1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Peloponnesian War

20294201911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 21 — Peloponnesian WarJohn Malcolm Mitchell

PELOPONNESIAN WAR, in Greek history, the name given specially to the struggle between Athens at the head of the Delian League and the confederacy of which Sparta was the leading power.[1] According to Tlrucydides the war, which was in his view the greatest that had ever occurred in Greece, lasted from 431 to the downfall of Athens in 404. The genius of Thucydides has given to the struggle the importance of an epoch in world history, but his view is open to two main criticisms—(1) that the war was in its ultimate bearings little more than a local disturbance, viewed from the standpoint of universal history; (2) that it cannot be called a war in the strict sense. The former of these criticisms is justified in the article on Greece: History (q.v.). Unless we are to believe that the Macedonian supremacy is directly traceable to the mutual weakening of the Greek cities in 431–403, it is difficult to see what lasting importance attaches to the war. As regards the second, a few chief difficulties may be indicated. The very narrative even of Thucydides himself shows that the “war” was not a connected whole. It may be divided into three main periods—(1) from 431 to 421 (Lysias calls it the “Archidamian” War), when the Peace of Nicias, not merely formally, but actually produced a cessation of hostilities; (2) from 421 till the intervention of Sparta in the Sicilian War; during these years there was no “Peloponnesian War,” and there were several years in which there was in reality no fighting at all: the Sicilian expedition was in fact a side issue; (3) from 413 to 404, when fighting was carried on mainly in the Aegean Sea (Isocrates calls this the “Decelean” War). The disjointed character of the struggle is so obvious from Thucydides himself that historians have come to the conclusion that the idea of treating the whole struggle as a single unit was ex post facto (see Greece: History, § A, “Ancient” ad fin).

The book itself affords evidence which goes far to justify this view. A very important problem is presented by bk. v., which is obviously put in as a connecting link to prove a theory. Thucydides expressly warns us not to regard the period of this book as one of peace, and yet the very contents of the book refute his argument. In 419 and 417 there is practically no fighting: the Mantinean War of 418 is a disconnected episode which did not lead to a resumption of hostilities: in 420 there are only obscure battles in Thrace: in 416 there is only the expedition to Melos, and finally from 421 to 413 there is official peace. Other details may be cited in corroboration. Book v. (ch. 26) contains a second introduction to the subject; ὅδε ὁ πόλεμος in i 23 and iv. 48 is the Archidamian or Ten Years' War; in v. 26 we read of a πρῶτος πόλεμος, a ὕστερος πόλεμος and an ἀνακωχή. Some critics think on these and other grounds that Thucydides wrote and published bks i.-v. 25 by itself, then bks. vi. and vii (Sicilian expedition), and finally revising his view joined them into one whole by the somewhat unsatisfactory bk. v. 26 and following chapters, and began to round off the story with the incomplete bk. viii. (on this see Greece: History, as above). It is perhaps most probable that he retained notes made contemporarily and worked them up some time after 404, in a few passages failing to correct inconsistencies and dying before bk viii. was completed. The general introduction in bk. i. was unquestionably written shortly after 404.

The causes of the war thus understood are complex. The view taken by Thucydides that Sparta was the real foe of Athens has been much modified by modern writers. The key to the situation is in fact the commercial rivalry of the Corinthians, whose trade (mainly in the West) had been seriously limited by the naval expansion of the Delian League. This rivalry was roused to fever heat by the Athenian intervention in 434–33 on behalf of Corcyra, Corinth's rebellious colony (see Corfu) and from that time the Corinthians felt that the Thirty Years' Truce was at an end. An opportunity soon offered for making a counter attack. Potidaea, a Dorian town on the western promontory of Chalcidice in Thrace, a tributary ally of Athens—to which however Corinth as metropolis still sent annual magistrates—was induced to revolt,[2] with the support of the Macedonian king Perdiccas, formerly an Athenian ally. The Athenian Phormio succeeded in blockading the city so that its capture was merely a question of time, and this provided the Corinthians with an urgent reason for declaring war.

