A lost Greek island that helped determine the fate of Athens has been found
The lost Greek island housing the city of Kane, the site of a major battle between Sparta and Athens, has been rediscovered off the coast of Turkey.
In the year 406 BCE, the city-states of Athens and Sparta were at war. The conflict began more than 25 years earlier, and the death toll was rising. History would remember it as the Peloponnesian War, and it helped to shape Western Society.
The Spartans and their militaristic culture were winning, but the Athenians had just strung together a series of significant victories; the tide seemed to be turning. A divisive naval battle took place off the shore of the Arginusae islands and the city of Kane, with the Athenians claiming victory – albeit a costly one, with ramifications that may have determined the fate of the Hellenistic world.
It was a huge moment in history, but the island that the battle took place off of seemingly disappeared completely.
The islands have been well documented throughout history, and historians have long thought they knew the location of two of the three Arginusae islands. But the third, the island the battle actually took place off of, was lost long ago.
A group of researchers recently discovered that a peninsula off the coast of Turkey is in fact the lost island. At some point before the Middle Ages, a land bridge formed, connecting the island to the mainland. The date of when this happened isn’t clear, but a map from the 16th century Ottoman Empire shows it as a peninsula.
Researchers also found the remnants of a submerged harbor from the Hellenistic period nearby. That further helps to confirm that the peninsula used to be an island.
“It was not clear that these lands were actually the Arginus islands that we were looking for until our research,” Dr. Felix Pirson, director of the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul who helped carry out the research, said. “By examining the geological samples obtained through the core-drill method, we recognized that the gap between the third Arginus island and the mainland was indeed filled with loose soil and rock, creating the existing peninsula.”
Archeologists will study the geological layers using radiocarbon dating, which they hope will help to determine how the land bridge formed.
The island was also the home to the city of Kane, a small site that was forgotten long ago. Several pieces of pottery and indications of a civilization have been discovered there, but that’s common for the area, and nothing major stood out.
In 406 BCE, the Battle of Arginusae pitted the two warring factions against each other in a costly naval battle. The Athenians won, but a storm swept in, making it impossible to rescue the survivors whose ships had been lost. Despite the win, it was a disastrous loss of life and resources for the Athenians,
When the Athenian admirals returned home in victory, the outcry over the loss of life was so severe the commanders were illegally tried. All eight admirals were executed by a vote from the Athenian citizens.
The judgment of the Athenians was swift, and ultimately costly. It was seen as one of the direct causes for the Athenian defeat that occurred within the next year. The Spartans ruled Athens for the next three decades until its own defeat to Thebes, which marked the end of the Golden Age of Greece.
Most of the ships lost during the battle will have long ago disintegrated, but there may be relics to be found – now that the archeologists know where to look.