Phormio was an Athenian admiral during the Peloponnesian war. He first appeared during the Samian revolt. Over the next few years he proved to be an excellent military leader, in Acarnania, at the seige of Potidaea, and in Chalcidice.

In 430 B.C. he lead a naval expedition round the Peloponnese to Naupactus from which he blockaded Corinth. The Spartans sent a naval force to engage him, under the command of Cnemus. Phormio defeated these outnumbering forces in two cunning naval battles. In one of these the Spartans employed the "brilliant" petal tactic. To prevent the Athenians from ramming them the Spartans gathered their ships into a circle, with the prows pointed outward. Phormio sailed around the Spartan ship, causing them to draw tighter, and tigher together. They met in the middle, sinking each other, and Phormio sailed away victorious. When Cnemus reached shore, he had the Spartans put a price on Phormio's head.

When he returned to Athens he was sentenced for embezzelment of funds, and he is believed to have died around this time.

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