Prior to these episodes Athens had not been in hostile contact with any of the Peloponnesian confederate states for more than ten years, and Pericles had abandoned a great part of his imperial policy. He now laid an embargo upon Megara by which the Megarians were forbidden on pain of death to pursue trading operations with any part of the Athenian Empire. The circumstances of this decree (or decrees) are not material to the present argument (see Grote, History of Greece, ed. 1907, p. 370 note) except that it turned special attention to the commercial supremacy which Athens claimed to enjoy. In 432 a conference of Peloponnesian allies was summoned and the Corinthian envoys urged the Spartans to declare war on the ground that the power of Athens was becoming so great as to constitute a danger to the other states. This might have been urged with justice before the Thirty Years' Truce (447); but by that truce Athens gave up all her conquests in Greece proper except Naupactus and Plataea, while her solitary gains in Amphipolis and Thurii were compensated by other losses. The fact that the Corinthian argument failed to impress Sparta and many of the delegates is shown by the course of the debate. What finally impelled the Spartans to agree to the war was the veiled threat by the Corinthians that they would be driven into another alliance (i.e. Argos, i. 71). We can hardly regard Sparta as the determined enemy of Athens at this time. Only twice since 461 had she been at war with Athens—in 457 (Tanagra) and 447, when she deliberately abstained from pushing the advantage which the revolt in Euboea provided, she had refused to help the oligarchs of Samos in 440. Corinth however had not only strong, but also immediate and urgent reasons (Potidaea and Corcyra) for desiring war. It has been argued that the war was ultimately a struggle between the principles of oligarchy and democracy. This view, however, cannot be taken of the early stages of the war when there was democracy and oligarchy on both sides (see ad fin.); it is only in the later stages that the political difference is prominent.

The Opposing Forces.—The permanent strength of the Peloponnesian confederacy lay in the Peloponnesian states, all of which except Argos and Achaea were united under Sparta's leadership. But it included also extra-Peloponnesian states—viz. Megara, Phocis, Boeotia and Locris (which had formed part of the Athenian land empire), and the maritime colonies round the Ambracian Gulf. The organization was not elaborate. The federal assembly with few exceptions met only in time of war, and then only when Sparta agreed to summon it. It met in Sparta and the delegates, having stated their views before the Spartan Apella, withdrew till the Apella had come to a decision. The delegates were then invited to return and to confirm that decision. It is clear that the link was purely one of common interest, and that Sparta had little or no control over, e.g. so powerful a confederate as Corinth. Sparta was the chief member of the confederacy (hegemon), but the states were autonomous. In time of war each had to provide two-thirds of its forces, and that state in whose territory the war was to take place had to equip its whole force.

The Athenian Empire is described elsewhere (Delian League, Athens). Here it must suffice to point out that there was among the real and technical allies no true bond of interest, and that many of the states were in fact bound by close ties to members of the Peloponnesian confederacy (e.g. Potidaea to Corinth) Sparta could not only rely on voluntary co-operation but could undermine Athenian influence by posing as the champion of autonomy. Further, Thucydides is wrong on his own showing in saying that Sparta refused to tolerate democratic government in confederate cities: it was not till after 418 that this policy was adopted. Athens, on the other hand, had undoubtedly interfered in the interest of democracy in various allied states (see Delian League).

No detailed examination of the comparative military and naval resources of the combatants can here be attempted. On land the Peloponnesians were superior: they had at least 30,000 hoplites not including 10,000 from Central Greece and Boeotia; these soldiers were highly trained. The Athenian army was undoubtedly smaller. There has been considerable discussion as to the exact figures, the evidence in Thucydides being highly confusing, but it is most probable that the available fighting force was not more than half that of the Peloponnesian confederacy. Even of these we learn (Thuc. iii 87) that 4400 died in the great plague. The only light-armed force was that of Boeotia at Delium (10,000 with 500 peltasts). Of cavalry Athens had 1000, Boeotia a similar number. The only other cavalry force as that of Thessaly, which, had it been loyal to Athens, would have meant a distinct superiority. In naval power the Athenians undoubtedly had an overwhelming advantage at the beginning, both in numbers and in training.

