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Theolytus of Koronta
City /Region: Koronta, Akarnania
Occupation: Farmer, citizen soldier (psilos)
In the summer after the 84th Olympiad (431 BC) an enemy force of Spartans and their allies, together with a large number of barbarians, set out from Leucas to invade Acarnania. They had already looted and burnt the village of Limnaea, massacring the inhabitants. They were now approaching Stratos, the capital city of Acarnania.
The beacons were lit for a general muster at Stratos. Theolytas, together with his younger brother, Cynes, enlisted in the contingent from the town of Koronta.
The company from Koronta reached Stratos in the morning, where the men took refreshment. The locals gave out food and wine from the temple of Zeus. After a cup of wine and a small salted fish for each man, the company collected javelins and sling leads. Despite the enemy advance, the Stratians remained confident. One old man who was giving out cups of wine told Theolytas that a force of Athenians led by general Demosthenes was hurrying to help. Another assured Cynes that with its strong walls, Stratos would be able to hold out until the Athenians arrived. A third man said that the omens had proved favourable to Acarnania earlier that day at the temple.
A messenger arrived, and soon orders were shouted for the company to move. The company ran through the north gate, which closed behind them. The run seemed a long one, and it was with relief that the company stopped at a small farm north of the city. A short time later the men were dispersed into woods, either side of the track.
It wasn’t too long before a column of Chaonian barbarians appeared on the track, heading towards Stratos.
On the order to attack, the company sprinted towards the enemy column, throwing their javelins as the enemy did the same. As each man in the company had three or four javelins, the barbarians must have been on the receiving end of more than three hundred of them. As the javelins were expended, men went back to collect more. Meanwhile the rest of the men, Theolytas and Cynes included, began using their slings. Cynes had only used his sling on the family farm, and then it was to hurl stones at wolves. Here for the first time, Cynes used leads. His first lead hurtled into the midst of the enemy column, hitting a Chaonian on his helmet. Despite being so armoured, the Chaonian dropped. Theolytas and Cynes could hear the enemy shouting orders for their troops to form, but none paid any heed as the lethal barrage of leads from both sides kept them in disarray. One Chaonian managed to rally a few of the men and led them to attack, but they were driven back by another salvo of leads.
Within the enemy column some attempted to throw back the javelins, some assisted the wounded, while others attempted to escape but were held back. A few archers managed to shoot off some arrows, but were hit by javelins. Finally, the Chaonians broke and fled back down the road, towards Amphilochian Argos. The Stratian company assembled on the road and retrieved their javelins from amongst the dead and wounded Chaonians. Those few in the company who had swords swiftly finished off the enemy wounded.
From every direction the Chaonians were running towards Argos, having fallen into not only the ambush in which Theolytas and Cynes took part, but ambushes all along the environs of Stratos. Some other barbarian troops appeared in the distance, but seeing the routed Chaonians they turned and fled. The company was ordered to pursue. Any Chaonian attempting to rally others was showered by javelins and salvoes of leads until eventually they broke and ran.
The company had followed the broken enemy some distance when other enemy troops appeared. These were not barbarians this time, but Hellenes – Leucadians and Anactorians on the company’s left, and the Spartans and Ambraciots on their right. The Hellenic troops opened their ranks to receive the routed barbarians, brought their divisions together, and stood their ground.
Now the company was ordered to approach the Hellenic enemy troops, but not to close with them. Theolytas and Cynes lobbed their javelins and then began slinging. The enemy seemed disconcerted by this barrage, and their response was disorganised. First they attempted to return fire with a few arrows, which fell short. Next a group of javelin men emerged from the enemy ranks, but fell back in disorder. The company expected the enemy to advance, but they did not move forward at all. Instead they remained behind their shields, so the company continued slinging at them from a distance.
It was now late in the day and night was falling, so the company posted sentries and lit fires. In the morning, the enemy had gone. However, a small enemy party appeared under banner of truce, and the company from Koronta gave them leave to recover their dead. Theolytus and Cynes were present when the city of Stratos set up a trophy for the victory over the barbarians.
Theolytas and Cynes returned to the family farm, but were again mustered that winter. They took part in the defeat of the Spartans and their allies at Olpae, and the subsequent defeat of their Ambraciot reinforcements at Idomene. Theolytas and Cynes were mustered several times for the siege of Oeniadae, which eventually capitulated.
Cynes responded to an appeal by Demosthenes for slingers to participate in an Athenian expedition against Syracuse, while Theolytas remained to run the family farm. The expedition failed to capture Syracuse, and after a desperate retreat, the troops had to surrender. Demosthenes was executed, while the men were sent as slaves to work in the mines.
Five years after the disaster at Syracuse, Cynes unexpectedly returned. He had been badly wounded by an enemy spear during the retreat. Luckily, he was found by some Catanians and nursed back to health.
24 April 2016