1902 Encyclopedia > Greece >Greek History: The Pelopponesian War, 431-404 B.C.; The Period of Spartan and then Theban Ascendancy, 404-362 B.C.

(Part 7)



V: The Pelopponesian War, 431-404 B.C.; The Period of Spartan and then Theban Ascendancy, 404-362 B.C.

In examining the causes which led to the breach of the Thirty Years' Truce, and to the Peloponnesian War which followed it, Thucydides distinguishes two alleged or im-mediate causes from a third cause which was not alleged,

but which, lay deeper than either of the others. The two
alleged causes were—(1) the active help given by Athens
to the Corcyrseans in their quarrel with Corinth concerning
Epidamnus, a colony of Corcyra; (2) the Athenian blockade
of Potidaea, a Corinthian colony which had revolted from
Athens. The more essential cause was the growth of
Athenian power, and the alarm which this caused to the
Lacedaemonians. In truth the affair of Epidamnus and
the affair of Potidaea were merely the sparks which hap-
pened to kindle the flame. That long conflict which
we call the Peloponnesian War had been prepared from
the time when the Athenian democracy, founded by Clis-
thenes, had become a power in Greece through the suc-
cessful struggle against Persia. Erom that time there
were two antagonistic principles, represented by two rival
cities,—oligarchy by Sparta, democracy by Athens. The
other cities grouped themselves naturally around these.
All Greece was divided between these two ideas. The
Peloponnesian War is the collision between them. It would
be inconsistent with the limits and the scope of this sketch
to enumerate the details of the war in each of its twenty-
seven years. Yet we must aim at indicating the periods
into which it falls, the leading characteristics and tenden-
cies which it presents.
First 1. The first period of the Peloponnesian War comprises
period of the years from its commencement in 431 B.C. to the peace 431 °^ -^ic'a8 *n 421,—hence sometimes called the Ten Years' BC War. As one of its main features was the frequent invasion of Attica by the Peloponnesians, the latter called it the Attic War. The result of it was that Sparta had gained nothing, and that Athens had lost nothing except Amphipolis. By the peace of Nicias Athens kept all places which had surrendered voluntarily. Those allies of Sparta from which these places had been taken were naturally discontented. Corinth and Thebes especially were aggrieved. In spite of all the mistakes of Athens, —in spite of the desolating plague,—in spite of such reverses as the defeats at Delium and Amphipolis, and the loss of the Chalcidic towns,—Athens remained on the whole triumphant; and against what Brasidas had done for Sparta might be set the victories of Phormio and the capture of Sphacteria. On the other hand the peace of Nicias had brought disaffection into the Spartan confederacy.

