This paper reexamines the long-standing problem of the nature and magnitude of the catastrophic Hellenic expedition to Egypt c. 460-454. An uneasy scholarly consensus posits that many fewer than the 200 triremes implied by Thucydides were involved in the momentous defeat, yet the arguments employed by proponents and detractors of this hypothesis have not been decisive. This paper attempts to develop a better understanding of the final stages of the campaign in order to settle the question of losses. Thucydides offers the most reliable narrative of the events in Egypt (1.104, 109-10), but the compressed nature of the pentekontaetia has left us with a brief, lacunary text. Examination of the verbs poliorkein and kataklēiein and the noun poliorkia in appropriate contexts throughout Thucydides' history reveals that the words connote a tight blockade that seeks to deny all supplies to the besieged; the terms do not normally convey less stringent varieties of military harassment. Application of this understanding to the passages in question shows that the 200 triremes initially mentioned by Thucydides could not possibly have been engaged in Egypt when the siege of Prosopitis island began: a force of such size under a tight blockade could never have held out for 18 months. This conclusion is supported by an economic and demographic survey of the fifth-century B.C. Egyptian Delta, which suggests that resources would not have been plentiful in the region. A much smaller Greek force, perhaps 40 to 50 triremes, must have been involved in the final siege.

[Footnotes]

[Footnotes]
1
Holladay 1989
Bigwood 1976
Meiggs 1972: 92-128, 473-76
Libourel 1971
Salmon 1965
Westlake 1969
Adcock 1926
Mallet 1922.
Salmon 1965
2
Salmon 1965: 99-118
Lloyd 1975: 38-43
Badian 1988
3
Peek 1939
Meiggs and Lewis 1988 #34.
Meiggs and Lewis 1988: 310
Westlake 1969: 61-62.
4
Bigwood 1976: 6 with nn. 21 and 22.
Sacks 1990.
5
Isocrates 8.86
Aelian Var. Hist. 5.10
Aristodemus, FGH 104 F 11.3-4
Justin 3.6.6-7.
6
Lloyd 1975: 47n. 187
7
Bigwood 1976: 21.
Bigwood 1964.
8
Bigwood 1976: 6-17, 21-25
Meiggs 1972: 106-107, 475.
9
Westlake 1969
Bigwood 1976: 13n. 45
Holladay 1989: 18ln. 18.
Badian 1988
Pritchett 1995.
10
Thuc. 1.105.1-2
Meiggs and Lewis 1988 #33.
Holladay 1989: 178-79
Libourel 1971: 607-609.
1
HCT 1.364- 70
Badian 1988: 290-310.
Meiggs 1972: 105
Thus Holladay 1989: 181-82.
12
Bigwood 1976: 13-16.
Meiggs 1972: 107, 475
Holladay 1989: 176.
13
Gomme, HCT 1.322-23
Meritt 1950: 259-64.
Adcock 1926: 4.
14
Adcock 1926: 4-5
Westlake 1969: 70.
Holladay 1989: 179-81
Libourel 1971: 612-13
Hornblower 1991: 177.
15
Meiggs 1972: 109-24.
16
Westlake 1969: 70n. 34.
17
Betant 1847 (1969): 343-44.
18
Garlan 1974: 3-6.
HCT 1.16-19
Rusch 1997: 97-101.
19
Mallet 1922: 38-40
Westlake 1969: 67-71
Salmon 1965: 171-73
Libourel 1972: 609-14
Holladay 1989: 176-78.
20
Garlan 1974: 4
22
Gomme HCT 1.301-302
Diodorus 11.78.4
Gomme HCT 1.319
Badian 1988: 317-18 with n. 40.
25
Garlan 1974: 33-40.
29
HCT 4.153.
31
Kuhner-Gerth, 4th ed., 1.140-42
Ctesias, F 14.37
Diodorus, 14.75.2.
Bétant 1847 [19691: 424-25.
33
Holladay 1989: 180n. 15.
34
Hdt. 2.6, 41
Salmon 1965: 170.
35
Lloyd 1975: 42-45
LSJ s.v. III.
36
Libourel 1971: 610
Kees 1961.
37
Kees 1961: 189.
38
Kees 1961: 184.
39
Rathbone 1990: 109-12.
40
Butzer 1976: 91-94, 109, quotation p. 96.
O'Connor 1983: 277
Ray 1985: 285
41
Rathbone 1990: 108-14, 119-21, 134-37
Bagnall and Frier 1994: 55-56
Bowman 1996: 17.
Ruschenbusch 1985
Nixon and Price 1990.
42
Lloyd 1975: 186-89
Helck 1974: 156-57
Montet 1957: 61-62, 78-79.
Montet 1957 planche II
Helck 1974.
Fehling 1989: 240-47
44
Meiggs and Lewis 1988 #34
Peek 1939: 301
Westlake 1969: 65-66
Holladay 1989: 176-77.
45
Holladay 1989: 177-78
46
Westlake 1969: 71n. 35.
47
Engels 1990: 189 with n. 5
Lewis 1983: 165-66
n. 40 supra
48
Contra Salmon 1965: 173-79.
49
Salmon 1965: 172
Badian 1988: 318-20.
50
Libourel 1971: 612-13
Herodotus 9.21
Holladay 1989: 180-81.