Financially Athens had an enormous apparent advantage. She began with a revenue of 1000 talents (including 600 from σίμμαχος), and had also, in spite of the heavy expense which the building schemes of Pericles had involved, a reserve of 6000 talents. The Peloponnesians had no reserve and no fixed revenue assessment. On the other hand the Peloponnesian armies were unpaid, while Athens had to spend considerable sums on the payment of crews and mercenaries. In the last stages of the war the issue was determined by the poverty of Athens and Persian gold.

The events of the struggle from 431 to 404 may be summarized in the three periods distinguished above.

1. The Ten Years' or Archidamian War.—The Spartans sent to Athens no formal declaration of war but rather sought first to create some specious casus belli by sending requisitions to Athens. The first, intended to inflame the existing hostilities against Pericles (q.v.) in Athens, was that he should be expelled the city as being an Alcmaeonid (grand-nephew of Cleisthenes) and so implicated in the curse pronounced on the murderers of Cylon nearly 200 years before. This outrageous demand was followed by three others—that the Athenians should (1) withdraw from Potidaea, (2) restore autonomy to Aegina, and (3) withdraw the embargo on Megarian commerce. Upon the refusal of all these demands Sparta finally made the maintenance of peace contingent upon the restoration by Athens of autonomy to all her allies. Under the guidance of Pericles Athens replied that she would do nothing on compulsion, but was prepared to submit difficulties to amicable arbitration on the basis of mutual concessions. Before anything could come of this proposal, matters were precipitated (end of March 431) by the attack of Thebes upon Plataea (q.v.), which immediately sought and obtained the aid of Athens. War was begun. The Spartan king Archidamus assembled his army, sent a herald to announce his approach, marched into Attica and besieged Oenoe.

Meanwhile Pericles had decided to act on the defensive, i.e. to abandon Attica, collect all its residents in Athens and treat Athens as an island, retaining meanwhile command of the sea and making descents on Peloponnesian shores. The policy, which Thucydides and Grote commend, had grave defects though it is by no means easy to suggest a better, e.g. it meant the ruin of the landed class, it tended to spoil the moral of those who from the walls of Athens annually watched the wasting of their homesteads, and it involved the many perils of an overcrowded city—a peril increased by, if not also the cause of, the plague. Moreover sea power was not everything, and delay exhausted the financial reserves of the state, while financial considerations as we have seen, were comparatively unimportant to the Peloponnesians. The descents on the Peloponnese were futile in the extreme.

Archidamus, having wasted much territory, including Acharnae, retired at the end of July. The Athenians retaliated by attacking Methone (which was secured by Brasidas), by successes in the West, by expelling all Aeginetans from Aegina (which was made a cleruchy), and by wasting the Megarid.

In 430 Archidamus again invaded Attica, systematically wasting the country. Shortly after he entered Attica plague broke out in Athens, borne thither by traders from Carthage or Egypt (Holm, Greek History, ii. 346 note). The effect upon the overcrowded population of the city was terrible. Of the 1200 cavalry (including mounted archers) 300 died, together with 4400 hoplites; altogether the estimate of Diodorus (xii. 58) that more than 10,000 citizens and slaves succumbed is by no means excessive. None the less Pericles sailed with 100 triremes, and ravaged the territory near Epidaurus. Subsequently he returned and the expedition proceeded to Potidaea. But the plague went with them and no results were achieved. The enemies of Pericles, who even with the aid of Spartan intrigue had hitherto failed to harm his prestige, now succeeded in inducing the desperate citizens to fine him for alleged malversation. The verdict, however, shocked public feeling and Pericles was reinstated in popular favour as strategus (c. Aug. 430). About a year later he died. In the autumn of 430 a Spartan attack on Zacynthus failed and the Ambraciots were repulsed from Amphilochian Argos. In reply Athens sent Phormio to Naupactus to watch her interests in that quarter. In the winter Potidaea capitulated, receiving extremely favourable terms.

