The Peloponnesian War
Athenian navy vs Spartan Army
The Golden Age of Athens should have helped Greece. It should have made Greece a superpower of the ancient world but instead it brought the downfall of Greece. During the golden age Athens had prospered. Athens had enriched their culture and strengthened their military might. During the Golden age Athens had formed a group called the Delian League which contributed wealth and ships to a defense force to fight the Persians. Athens was the unrivaled leader of the Delian League so they began dominating it. With the help of their leader Pericles the Athenians began treating the other members of the league like subjects, forced the other members to use Athenian coins, and refused to allow city states to withdraw from the league. When one city, Miletus withdrew Athens sent an army there and they sacked the city. The Athenians became and empire but his did not go well with the Spartans.
The Spartans did not trust the Athenians and were jealous and suspicious of the Athenians aims. One thing that rose tensions between the Athenians and Spartans has a slave revolt. In Sparta the Helots revolted and the Spartans needed help to subjugate the rebelling slaves. They called the Athenians for help and the Athenians sent support. However when the Athenian support arrived the Spartans had changed their minds and told the Athenians to leave because they were democratic. Naturally the Athenians were very insulted rising tensions. Next come the Long walls which was built to connect Athens and her port of Piraeus. These were built so if an enemy attacked Athens they would not be able to cut off Athens from her port of Piraeus and Athens would still be able to import resources by sea. The Spartans however saw this as the Athenians making war preparations and declared war thus starting the first Peloponnesian War. The 2 sides battled for about a year from 448 B.C.E. to 447 B. C. E. with neither side victorious. A thirty years peace was agreed upon but this didn't work. Soon after the Corinthian colony of Corcyra broke away from Corinth and hostilities broke out Corcyra called Athens for help. Athens backed Corcyra while Sparta siding with Corinth. This was the last straw and the Peloponnesian War broke out.
Are you a Spartan or Athenian?
Tactics and Alliances
Athens and Sparta both knew that they couldn't win the war alone so they made alliances. The Spartans aligned themselves with those on the Peloponnese peninsula along with Macedonia and Thebes while Athens was backed by her Delian League members, and the Ionian and Aegean city-states. When the war started a few weaker members of the Delian League saw an opening of possible escape Athens holds and they took the oppurtunity siding with Sparta. The sides were set and the Peloponnesian War was about to begin.
When the Peloponnesian war started the Spartans and Athenians both had very different ideas about how to win the war. The Spartans with their superior army sent a massive force to Attica directly at Athens itself. However the Athenian leader Pericles realized that the Spartans could easily win land battles so he advised the Athenians to stay behind the long walls and import food and supplies by sea. The Athenians took the advice and abandoned their farms and hunkered down behind the long walls while Spartans advanced towards Athens.
A Spartan Phalanx
The First Stage of the War
When the Spartans launched an assault on Athens the Athenians were ready. The Athenians hunkered down behind the long walls and took in the onslaught of Spartan warriors. The Spartans fist ravaged the Athenian territories outside of the long walls and plundered the farms. The Athenians took a more cautious approach and stayed behind the long walls and imported food by sea. Since Sparta had no navy it couldn't interfere with any naval Athenian actions. For years the war was locked in a stalemate, Sparta couldn't penetrate the long walls and the Athenians couldn't gather a force strong enough to drive away the Spartans. Then in 430 B.C. plague struck Athens and about a fourth of the Athenian population was wiped out including the Athenian leader Pericles.
More on Ancient Greece
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- Persian Wars
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Alcibiades and the Fall of Democracy
With Pericles dead many Athenians fought for power and a man named Alcibiades rose to the throne. Alcibiades was a desperate attention seeker with good looks and a devious mind. Alcibiades convinced the assembly to send a force to capture Sicily, but before the force had been for 1 mile Alcibiades was convicted of drunkenly making dun to the Greek goddess Demeter. Alcibiades escaped and fled to Sparta where he informed the Spartans on how to defeat the Athenians at Sicily. The Spartans took the advice and the Athenians were massacred at Sicily. With Alcibiades gone many power-hungry aristocrats tried to gain power and they did overthrowing democracy. This group was called the council of 400. The news caused many Delian League members to withdraw from the Athenian Alliance and many overseas forces mutinied against their captains. Democracy was soon restored but things were still shaky for the Athenians. The Spartans desperate for victory began making deals with the Persians. In exchange for some Greek territory in Asia Minor the Persians would supply the Spartans with enough money to build a fleet. The Spartans agreed and constructed a fleet making the Athenians fight a war on 2 fronts, land and sea.
The Peloponnesian War
The fall of Athens
With their new naval fleet the Spartans eagerly launched an attack on the Athenian fleet docked at Aegospotami, Thrace. The Athenians where crushed and the Spartans captured 170 Athenian triremes marking the end of Athens. Now the Spartans and their fleet surrounded Piraeus cutting off the Athenians food supply and the Athenians were forced to surrender. The Spartans pulled down the long walls, abolished democracy and installed an oligarchy called the council of 300 to rule Athens.
The aftermath of the Peloponnesian War
After the Peloponnesian war Athens was humiliated and left with almost nothing, but things did not go well for the Spartans, or any of the Greeks. The Spartans began to lose control the Greek city states and in 403 B. C. the Athenians were able to restore democracy. The Spartans and Thebans struggled for control of Greece not bringing peace or unity to Greece. Eventually the Greeks would fall to a new power, the rising Macedonians and their famous leader: Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great
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