The Battle of Sphacteria: Light Versus Heavy Infantry in Maneuver Warfare

By: Jefferson P. Webb

Although there are a great number of battles that have taken place throughout the great spans of history whose names are so familiar, the name, Sphacteria, does not typically ring a bell with the average person. In spite of this the Battle of Sphacteria was a paramount military engagement of the classical world where the advantages of heavy versus light forces, and combined arms forces are concerned. This match-up took place on the island of Sphacteria in 425 BC during the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens1. While it would be very easy to get involved in discussing everything culminating up to the point of this battle, it should suffice to state the fact that the Spartans were concerned that the Athenians would take the island and Sparta deployed a force of 420 hoplites (heavy infantry) to the island to occupy it. What the Spartans did not count on was the Athenian sea victory around the island that stranded the 420 hoplites, leaving them effectively cut off and isolated on the island.2 Next, the Athenian forces invaded the island in an attempt to smash the Spartans’ force and themselves occupy the island. What took place was a key point in the evolution of combined arms warfare. Continue reading “The Battle of Sphacteria: Light Versus Heavy Infantry in Maneuver Warfare”

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