In 429 the Peloponnesians were deterred by the plague from invading Attica and laid siege to Plataea in the interests of Thebes. The Athenians failed in an expedition to Chalcidice under Xenophon, while the Spartan Cnemus with Chaonian and Epirot allies was repulsed from Stratus, capital of Acarnania, and Phormio with only 20 ships defeated the Corinthian fleet of 47 sail in the Gulf of Corinth. Orders were at once sent from Sparta to repair this disaster and 77 ships were equipped. Help sent from Athens was diverted to Crete, and after much manoeuvring Phormio was compelled to fight off Naupactus. Nine of his ships were driven ashore, but with the other 11 he subsequently defeated the enemy and recovered the lost nine. With the reinforcement which arrived afterwards he established complete control of the western seas. A scheme for operating with Sitalces against the Chalcidians of Thrace fell through, and Sitalces joined Perdiccas.

The year 428 was marked by a third invasion of Attica and by the revolt of Lesbos from Athens. After delay in fruitless negotiations the Athenian Cleippides, and afterwards Paches, besieged Mytilene, which appealed to Sparta. The Peloponnesian confederacy resolved to aid the rebels both directly and by a counter demonstration against Athens. The Athenians, though their reserve of 6000 talents was by now almost exhausted (except for 1000 talents in a special reserve), made a tremendous effort (raising 200 talents by a special property tax), and not only prevented an invasion by a demonstration of 100 triremes at the Isthmus, but sent Asopius, son of Phormio, to take his place in the western seas. In spring 427 the Spartans again invaded Attica without result. The winter of 428-427 was marked by the daring escape of half the Plataean garrison under cover of a stormy night, and by the capitulation of Mytilene, which was forced upon the oligarchic rulers by the democracy. The Spartan fleet arrived too late and departed without attempting to recover the town. Paches cleared the Asiatic seas of the enemy, reduced the other towns of Mytilene and returned to Athens with upwards of 1000 prisoners. An assembly was held and under the invective of Cleon (q.v.) it was decided to kill all male Mytileneans of military age and to sell the women and children as slaves. This decree, though in accordance with the rigorous customs of ancient warfare as exemplified by the treatment which Sparta shortly afterwards meted out to the Plataeans, shocked the feelings of Athens, and on the next day it was (illegally) rescinded just in time to prevent Paches carrying it out. The thousand[3] oligarchic prisoners were however executed, and Lesbos was made a cleruchy.

Meanwhile there occurred civil war in Corcyra, in which ultimately, with the aid of the Athenian admiral Eurymedon, the democracy triumphed amid scenes of the wildest savagery. In the autumn of the year Nicias fortified Minoa at the mouth of the harbour of Megara. Shortly afterwards the Spartans planted an unsuccessful colony at Heraclea in the Trachinian territory north-west of Thermopylae.

In the summer of 426 Nicias led a predatory expedition along the north-west coast without achieving any positive victory. More important, though equally ineffective, was the scheme of Demosthenes to march from Naupactus through Aetolia, subduing the wild hill tribes, to Cytinium in Doris (in the upper valleys of the Cephissus) and thence into Boeotia, which was to be attacked simultaneously from Attica. The scheme was crushed by the courage and skill of the Aetolians, who thereupon summoned Spartan and Corinthian aid for a counter attack on Naupactus. Demosthenes averted this, and immediately afterwards by superior tactics inflicted a complete defeat at Olpae in Acarnania on Eurylochus at the head of a Spartan and Ambracian force. An Ambracian reinforcement was annihilated at one of the peaks called Idomene, and a disgraceful truce was accepted by the surviving Spartan leader Menedaeus. This was not only the worst disaster which befell any powerful state up to the peace of Nicias (as Thucydides says), but was a serious blow to Corinth, whose trade on the West was, as we have seen, one of the chief causes of the war.