Second 2. The second period of the war extends from the peace
period, 0f Nicias in 421 to the catastrophe of the Sicilian expedi-
te"*13 t'on *n ^e ^our years immediately following the
peace of Nicias are the only years during which the great
fundamental antithesis on which the whole war rested was
temporarily obscured. Many of the allies of Sparta were
discontented, and the intrigues of Alcibiades were active
among them. But it was in vain that oligarchical allies
were gained for the moment to the democratic cause. The
normal relations were soon restored. Then came the
Athenian expedition to Sicily, ending in a crushing disaster.
Thucydides thinks that the mistake lay, not so much
in an original miscalculation of strength, as in the
failure at Athens to support the expedition after it had
gone. It is indeed possible that with other guidance
Athens might have conquered Syracuse. But at least it
was essential that Athens should put forth its whole
strength, if only for the reason that no people resembled
the Athenians so closely as the Syracusans. Yet never
had the Athenians fought under greater disadvantages.
The Athenian forte was in attack ; at Syracuse they had to
act on the defensive. The bold and versatile Alcibiades
was made a public enemy. Nicias, timid and in weak
health, is opposed to Gylippus, who unites a Dorian energy
of hatred to Athens with something like Ionian command
of resource. And, when everything had been lost except
a chance of saving the army, the perversity of Nicias defeated the prudence of Demosthenes. The Sicilian disaster was the turning-point of the war. Pericles had warned the Athenians against needless ventures and a policy of aggrandizement. They had incurred a needless risk of tremendous magnitude, and had lost. If they had won, Alcibiades would probably have raised a tyranny on the ruins of their democracy.
3. The third and last period of the war is from the Third Sicilian defeat in 413 to the taking of Athens by Lysander period, in 404, a few months after the battle of iEgospotami, 413-404 This is the period called the Decelean War, because Decelea in Attica was occupied by the Spartans in 413, and continued to be a permanent base of their operations against Athens. As the seaboard of Asia Minor was the scene of much of the fighting, it is sometimes also called the Ionian War. In this last chapter the war takes a new char-acter. After the Sicilian overthrow Athens was really doomed. The Decelean War is a prolonged agony of Athenian despair. Athens had now no hope but in her ships ; and the leaders had to find their own supplies. The Spartan treasury was also empty. This want of money on both sides gave the mastery of the situation to Persia. And it was due to the factious treason of Alcibiades that the aid of Persia was given to Sparta. Athens was ulti-mately conquered, not by the Spartan confederacy, but by the disloyalty of Athenians bent on ruining political oppo-nents. The " Bevolution of the Four Hundred," with its brief success, greatly contributed to the exhaustion of the city. Even at iEgospotami, even when Lysander was before Athens, it was the baneful influence of Athenian faction that turned the scale. When Athens had been taken and the walls destroyed, Sparta was once more the first power in Greece. When Thrasybulus and the patriotic exiles had overthrown the rule of the Thirty Tyrants, they restored the Athenian democracy, but they could not re-store the old Athenian power.
Sparta itself was changed. The old Spartan institutions Altered had taught a simple reliance on disciplined strength. In charac-the Peloponnesian War Sparta had won the victory with *er °£ Persian gold. Already the love of money had found its way into the state which had once been so carefully protected from it. Differences of degree had arisen between the citizens, whose equality had been the very basis of the old Spartan life. Citizens who had been impoverished by the rise of prices, and who could no longer pay their share of the public tables, were now distinguished as "inferiors" (wroytietoves) from those who retained their full civic rights (ojuoiot). Spartan commanders abroad were not always inaccessible to bribes. The habit of military discipline indeed remained. Spartans were still distinguished, as a rule, by gallantry in the field, by care for the dead, and by attention to the ritual of the gods. Nor had the valley of the Eurotas remained closed to the higher culture of Greece. The old type of Spartan leader—the rough soldier incap-able of eloquence or of finesse—had ceased to be the only type. An Athenian might have envied the powers of persuasion and the diplomatic tact of such Spartans as Brasidas, Lysander, or Gylippus. But the qualities of the old Sparta were seldom fused into a perfect harmony with the new accomplishments. Such men as Lichas and Cal-licratidas were rare. The balance of political power, as it existed in the old constitution, had also been unsettled. The kings were still, as of old, the commanders-in-chief on land. But the new office of the admiral (ravapyos) was invested with the chief command at sea. The supreme control of the state had passed more and more into the hands of the ephors, and the ephors, chosen annually, were not always incorruptible.

