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Thucydides’ Take on the Corinthian Navy. οἵ τε γὰρ Κορίνθιοι ἡγήσαντο κρατεῖν εἰ µὴ καὶ πολὺ ἐκρατοῦντο, ‘The Corinthians believed they were victors if they were only just defeated’

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Abstract This paper closely examines Thucydides’ presentation of three naval battles fought in the Corinthian Gulf and the battle of Sybota off north-west Greece, in order to show how his version of the action does not just stress the pervasive impression of Athenian dominance and downplay the Peloponnesian performance, but extends to characterising the Corinthian fleet in a surprisingly negative way. In the first battle he claims that they were ignorant of the local weather patterns, in the second of the underwater hazards, and after the third that ‘The Corinthians believed they were victors if they were only just defeated’. His account of the earlier battle off Corcyra is similarly flawed, since by focussing on the participants’ treaty obligations he fails to bring out the significance of the Corinthian naval victory for the history of Greek warfare. The reader of The Peloponnesian War is encouraged not to question Thucydides’ disparaging record of the Corinthian navy, as it reinforces his focus on a bipartite contest between Athens and Sparta. However, a case is made here for a more positive assessment of Corinthian involvement in the modified design of the trireme and the revision of naval tactics in the late fifth century BC.

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