The year 425 is remarkable for the Spartan disaster of Pylos (q.v.). The Athenians had dispatched 40 triremes under Eurymedon and Procles to Sicily with orders to call first at Corcyra to prevent an expected Spartan attack. Meantime Demosthenes had formed the plan of planting the Messenians of Naupactus in Messenia—now Spartan territory—and obtained permission to accompany the expedition. The fleet was, as it chanced, delayed by a storm in the Bay of Navarino, and rough fortifications were put up by the sailors on the promontory of Pylos. Demosthenes was left behind in this fort, and the Spartans promptly withdrew from their annual raid upon Attica and their projected attack on Corcyra to dislodge him. After a naval engagement (see Pylos) a body of Spartan hoplites were cut oft on Sphacteria. So acutely did Sparta feel their position that an offer of peace was made on condition that the hoplites should go free. The eloquence of Cleon frustrated the peace party's desire to accept these terms, and ultimately to the astonishment of the Greek world the Spartan hoplites to the number of 292 surrendered unconditionally (see Cleon).

Thus in 424 the Athenians had seriously damaged the prestige of Sparta, and broken Corinthian supremacy in the north-west, and the Peloponnesians had no fleet. This was the zenith of their success, and it was unfortunate for them that they declined the various offers of peace which Sparta made. The next two years changed the whole position. The doubling of the tribute in 425 pressed hardly on the allies (see Delian League): Nicias failed in a plot with the democratic party in Megara to seize that town; and the brilliant campaigns of Brasidas (q.v.) in the north-east, culminating in the capture of Amphipolis (422), finally destroyed the Athenian hopes of recovering their land empire, and entirely restored the balance of success and Spartan prestige. Moreover, the admirably conceived scheme for a simultaneous triple attack upon Boeotia at Chaeronea in the north, Delium in the south-east, and Siphae in the south-west had fallen through owing to the inefficiency of the generals. The scheme, which probably originated with the atticizing party in Thebes, resulted in the severe defeat of Hippocrates at Delium by the Boeotians under Pagondas, and was a final blow to the policy of an Athenian land empire.

These disasters at Megara, Amphipolis and Delium left Athens with only one trump card—the possession of the Spartan hoplites captured in Sphacteria. This solitary success had already in the spring of 423 induced Sparta in spite of the successes which Brasidas was achieving in Thrace to accept the “truce of Laches ”—which, however, was rendered abortive by the refusal of Brasidas to surrender Scione. The final success of Brasidas at Amphipolis, where both he and Cleon were killed, paved the way for a more permanent agreement, the peace parties at Athens and Sparta being in the ascendant.

