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Battle of Lyncestis
Macedonian Kingdom
Map of Lyncestis,between southern Illyria upper Macedonia
Date 423 BC
Location Lyncestis
Result Spartan escape & Macedonian retreat
Spartans,Macedonians, Chalcidians, Acanthians, Babarians, Greeks living in Macedonia
Commanders and leaders
Arrabaeus Brasidas, Perdiccas
Not known 3000 Helenic hoplites, 1000 Chalcidians, Macedonian cavalry

The Battle of Lyncestis/Lynkestis/Lyncus took place in 423 BC between the allied forces of the Lyncestians and Illyrians against those of the Spartans and Macedonians. The battle was part of the wider Peloponnesian Wars. Before Athens suffered defeat at Delium in 424 BC, Sparta had sent an expedition under Brasidas to assist Perdiccas of Macedonia and other opponents of Athens. At first Sparta avoided involvement in Macedon's war with Arrhabaeus, but in 423 BC they joined an expedition which ended with retreat by the Macedonians and a brilliantly contrived escape of the Spartans.[1][full citation needed]

After the initial joint Illyrian and Lyncestian attack was repulsed, they pursued the Macedonians and blocked Brasidas' route at a pass, forcing his army up the surrounding hill and into Macedonia. This brought to a head the quarrel between Brasidas and Perdiccas.[2][full citation needed]


Arrhabaeus, the rebellious king of Lyncestis(Lyncus), was subject to Perdiccas, whom Perdiccas at the time wanted to subordinate to Argead control.[3][full citation needed] Much of what is known about the Macedonian kings before Alexander I relates to their struggles against Illyrian incursions. These Illyrian raids penetrated western Macedonia and threatened te Argead territory in the central plain. A century later the Illyrians continued to press their claim by joing Arrhabaeus.[4][full citation needed] In 423 BC, Sirras, king of the Illyrians married the daughter of Arrhabaeus. Some claim that the Illyrians were under Sirras when the battle took place but this is not supported in historiography (Thucydides incidentally never makes any mention of Sirras). If the Illyrians were indeed under the rule of Sirras during the events of the battle, then they were either the Taulantii[5][full citation needed] or Encheleii,[6][verification needed] depending on the affiliation of Sirras with either tribe and the exact location of his kingdom.

Perdiccas II was allied to the Spartans and, in 424 BC, helped the Spartan Brasidas to take Amphipolis from the Athenians, one of her most important colonies, mainly for its ready access to timber for her fleets. This was a severe blow to Athens, and would tie them to Macedonian timber for years to come, which strengthened Macedonia’s bargaining power considerably. In return for this, an after initial avoidment, the Spartans helped Perdiccas secure his borders, by leading an assault on King Arrhabaeus, with the promise of support from the Illyrians.[7][verification needed]

Battle - 423 BCEdit

Brasidas and Perdiccas started on a second joint expedition into Lyncestis. Perdiccas was leading the forces of the Macedonians he ruled over and a body of hoplites from the Greeks living in Macedon. Brasidas had with him Chalcidians, Acanthians and such forces as the other allies could have contributed, in addition to the rest of the Peloponnesians in the area. In all three there were about 3000 Hellenic hoplites, accompanied by all the Macedonian cavalry together with the Chalcidians, almost 1000 strong, besides an immense number of barbarians.

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On entering Lyncestis, they found the Lyncestians encamped and waiting for them, and themselves took a position opposite. The infantry on either side were upon a hill, with a plain between them, into which the horse of both armies galloped down, and engaged in cavalry action. After this the Lyncestian hoplites danced from their hill to join their cavalry and offered battle; upon which Brasidas and Perdiccas also came down to meet them, and engaged and routed them with heavy loss; the survivors taking refuge upon the heights and there remaining inactive. The victors now set up a trophy and waited two or three days for the Illyrian mercenaries who were to join Perdicass. Perdiccas then wished to go on and attack the villages of Arrhabaeus, and to sit no longer; but Brasidas, far from seconding this wish, refused it. He was anxious to return, seeing that the Illyrians did not appear, and feared that the Athenians might sail up during his absence and attack Mende.[8][verification needed]