Sparta had waged the Peloponnesian War in the name

Spartan of freedom. The Greek cities were to be liberated from rale in the all-absorbing tyranny of Athens. Now, however, Sparta Greece, altogether failed to redeem these pledges. On the contrary she aimed at setting up a tyranny of her own. Oligarchical governments were established, controlled in each city by a Spartan garrison under a Spartan harmost or military governor. The earliest and one of the worst cases was the tyranny of the thirty tyrants at Athens, set up by Lysander, and supported by Spartan arms until, after eight months, the Athenian exiles under Thrasybulus marched from Phyle upon Athens. The Athenian democracy was formally restored in September 403 B.C.; and the liberators used their victory with a wise moderation. Four years later Socrates was put to death, because a party blindly zealous for the old beliefs of Athens could not see that such thought as his led to the only firm basis for a new social order.
Greece The retreat of the 10,000 Greeks under Xenophon, in 401 and _ B.C, marks a turning-point in the relations of Greece to Persia. persia. It was to the Greeks a striking revelation of Persian weakness, an encouragement to schemes of invasion which would before have seemed wild. Sparta now began a war against the Persians in Asia Minor—partly to escape from the reproach of having abandoned Asiatic Hellas to the barbarian. Agesilaus, on whom the lesson of the famous retreat had not been lost, was encouraged by success to plan a bolder campaign. But in 394 B.C. the Athenian Conon, commanding the fleet raised by the satrap Pharna-Battle of bazus, utterly defeated the Spartan fleet at Cnidus. Soon Cnidus. afterwards, under his protection, the Long "Walls of Athens were restored. The Spartan power in Asia Minor was at an end. The oligarchies were overthrown, and the Spartan governors expelled. Corinth- The reverses of Sparta did not end here. At the in-ian War. stigation of Persia an alliance was formed between Athens, Thebes, Argos, and Corinth. In the territory of the latter state the allies waged war on Sparta, to whose aid Agesilaus was recalled from Asia. When the Corinthian War had Peace of lasted six years, the peace of Antalcidas was negotiated Antal- between Sparta and Persia (387 B.C.). By it the Greek cities cidas. jn ^gja> Wj(-Q Cyprus, were given up to Persia. Lemnos, Embros, and Scyros were assigned to Athens. All other Greek cities were declared independent. The meaning of this was that they were to be independent of each other— isolated for purposes of defence—and all alike dependent on the Great King. The Corinthian War had begun from Persian intrigue ; it ended with a peace dictated by Persia. But the Spartan policy had gained its own ends. The so-called " autonomy " of the Greek cities disarmed the rivals of Sparta. Now, as at the end of the Peloponnesian War, a prospect of dominion was opened to her. The Persian king, whom this disgraceful peace practically recognized as suzerain of Greece, was to be merely the guarantor of terms under which Spartan ambition might be securely pursued.
A few years later these designs met with their first
serious check. In 382 B.C. the Spartans treacherously seized
the Cadmea or citadel of Thebes. They held Thebes for
Eevolu- three years. But in 379 a party of Theban exiles, under
tion at Pelopidas, surprised the Spartan garrison and recovered the
Thebes. ^ g^jj greater discouragement to Sparta was the
New establishment of a new Athenian Confederacy-—precautions Confed™ ^emS ta^en against the members passing, as under the ra°° e e" Delian Confederacy, into the condition of mere tributaries. Thebes joined the new confederacy, and presently suc-ceeded in restoring the old Boeotian league, of whijh Thebes was the head. But the rise of Thebes had excited Athenian jealousy. Peace was made in 371 between Athens and Sparta. Thebes, thus isolated, was at once attacked by the Lacedaemonians. They invaded Boeotia, but were de-feated by the Thebans under Epaminondas at Leuctra, Theban 371 B.C. This destroyed Spartan power outside of the victory Peloponnesus. Epaminondas next invaded the Pelopoti- **aLeuc" nesus itself. He resolved to set up rivals to Sparta on her own borders. He therefore united the cities of Arcadia Epami-into a league, with a new city, Megalopolis, for its capital; nondas. and he gave independence to Messenia, which for three centuries had been subject to Sparta—laying the found-ations of a new capital, Messene, around the great natural citadel of Ithome. The Arcadian league did not long hold together. Mantinea led a group of Arcadian towns favour-able to Sparta. In 362 B.C. a battle was fought near Mantinea between the Spartans and the Thebans. The Thebans were victorious, but Epaminondas fell. With his death the temporary supremacy of Thebes came to an end. Sparta had, however, been reduced from the rank of a leading state. Xenophon closes his Hellenica with these words :—" There was more confusion (spuria) and tumult in Greece after the battle than before."
Political confusion is indeed the general characteristic General of the period between the end of the Peloponnesian War and character the Macedonian conquest of Greece. In the preceding °f ^
century Athens and Sparta had been the vigorous represent- 404-338 atives of two distinct, principles. The oligarchic cities B.C rallied round Sparta, the democratic round Athens. But at the end of the Peloponnesian War Athens was exhausted. Sparta, now predominant, but suffering from inner decay, exercised her power in such a manner as to estrange her natural allies. Thus both the normal groups of states were broken up. New and arbitrary combinations succeeded, seldom lasting long, since they were prompted merely by the interest or impulse of the hour. In this period of un-stable politics the moment most promising, perhaps, for the future of Greece was when Athens had formed a new naval confederacy, and was also allied with the Boeotian league. But the alliance was broken by Athenian jealousy of Thebes,—not to be renewed until Greek independence was on the eve of receiving its death-blow. The work of Work of Epaminondas in one sense died with him; the brief Epami-hegemony of Thebes passed away. But in another sense nou as' the results which he achieved were enduring. He had been for Thebes such a man as Pericles was for Athens-—a ruling personal influence in a democratic commonwealth; and he had raised Theban policy to the old Athenian level. The aims of Thebans were no longer confined to the circle of Theban interests; Thebes now aspired to be what Athens had been—the champion of national freedom and greatness. The power founded by Epaminondas was transient; but this large Hellenic patriotism made itself felt in some degree as a permanent inspiration, preparing the Thebans to stand by the Athenians in the last struggle for Greek freedom.

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