2. From 421 to 413.—Peace was signed in March 421 on the basis of each side's surrendering what had been acquired by the war, not including those cities which had been acquired by capitulation. It was to last for fifty years. Its weak points, however, were numerous. Whereas Sparta had been least of all the allies interested in the war, and apart from the campaigns of Brasidas had on the whole taken little part in it, her allies benefited least by the terms of the Peace. Corinth did not regain Sollium and Anactorium, while Megara and Thebes respectively were indignant that Athens should retain Nisaea and receive Panactum. These and other reasons rapidly led to the isolation of Sparta, and there was a general refusal to carry out the terms of agreement. The history of the next three years is therefore one of complex inter-state intrigues combined with internal political convulsions. In 421 Sparta and Athens concluded a defensive alliance; the Sphacterian captives were released and Athens promised to abandon Pylos. Such a peace, giving Sparta everything and Athens nothing but Sparta's bare alliance, was due to the fact that Nicias and Alcibiades were both seeking Sparta's friendship. At this time the Fifty Years' Truce between Sparta and Argos was expiring. The Peloponnesian malcontents turned to Argos as a new leader, and an alliance was formed between Argos, Corinth, Elis, Mantinea and the Thraceward towns (420). This coalition between two different elements—an anti-oligarchic party and a war party—had no chance of permanent existence. The war party in Sparta regained its strength under new ephors and negotiations began for an alliance between Sparta, Argos and Boeotia. The details cannot here be discussed. The result was a re-shuffling of the cards. The democratic states of the Peloponnese were driven, partly by the intrigues of Alcibiades, now anti-Laconian, into alliance with Athens, with the object of establishing a democratic Peloponnese under the leadership of Argos. These unstable combinations were soon after upset by Alcibiades himself, who, having succeeded in displacing Nicias as strategus in 419, allowed Athenian troops to help in attacking Epidaurus. For a cause not easy to determine Alcibiades was defeated by Nicias in the election to the post of strategus in the next year, and the suspicions of the Peloponnesian coalition were roused by the inadequate assistance sent by Athens, which arrived too late to assist Argos when the Spartan king Agis marched against it. Ultimately the Spartans were successful over the coalition at Mantinea, and soon afterwards an oligarchic revolution at Argos led to an alliance between that city and Sparta (c. Feb. 417). This oligarchy was overthrown again in June, and the new democracy having vainly sought an agreement with Sparta rejoined Athens. It was thus left to Athens to expend men and money on protecting a democracy by the aid of which she had hoped practically to control the Peloponnesus. All this time, however, the alliance between her and Sparta was not officially broken.

The unsatisfactory character of the Athenian Peloponnesian coalition was one of the negative causes which led up to the Sicilian Expedition of 415. Another negative cause may be found in the failure of an attempt or attempts to subdue the Thraceward towns. By combining the evidence of Plutarch (in his comparison of Nicias and Crassus), Thuc. v. 83, and the inscription which gives the treasury payments for 418-415 (Hicks and Hill, Gr. Hist. Inscr. 70), we can scarcely doubt that there were expeditions in 418 (Euthydemus) and the summer of 417 (Nicias), and that in the winter of 417 a blockading squadron under Chaeremon was dispatched. This policy—which was presumably that of Nicias in opposition to Alcibiades—having failed, the way was cleared for a reassertion of that policy of western conquest which had always had advocates from Themistocles onward in Athens,[4] and was part of the democratic programme.

The tragic fiasco of the Sicilian expedition, involving the death of Nicias and the loss of thousands of men and hundreds of ships, was a blow from which Athens never recovered (see under Syracuse and Sicily). Even before the final catastrophe the Spartans had reopened hostilities. On the advice of Alcibiades (q.v.), exiled from Athens in 415, they had fortified Decelea in Attica within fifteen miles of Athens. This place not only served as a permanent headquarters for predatory expeditions, but cut off the revenue from the Laurium mines, furnished a ready asylum for runaway slaves, and rendered the transference of supplies from Euboea considerably more difficult (i.e. by the sea round Cape Sunium). Athens thus entered upon the third stage of the conflict with exceedingly poor prospects.

3. The Ionian or Decelean War.—From the Athenian standpoint this war may be broken up into three periods: (1) period of revolt of allies (413-411), (2) the rally (410-408), (3) the relapse (407-404). As contrasted with the Archidamian War, this war was fought almost exclusively in the Aegean Sea, the enemy was primarily Sparta, and the deciding factor was Persian gold. Furthermore, apart from the gradual disintegration of the empire, Athens was disturbed by political strife.

