Iphicrates, c.418-353 BC

Iphicrates, c.418-353 BC

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Iphicrates, c.418-353 BC

Iphicrates (c.418-353 BC) was an Athenian general who played a key part in the recovery of Athenian power in the aftermath of the Corinthian War, but who was less successful during the Social War, fought against Athens's own allies.

Iphicrates is most famous for improving the lightly armed peltasts. He is said to have increased the length of their weapons and reduced their armour, thus increasing both their offensive abilities and their mobility. He was also responsible for improving the Athenian fleet in the period before the outbreak of the Corinthian War. His force of peltasts was probably funded by money provided by the Persians in the aftermath of their naval victory over the Spartans at Cnidas (394 BC). The Persian fleet was commanded by the Athenian admiral Conon, and visited the Piraeus in 393.

Iphicrates used the improved peltasts during the Corinthian War (395-387). They were unable to prevent the Spartan capture of Lechaeum, the port of Corinth, in 392 BC. The Spartans were let into the gap between the Long Walls connecting Corinth and the port and were then give time to dig in. The next day the defenders of Corinth attempted to push them out. Iphicrates and his men were placed on the right, near the east wall, facing a group of Corinthian exiles. This was a poor use of light troops, as they were unable to keep their distance from their heavily armoured opponents. They were chased all the way back to the city walls, before the exiles returned to the main battle.

After this setback Iphicrates campaigned against Phlious, a Spartan ally south-west of Corinth, worrying the locals so much that they allowed Spartan troops into their citadel for the first time. He then raided into Arcadia, although the details are lost.

His most famous victory came in 390. The Spartans had captured the port of Lechaeum, north of Corinth and were using it as a base. Iphicrates and his peltasts were based at Corinth at the time. The Spartan commander at Lechaeum had clearly become overconfident. When asked to escort a group of Spartan allies on the first leg of a journey home to celebrate a religious festival he split up his force, sending his cavalry on with the pilgrims, while his 600 infantry returned to base unescorted. Iphicrates and his peltasts attacked, and in a running battle the Spartans lost 250 hoplites. In the aftermath of this victory he went on to recapture Sidus and Crommyon, two places east of Corinth taken by the Spartans in 392.

In 390-389 Iphicrates appears to have been involved in an Athenian attempt to take control of Corinth, and he was asked to leave the area.

In c.389-388 Iphicrates was sent to deal with Anaxibius, a former Spartan navarch, who was successfully campaigning in the Troad and Hellespont. Probably in 388 Iphicrates led his men inland and ambused the Spartans while they were vulnerably stretched out on the march. Anaxibius was killed in the fighting and his men pursued for over ten miles, almost all the way back to Abydos.

In 387 Iphicrates besieged the Spartan stronghold at Abydos, but the siege was lifted by the Spartan diplomat and general Antalcidas, who was able to sneak into the town and rescue the Spartan ships blockaded there. The Spartans soon ended up with a sizable fleet blocking the sea routes from the Black Sea, a factor in the Athenian decision to accept peace terms (King's Peace or Peace of Antalcidas).

After the end of the Corinthian War, Iphicrates spent some time working as a mercenary commander in the Persian Empire, playing a part in the failed invasion of Egypt of 374/373, before returning to Athens. His arguments with the Persian satrap Pharnabazus helped contribute to the failure of the expedition.

After his return he successfully raised a Spartan siege of Corcyra (373 or 372), during the Theban-Spartan War (379-371). He remained in the west of the Peloponnese for some time, but was recalled when Athens decided to withdraw from the war.

Early in the period of Theban dominance that followed their famous victory at Leuctra (371 BC) the Thebans invaded the Peloponnese (369). This time the Athenians sided with the Spartans, and Iphicrates commanded a force that attempted ineffectually to interfere with the invasion.

In 367-364 he made a series of attempts to recover Amphipolis in Thrace, but without success. During this period he helped expel the usurper pretender Pausanias, who had threatened the position of the young king of Macedon, Alexander II. Despite providing this aid, the Macedon regent Ptolemy of Alorus helped Amphipolis maintain its independence.

After this failure he found work with King Cotys of Thrace, fighting against Athens in the Thracian Chersonese (although he refused to attack any Athenian held towns). Cotys was his father-in-law, and he had just been replaced as commander of the expedition against Amphipolis, so his actions are understandable.

He was pardoned for this and was given a command in the Social War (357-55), a war between Athens and the members of the Second Athenian League. He was one of four commanders of the Athenian fleet defeated at Embata (357). Chares, the fourth of the commanders, had the other three put on trial. Iphicrates was acquitted after making a fine speech in his own defence (and entering the court with his sword in full view and a group of bodyguards), but died soon afterwards (or at least before 348 BC).

Iphicrates’ Reforms

Iphicrates was born towards the end of the fifth century into a poor and rather obscure Athenian family. Despite his lowly background he rose to a position of command in Athens, fighting in a number of campaigns including the Corinthian War and the Social War, he also spent time in Persian service after the Peace of Antalcidas. Diodorus places his peltast reforms after 374, following his Persian sojourn, using his experiences prior to that date to develop this new type of soldier.93 The exact dating of the reforms is not relevant here, but their nature certainly is, as it was this type of soldier that constituted the bulk of Alexander’s mercenary forces. I have also tried to argue earlier that Alexander’s heavy infantry were essentially a version of Iphicratean peltasts, being equipped as they were with a small shield and very little body armour.

The primary sources of information that we have for the peltast reforms of Iphicrates are Diodorus and Nepos, both of whose accounts are very similar. According to them the most significant changes were as follows:

Iphicrates replaced the large (shield) of the Greeks by the light pelte, which had the advantage that it protected the body while allowing the wearer more freedom of movement the soldiers who had formerly carried the [large hoplite shield] and who were called hoplites, were henceforth called peltasts after the name of their new shields their new spears were half as long again or even twice as long as the old ones, the new swords were also double in length, In addition Iphicrates introduced light and easily untied footwear, and the bronze harness was replaced by a linen covering, which although it was lighter, still protected the body.