Illyrians ally with ArrhabaeusEdit

While they were thus disputing, the news arrived that the Illyrians had actually betrayed Perdiccas and allied instead with Arrhabaeus. The fear inspired by their warlike character made both parties now think it best to withdraw. However, owing to the dispute, nothing had been settled as to when they should retreat. During the night the Macedonians and barbarians, believing that an army of Illyrians many times more numerous than that which had really arrived was advancing, took fright. This compelled Perdicass to flee in the direction of his homeland. At daybreak, Brasidas, seeing that the Macedonians had gone on, and that the Illyrians and Arrhabaeus were on the point of attacking him, formed his hoplites into a square with the light troops in the centre, and prepared to retreat. Posting his youngest soldiers to dash out wherever the Illyrians and Lyncestians should attack them, he himself with 300 picked men in the rear intended to face about during the retreat and to beat of the most forward of their assailants.

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Meanwhile, before the Illyrians approached, Brasidas sought to sustain the courage of his soldiers, cleary shaken by the fearsome appearance of a new enemy:[9][verification needed]

The present enemy might terrify an inexperienced imagination; they are formidable in outward bulk; their loud yelling is unbearable; and he brandishing of their weapons in the air has a threatening appearance. But when it comes to real fighting with an opponent who stands his ground, they are not what they seemed; they have no regular order that they should be ashamed of deserting their positions when hard pressed; flight and attack are equally honourable with them, and afford no test of courage; their independent mod of fighting never leaving anyone who wants to run away without a fair excuse for doing so.

After this brief address, Brasidas began to lead off his army. Seeing this, the Illyrians and Lyncestians came on with much shouting and hubbub, thinking that he was flying and that they would overtake him and cut him off. But wherever they charged the found the young men ready to dash out against them, while Brasidas with his picked company sustained their onset. Thus the Peloponnesians withstood the first attack, to the surprise of their enemy, and afterwards received and repulsed them as fast as they came on, retiring as soon as their enemy became quiet. The main body of the Illyrians and Lyncetsians ceased therefore to molest the Hellenes with Brasidas in open country, and left just a part of their forces behind to follow them and keep up the attacks. The rest made off at a run after the fleeing Macedonians, killing any they caught, and went on ahead to take control of the narrow pass that lies between two hills and leads into Lyncestis, knowing that Brasidas had no other line of retreat. And as he approached the most difficult part of the route they began to encircle him to cut him off.[10][full citation needed]

Realising what was happening, Brasidas gave orders to the 300 men to break ranks and each run as fast as he could to the hill he thought it easiest to capture and to try and dislodge the Illyrians and Lyncestians already there before the larger encircling group could join them. His man attacked and overpowered the party on the hill, enabling the main body of Greeks to make their way to join them with relatively little difficulty.[11][full citation needed]


Brasidas now that he had taken the high ground, went on in greater security to Arnisa, the first place he reached in Perdiccas’ country. His soldiers were furious on their own account at the premature retreat of the Macedonians, and whenever they came across any of their oxcarts or any baggage that had fallen off, they would cut loose and slaughter the oxen and take the baggage for themselves. It was now that Perdiccas started think Brasidas as an enemy, and from then on he nursed a lasting hatred of the Peloponnesians.

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See alsoEdit

Historical sourcesEdit


  • John Wilkes: The Illyrians. Wiley, 1996, ISBN 9780631198079
  • Joseph Roisman, Ian Worthington: A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. Wiley, 2011, ISBN 9781444351637
  • John E. Lendon: Songs of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins. Basic Books, 2013, ISBN 9780465022809
  • Neritan Ceka: The Illyrians to the Albanians. Migjeni, 2005, ISBN 9789994367238
  • Eugene N. Borza: In the Shadow of Olympus: The Emergence of Macedon. Princeton University Press, 1992, ISBN 9780691008806


  1. John Wilkes. The Illyrians
  2. Hammond 1966
  3. A Companion to Ancient Macedonia edited by Joseph Roisman, Ian Worthington
  4. In the× Shadow of Olympus: The Emergence of Macedon By Eugene N. Borza
  5. Neritan Ceka 'The Illyrians to the Albanians'
  6. Jusuf Buxhovi 'Kovova-Anttika & Mesjeta'
  7. I.G. i. 42
  8. The Landmark Thucydides By Thucydides
  9. Thucydides 4.126
  10. Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins By J. E. Lendon
  11. The Landmark Thucydides By Thucydides pg:295

External linksEdit

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