In 412 many Ionian towns revolted, and appealed either to Agis at Decelea or to Sparta direct. Euboea, Lesbos, Chios, Erythrae led the way in negotiation and revolt, and simultaneously the court of Susa instructed the satraps Pharnabazus and Tissaphernes to renew the collection of tribute from the Greek cities of Asia Minor. The satraps likewise made overtures to Sparta. The revolt of the Ionian allies was due in part to Alcibiades also, whose prompt action in co-operation with his friend the ephor Endius finally confirmed the Chian oligarchs in their purpose. In 411 a treaty was signed by Sparta and Tissaphernes against Athens: the treaty formally surrendered to the Persian king all territory which he or his predecessors had held. It was subsequently renewed in a form somewhat less disgraceful to Greek patriotism by the Spartans Astyochus and Theramenes. On the other hand, a democratic rising in Samos prevented the rebellion of that island, which for the remainder of the war was invaluable to Athens as a stronghold lying between the two great centres of the struggle.

After the news of the Sicilian disaster Athens was compelled at last to draw on the reserve of 1000 talents which had lain untouched in the treasury.[5] The revolt of the Ionian allies, and (in 411) the loss of the Hellespontine, Thracian and Island tributes (see Delian League), very seriously crippled her finances. On the other hand, Tissaphernes undertook to pay the Peloponnesian sailors a daily wage of one Attic drachma (afterwards reduced to ½ drachma). In Attica itself Athens lost Oenoe and Oropus, and by the end of 411 only one quarter of the empire remained. In the meanwhile Tissaphernes began to play a double game with the object of wasting the strength of the combatants. Moreover Alcibiades lost the confidence of the Spartans and passed over to Tissaphernes, at whose disposal he placed his great powers of diplomacy, at the same time scheming for his restoration to Athens. He opened negotiations with the Athenian leaders in Samos and urged them to upset the democracy and establish a philo-Persian oligarchy. After elaborate intrigues, in the course of which Alcibiades played false to the conspirators by forcing them to abandon the idea of friendship with Tissaphernes owing to the exorbitant terms proposed, the new government by the Four Hundred was set up in Athens (see Theramenes). This government (which received no support from the armament in Samos) had a brief life, and on the final revolt of Euboea was replaced by the old democratic system. Alcibiades (q.v.) was soon afterwards invited to return to Athens.

The war, which, probably because of financial trouble, the Spartans had neglected to pursue when Athens was thus in the throes of political convulsion, was now resumed. After much manœuvring and intrigues a naval battle was fought at Cynossema in the Hellespont in which victory on the whole rested with the Athenians (Aug. 411), though the net result was inconsiderable. About this time the duplicity of Tissaphernes—who having again and again promised a Phoenician fleet and having actually brought it to the Aegean finally dismissed it on the excuse of trouble in the Levant—and the vigorous honesty of Pharnabazus definitely transferred the Peloponnesian forces to the north-west coast of Asia Minor and the Hellespont. There they were regularly financed by Pharnabazus, while the Athenians were compelled to rely on forced levies. In spite of this handicap Alcibiades, who had been seized and imprisoned by Tissaphernes at Sardis but effected his escape, achieved a remarkable victory over the Spartan Mindarus at Cyzicus (about April 410). So complete was the destruction of the Peloponnesian fleet that, according to Diodorus, peace was offered by Sparta (see ad fin.)and would have been accepted but for the warlike speeches of the “demagogue” Cleophon representing the extreme democrats.[6] Another result was the return to allegiance (409) of a number of the north-east cities of the empire. Great attempts were made by the Athenians to hold the Hellespont and then to protect the corn-supply from the Black Sea. In Greece these gains were compensated by the loss of Pylos and Nisaea.

In 408 Alcibiades effectively invested Chalcedon, which surrendered by agreement with Pharnabazus, and subsequently Byzantium also fell into his hands with the aid of some of its inhabitants.