Diodorus regards these changes as having been introduced into the existing hoplite troops and in the process discounts the possibility of already existing peltast-style light infantry. Diodorus’ failure to realize the existence of peltast troops before Iphicrates is indeed very striking. In this omission Diodorus shows his serious lack of understanding of the military situation of the day. Modern commentators have frequently been struck with the absurdity of this, and have taken up an opposite attitude. For them the change was a trivial one and consisted chiefly in the standardizing of the existing, but rather haphazard, peltast equipment. This argument, however, simply will not do. It assumes that the light-armed skirmishers of earlier narratives were equipped in the same manner that Diodorus describes. This simply cannot be the case light-armed skirmishers would not have carried a sword and spear twice the length of those carried by hoplites. Earlier narratives also tell of peltasts actually throwing their spears. If Iphicrates was standardizing that which already existed then why did he not provide his troops with these throwing spears? We are surely not to believe that they carried these as well. Some other explanation must be sought.

Was Iphicrates actually inventing a new type of peltast, one with specific and specialized equipment? The other extreme view is that Iphicratean peltasts were in no way different from Thracian peltasts. On this interpretation, Iphicrates’ reforms were of little significance, as troops of exactly the same type existed already in Thrace. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two extreme positions. There was probably no uniformity of peltast equipment before Iphicrates, some using primarily throwing spears, some longer spears, still others using swords of various sizes. The size of the shield probably varied too. I suspect therefore that Iphicrates studied the light infantry of his day and based his reforms around choosing from the various groups the equipment that best suited the type of soldier that he was trying to create. We may see Iphicrates therefore not as creating something entirely new, or as standardizing that which already existed, but as refining the equipment and tactics of the peltasts of his day.

Mercenaries had not been a significant part of the military forces of the city-states in the fifth century. There was, on the one hand, very little fiscal means to support such troops, and, on the other, a generally held belief that it was a citizen’s duty to take up arms and defend his polis as need arose. Any Greek mercenaries that did exist were generally employed in Persia or Egypt. Mercenaries were also employed in Sicily in significant numbers from an early date. By 481 it seems possible that Gelon, tyrant of Syracuse, maintained an army that included as many as 15,000 mercenaries. They presumably constituted a significant part of the army that won the decisive victory over the Carthaginians at Himera. The most significant event that sparked a major increase in the employment of mercenary troops on mainland Greece was the Peloponnesian War. The Peloponnesian states were the first to employ mercenaries in great numbers. These mercenaries were initially not light-armed troops but hoplites from Arcadia. Athens was slow to hire such troops, largely because of the geographical difficulty in reaching them, but by the end of the war mercenaries of all kinds were finding employment on both sides. The reasons for this change lay in the nature of the war itself. The war was prolonged and almost continuous and there were few large-scale set piece battles fought most engagements were on a small scale and fought by troops who were relatively lightly equipped and very mobile. Mercenaries were simply better at this kind of combat than heavily armoured hoplites. The hiring of mercenaries was made possible now, and less so earlier, by the relative prosperity of the warring states as compared to earlier in the fifth century.

The end of the Peloponnesian War did not see an ending of the employment of mercenaries in Greece. The peace itself led to a large number of men who had become accustomed to earning their living as hired soldiers suddenly becoming unemployed. This would generally have a destabilizing effect upon any society, but they would not have stayed unemployed for long. The political situation in Greece in the fourth century meant that there were always potential paymasters. Their other great sphere of employment, Persia, was also undergoing change. The central authority of the Persian Empire had begun to weaken. The local governors and satraps grew more independent and ambitious. Their position needed military support, and they found it most readily in Greek mercenaries. It had long been recognized that mercenaries formed a more secure power base for tyrants, rather than citizen soldiers whose loyalty was more open to question if a usurper came along. Greek mercenary infantry in Persian service continually proved themselves more capable than anything that the native Persians were able to achieve, so the great king himself was also forced to hire his own contingents to keep pace with his potentially disloyal satraps. We see this to be true during the reign of Alexander too: the only quality infantry that Darius had at his disposal were the Greek mercenaries. Initially 20,000 strong at the Granicus, they had been reduced to perhaps only 2,000 by the time of Gaugamela. This was because of successive losses at the Granicus and Issus, but probably due to desertion too as it became apparent that Alexander was a more attractive paymaster. The League of Corinth had specifically outlawed a Greek taking up arms against another Greek this decree had meant little at the outset of the campaign when Persia looked like a good bet for victory. At the time of the battle of Gaugamela in 331, however, Darius found it almost impossible to hire more Greek hoplite mercenaries. This was partly because he was no longer an attractive employer, partly because of the distance from Greece, and partly because Alexander was hiring them in increasing numbers, thus reducing the available pool.

The Spartan King Agesilaus died at the age of 84 on the way home from Egypt. There seems to have been something unhappily circular in the defence economy over which he presided: mercenary expeditions raised money by which the Spartan state was enabled to hire more mercenaries. However, it may be pleaded that Agesilaus was in fact trading military expertise for manpower.

Agesilaus’ death marks the end of an epoch in Greek history. His skilful operations had to some extent concealed the serious decline in the fighting potential of the Spartan citizen army. The development of new forms of warfare had been in itself an admission that the supremacy of the Spartan hoplite phalanx was at ‘an end. Since the Peloponnesian War, the Spartan army had been substantially remodelled this in itself reflected a decline in numbers of the fully-enfranchised citizens who formed the backbone of the heavy infantry. The decline could in some degree be paralleled by population decline in other Greek states, but apart from all general tendencies Spartan military strength had also been seriously affected by the losses suffered in a devastating earthquake which occurred as far back as 465 BC – before the Peloponnesian War had even begun.

The Spartan army in the fourth century consisted of six battalions (morai). Each of these was under the command of a polemarch and, according to contemporary historians, consisted of 400 or perhaps 600 men. Both citizens and non-citizens served in it. Within the mora, there was subdivision into smaller units, as previously with the lochos. During the Corinthian War, a Spartan mora, after escorting a contingent of allied troops back to the Peloponnese, was intercepted in the Isthmus and routed with crippling losses by the Athenian commander Iphicrates. In numerical terms, casualties of 250 out of a total strength of 600 men, which on this occasion the unit contained, were extremely serious. The strategy and tactics of Iphicrates were even more significant his victory was gained against hoplites by the use of lightarmed troops. The Spartan debacle, which occurred outside Corinth, can be paralleled by others in Greek military history, where (as at Amphipolis in the Peloponnesian War) incautious troops marching close under enemy walls exposed themselves to a sally from the city gates.

