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*Brasi/das), son of Tellis, the most distinguished Spartan in the first part of the Peloponnesian war, signalized himself in its first year (B. C. 431) by throwing a hundred men into Methone, while besieged by the Athenians in their first ravage of the Peloponnesian coast. For this exploit, which saved the place, he received, the first in the war, public commendation at Sparta; and perhaps in consequence of this it is we find him in September appointed Ephor Eponymus. (Xen. Hell. 2.3.10.) His next employment (B. C. 429) is as one of the three counsellors sent to assist Cnemus, after his first defeat by Phormion ; and his name is also mentioned after the second defeat in the attempt to surprise the Peiraeeus, and we may not improbably ascribe to him the attempt, and its failure to his colleagues. In 427 he was united in the same, but a subordinate, capacity, with Alcidas, the new admiral, on his return from his Ionian voyage; and accompanying him to Corcyra he was reported, Thucydides tells us, to have vainly urged him to attack the city immediately after their victory in the first engagement. Next, as trierarch in the attempt to dislodge Demosthenes from Pylos (425), he is described as running his galley ashore, and, in a gallant endeavour to land, to have fainted from his wounds, and falling back into the ship to have lost in the water his shield, which was afterwards found by the Athenians and used in their trophy. Early in the following year we find him at the Isthmus preparing for his expedition to Chalcidice (424), but suddenly called off from this by the danger of Megara, which but for his timely and skilful succour would no doubt have been lost to the enemy. Shortly after, he set forth with an army of 700 helots and 1000 mercenaries, arrived at Heracleia, and, by a rapid and dexterous march through the hostile country of Thessaly, effected a junction with Perdiccas of Macedon. The events of his career in this field of action were (after a brief expedition against Arrhibaeus, a revolted vassal of the king's) the acquisition, 1st. of Acanthus, effected by a most politic exposition of his views (of which Thucydides gives us a representation), made before the popular assembly; 2nd. of Stageirus, its neighbour; 3rd. of Amphipolis, the most important of all the Athenian tributaries in that part of the country, accomplished by a sudden attack after the commencement of winter, and followed by an unsuccessful attempt on Eion, and by the accession of Myrcinus, Galepsus, Aesyme, and most of the towns in the peninsula of Athos ; 4th. the reduction of Torone, and expulsion of its Athenian garrison from the post of Lecythus. In the following spring (423) we have the revolt of Scione, falling a day or two after the ratification of the truce agreed upon by the government at home--a mischance which Brasidas scrupled not to remedy by denying the fact, and not only retained Scione, but even availed himself of the consequent revolt of Mende, on pretext of certain infringements on the other side. Next, a second expedition with Perdiccas, against Arrhibaeus, resulting in a perilous but most ably-conducted retreat: the loss, in the meantime, of Mende, recaptured by the new Athenian armament; and in the winter an ineffectual attempt on Potidaea. In 422, Brasidas with no reinforcements had to oppose a large body of the flower of the Athenian troops under Cleon. Torone and Galepsus were lost, but Amphipolis was saved by a skilful sally,--the closing event of the war,--in which the Athenians were completely defeated and Cleon slain, and Brasidas himself in the first moment of victory received his mortal wound.

He was interred at Amphipolis, within the walls--an extraordinary honour in a Greek town --with a magnificent funeral, attended under arms by all the allied forces. The tomb was railed off, and his memory honoured by the Amphipolitans, by yearly sacrifices offered to him there, as to a hero, and by games. (Paus. 3.14.1; Aristot. Eth. Nic. 5.7; Dict. of Ant. s. v. Βρασίδεια.) Regarding him as their preserver, they transferred to him all the honours of a Founder hitherto paid to Hagnon. Pausanias mentions a cenotaph to him in Sparta, and we hear also (Plut. Lysander, 1) of a treasury at Delphi, bearing the inscription, " Brasidas and the Acanthians from the Athenians." Two or three of his sayings are recorded in Plutarch's Apophthegmata Laconica, but none very characteristic. Thucy-dides gives three speeches in his name, the first and longest at Acanthus; one to his forces in the retreat, perhaps the greatest of his exploits, from Lyncestis; and a third before the battle of Amphipolis. His own opinion of him seems to have been very high, and indeed we cannot well overestimate the services he rendered his country. Without his activity, even the utmost temerity in their opponents would hardly have brought Sparta out of the contest without the utmost disgrace. He is in fact the one redeeming point of the first ten years; and had his life and career been prolonged, the war would perhaps have come to an earlier conclusion, and one more happy for all parties. As a commander, even our short view of him leads us to ascribe to him such qualities as would have placed his above all other names in the war, though it is true that we see him rather as the captain than the general. To his reputation for " justice, liberality, and wisdom," Thucydides ascribes not only much of his own success, but also the eagerness shewn for the Spartan alliance after the Athenian disasters at Syracuse. This character was no doubt mainly assumed from motives of policy, nor can we believe him to have had any thought except for the cause of Sparta and his own glory. Of unscrupulous Spartan duplicity he had a full share, adding to it a most unusual dexterity and tact in negotiation; his powers, too, of eloquence were, in the judgment of Thucydides, very considerable for a Spartan. Strangely united with these qualities we find the highest personal bravery; apparently too (in Plato's Symposium he is compared to Achilles) heroic strength and beauty. He, too, like Archidamus, was a successful adaptation to circumstances of the unwieldy Spartan character: to make himself fit to cope with them he sacrificed, far less, indeed, than was afterwards sacrificed in the age of Lysander, yet too much perhaps to have permitted a return to perfect acquiescence in the ancient discipline. Such rapidity and versatility, such enterprise and daring, were probably felt at Sparta (comp. Thuc. 1.70) as something new and incongruous. His successes, it is known, were regarded there with so much jealousy as even to hinder his obtaining reinforcements. (Thuc. 4.108.)


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431 BC (1)
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  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.14.1
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.108
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.70
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 2.3.10
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