both before the general overview and the details. This is not so much P.'s fault as our sources' incompleteness and it is true that P.'s analysis tries to reduce the sometimes inflated figures given by other scholars to more reasonable terms. But, notwithstanding, my impression is that the references given by the sources point in the same direction, namely, the panhellenic character of the war, as stressed by Thucydides himself (1.15). Thus, the Lelantine War could be interpreted otherwise. This opinion does not try to diminish the achievements of P.'s book but only give voice to my own sensation of discomfort when the Lelantine War ceases to be a Euboean affair and becomes a World or Panhellenic War. Even P.'s more reasonable list of participants, limited just to five states outside Euboea, might be perhaps an inflated figure. Perhaps the way is not only to seek after a possible cause of enmity between cities mentioned by the sources as taking part in the Lelantine War but also to investigate our sources' sources and their motivations to increase those figures of participants. This is certainly hard work and sometimes discouraging. P. achieves his height when he rejects the most part of the supposed participants but my question is: can we reject the five remaining?. Perhaps the answer could be affirmative.

In sum, P.'s book is a very readable and authoritative book, which deals with a true crux in the history of Archaic Greece and, in my opinion, he solves it, in general, in a very satisfactory way. Although the places mentioned in the text are generally known to the specialist, the general reader or the student would have welcomed some maps (for example, a map of the central part of the island of Euboea, and maps of the different areas in the Mediterranean discussed in the book).


1. To be added to the bibliography cited by P., M.R. Popham, P.G. Calligas and L.H. Sackett, Lefkandi II. The Protogeometric Building at Toumba. Part II: The Excavation, Architecture and Finds. ABSA Suppl. 23 (London: British School at Athens, 1993) and M.R. Popham, I.S. Lemos, Lefkandi III : the Early Iron Age cemetery at Toumba: the excavations of 1981 to 1994. ABSA Suppl. 29 (London: British School at Athens, 1996).  

2. In the discussion of the term E)PIKTI/ZW used by Strabo 10.1.10 P. might have used the study by M. Casevitz, Le vocabulaire de la colonisation en grec ancien. Étude lexicologique: les familles de KTI/ZW et de O)IKE/W-O)IKI/ZW (Paris: Klinsieck, 1985).

3. See, in this line, A.M. Snodgrass, "The Euboeans in Macedonia: a new precedent for Westward Expansion", APOIKIA. I piu antici insediamenti greci in Occidente: Funzione e modi dell'organizzazione politica e sociale. Scritti in onore di G. Buchner. AIONArchStAnt N.S., 1, 1994, pp. 87-93; against this view, and rejecting (again) any Euboean involvement in Chalcidike, see lastly J.K. Papadopoulos, "Euboians in Macedonia? A closer look", OJArch, 15, 1996, pp. 151-181.  

4. As P. needs only to show the reality of joint enterprises before the end of the eighth century, he does not need to deal with the always thorny problem of the dating Euboean pottery, mainly the pendent semi-circle skyphoi, only mentioned in a footnote. Full publication of complete assemblages, however, seems to point to the same chronological framework alluded by P., but introducing also new and interesting perspectives on the (joint?) Euboean-Phoenician enterprises in the Western Mediterranean. See, for instance, R.A. Kearsley, "The Greek Geometric wares from Al Mina levels 10-8 and associated pottery", MeditArch, 8, 1995, pp. 7-81.  

5. P. accepts this date after Ridgway. He does not seem to have used the most complete analysis by Ridgway himself L'alba della Magna Grecia (Milan: Longanesi, 1984), re-published with notable additions as The First Western Greeks (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1992); obviously, P. could not use the long awaited publication of the Geometric graves of Pithekoussai, G. Buchner and R. Ridgway, Pithekoussai I. La necropoli: tombe 1-723 scavate dal 1952 al 1961. MonAnt. Serie Monografica, 4 (Rome, 1993). A lower chronology for the settlement at Pithekoussai is defended by other scholars on archaeological grounds; see for instance C. Dehl, Die korinthische Keramik des 8. und frühen 7 Jhdts. v. Chr. in Italien. Untersuchungen zu ihrer Chronologie und Ausbreitung (DAI Mitt. Athen. Beih. 11). (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1986) pp. 27-64 and Id. "Cronologia e diffusione della ceramica corinzia dell'VIII sec. a.C. in Italia," ArchClass, 35, 1983, p. 201: "una fondazione intorno al 750/740 appare, in base ai reperti, probabile". The recent publication of the Euboean imports from a deposit in the acropolis of Pithekoussai, with some sherds perhaps pointing to a MG date, has not completely solved the problem of the first Euboean settlement in Pithekoussai; see J.N. Coldstream, "Euboean Geometric Imports from the Acropolis of Pithekoussai", ABSA 90, 1995, pp. 251-267.  

6. Several years ago, I dealt with the issue of Euboean-Chalcidian colonization in the Western Mediterranean, pointing out several of the main problems of the settlement of those colonies and the relationship between them: A.J. Dominguez, "La implantación colonial griega en el Occidente Mediterráneo: el caso euboico-calcídico. Recientes enfoques y perspectivas", Actas del primer Congreso Peninsular de Historia Antigua (Santiago: Univ. de Santiago, 1988), pp. 89-118. See further V.I. Kozlovskaia, "Les problèmes de la colonisation grecque de la Méditerranée Occidentale: l'activité eubéo-ionienne en Sicile (VIIIe-VIe siècles)", Le Pont-Euxin vu par les grecs. Sources écrites et archéologie (Paris, 1990), pp. 37-50.

7. A.R. Burn, "The so-called 'trade-leagues' in early Greek history and the Lelantine War", JHS 49, 1929, pp. 14-37.