The action, however, was still more reminiscent of Sphacteria. The Spartans were overwhelmed by missiles and never allowed to come to grips. At Sphacteria, Spartan lack of foresight, combined with some bad luck, had produced the fatal situation, but Iphicrates was the deliberate architect of his own victory, which vindicated to the full his new strategic and tactical concepts of light-armed warfare. Indeed, there is a third reason for regarding Iphicrates’ success on this occasion as historically significant: the troops he commanded were mercenaries and their victory was gained against a predominantly citizen force.

Hippocrates of Chios

The suggestion is that this 'long stay' in Athens was between about 450 BC and 430 BC.

In his attempts to square the circle, Hippocrates was able to find the areas of lunes, certain crescent-shaped figures, using his theorem that the ratio of the areas of two circles is the same as the ratio of the squares of their radii. We describe this impressive achievement more fully below.

Hippocrates also showed that a cube can be doubled if two mean proportionals can be determined between a number and its double. This had a major influence on attempts to duplicate the cube, all efforts after this being directed towards the mean proportionals problem.

He was the first to write an Elements of Geometry and although his work is now lost it must have contained much of what Euclid later included in Books 1 and 2 of the Elements. Proclus, the last major Greek philosopher, who lived around 450 AD wrote:-

Hippocrates' book also included geometrical solutions to quadratic equations and included early methods of integration.

Eudemus of Rhodes, who was a pupil of Aristotle, wrote History of Geometry in which he described the contribution of Hippocrates on lunes. This work has not survived but Simplicius of Cilicia, writing in around 530 , had access to Eudemus's work and he quoted the passage about the lunes of Hippocrates 'word for word except for a few additions' taken from Euclid's Elements to make the description clearer.

We will first quote part of the passage of Eudemus about the lunes of Hippocrates, following the historians of mathematics who have disentangled the additions from Euclid's Elements which Simplicius added. See [ 6 ] both for the translation which we give and for a discussion of which parts are due to Eudemus:-

To follow Hippocrates' argument here, look at the diagram.

Now since segment 2 is twice segment 1 , the segment 2 is equal to the sum of the two segments marked 1 .

However, Hippocrates went further than this in studying lunes. The proof we have examined in detail is one where the outer circumference of the lune is the arc of a semicircle. He also studied the cases where the outer arc was less than that of a semicircle and also the case where the outer arc was greater than a semicircle, showing in each case that the lune could be squared. This was a remarkable achievement and a major step in attempts to square the circle. As Heath writes in [ 6 ] :-


In 392 BC, a civil war had taken place at Corinth, in which a group of pro-Spartan oligarchs was defeated and exiled by anti-Spartan democrats. Those exiles cooperated with Spartan forces in the region to gain control of Lechaeum, Corinth's port on the Corinthian Gulf. They then repulsed several attacks by the democrats based at Corinth and their Theban and Argive allies and secured their hold over the port. [2]

The Athenians then sent a force to assist in defending Corinth, with Iphicrates commanding the peltasts. The Spartans and the exiles, meanwhile, raided Corinthian territory from Lechaeum, and in 391 BC King Agesilaus led a large Spartan army to the area and captured several strongpoints. The Athenians and their allies were largely bottled up in Corinth, but eventually found an opportunity to take advantage of Spartan negligence. [3]

While Agesilaus moved about Corinthian territory with the bulk of his army, he left a sizable force at Lechaeum to guard the port. Part of this force was composed of men from the city of Amyclae, who traditionally returned home for a certain religious festival when on campaign. With this festival approaching, the Spartan commander at Lechaeum marched out with a force of hoplites and cavalry to escort the Amyclaeans past Corinth on their way home. After successfully leading his force well past the city, the commander ordered his hoplites to turn and return to Lechaeum, while the cavalry continued on with the Amyclaeans. Although he would be marching near the walls of Corinth, he expected no trouble, believing that the men in the city were thoroughly cowed and unwilling to confront him.

The Athenian commanders in Corinth, Iphicrates, who commanded the peltasts, and Callias, who commanded the hoplites, saw that an entire Spartan mora, or regiment, of 600 men was marching past the city unprotected by either peltasts or cavalry, and decided to take advantage of this. Accordingly, the Athenian hoplites formed up just outside Corinth, while the peltasts pursued the Spartan hoplites, flinging javelins at them.

To stop this, the Spartan commander ordered some of his men to charge the Athenians, but the peltasts fell back, easily outrunning the hoplites, and then, when the Spartans turned to rejoin their unit, the peltasts followed them and continued to throw their javelins, inflicting several casualties. This process was repeated several times, with similar results. Even when a group of Spartan cavalrymen arrived, the Spartan commander made the curious decision that they should keep pace with the hoplites in pursuit, instead of racing ahead to ride down the fleeing peltasts. Unable to drive off the peltasts, and suffering losses all the while, the Spartans were driven back to a hilltop overlooking Lechaeum. The men in Lechaeum, seeing their predicament, sailed out in small boats to as close as to the hill as they could reach, about a half mile away. The Athenians, meanwhile, began to bring up their hoplites, and the Spartans, seeing these two developments, broke and ran for the boats, pursued by the peltasts all the way. In all, 250 of the 600 men in the regiment were killed. [4]

News of the Spartan defeat was a profound shock to Agesilaus, who soon returned home to Sparta. [5] In the months following Agesilaus' departure, Iphicrates reversed many of the gains that the Spartans had made near Corinth, recapturing three of the forts that the Spartans had previously seized and garrisoned. [6] He also launched several successful raids against Spartan allies in the region. Although the Spartans and their oligarchic allies continued to hold Lechaeum for the duration of the war, they curtailed their operations around Corinth, and no further major fighting occurred in the region. [7]

Iphicrates' Reforms

The Delian League was a military alliance created probably around 480 BC with the intent to repulse the Archenemid Persian attacks from Asia Minor and the Aegean. It was headed by the Archon (chief magistrate) of Athens and his various assemblies (such as the Areopagus, citizen&rsquos assembly and Prytany) and demanded and annual tribute from all member states proportional with their size and wealth. This tribute would be used for the upkeep of a large Athenian army and navy which was intended to be used in the eventuality of a renewed Persian campaign. This league, however, was quickly abused by the powers of Athens, and its funds were used to adorn Athens with buildings such as the Parthenon in the age of Pericles. It was in this period that Athens became blatantly imperialistic and Greece was peppered with cities that, although legitimate members of the league, had been occupied by Athenian troops for the obvious attractions for imperialists. Many of the expeditions conducted by this league did not do much to militarily advance the situation for the Greeks in general, but Athenian political influence and economic advancement. The Spartans and the Corinthians, possibly the only realistic competitors to Athenian hegemony, subsequently founded the Peloponnesian league as a rival to the imperialistic &ldquoleague&rdquo of Athens. Needless to say, during this period, Athens had huge amounts of disposable income and although the construction of religious buildings to the animistic societies of the ancient world were not counted as &ldquodisposable&rdquo income (rather, necessity), the Parthenon was certainly an exception, and it certainly wasn&rsquot regarded by other Greek states as being a religious necessity.

