Peloponnesian War

war fought between Athens and Sparta (431–404 BCE)

The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an Ancient Greek military conflict, fought by Athens and its allies, against the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. Athens was the greatest sea power, and Sparta the greatest land power in 5th century BC Greece.

In the first phase, the Archidamian War, Sparta launched repeated invasions of Attica, while Athens took advantage of its naval supremacy to raid the coast of the Peloponnese.

This period of the war ended in 421 BC, with the signing of the Peace of Nicias. That treaty was soon undermined by renewed fighting in the Peloponnese. In 415 BC Athens dispatched a large force, led by Alcibiades, to attack Syracuse in Sicily. The attack failed, with the destruction of the entire force, in 413 BC. This made Athens vulnerable.

The final phase of the war is called the Decelean War, or the Peloponnesian War. In this phase, Sparta, now receiving support from the Achaemenid Empire, supported rebellions in Athens' subject states in the Aegean Sea and Ionia, undermining Athens' empire. Eventually, Athens lost its naval supremacy. The destruction of the Athenian fleet in a battle in 405 BC effectively ended the war, and Athens surrendered in the following year.

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The Peloponnesian War reshaped the Ancient Greek world. Athens, the strongest city-state in Greece before the war started, was reduced to a state of near-complete subjection. Sparta became the leading power of Greece.

The economic costs of the war were felt all across Greece; poverty became widespread in the Peloponnese, Athens was completely devastated, and never regained its pre-war prosperity.[1]p488[2] The war also brought subtler changes to Greek society. The conflict between democratic Athens and oligarchic Sparta, each of which had friendly political factions in other states, made civil war a common occurrence in the Greek world.

Greek warfare was originally a limited and formalized form of conflict. It became an all-out struggle between city states, with atrocities on a large scale. The Peloponnese War shattered religious and cultural taboos, devastated the countryside, and destroyed whole cities. This marked the end to the fifth-century BC 'Golden age of Greece'.[1]xxiii-xxiv

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  • Bagnall, Nigel. The Peloponnesian War: Athens, Sparta, And The Struggle For Greece. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0-312-34215-2).
  • Cawkwell, G.L. Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War. London: Routledge, 1997 (hardcover, ISBN 0-415-16430-3; paperback, ISBN 0-415-16552-0).
  • Hanson, Victor Davis. A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War. New York: Random House, 2005 (hardcover, ISBN 1-4000-6095-8); New York: Random House, 2006 (paperback, ISBN 0-8129-6970-7).
  • Heftner, Herbert. Der oligarchische Umsturz des Jahres 411 v. Chr. und die Herrschaft der Vierhundert in Athen: Quellenkritische und historische Untersuchungen. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2001 (ISBN 3-631-37970-6).
  • Hutchinson, Godfrey. Attrition: Aspects of Command in the Peloponnesian War. Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Tempus Publishing, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 1-86227-323-5).
  • Kagan, Donald:
  • Kallet, Lisa. Money and the Corrosion of Power in Thucydides: The Sicilian Expedition and its Aftermath. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001 (hardcover, ISBN 0-520-22984-3).
  • Krentz, Peter. The Thirty at Athens. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982 (hardcover, ISBN 0-8014-1450-4).
  • The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, edited by Robert B. Strassler. New York: The Free Press, 1996 (hardcover, ISBN 0-684-82815-4); 1998 (paperback, ISBN 0-684-82790-5).

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  1. 1.0 1.1 Kagan, Donald 2003. The Peloponnesian War. New York: Viking. hardcover ISBN 0-670-03211-5; Penguin paperback ISBN 0-14-200437-5
  2. Fine, The Ancient Greeks, 528–33.