Peloponnesian War

Thirty Year’s Peace

  • A treaty signed between Athens and Sparta in 446 BC that brought an end to the conflict known as the ‘First Peloponnesian War’
    • That was a series of occasional battles raging from 460 BC
  • The peace was first tested when the powerful Athenian ally Samos rebelled against the alliance (440 BC)
    • The Spartans called a congress of their allies whether to engage in war with Athens
      • The Corinthians were against the intervention so the council voted against war with Athens
    • The revolt was crushed and peace maintained

Outbreak of War

  • 433–431 BC
  • Outbreak of war between Athens and Corinth
    • A conflict arises between Corinth and its colony Corsyra
      • There were negotians, finally Athenians decided to take the side of Corsyra
        • To uphold the peace, the small fleet Athenians sent didn’t intervene in the battle of Sybota
    • Following this, another conflict arises with a Corinthian colony of Potadia that is a tribute paying member of the Delian League
      • Athenians order the Potedians to tear down their walls, send hostages to Athens and dismiss all Corinthian magistrates from the city
        • But Potadians decline and appeal to their mother city, Corinth
      • During the following battle of Potidaea, Corinth unoficially aided the city by sneaking contigents of men into the besieged city to help defend it
        • This was a direct violation of the peace treaty
    • Megara (a polis located between Athens and Corinth) decides to get involved on the Corinthian side
      • Athens responds with the Megarian Decree
        • Total embargo, economic warfare
    • Eventually, at the meeting in Sparta, Corinthians persuade Sparta to start war against Athens
      • To persuade them, they compared the Spartan and Athenian national characters and described Spartans as too afraid to do anything
    • Almost entire greek world joins the war afterwards

Athenian Strategy

  • Pericles realized Athens didn’t stand a chance against the Sparta in the traditional hoplite warfare
    • So he drew Athenians of the land into the protected enclave of the long walls
    • As long as they have the fleet providing Athens with supplies and raid the Spartan coast, they would be fine
  • At the end of first year of the war, Pericles delivers his famous funeral oration
  • Shortly after this address, a plague broke out in Athens
    • Probably arrived by ship
    • Some kind of bubonic plague
    • It is estimated as much as a third of Athenian population died
    • Under the pressure of the plague, many laws collapsed
    • Athenians responded by taking it out on Pericles
      • In a long time, after 17 years, Pericles was not elected general
        • But they changed their minds quickly after
      • Pericles delivers his so-called last speech
        • He catches the plague and dies in 429 BC

Cleon and Brasidas

  • Revolt of Mytilene against Athens (the island of Lesbos) (428–427 BC)
    • Athenians crushed the revolt and voted on the ultimate penalty
      • That is all men will be killed, women and children will be sold into slavery
    • After debate between Cleon (for the penalty) and Diodotus (against the penalty), the penalty is not exercised, but things are getting more and more tense in Athens
  • Stasis (civil war) in Corcyra (427 BC)
    • Begins with killing an official Athenian friend there
  • Cleon’s victory at Pylos/Sphacteria against Spartans (425 BC)
    • Cleon has become very influential in Athens afterwards
  • There is a shortage of manpower in Sparta (helots and others get into battles as well)
  • New Spartan general Brasidas launches a fast campaign north of Athens
    • Wins at Amphipolis (424 BC)
      • The battle was led by Thucydides who is in response to this event exiled from Athens
    • In response to that, Cleon is appointed general and goes north to Brasidas
      • 422 BC - There’s large battle, Athenians lose (600 of them are killed including Cleon), on Spartan they are only seven fatalities reported, but one of them was Brasidas

Peace of Nicias

  • 421 BC
  • Signed between both sides
  • Mutual non-agression is to last for 50 years
    • Disputes are to be solved by arbitration rather than conflict
  • The situation was still tense on many fronts
    • Sparta tried to get Corinth ally with Thebes against Athens
    • Athenian general Alcibades got the Peloponnesian states of Ellis and Mantineia to ally with Argos against Spart (420 BC)
      • Combined forces of these three states are defeated at at Argives (418 BC)

Siege of Melos

  • 416 BC
  • Athenians go to the island of Melos and demand that they join the Delian League as subordinate tribute paying allies
  • Famous Melian dialogue
    • Athenians give Melians a choice: either they become a tribute-paying members or they will be destroyed
  • The Melians decide to resist
    • Athenians come back with a massive fleet
    • After a short siege, Athenians kill almost all adult males (few manage to escape into slavery) and sell women and children into slavery
      • Then they resettle the island with 500 colonists from Athens

