ancient greece

History of the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta

peloponnesian-warThe causes of the Peloponnesian War are still the subject of discussion by historians, as there is no identification as to the specific causes that led to the catastrophic war for all Greeks. Many ancient historians attribute the main responsibility to Pericles and Athens. Plutarch believes that the main reason for the great war was the arrogance of Athens and the great naval hegemony it had created.. Thucydides has been accused of his anti-party views.

Pericles was convinced that war with the Peloponnesian Alliance was truly inevitable, if not welcome. That is why he did not hesitate to send the Athenian fleet to Corfu, to help the Corfiot fleet that was fighting against the Corinthian fleet, a traditional ally of Sparta. In 433 BC, the united Athenian and Corfiot fleets faced the Corinthian fleet in the waters of Corfu, in a battle without a final winner.

In 432 BC, the Athenians defeated the Corinthian settlers at the Battle of Potidaea, on the coast of Macedonia, reinforcing the anti-Athenian sentiment of the Corinthians. At the same time, Pericles imposed a financial blockade on the neighboring city of Athens, Megara, dissolving the city’s economy and injuring the thirty-year peace agreement with Sparta, which was an ally of the Megara. The Athenians, in turn, considered that the Megarians had cultivated sacred land dedicated to the goddess Demeter and in addition granted asylum to slaves who fled Athens, a fact unholy for themselves.

After talks with its allies, Sparta demanded from Athens the expulsion of members of the aristocratic Alcmeonid family from Athens, and of Pericles himself, and to immediately lift the embargo he imposed on the city of Megara, threatening war. if its requirements were not met. The purpose of the demand of the Spartans was to create a gap between Pericles and the Municipality, a fact that happened a few years later. The Athenians followed the instructions of Pericles, who urged them not to accept the irrational demands of their opponents, since Athens was militarily stronger.

periclesPericles did not want to give in to the demands of Sparta, because he believed that then Sparta would return with more demands. He argued that Athens would lift the embargo on Megara only if Sparta abandoned the tactic of expatriation and recognized the autonomy of its allied cities, a view that testifies that the Spartan Hegemony was also harsh.

Pericles’ terms were not accepted by Sparta, and given that neither side was retreating, war was inevitable. There are many reasons that compelled Pericles to this rigid stance. The first is that Pericles chose war by retreating in the face of Sparta’s demands, because he did not want to show that Athens and the Delian Alliance (Athenian Hegemony) were weak. something that might have been able to disrupt the alliance

FIRST YEAR OF THE WAR

In 431 BC, and while the peace was fragile, the king of Sparta Archidamus II sent a new delegation, asking Athens to accept the terms of Sparta. The Spartan delegation was not allowed to enter Athens, as Pericles had forbidden such a thing, since it was found that Sparta had taken military measures against Athens. At that time, the Spartan army was concentrated in Corinth and the Athenians for this reason refused the entry of the representatives of Sparta. When his last attempts to negotiate with the Athenians failed,

Archidamus invaded Attica, but found it deserted, as Pericles had persuaded the Athenians to fortify themselves behind the walls of Athens (Thucydides, 2.14). There is no information about the way in which Pericles managed to persuade the rural population of Attica to abandon his fields and properties. For many, this move was a violent change in their lifestyle. Thus, many farmers were not at all satisfied with Pericles’ decision.

He reassured them by arguing that if the enemy did not destroy his real estate, which was outside the walls, then he would cede it to the state. According to Thucydides, Pericles made this promise, considering that Archidamus, who was his friend, would probably not destroy his property, either as a sign of friendship or as part of political expediency, in order to isolate Pericles politically from the Municipality. In any case, seeing the destruction of their property in the countryside through the walls, the Athenians began to show their strong dissatisfaction with Pericles, while many of them thought that he had driven them to war.

peloponnesean-wars-athens-against-spartaDespite much pressure, Pericles refused to change his original strategy toward the war. He also refused to consult the Church of the Municipality, fearing that the Athenians might decide to fight the powerful Spartan Army alone in the countryside. Pericles did not control the rectors’ assemblies, but the respect he had from the rectors was enough for them to accept his views.

While the Spartan army remained in Attica, Pericles sent a fleet of 100 ships to plunder the shores of the Peloponnese and placed the cavalry to guard the estates near the city walls.When the enemy left and the looting of the Attic countryside came to an end, Pericles proposed a law according to which Athens had to seize an amount of 1,000 talents and 100 ships if Athens was to be attacked from the sea.

He also imposed a law that sentenced to death anyone who proposed a different use of money or ships. In the autumn of 431 BC, Pericles invaded Megara and a few months later, in the winter of 431 to 430 BC, recited his famous Epitaph, and with monumental sentiment honored democracy and the fallen warriors for Athens during the first year of the war.

ancient wall of AthensDespite much pressure, Pericles refused to change his original strategy toward the war. He also refused to consult the Church of the Municipality, fearing that the Athenians might decide to fight the powerful Spartan Army alone in the countryside. Pericles did not control the rectors’ assemblies, but the respect he had from the rectors was enough for them to accept his views. While the Spartan army remained in Attica, Pericles sent a fleet of 100 ships to plunder the shores of the Peloponnese and placed the cavalry to guard the estates near the city walls.

When the enemy left and the looting of the Attic countryside came to an end, Pericles proposed a law according to which Athens had to seize an amount of 1,000 talents and 100 ships if Athens was to be attacked from the sea. He also imposed a law that sentenced to death anyone who proposed a different use of money or ships. In the autumn of 431 BC, Pericles invaded Megara and a few months later, in the winter of 431 to 430 BC, recited his famous Epitaph, and with monumental sentiment honored democracy and the fallen warriors for Athens during the first year of the war.

In 430 BC, the Spartan army plundered Attica for the second time but Pericles refused to side with the Spartans, and for the second time refused to change his original strategy (Thucydides, 2.55). Not wanting to fight the Spartans in open battle, he again led an Athenian campaign to plunder the shores of the Peloponnese, this time taking 100 ships with him. According to Plutarch, before the start of the campaign there was a solar eclipse that frightened the ship’s crews, but Pericles reassured them with the help of astronomical knowledge he had acquired from Anaxagoras.

athens-plagueIn the summer, the plague broke out in Athens, causing the death of a large part of the population. The origin of the plague is still studied by scientists. In the case of the plague, the municipality revolted against Pericles, and he was forced to defend himself, with one last emotional word, part of which is handed over by Thucydides.
It is considered a great act of Pericles that shows his virtues, but also his frustration, in front of the ingratitude of his fellow citizens. He temporarily managed to reduce the Municipality’s stance against him, but his internal enemies reappeared, and managed to deprive him of the position of General and punish him with a fine of between 15 and 50 talents. Ancient sources say that Cleon, a young and ambitious political rival, was the prosecutor in the trial of Pericles.

Pericles, according to Thucydides, lived in the first 2.5 years of the Peloponnesian War, and his death was catastrophic for Athens, as his political successors were inferior and preferred to blame others for their shortcomings, rather than something good for their city. His political successors were mere demagogues whose sole aim was to seize power, while their policy was disastrous for Athens. Writing these, Thucydides expresses his sorrow, not only for the loss of a man he admired, but also for the power and glory of Athens that had begun to decline.