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NAUARCHIA (Gr. ναῦς, ship, ἀρχή, command), the supreme command of the Spartan navy. The office was an annual one and could not be held more than once by the same man (Xen. Hell. ii. 1. 7). This law might be evaded in special cases; the new-admiral might not be sent to take over the command until some time after his election, which took place at midsummer (Beloch in Philologus, xliii. p. 272 sqq.), and meanwhile his predecessor remained de facto admiral; or the retiring admiral might, after the expiry of his term, hold an appointment as secretary (ἐπιστολεὐς) to one who, though titular admiral, was really placed under his orders or even kept at Sparta altogether. Being independent of the kings and hampered by no colleague, the nauarch wielded such power that Aristotle is hardly going too far when he says (Politics, ii. 9. 22), ἡ ναυαρχἰα σχεδὸν ἐτέρα βασιλεία καθέστηκεν. He was subject only to the ephors, who, if he proved incompetent, could depose him (Thuc. viii. 39), though they usually preferred to send out an advisory committee (σίμβουλου). An admiral might appoint his ἐπιστολεύς to command a portion, or even the whole, of the fleet, and if the former died in office the secretary succeeded to his post.

For a detailed discussion see J. Beloch, “ Die Nauarchie in Sparta," in the Rheinisches Museum, xxxiv. (1879) 117–130, where a complete list of nauarchs known to us will be found; regarding the time of the election this is corrected by a later article of the same writer (Philologus, loc. cit.). See also A. Solari, Ricerche Spartane (Livorno, 1907), 1-58; G. Busolt, “ Staats- und Rechtsalterttimer ” (Iwan Müller’s Handbuch der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, iv.), § 96; G. E. Underhill’s edition of Xenophon, Hellenica, i., ii., note on i. 5. 1.  (M. N. T.)