The Sicilian Expedition

  • 416–413 BC
  • Athenians decide to invade Sicily
    • An Athenian ally, Segesta, got into quarrel with nearby state of Selinus and asked Athenians for help
      • Nicias (the general who signed the peace of Nicias), anti-war, and Alcibiades, pro-war, debate the issue
        • Alcibiades was more persuasive, although Niccius' arguments were more rational
  • Shortly before their arrival, Alcibiades hears that the Athenians have sent a ship out with orders that he be arrested
    • So he flees to Sparta
      • He gives them invaluable advice to make advances on Athens (as the home defenses were way down at the time)
        • Spartans establish a fort at Dekelea in the Attic territory
  • At first, Athenians have some successes
  • Athenians start beseiging Syracuse (the only Spartan colony)
    • Syracusans build a number of counter-walls
    • During these small fights, Lamachus is killed and only Nicias remains from the original 3 generals
  • Sparta sends help under general Gylippus
    • They began to make a counter-wall, making the Athenian wall useless
    • The Corinthian fleet under the command of Erasinides also arrives
  • Nicias, exhausted from illness, sends a letter to Athens, hoping they would recall him
    • Instead of recalling the expedition, Athenians send out massive reinforcments under general Demosthenes and Eurymedon
    • Still they were losing
  • As Athenians were preparing to sail home, there was a lunar eclipse and Nicias, as a particularly superstitous man, decided to wait for another 27 days because of it
    • Syracusans took advantage of this and attacked Athenian ships in the harbor (76 vs. 86)
      • Athenians were defeated, Eurymedon killed
  • Eventually, Athenians were trapped and exterminated
    • Either killed or sold into slavery

The Sicilian Expedition Aftermath

  • There was a series of revolts among in the Delian League
  • Board of 10 probouloi was established
    • Sort of like a super executive comitee
    • Highly trusted men of upstanding character
      • Still a breach in the democratic process
  • The Oligarchic Revolution

    • 411 BC
    • Membership in assembly restricted to 5K wealthiest citizens
    • A super council of 400 is established
    • This oligarchy slowly fades away, though, and democracy is restored

The Treaty of Miletus

  • 412 BC
  • Alcibiades had to leave Sparta for Persia
    • He led negotiations with Persians to lend money to build Spartan fleet (which was an oxymoron for most Spartans)
    • He seduced the wife of one of the Spartan kings
  • But Spartans continued the negotiations and came up with a treaty
    • In return for money, they would no longer oppose Persian attempts to control the Ionian states
      • Just like that the focus of the war shifts up norteast, because there was a crucial supply line for the Athenians

Alcibiades returns to Athens

  • 408 BC
  • Spartans are defeated in two battles northeast
    • One of them is the battle of Cyzicus
      • The Spartans offered peace, Athenians declined it
      • Alcibiades joins the pro-Athenian side
        • Back in Athens, he was cleared of all charges of impiety and was made a “commander-in-chief”
        • But after a while, Athenian public opinion shifted, he fled Athens and never returned again

Battle of Arginusae

  • 406 BC
  • Battle of Athenian and Spartan fleets
    • Sparta lost
  • A storm came afterwards, so Athenians failed to pick up their dead
    • Back in Athens a motion is proposed that the generals be tried for this as a group
      • That is a completely illegal practice
      • The vote was eventually carried out and six generals were executed (among them one of the sons of Pericles)

Battle of Aegospotami

  • 406 BC
  • The Spartan fleet is under command of a very capable general named Lysander
  • Athenians were in very vulnerable position
  • Spartans had a decisive victory
    • 160 out of 180 Athenian ships were destroyed and several thousands killed
      • Athenian navy is now effectively destroyed

Athens Surrender

  • 404 BC
  • Athens was surrounded and starved into submission
    • Some Athenian enemies, notably Corinth and Thebes wanted Athens to be treated like Athens treated Melos
      • But Spartans resisted
    • The long walls and Athenian city walls were torn down
  • Athenians were free but reduced to Athens and the island of Salamis
    • Their fleet was reduced to 12 ships
  • In the places of former Athenian allies, Spartans imposed decharcies
    • A board of ten to control a state
  • In Athens, they imposed an oligarchy of thirty

After the war Spartans enjoyed a brief period of hegemony.