Naturally, the close relationship between agriculture and war also created a close relationship between the seasons of war, as in every age. But with each technological development throughout history, the situation of war being completely bound to weather has become less and less, and there is no better way that this can be illustrated in this context than by a primary source. This reliance of the wavering agriculture of Greece and the demands of it on the citizen-soldier of the polis can be illustrated in two short, but informative, ending quotes:

"So the winter ended and so ended the ninth year of this war recorded by Thucydides "
-- Thucydides, history of the Peloponnesian war, book 4.135
"So ended this winter and so ended the third year of this war recorded by Thucydides "
-- Thucydides, history of the Peloponnesian war, book 2.103

As the reader will see, the year of military action ends at the time of winter ending. This is applicable to all periods and all styles of warfare, it might be said. That is true, but only in the later context. Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, in his 1807 campaign against the Tsar Alexander and his general Khurkov, conducted it in the height of the Russian winter and was indeed beaten by it. But this is not the point &ndash he also conducted many of his campaigns in summer as well. This shows how military development moved away from the beck and call of agriculture to such an extent that it could function without it. Even in the middle ages, crop rotation in fields had ensured a greater surplus yield and thus, potentially more activity from the troops of a nation. These quotes illustrate exactly, with great simplicity, the relationship between those two all-important factors: weather and warfare.

The Greek citizen had to serve his polis when called upon and was expected to purchase his own armour and fight with his own weapons. Only Sparta alone had a standing citizen army, kept alive by &ldquoHelots&rdquo &ndash foreign slaves. This is an exception, however, as Sparta had unusually good land for a Greek city-state. But despite this, no state, not even Sparta, ever changed their adopted tactics. Greek tactics by the 5th century BC were to hold the enemy in place with a Phalanx and some skirmishers, whilst the cavalry wheeled around the flank and dealt the killing blow from behind. It was the machinations of a light infantry citizen-commander from Athens called Iphicrates, mentioned briefly in Thucydides, that were to change the whole nature of warfare.

The transition from traditional tactics

The tactical advantages of mountains (for reasons which have been mentioned) were largely ignored by a passing Greek army &ndash they wanted to get to the potential battlefield as soon as possible, win, and return home &ndash warfare was not the professional activity which it was soon going to be. The Greek soldier did simply not have the time necessary to devote to the methods of mountain warfare (or, for that matter, any other kind of specialised warfare). In any case, the first indications that a tactical revolution was occurring was in the methods of an unknown Greek commander in probably what was Phocis or Locris &ndash two semi-barbaric areas in North-Western Greece. The commander in this instance learnt that by using the mountains to launch attacks with light, fast moving infantry and missile troops, heavily armoured, marching hoplites in a phalanx formation were at a severe disadvantage. The cumbersome phalanx could simply not wheel around quick enough or its constituent hoplites react fast enough to protect themselves from the blows of the swift mountaineers.

Iphicrates (415-353 BC) utilised these tactics brilliantly, and with them, decimated an entire Spartan column in the year 390 BC in the Peloponnesian war. Thucydides, the main and best source for the actions of Iphicrates, mentions this incident offhandedly and vaguely. For all of Thucydides&rsquo brilliant historical skills, this isn&rsquot surprising if we consider the sheer amount of material he had to deal with. He was probably assassinated at some time around 401 BC, and if so, would not have seen the impact that Iphicrates&rsquos small encounter was to have upon Greek military development as a whole. If he had, we can only assume that he would have described it as brilliantly as he does in many other aspects in his &ldquohistory of the Peloponnesian wars&rdquo. Even after the Peloponnesian wars were long finished, we don&rsquot see any kind of major development from Iphicrates&rsquo principles until the period of the tyrants and Philip II. Analysis of sources from Thucydides shows that warfare after the Peloponnesian wars shows a quite different army in the time of the tyrants (second source) from the time of the Peloponnesian wars (first source):

"The two armies were now united, and at dawn they took up position at the place called Metropolis and camped there. Soon afterwards the Athenians in the twenty ships, who were coming to the relief of Argos sailed into the Ambracian Gulf. With them was Demosthenes with 200 Messenian hoplites and sixty Athenian archers. The fleet lay off shore opposite the hill at Olpae. Meanwhile the Acrananians and those few of the Amphilochians who had not been forcibly kept back by the Ambraciots had already entered Argos and were preparing to give battle to the enemy. They chose Demosthenes as commander-in-chief of the whole allied army, to act in cooperation with their own generals, and Demosthenes led them out and encamped near Olpae in a place where a huge ravine separated the two armies. For five days neither side made a move, but on the sixth day they both drew up in order of battle. The Peloponnesian army was the larger of the two and it outflanked the army of Demosthenes, who, fearing encirclement placed about 400 hoplites and light troops in an ambush in a hidden pathway that was overgrown with bushes. These troops were to come up from the ambush at the moment that battle was joined and to take the enemy&rsquos projecting wing from the rear When the preparations on both sides were completed, they moved forward to battle. Demosthenes, with the Messenians and a few Athenians, was on the right, and the centre and left were made up of the various divisions of the Acrananians and the Amphilochian javelin-throwers who were present. On the other side the line was formed of mixed detachments of Peloponnesians and Ambraciots, except in the case of the Mantineans, who were all together on the left, though not on the extreme left wing, which was held by Eurylochus and his own troops facing Demosthenes and the Messenians "
-- Thucydides, history of the Peloponnesian war, book 3.107