Bibliography

Bibliography
Adcock, F. E. 1926. "The Athenian Forces in the Egyptian Expedition." PCPS 133: 3-5.
Badian, E. 1988. "Towards a Chronology of the Pentekontaetia down to the Renewal of the Peace of Callias." Echos du Monde Classique 32 n.s. 7: 289-320.
Bagnall, R., and B. Frier. 1994. The Demography of Roman Egypt. Cambridge.
Bétant, E.-A. 1847 (1969). Lexikon Thucydideum 2. Geneva; repr. Hildesheim.
Bigwood, J. M. 1964. Ctesias of Cnidus. Diss. Harvard.
-. 1976. "Ctesias' Account of the Revolt of Inarus." Phoenix 30: 1-25.
Bowman, A. K. 1996. Egypt After the Pharaohs. 2nd ed. London.
Butzer, K. W. 1976. Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt. A Study in Cultural Ecology. Chicago.
Engels, D. 1990. Roman Corinth. Chicago.
Fehling, D. 1989. Herodotus and His Sources. Trans. J. G. Howie. Liverpool.
Garlan, Y. 1974. Recherches de poliorcétique grecque. Paris.
Helck, W. 1974. Die altägyptischen Gaue. Wiesbaden.
Holladay, A. J. 1989. "The Hellenic Disaster in Egypt." JHS 109: 176-82.
Hornblower, S. 1991. A Commentary on Thucydides. Vol. 1. Oxford.
Kees, H. 1961. Ancient Egypt, A Cultural Topography. London.
Lewis, N. 1983. Life in Egypt under Roman Rule. Oxford.
Libourel, J. M. 1971. "The Athenian Disaster in Egypt." AJP 92: 605-15.
Lloyd, A. B. 1975. Herodotus Book II. Vol. 1. Leiden.
Mallet, M. D. 1922. Les rapports des Grecs avec l'Égypte. Cairo.
Meiggs, R. 1972. The Athenian Empire. Oxford.
-. and D. M. Lewis. 1988. A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. Revised ed. Oxford.
Meritt, B. D., et al. 1950. The Athenian Tribute Lists. Vol. 3. Princeton.
Montet, P. 1957. Géographie de l'ÉgyptAncienne. Vol. 1. Paris.
Nixon, L., and S. Price. 1990. "The Size and Resources of Greek Cities." In 0. Murray and S. Price, eds., The Greek City from Homer to Alexander: 137-70. Oxford.
O'Connor, D. 1983. "New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period, 1552-664 BC." In B. G. Trigger et al., eds., Ancient Egypt, A Social History: 183-278. Cambridge.
Peek, W. 1939. "Ein Seegesecht aus den Perserkriegen." Klio 32: 289-306.
Pritchett, W. K. 1995. Thucydides' Pentekontaetia and Other Essays. Amsterdam.
Rathbone, D. W. 1990. "Villages, Land, and Population in Graeco-Roman Egypt." PCPhS 216 n.s. 36: 103-42.
Ray, J. D. 1985. "Egypt 525-404." CAH2 vol. 4, chap. 3g: 254-86. Cambridge.
Rusch, S. M. 1997. Poliorcetic Assault in the Peloponnesian War. Diss. U. of Pennsylva- nia.
Ruschenbusch, E. 1985. "Die Zahl der griechischen Staaten und Arealgrösse und Bürgerzahl der 'Normalpolis.' " ZPE 59: 253-63.
Sacks, K. S. 1990. Diodorus Siculus and the First Century. Princeton.
Salmon, P. 1965. La politique Égyptienne d'Athènes. Brussels.
Westlake, H. D. 1969 (orig. 1950). "Thucydides and the Athenian Disaster in Egypt." In Essays on the Greek Historians and Greek History: 61-73. New York.
This content is only available via PDF.