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NAVARCHUS (ναύαρχος) was a naval commander whose rank varied in different states. It cannot, for instance, be correctly used as equivalent to our admiral in speaking of the Athenian fleet, though it is rightly so used by historians speaking of other states of Greece or of the Persian fleet. As an official title in Greece, it belongs particularly to the Spartan head of naval affairs. How early this office (ναυαρχία) existed at Sparta (as distinct from the mere admiral of a fleet in commission) is not quite certain. In Hdt. 7.42 Eurybiades bears the title, but it means no more than that he commanded the fleet there mentioned. It is probable that the office did not begin until Sparta had greater naval operations than in the Persian War. Her naval force at Artemisium consisted of only 10 ships, at Salamis of 16. But something more like an admiralty was needed when the new phase of the Peloponnesian War, after the campaigns at Syracuse, extended the sphere of Spartan naval enterprise. The expression in Thuc. 8.20 regarding Astyochus, ᾧπερ ἐγίγνετο ἤδη πᾶσα ναυαρχία, perhaps indicates, by the use of the imperfect tense, that the office grew out of circumstances at that time. Henceforth the Spartan army and navy were rarely (as happened in the case of Agesilaus) subordinated to the same commander. Hence Aristotle (Aristot. Pol. 2.9, 33) finds fault with the ναυαρχία as a cause of disunion, “being a sort of second kingship set up as a counterpoise to the kings, who are generals for life.” The Spartan navarchus had the supreme direction of all naval affairs, whether he was actually commanding in the fleet at sea or not, and had under him an ἐπιστολεύς. There seems no ground for Schömann's statement that the ναύαρχος had ἐπιβάται “to advise him.” No such meaning can be given to Thuc. 8.61. The marines of the fleet were taken from the Perioeci; the rowers were Helots or ξένοι. Some limitation of this power of the navarchus, of which Aristotle complains, seems to be intended by the rule that no one could hold the office more than once (probably for a year); but this could practically be evaded by appointing the ex-navarchus as epistoleus with power only nominally subordinate (cf. Xen. Hell. 1.2, 23; 2.1, 7; 4.8, 11; 5.1, 5).

At Athens the word ναύαρχος was applied as an official title only to the commanders of the sacred triremes [THEORIS], the naval administration and command of fleets being under the strategi [STRATEGI].

At Rome the title navarchus is not used of supreme naval command or naval administration [for which see DUO VIRI NAVALES and PRAEFECTUS CLASSIS]. The navarchus was the captain of a ship. So far as the distinction between navarchus and trierarchus in the Roman fleet can be made out, it appears that the title trierarchus was applied strictly to the captains of triremes, the title navarchus to the captains of ships with more banks of oars, quadriremes, quinqueremes, &c. (C. I. L. 10.3361; Tac. Hist. 2.16); but it is not unlikely that the distinction was loosely kept, or at any rate that the title navarchus might be applied to the captain of any sort of ship (cf. Veget. 4.32, 43). The liburnae being ships with various numbers of banks were sometimes under navarchi, sometimes under trierarchi, as may be seen from the passages cited above. Marquardt (Staatsverwaltung, 2.512) cites Polybius as using ναύαρχος in 1.53 and 54 for an admiral, and 1.21 for a captain of a ship; but it should be observed that in the former case he is speaking of the Carthaginians, in the latter of the Romans. When Livy (45.25) speaks of the admiral of Rhodes (called ναύαρχος in Plb. 17.1), he calls him praefectus classis; and though it would be too much to assert that a Greek historian might not conversely translate praefectus classis by ναύαρχος (the commoner equivalent is ἔπαρχος στόλου), that is no argument as to the significance of navarchus in the Roman fleet. For correct expression it is sufficient to compare Πόπλιος τῶν Ῥωμαίων [p. 2.207]στρατηγός (Plb. 1.50) with τῶν Καρχηδονίων ναύαρχος (Plb. 1.53). It is true that the navarchus in Cic. Ver. 5.24, 60 seems to command a fleet, but this is explained by the fact that he was the admiral of a Siciliot town whose admiral would rightly be called ναύαρχος, and Cicero does not translate the title into its Latin equivalent. The word has probably the same meaning in Verr. 5.32, 84. It is necessary, however, also to notice the title navarchus princeps (C. I. L. 10.3440, 3448, 8215), who seems to be the commander of a part of the fleet or of a squadron of ships detached from the main fleet, and is taken by Mommsen as= archigybernes (C. I. L. 10.3349); with which compare Diod. 20.50, 4.

[L.S] [G.E.M]

hide References (15 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (15):
    • Aristotle, Politics, 2.1271a
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.42
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.20
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.61
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 1.2
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 2.1
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 4.8
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 5.1
    • Polybius, Histories, 1.50
    • Polybius, Histories, 1.53
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.5.60
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 2.16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 25
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 20.4
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 20.50
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