The source above is the deployment of troops in a battle in north Greece near a city-state called Metropolis. There are several pieces of evidence in this source alone that show traditional methods being used. Firstly, the fact that the battle is being fought around a city in the first place indicates that the lie of the land is flat (farmland, obviously being around an ancient city), secondly, the usage of the word &ldquohoplite&rdquo indicates that these troops were used and if they were going to be used effectively, they would be in the Phalanx formation, which was unstable on mountainous ground. Although javelin-throwers and light troops are mentioned, they are not in the unique, independent context that we would imagine when regarding Iphicrates&rsquo &ldquospecial forces&rdquo. Generally, the layout of this battle places them as subsidiary units to the main Phalanx. The numbers of hoplites to archers and other such troops is much larger numerically in this source and also, the hill in the singular is mentioned in connection with Olpae. This would indicate that there was only one &ldquohill&rdquo (notice not mountain and the translation by Rex Warner would have this word to convey the same meaning in Ancient Greek &ndash small mountain) there. The significance of this lies in the proximity of these Athenian reinforcements from Argos to the battle &ndash let us say that these troops need to march a few days to join Demosthenes&rsquo army. Metropolis is not near the sea, so this is reasonable. According to this source, Demosthenes didn&rsquot move his troops to battle until around five days (probably because of preparations for the battle and organisation). If these new reinforcements were indeed &ldquoreformed&rdquo Greek troops, they would not have rejoined Demosthenes&rsquo army at all, and instead would have made use of the nearest mountain or hill range to launch a surprise hit-and-run attack. Considering that these two armies are lined up against each other in the traditional Greek fashion, and that there is only one &ldquohill&rdquo in the immediate vicinity (this we can assume because it must take less than five days for the reinforcements to march from Olpae, as shown by the source), we can safely assume that these tactics are not those of a &ldquonew model&rdquo Greek army, and that in this case, Iphicrates&rsquo reforms were not yet implemented. The only reference to anything like an Iphicratic raid is the concealment of around 400 Hoplites in bushes behind the enemy &ndash this theory is discounted, however, when we consider that these troops were using bushes to hide and were being used primarily as a distraction, and Iphicratic raids were used for anything but a distraction &ndash they were a primary assault. This next source, from Xenphon, concerns a Greek army of much renown some years later and shows a quite different army with quite a different preference towards fighting:

"On receiving this information Xenophon advanced to the ravine and ordered the hoplites to halt there. He himself with the captains crossed over and examined the position to see whether it would be better to withdraw the troops who had crossed already, or, on the assumption that the place could be taken, to bring the hoplites along too. It seemed that it would be impossible to withdraw without considerable loss of life: the captains were of the opinion that they could take the place and Xenophon agreed with them, relying also on the results of the sacrifices, for the soothsayers had indicated that there would be a battle, but the final result of the expedition would be successful. He therefore sent the captains back to bring the hoplites across, and stayed where he was himself. He brought all the Peltasts back from the ditch and forbade them to engage in any long-range fighting. When the hoplites arrived, he ordered each captain to form up his company in the way which he thought his men would fight best for the captains who were continually competing to each other in doing brave deeds, were now next to each other. They did as they were told, and Xenophon then ordered all the Peltasts to advance with their javelins at the ready, and the archers to have their arrows fitted to the string, as they would both have to discharge their weapons as soon as he gave the signal. He told the light troops to have their wallets stuffed full of stones, and sent reliable people to see that these orders were obeyed&rdquo "
-- Xenophon, the Persian expedition, book 5.2.3

We can see in this source that Hoplites play a much smaller part &ndash Xenophon is only willing to bring them to the valley (which a traditionally-minded Greek commander would not have entered into in the first place) very cautiously, but is perfectly willing to send the peltasts and light troops forward without a moment&rsquos hesitation. The fact that he does not mention any hesitation in sending the peltasts forward in such a situation could possibly show that it was accepted military practice and he didn&rsquot feel the need to justify it. Sending Hoplites into a mountainous area, however, was an action on his part that required his justification to the reader in his &ldquoPersian expedition&rdquo, and this is a possible explanation to why he mentions he cautiousness with the hoplites much more carefully in this excerpt. The simple fact that Xenophon had sent his men to this ravine in the first place, or even considered it, means that he was confident that he could defend himself. Xenophon was no timid soldier and would not have made many mistakes of this kind if he could have helped it. His advance above the ravine must have been accompanied by some confidence on his part that he could have defended himself adequately, as his hoplites in this situation would not have been very effective, so this process of elimination thus leads to the conclusion that it must have been the peltasts that he was confident about (not cavalry, as this isn&rsquot mentioned in the relevant sources for this incident). This is a pure indication that Iphicrates&rsquo reforms must have finally taken hold in the tactics of the general of the late classical or early Hellenistic period. One important consideration to consider about Iphicrates&rsquo reforms is their content &ndash they were a very loose collection of tactics that did not have any real doctrine or practice. For this reason, the one isolated military action which started the &ldquoreforms&rdquo created many multiple troop types in the ancient world, some of which had absolutely no relation to the light infantry of Iphicrates. The final, and it would seem indisputable, piece of evidence to the changing face of warfare is this extract from Xenophon&rsquos &ldquoa history of my times&rdquo:

"But as soon as the men in the city saw that their enemies were marching towards the plain, the cavalry and the crack troops came out against them, and fought them in battle and prevented them from reaching the plane at all. Most of the day there was spent in long-range fighting with the troops of Europhon pressing their attacks only up the point where the ground became suitable for cavalry&hellip&rdquo "
-- Xenophon, A history of my times, book 7.2.12

It is fairly obvious in this source that these tactics are not those of a traditional classical Greek army. The attacks are being pressed upon high, rocky ground (it is not suitable for cavalry, so it must be of that kind). Also, the mention of &ldquocrack&rdquo troop, or the very acknowledgement of that word (even the equivalent is in the original Greek source) indicates that the troops employed here are not ordinary citizen-soldiers. It also mentions &ldquothe plain&rdquo. An early Greek historian when writing about a battle would not even bother to mention the lie of the land, for he would assume that conflict on a plain is the only way of fighting a battle. We can see clearly from this source &ndash the transformation is complete. Warfare had now almost fully changed from the traditional norm.

