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Lysander (d. 395 BC) was the commander of the Spartan fleet which was victorious against the Athenians at Aegospotami in 405 BC. The following year, he took Athens itself, bringing the Peloponnesian War to an end.

Lysander establishes himself

Lysander was one of the Heraclidae, but not a member of the Spartan royal families. Details of his early life and career are not known. Lysander was put in charge of the Spartan fleet in the Aegean, based at Ephesus (407 BC) when Alcibiades rejoined the Athenian side towards the end of the Peloponnesian War. Not coming from a wealthy family it is not known how Lysander came to be entrusted with command, but in his first year as admiral (406 BC) he won a sea battle at Notium and obtained support for the Spartan cause from Cyrus the Younger, Persian viceroy and son of the Cyrus the Great.

Amongst the cities subject to Athens he gained Partisan support by promising to establish "decarchies" (of oligarchists) and promoting the interests of certain potential allies.


Spartan law forbade him from serving a second term so he was nominally second in command, but the de facto Spartan leader, at the Battle of Aegospotami in which the Athenian fleet was destroyed (405 BC). This action effectively starved Athens into surrender by shutting the grain route through the Hellespont.

Lysander then joined the Spartan kings, Agis and Pausanias, in Attica. When Athens succumbed after the siege, Lysander installed a government of thirty, later known as the Thirty Tyrants (404). The decarchies which he had set up in many of Athens former allies were in many cases reinforced by garrisons led by Spartan commanders.

Decline and death

However, Lysander became unpopular throughout Greece, promoting the interests of his friends' and displaying vindictiveness against those who displeased him. In 403 he was sent in to support the "Thirty" at Athens against the democratic revolt of Thrasybulus. It is likely he would have succeeded except for a policy reversal by the Spartan Kings who now supported increased democracy. His "decarchies" of oligarchs are likely to have been abolished and this period saw a considerable diminution of Lysanders influence and political power, which was presumably the exact intention of the Spartan monarchs.

On the death of King Agis II, Lysander was instrumental in Agis' brother Agesilaus II being made king in 399 BC but after mounting a joint expedition to attack Persia. In Anatolia he was still remembered as the powerful figure he had been and it was assumed that Agesilaus would be in his pocket. This irritated Agesilaus somewhat, especially as Lysander himself was of the same opinion reckoning that Agesilaus owed him his place on the throne. Agesilaus began rejecting any Anatolian Greeks seeking advancement with Lysander's endorsement. Because of this and other points of friction, he returned to Sparta in 396 BC where he may or may not have begun conspiring against the traditional power of the Royal families.

At the beginning of the Corinthian War (395-387 BC) Lysander led an army of allies into Boeotia from Phocis and was killed when his troops were surprised by a Theban ambush at Haliartus.


[ ancient/classical history (Lysander)]

[Lysander by Plutarch (ancient source)]