Polybius (c. 200–118 BC) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work "The Histories", which covers the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The story of this post (Pol 5.3,4
) plays in Greece, during the so‑called Social War, the first waged against the Aetolians by the Achaeans in league with and under the leadership of Philip of Macedon, the son of Demetrius and father of Perseus.
Polybius describes how during a certain period Pale (the main city of Paliki) espoused the side of the Aetolians against the Achaeans and was consequently besieged by King Philip the Macedonian. In a systematic report of this period Polybius describes Pale as surrounded by the sea, and by precipitous heights on every side, except the one looking towards Zacynthus.
He further states that it possessed a fertile territory, in which a considerable quantity of corn was grown. The remains of Pale are seen on a small height, about a mile and a half to the north of the modern Lixúri. Scarcely anything is left of the ancient city; but the name is still retained in that of Pálio and of Paliki, the former being the name of the plain around the ruins of the city, and the latter that of the whole peninsula. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. iii. p. 64., Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith, LLD
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Polybius describes how King Philip put out from Patrae and reached Pronni on the coast of Cephallenia. Observing that this small town was difficult to take by siege, he sailed past it with his fleet and King Philip anchored off Palus, where, finding the country full of corn and capable of providing subsistence for an army, he disembarked his forces and encamped before the town.
Beaching his ships close together and surrounding them with a trench and palisade, he sent out the Macedonians to gather in the corn. He himself made the circuit of the city to see how the wall could be attacked by siege-works and machines. He intended to wait here for his allies and at the same time to take the town, in order in the first place to deprive the Aetolians of their most indispensable aid — for they used the Cephallenian ships to cross to the Peloponnese and to plunder the coasts of Epirus and Acarnania — and next to provide for himself and his allies a base favourably situated from which to descend on the enemy's territory. For Cephallenia lies off the Gulf of Corinth, stretching out to the Sicilian Sea
, and overlooks the north-western part of the Peloponnese, especially Elis and the south-western districts of Epirus, Aetolia, and Acarnania. Since, therefore, it was a convenient rendezvous for the allies and a favourable site for attacking enemy and defending friendly territory, he was very anxious to get the island into his hands. Observing that all the other parts of the city (Palus) were surrounded either by the sea or by cliffs
, and that the only little piece of level ground was on the side facing Zacynthus, he decided to throw up works and open the siege here. Here ends the part of the story that is of interest for this forum.
According to “Greeks and the Sea, a historical overview
” (p52, Michalis Sakellariou, 1987), Philip V of Macedon operated ships with 16 to 50 oarsmen sitting in one or two rows, that were very effective especially at raids as described above.
So, looking in the presumed harbour of Ithaca, some 1000 years after the return of Odysseus, we see a port filled with frightened Cephallenian ships, awaiting the attack of Philip of Macedon... The story is remarkable because it describes the main town of Paliki, Palus, being surrounded either by sea or by cliffs.
The line "A location where Paliki is not surrounded by sea, but by cliffs
', accurately describes the collapsed sidewalls and caves of the postulated Strabo's marine channel, nowadays the valley of Thinia. Apparently this condition existed after a massive earthquake took place between the times of Homerus and Polybius, but prior to the period when landslides filled in the cavities in between the cliffs, apparently after 220–146 BC. Furthermore, Polybius's description of Paliki "with a level piece of ground facing Zacynthus
" and "stretching out to the Sicilian Sea
" has great analogy with the Homerus description of Ithaca: Ithaca lies low and away, the farthest out to sea"
. Also it is of interest that in the period 200–150 BC, the port of ancient Ithaca was still in full use as a naval base.
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