It would appear that it was the Macedonians, slowly rising to prominence through the internal chaos in Greece, took advantage of these tactics and added them to their already brilliant army. Philip II&rsquos Macedonian army swept away all in its path and conquered Greece relatively quickly. Incidentally, Philip II&rsquos hoplites had indeed been trained in mountain fighting, and used it to its maximum potential. These children of the reforms that conquered most of the known world under Alexander was numerous but all ultimately came from the same surplus of imperialism that Athens had created by it&rsquos abuse of it&rsquos position as head of the Delian league. These units, such as the Phalangites, Hypaspists (components of the Macedonian phalanx), heavy peltasts (the direct product of Iphicrates&rsquo reforms) and specialist warships were all spawned from the same principle of military specialization.

The composition of the new armies

In practically all of the new reformed troops that emerged in the Greek world at the beginning of the Hellenistic period, there was a considerable amount of training to use different kinds of terrain apart from flat ground. Although, for example, the Macedonian phalanx was still a phalanx first and foremost, the &ldquophalangites&rdquo who comprised it were drilled and trained to such a huge extent that they could move as a whole unit in half the time as their Greek counterparts. Macedonian tactics also used light troops in a more primary role (presumably after their value had been seen in the Peloponnesian war) to guard the flanks of the Phalanx. These &ldquoHypaspists&rdquo were basically light hoplites, but their tactical behaviour was that of peltasts or archers. This Macedonian revolution in military ingenuity was firstly started by around 358 BC by the rise of Philip II of Macedon and later, in his conquest of Greece, and was perfected by his son Alexander the great. The army that Alexander marched to India and back with was anything but a standard Greek army. His tactics were based on the original Greek system of &ldquohold and attack&rdquo with the Phalanx and cavalry. Naturally, this tactic required light troops to defend the sides of the phalanx and watch for enemy movement. The huge, cumbersome Macedonian phalanx formations that were to serve as the anvil to the cavalry&rsquos hammer, for all their training, could not have reacted quick enough to avoid some considerable enemy change in tactics without prior warning. So Alexander must have logically placed importance of light troops for these formations. For example, the deployment of Alexander&rsquos troops at the battle of the Hydaspes in Western India places the skirmishers to the exposed flank of Alexander&rsquos phalanx, which was moving right to hit the Indian commander Porus&rsquos left flank. The skirmishers filled in the gap that the Phalangites of the Macedonian phalanxes had created and ensured that there would be no instant counter-attack by Porus&rsquos men. It is also worth noting that in the increasing use of Elephants by the enemies of Greece (and by the Diodachi centuries later) meant that javelin-throwers and light troops would have been endorsed more as they were the best opponents for repulsing an attack by these beasts.

A list of the basic kinds of reformed troops can be found bellow:


The backbones of the Macedonian army, these heavy hoplites were trained to all co-operate as one fluid body. They were also trained, if necessary, the march over mountainous terrain. This was a necessity for such troops in Macedon, because, being a naturally mountainous country, the ordinary phalanx would have been useless. These troops were also some of the first in the ancient world to be drilled in the modern sense of the word, and are regarded as full &ldquotroops&rdquo, not just citizen-soldiers. Their arms were probably supplied by the state rather than by themselves, for the length and duration of Macedon&rsquos campaigns must have meant that these men could not viably have also been farmers. This means that, like the Spartans, the Macedonians must have had a larger amount of farmers working at home than there were soldiers abroad and like the Athenians, have had a considerable surplus of disposable income from imperialistic ventures to create these reforms.

"For the Macedonian Phalanx is like some single powerful animal, irresistible so long as it is embodied into one, and keeps its order, shield touching shield, all as in a piece but if it be once broken, not only is the joint-force lost, but the individual soldiers who composed it lose each one of their single strength "
-- Plutarch, life of Titus Quinctius Flamininus

The Phalangite was usually protected by a layer of leather armour with smaller plates of bronze armour above. Sometimes he wore a &ldquothorax&rdquo or protective corset, which included all of these defensive elements. Unlike the citizen-hoplite of classical Greece, the Hellenistic Phalangites donned the Thracian or Chalcidian helmet rather than the traditional Corinthian pattern. This helmet had an open facial area, rather than the Corinthian pattern, which was usually extensively decorated and had small eye and mount slits. This uniformity of Macedonian army indicates that it was probably supplied by the state rather than purchased by the soldier in question. In any case, the huge Macedonian phalanx cannot have been filled with the wealthy of Macedon like the smaller Phalanx of a Greek city-state would have been. He was armed with the &ldquoSarissa&rdquo or 15ft pike and &ldquokopis&rdquo or slashing sword (which appears to have become particularly popular amongst military forces in Alexander&rsquos time). For protection, he would have used the &ldquoArgive&rdquo pattern large shield to protect himself in battle. These larger shields were used by Phalangites rather than smaller ones because in Alexander&rsquos campaigns, where this kind of troop was used, missile threats were one of the main dangers of battle - the Persians and others like them excelled in missile troops, and even heavy infantry in Persia and other eastern nations often had a small bow as a secondary weapon. As we can see, this again in a development in military tactics in response to an outside stimulus &ndash another indication of finally, military change in response to external conditions changing.

To the sides of the Phalangites, usually accompanied by a selection of light infantry, would be the Hypaspists. The name roughly translates from the Greek as &ldquoshield-bearer&rdquo, which was applied in an honourable sense to the soldier. Hypaspists often worked in conjunction with the Phalanx, clearing the way for it, defending its flanks and watching its rear. These men were almost always deployed in wing positions and were guarded by non-Greek mercenary cavalry in many situations. The Hypaspist was armed in much the same fashion as the Phalangite, with the exception of lighter armour and a thrusting spear (which would probably be around 6ft long). Naturally, due to the nature of these troops, lighter armour and light weapons were a must. It is unlikely that they wore metal plate armour, Corinthian or Thracian helmets for precisely this reason. Sources indicate that they were often deployed around supporting missile troops. If this is true, it would mean that they would have to don similar armour to those troop types in order to co-operate fully on the battlefield as one unit. Possibly for this type, a small shield and leather armour (or possibly a thorax) would have sufficed. Many illustrations of these troops show their short spears have thongs of leather attached. This could perhaps indicate some kind of javelin was used by these troops, but since they were mixed with skirmishers of all types, it is hard to say where Hypaspists in illustrations would end and skirmishers begin. The beginnings of the Hypaspist can be found in Iphicrates&rsquo mountaineers, who used light skirmishing Hoplites of this type to conduct their raids.


