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EPI´BATAE (ἐπιβάται), soldiers or marines appointed to defend the vessels in the Athenian navy, were entirely distinct from the rowers, and also from the land soldiers, such as hoplitae, peltasts, and cavalry. (Xen. Hell. 1.2, § 7, 5.1.11; Harpocrat. and Hesych. sub voce) It appears that the ordinary number of epibatae on board a trireme was ten. Dr. Arnold (ad Thuc. 3.95) remarks that by comparing Thuc. 3.95 with cc. 91, 94, we find 300 epibatae as the complement of thirty ships, and also by comparing 2.92 with 100.102, we find 400 as the complement of forty ships; and the same proportion results from a comparison of 4.76 with 100.101. In Thucydides 6.42, we find 700 epibatae for a fleet of 100 ships, sixty of which were equipped in the ordinary way and forty had troops on board. In consequence of the number of heavy-armed men ἐκ τοῦ καταλόγου on the expedition, the Athenians appear to have reduced the number of regular epibatae from ten to seven. The number of forty epibatae to a ship mentioned by Herodotus (6.15), Dr. Arnold justly remarks (l.c.) “belongs to the earlier state of Greek naval tactics, when victory depended more on the number and prowess of the soldiers on board than on the manœuvres of the seamen (Thuc. 1.49); and it was in this very point that the Athenians improved the system, by decreasing the number of ἐπιβάται, and relying on the more skilful management of their vessels.”

The epibatae were usually taken from the Thetes, or fourth class of Athenian citizens (Thuc. 6.42); but on one occasion, in a season of extraordinary danger, the citizens of the higher classes (ἐκ καταλόγου) were compelled to serve as epibatae. (Thuc. 8.24.)

The term is sometimes also applied by the Roman writers to the marines (Hirt. de Bell. Alex. 11, de Bell. Afric. 63); but they are more usually called classiarii milites. The latter term, however, is also applied to the rowers or sailors as well as the marines ( “classiariorum remigio vehi,” Tac. Ann. 14.4).

(Compare Boeckh, P. E. p. 279=Sthh.3 1.349; gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.310.)


hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.15
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.24
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 1.2
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.95
    • Tacitus, Annales, 14.4
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.42
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