HAEMUS Journal Vol. 1 (2012)

The Invisible Fleet: Antigonid naval operations in the Khremonidean war


The subject of this paper is the role that the Antigonid fleet might have had during the Khremonidean war. Although mentioned only twice, considering the fragmentary state of the sources for this period, that may be enough as a starting point for a further analysis. However, because of the state of the sources the only way to reconstruct the activities of the fleet is to attempt to establish the consequences of its presence, which leads to the problem of Patroklos’ activities during the war. The usual explanations for his inactivity, that Ptolemaios II pursued the war only halfheartedly after the death of Arsione II, or that part of the fleet was engaged in the eastern Aegean and subsequently was unable to lend a more effective support, seem problematic and unconvincing. Arsinoe’s abilities seem exaggerated while at the same time Ptolemaios’ influence on the foreign policy is underestimated. On the other hand, the evidence for the presence of the Antigonid fleet in Asia Minor is inconclusive and could be more easily interpreted in a different manner. Further more, the events from the initial phase of the war, when the Ptolemaic fleet could have played a decisive role, are neglected. That is the time when the Spartan ruler Areios was trying to break the Antigonid defenses on the Isthmos and merge with the Ptolemaic forces in Attika. The failure on Patroklos’ part to transport the Spartan army in Attika could most easily be explained with the nearby presence of the Antigonid fleet, whose potential action during the transportation of the Spartan army could be disastrous for the Ptolemaic fleet. If this hypothesis is accepted, than the inactivity of Patroklos, but also the silence of the sources, could be reasonable explained. On the one hand, the presence of the Antigonid fleet deterred Patroklos from attempting to transport the Spartan army. On the other, the sources do not mention the Antigonid fleet simply because there were no major naval activities – its role was confined to a fleet in being. As long as Antigonos was able to win the war on land and the fleet could prevent the merging of the allied forces simply by being stationed in the surrounding area, there was no need for a major naval engagement. Therefore the Antigonid fleet was an almost invisible element in the war, yet played a crucial role since its mere existence prevented the merging of the allied forces and allowed Antigonus to defeat his enemies one by one.

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a peer reviewed open access journal
for the history and archaeology of the Balkan peninsula
ISSN 1857- 8411

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