Warfare was changing at such a rate that the outdated and small Greek city state could not keep up with it. This period in Greek history is important to all areas of history as it shows us the first ever example that we have of &ldquospecial forces&rdquo, moreover, the first drilled forces in the world. It was only until domestic matters became self-sufficient without the need for vast amounts of manpower that military development could be taken seriously and real strides made. These troops were not merely &ldquosoldiers for the summer&rdquo &ndash soldiering was their career. For the first time, the soldier did not wield the plough as well as the sword. These reforms would culminate in perhaps the most famous troop&rsquos type in the ancient world. This was the troop type that, at its height, incorporated them all and could adapt to any situation &ndash the legionary.


I started studying Classical Greek warfare as an undergraduate in the Netherlands. That was well over a decade ago I've managed to make it my job and I'm still as fascinated by it as ever. When I'm not researching Greek history for work, I talk about it here for fun.

Iphikrates (c. 418-353 BC) was an Athenian general, known for his mastery of irregular warfare. A man of low birth, the son of a shoemaker, he served as a deck-fighter at the naval battle of Knidos in 394 BC, drawing praise for his remarkable strength and courage. Iphikrates rose to prominence in the later years of the Corinthian War as the commander of a force of mercenary light infantry he was repeatedly re-elected to the generalship from the 380s BC onwards, and led naval campaigns, citizen armies and mercenary forces in the service of Athens, Persia and Thrace. He was known as a harsh but efficient leader, a flexible tactician, an innovator, and a ruthless disciplinarian. The ancients considered him one of the best generals of his age.


Iphicrates Greek: Ιφικράτης (c. 418 BC – c. 353 BC) was an Athenian general, the son of a shoemaker, who flourished in the earlier half of the 4th century BC.

He owes his fame as much to the improvements he made in the equipment of the peltasts or light-armed mercenaries (named for their small pelte shield) as to his military successes. Historians have debated about just what kind of "peltasts" were affected by his reforms one of the most popular positions is that he improved the performance of the Greek skirmishers so that they would be able to engage in prolonged hand-to-hand fighting as part of the main battle line, while another strong opinion posits that he worked his changes upon the mercenary hoplites that were an important factor in late 5th and early 4th century B.C. Greek land warfare.

A third possibility is that his reforms were limited to hoplites serving as marines on board ships of the Athenian navy. [1]

His "Iphicratean reforms" consisted of increasing the length of their spears and swords, substituting linen cuirasses in place of heavier bronze armor, and introducing new footwear (later called iphicratids) that was easier to don and remove than previous models. In addition, he replaced the heavy hoplon/aspis with a lighter pelte that could be strapped to the forearm, freeing the left hand to help hold the lengthened spears. By these changes he greatly increased the rapidity of their movements. He also paid special attention to discipline, drill and maneuvers the longer weapons, combined with the lighter armor and shield, forced his troops to take a more aggressive approach in tactical situations. With his peltasts Iphicrates dealt the Spartans a heavy blow in 392 BC-390 BC by almost annihilating a mora (a battalion of about 600 men) of their famous hoplites.

Following up success, he took city after city for the Athenians but in consequence of a quarrel with the Argives he was transferred from Corinth to the Hellespont, where he was equally successful. After the peace of Antalcidas (387 BC) he assisted Seuthes, king of Thracian Odrysae, to recover his kingdom, and fought against Cotys, with whom, however, he subsequently concluded an alliance. In about 378 BC, he was sent with a force of mercenaries to assist the Persians to reconquer Egypt, but a dispute with Pharnabazus led to the failure of the expedition. On his return to Athens he commanded an expedition in 373 BC for the relief of Corcyra, which was besieged by the Lacedaemonians.

After the peace of 371 BC, Iphicrates returned to Thrace and somewhat tarnished his fame by siding with his father-in-law Cotys in a war against Athens for the possession of the entire Thracian Chersonese. Iphicrates, however, refused to besiege the Athenian strongholds and fled to Antissa. [2] The Athenians soon pardoned him and gave him a joint command in the Social War against some of their allies from the second Athenian Empire. He and two of his colleagues were impeached by Chares, the fourth commander, because they had refused to give battle during a violent storm.

Iphicrates was acquitted but sentenced to pay a heavy fine. Afterwards, he remained at Athens until his death in about 353 BC (although according to some he retired to Thrace).

Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

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Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Halicarnassus also spelled Halikarnassos, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The monument was the tomb of Mausolus, ruler of Caria, in southwestern Asia Minor. It was built in his capital city, Halicarnassus, between about 353 and 351 bce by his sister and widow, Artemisia II. The building was designed by the Greek architects Pythius (sources spell the name variously, which has cast doubt on his identity) and Satyros. The sculptures that adorned it were the work of four leading Greek artists—Scopas, Bryaxis, Leochares, and (most likely) Timotheus—each of whom was responsible for a single side.

According to the description by the Roman author Pliny the Elder (23–79 ce ), the monument was almost square, with a total periphery of 411 feet (125 metres). It was bounded by 36 columns, and the top formed a 24-step pyramid surmounted by a four-horse marble chariot. Fragments of the Mausoleum’s sculpture that are preserved in the British Museum include a frieze of battling Greeks and Amazons and a statue 10 feet (3 metres) high, possibly of Mausolus. The Mausoleum was probably destroyed by an earthquake between the 11th and the 15th century ce , and the stones were reused in local buildings.

Iphicrates, Peltasts and Lechaeum. Monograph series ‘Akanthina’, 9

The battle of Lechaeum in 390 BC is—due mainly to Xenophon’s short but touching description—a symbol of the collapse of traditional hoplite warfare under pressure from light forces. It is also believed to be the first major success in the career of Iphicrates. The present book, the first scholarly collection devoted to that encounter, includes six new chapters on various topics related to the battle of Lechaeum. It starts, however, with a translated and slightly expanded version of Andreas Konecny’s 2001 Chiron article, which is also a very thorough study of the famous clash between Iphicrates’ mercenaries and Spartan hoplites.

Konecny’s contribution offers an in-depth analysis of the battle. This results in a detailed description, based to a degree on assumed psychological mass reaction to the developments at the battlefield. The reviewer must admit that Konecny’s explanation for how the peltasts became the winning fighting style, and for how the Spartan hoplite force was driven under stress towards unavoidable loss and massacre, is persuasive.

