Lelantine War

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The Lelantine War was the first recorded war involving all of Greece fought around (probably after) the time of Homer.

Reverend J. P. Mahaffy writes

"We are told, for example, that almost all Greece joined in a war between Chalcis and Eretria about the Lelantine plain—a war alluded to as contemporary by Theognis, and concerning which even Aristotle still preserved anecdotes. Historians have justly pointed out the inconceivability of all Greece being interested about some fields in Eubœa, and that the rivalry of the two towns concerning settlements at the mouth of the Euxine was the real cause, while a local dispute was the occasion, of the war. The passage into the Black Sea was always of vast importance, as even in Attic days the toll levied for passing Byzantium formed a considerable item of revenue; and it appears that the Greek trading cities supported Chalcis or Eretria according as pre-existing treaties secured to them protection or immunity from either party. Thus the Lelantine War, a name unknown to our ordinary compendiums of Greek history, was a great war of traders, and in Thucydides' opinion (i. 15) the only general struggle throughout historical Greece previous to his own day.
"These facts, as well as the innumerable speeches on commercial disputes left us by the orators, show that there was a strong trading instinct in the Greeks; and there were large portions of the community supported in this way; that it was, as now, the best avenue to wealth."[1]

Rufus B. Richardson disagrees that the Lelantine plain was not the object of the war adding,

"In the long period of prosperity before the Lelantine War, which made Chalcis and Eretria famous, a sad emerging into history, the two cities went hand in hand. This [Ernst] Curtius finds indicated by the name "Eubœic talent," supposing that had the cities been antagonistic the talent would have been named after one or the other of them. Perhaps they made a mistake in founding colonies conjointly or near together, as in Chalcidice. When the war broke out it is supposed to have been conducted with a bitterness which seems to have been born years before. It is not unlikely that colonial troubles had as much to do with the break as the rich plain between the two cities. The quarrel was fought out with the help of many allies on each side. The Greek world was divided into two hostile camps, a division which showed itself for centuries. Eretria was vanquished without losing her independence or her honorable standing...
"The date of the Lelantine War is shown by Curtius to have been the middle of the eighth century B.C."[2]


  1. Mahaffy, Rev. J. P. (1883). ‘’Social Life in Greece from Homer to Meander’’ (London: Macmillan), pp. 385-6
  2. Richardson, Rufus B. (1891). "Eretria: A historical sketch". Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, vol. 6, p. 61.