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Today I am writing on the Peloponnesian wars, I hope you enjoy.
After the Persian Wars, just when everything seemed peaceful, a new conflict arose. It all started when some of the members of the Peloponnesian League begin to rebel against Sparta. Athens sent some reinforcements to help in the endeavor, but Sparta rejects their troops.
Athens stubbornly shot back that they were making a new, better form of government based on democracy, which did not make Sparta happy. If you remember, Sparta used oligarchy in their city-state. So, Athens allies with two other city-states that dislike Sparta and go to war in 460.
In 457 Athens emerges victorious in their attempt to capture the island of Aegina. Sparta finally steps up to plate and begins fighting. They defeat the Athenians near their own city.
From 446-431 there was what is called the Thirty Years’ Peace. However, Athens breaks this by interfering with a battle that they were not supposed to be involved in. Sparta decides in 432 that Athens is guilty of breaking the treaty and they demanded that Athens stop attacking Corinth.
Athens boldly replied that they would be independent and would never submit to any Spartan. There was a stalemate until Thebes attacked an Athenian ally in 431. This brought about another huge war that lasted 3 years longer than the previous one. This is called the Archidamian War.
In 432 Sparta invaded the land around Athens. But Sparta didn’t ever stick around for too long— the slaves that they owned often rebelled and had to be held back, and they had to help with the harvest back at home. In fact, the longest invasion that we have a record of lasted for a mere 40 days!
Athens ravaged Sparta’s coast and won a battle at Naupactus, but a bad plague hit in 430 B.C. and killed 30,000 people, destroying about half of Athens’s total population. This plague also caused the death of Pericles and his sons. Pericles was an amazing Athenian general who was very successful.
Cleon revived a new navy, and Demosthenes won a victory in 425 in the Battle of Pylos. However, Sparta invaded Amphipolis, which was were Athens imported most of its silver from, and Thucydides, the Athenian general, could not repel them. He was exiled and wrote a history of the Peloponnesian Wars in his book called A History of the Peloponnesian Wars.
After this, there was a brief period of relative peace, due to both sides losing their leaders. But Sparta rebelled and won the victory, letting them gain control of the Peloponnesian League.
Now, in the 17th year of the war, the main battleground moved to Sicily. Athens tried to defend its own colonies against Syracuse, and Sparta actually helped Syracuse. For the first time, Sparta won a genuine naval victory against Athens, this was when Athens began to decline.
Athens, though having retreated to Attica and being defeated by Sparta time and again, proved to be a tough nut to crack. On the other hand, Sparta allied with the Syracusans, Ionians, and, surprisingly, the Persians, their former archenemies. The Persians promised to send ships and money to them. On top if that, the city-state of Athens was having conflicts amidst itself, which weakened them even more.
There was a battle against Athens in which the Athenians would have been demolished if their foes had only been anxious enough to destroy them. There were more battles, too, which I won’t mention here, except that Athens won many victories and got back on their feet. This went on until 406, when Lysander won another naval battle, this time at Notium. The defeat must have been terrible, because the Athenian general was not re-elected, and he exiled himself.
In 406, very close to the end of the war, Athens won a battle. Unfortunately, bad weather prevented utter destruction. Athens also lost 6 important naval commanders!
Sparta then ran for the Hellespont, which was were Athens got most of its grain. Athens chased after them, but in 405 they lost the battle of Aegospotami. Finally, the Athenians had had enough, 6 commanders gone, their state considerably weakened— they retreated and gave up their fleet and all their colonies. Sparta even commanded them to tear down their own walls!
For over a year Athens was ruled by the Thirty Tyrants but they rebelled against this form of government. Sparta just decided to reinstate them with new men. King Pausanius, though, decided not to, and let them practice democracy if only they’d let the Spartans be the #1 ruler. The king was put on trial for the way he treated the Athenians, probably because the people thought that he was too soft with them, but the votes were 15/14 in favor of Pausanius.
It may seem as if the story is over and that Sparta is stronger than ever, but both of those things are telling the reverse of how things really worked. Sure, the Peloponnesian Wars were over and Athens subdued, but it seems as if somebody always has to be unhappy with the current situation. But before I tell you what I mean by that let me make my points— one, there is a storm brewing and another war— the Corinthian War— is about to start. For seconds, Sparta and the other people that had participated in the war had grown the opposite of stronger— even Sparta had been weakened.
So, a bit about the Corinthian War: this was a war where Sparta was the one being attacked at the beginning. Sparta’s allies were unhappy with the fact that Sparta took all the spoils and all the credit for conquering Athens. So, a big alliance (particularly Thebes and Corinth, although Persia and Athens pitched in as well) went up against Sparta. There were many battles, but in the end Persia, Sparta, and Athens had all benefited from it, a contrast to the Peloponnesian Wars.
Persia, whose territory had diminished during the Persian Wars, actually was able to regain control over the Ionian Greeks in Asia Minor and reconquered the eastern Aegean Islands. Sparta remained the strongest Greek city-state and took advantage of a certain rule in the peace treaty that had been signed at the end of the war. The “King’s Peace” stated that all Greek city-states were to be independent of each other, and that if any one of them interfered with the other, Persia would come and attack them. Sparta used this to exercise a sort of “or else” nature, that is to say, all they had to do to stop any alliance was to remind them of the peace treaty, and how Persia would come and attack them if they rebelled.