Konecny’s reconstruction of the battle is followed by chapters shedding light on some specific aspects of the battle. The first, and perhaps also the most needed, is Nick Sekunda’s analysis of the internal structures and numerical strength of the Lacedaemonian mora, explaining some divergences in our sources regarding the size of this unit. His conclusion that morai numbered between 500 and 600 men (with nominal 576 rank and files plus some officers) seems very plausible.

Bogdan Burliga, offers a valuable addition to Konecny’s remarks on the Spartan reactions to the Athenian attacks, while analyzing the Spartans’ hoplite ethos and their attitude toward military defeat and surrender. He strengthens the view that success is not the only characteristic of military prowess and that the Spartans indeed believed that beautiful and honorable defeats were possible.

Three chapters address the possible circumstances and the date of Iphicrates’ peltast reform. Roel Konijnendijk offers a very informative study of how modern scholars have dealt with the feeling of surprise caused by the Athenian victory, still visible in the ancient texts (Xen. Hell. 4,5.9-19 Plut., Ages. 22.2), in spite of Spartan hoplites’ earlier losses against lighter forces (such as on Sphacteria). Konijnendijk duly reports scholarly opinions associating or disassociating Iphicrates’ peltast reform with the Corinthian war (as well as those denying that he was the innovator of Greek warfare and those crediting him with the reform). Although not stated explicitly, the sympathy of the author seems to be with the view that “it was a perfect example of the effectiveness of combined arms tactics of the kind seen earlier on Sphakteria”.

Similar is the focus of the second chapter by Nick Sekunda, who argues that the peltasts who won the battle of Lechaeum were not the Iphicratean new model peltasts (introduced first in 370s BC). The former were simply a traditional missile-throwing force (like the winners at Sphacteria), whereas the latter are convincingly portrayed as “substitute hoplites.” Likewise Brian Bertosa’s study of Iphicratean peltasts’ equipment as a link between earlier javelin-throwing peltasts and the Macedonian phalangites supports the view that the Athenian victory was by old style missile-throwing light soldiers, and the actual peltast reform was a decade or so later.

It does not seem reasonable to question the conclusions of these three essays, since they agree in essential points and are compelling. Still, one has to note that the problem of the name of the peltasts for both, the winners from Lechaeum and the Iphicrateans remains. Perhaps the best explanation of the scholarly confusion noticed by Sekunda (p. 129, 137) is that Iphicrates simply chose the term peltastai, being a recollection of his success, as a name of honour for his new type of phalangites.

Sławomir Sprawski throws some light on possible fifth-century influence on military changes of the fourth century. Being an expert on Thessaly, he analyses the ancient evidence for the early emergence of peltast forces in Thessaly. Sprawski explains a scholion on Rhesos 307 (based on Aristotle’s Thettalon politeia, Arist., fr. 498 Rose) as a projection of later reality onto distant past –Aleuas, who became for the Thessalians a figure comparable to Solon in fourth-century Athens as the founding father of their constitution and the author of the Constitution of the Thessalians, may have used the technical language of his age. 1 Sprawski soberly remarks that the fifth-century Thessalians, although they very likely used foot- soldiers with pelte from mid-fifth century BC onwards, did not necessarily describe their soldiers as peltasts or hoplites. Sprawski characterizes Thessalian purported peltasts of the fifth century as something “between the classic hoplites and the lightly armoured foot soldiers known as psiloi or gymnetes ”. Indeed, one has to agree with his conclusion that it is impossible to assess the Thessalian influence on the Iphicratean change in the Greek warfare.

Burliga and Sekunda’s volume offers the readers high-quality research on the topic. It is an inspiring volume and the way in which the editors employed their specialist colleagues to re-approach Lechaeum and produced a fine collective book may be a model for scholars interested in major battles of the ancient world. It is also worth stressing that, although the book is primarily an academic collection, it should attract the general enthusiasts of the history of ancient warfare.

Table of Contents

Preface (N. Sekunda) 3-4
Notes on Contributors 6
Chapter 1. Andreas Konecny, Κατέκoψεv τὴv μόραv ‘Iφiκράτης. The Battle of Lechaeum, Early Summer, 390 BC 7-48
Chapter 2 Nicholas Sekunda, The Composition of the Lakedaimonian Mora at Lechaeum 49-65
Chapter 3 Bogdan Burliga, Did They Really Return upon Their Shields? The ὕβρις of the Spartan Hoplites at Lechaeum, 390 BC 66-83
Chapter 4 Roel Konijnendijk, Iphikrates the Innovator and the Historiography of Lechaeum 84-94
Chapter 5 Sławomir Sprawski, Peltasts in Thessaly 95-112
Chapter 6 Brian Bertosa, Peltast Equipment and the Battle of Lechaeum 113-125
Chapter 7 Nicholas Sekunda, The Chronology of the Iphicratean Peltast Reform 126-144

1. Sprawski develops a similar thought in a slightly earlier article with different focuses, see: S. Sprawski, “Remarks on Aristotle’s Thettalon politeia,” Electrum 19 (2012) 137-147.

Corinthian War (395� BC)

In 404 BC after Peloponnesian War, Sparta emerged victorious, claiming Athens' title of hegemon. Sparta's domineering attitude soured its relations with its allies, and in 399 BC the Spartan–Persian alliance collapsed.

King Agesilaus and Lysander (the admiral who had been responsible for Athens' defeat) started Sparta's reign as hegemon with lots of support from the other Greek city-states.

However, Sparta claimed all of the plunder from the Peloponnesian War and it had totally disregarded the wishes and interests of her allies. Sparta had pursued a policy of aggressive expansion in the Peloponnese, central and northern Greece and the Aegean which had at times seemed directed specifically against them.

The name called Corinthian War (395�) because much of it took place on Corinthian territory, was fought against Sparta by a coalition of Athens (with help from Persia), Boeotia, Corinth, and Argos.

In 394 BC Athenians, Thebans, Corinthians and Argives assemble near Corinth. The Spartans generally demonstrated the superiority of their heavy infantry in pitched battles such as that at Nemea, though in 390BC light peltasts under the Athenian Iphicrates defeated a Spartan hoplite unit in a running battle at Lechaeum. This prevent Spartans from entering central Greece through the isthmus

Sparta eventually won the war, but only after the Persians had switched support from Athens to Sparta.

With its powerful ally as guarantor, Sparta was able to dictate the terms of the so‐called King's Peace in 386 BC.
Corinthian War (395� BC)


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