Pharnabazus, weary of bearing the whole cost of the war for the Peloponnesians, agreed to a period of truce so that envoys might visit Susa, but at this stage the whole position was changed by the appointment of Cyrus the Younger as satrap of Lydia, Greater Phrygia and Cappadocia. His arrival coincided with the appointment of Lysander (c. Dec. 408) as Spartan admiral—the third of the three great commanders (Brasidas and Gylippus being the others) whom Sparta produced during the war. Cyrus promptly agreed on the special request of Lysander (q.v.) to pay slightly increased wages to the sailors, while Lysander established a system of anti-Athenian clubs and oligarchic governments in various cities. Meanwhile Alcibiades (May 407), having exacted levies in Caria, returned at length to Athens and was elected strategus with full powers (see Strategus). He raised a large force of men and ships and endeavoured to draw Lysander (then at Ephesus) into an engagement. But Cyrus and Lysander were resolved not to fight till they had a clear advantage, and Alcibiades took a small squadron to Phocaea. In spite of his express orders his captain Antiochus in his absence provoked a battle and was defeated and killed at Notium. This failure and the refusal of Lysander to fight again destroyed the confidence which Alcibiades had so recently regained. Ten strategi were appointed to supersede him and he retired to fortified ports in the Chersonese which he had prepared for such an emergency (c. Jan. 406). At the same time Lysander's year of office expired and he was superseded by Callicratidas, to the disgust of all those whom he had so carefully organized in his service. Callicratidas, an honourable man of pan-Hellenic patriotism, was heavily handicapped in the fact that Cyrus declined to afford him the help which had made Lysander powerful, and had recourse to the Milesians and Chians, with whose aid he fitted out a fleet of 140 triremes (only 10 Spartan). With these he pursued Conon (chief of the ten new Athenian strategi), captured 30 of his 70 ships and besieged him in Mytilene. Faced with inevitable destruction, Conon succeeded in sending the news to Athens, where by extraordinary efforts a fleet of 110 ships was at once equipped. Callicratidas, hearing of this fleet's approach, withdrew from Mytilene, leaving Eteonicus in charge of the blockade. Forty more ships were collected by the Athenians, who met and defeated Callicratidas at Arginusae with a loss of more than half his fleet. The immediate result was that Eteonicus left Mytilene and Conon found himself free. Unfortunately the victorious generals at Arginusae, through negligence or owing to a storm, failed to recover the bodies of those of their crews who were drowned or killed in the action. They were therefore recalled, tried and condemned to death, except two who had disobeyed the order to return to Athens.

At this point Lysander was again sent out, nominally as secretary to the official admiral Aracus Cyrus, recalled to Susa by the illness of Darius, left him in entire control of his satrapy. Thus strengthened he sailed to Lampsacus on the Hellespont and laid siege to it. Conon, now in charge of the Athenian fleet, sailed against him, but the fleet was entirely destroyed while at anchor at Aegospotami (Sept. 405), Conon escaping with only 12 out of 180 sail to Cyprus. In April 404 Lysander sailed into the Peiraeus, took possession of Athens, and destroyed the Long Walls and the fortifications of Peiraeus. An oligarchical government was set up (see Critias), and Lysander having compelled the capitulation of Samos, the last Athenian stronghold, sailed in triumph to Sparta.

Two questions of considerable importance for the full understanding of the Peloponnesian War may be selected for special notice (1) how far was it a war between two antagonistic theories of government, oligarchic and democratic? and (2) how far was Athenian statesmanship at fault in declining the offers of peace which Sparta made?

1. A common theory is that Sparta fought throughout the war as an advocate of oligarchy, while Athens did not seek to interfere with the constitutional preferences of her allies. The view is based partly on Thuc. i. 19, according to which the Spartans took care that their allies should adhere to a policy convenient to themselves. This idea is disproved by Thucydides' own narrative, which shows that down to 418 (the battle of Mantinea) Sparta tolerated democratic governments in Peloponnesus itself—e.g. Elis, Mantinea, Sicyon, Achaea. It was only after that date that democracy was suppressed in the Peloponnesian League, and even then Mantinea remained democratic. In point of fact, it was only when Lysander became the representative of Spartan foreign policy—i.e. in the last years of the war—that Sparta was identified with the oligarchic policy.

On the other hand, there is strong evidence that the Athenian Empire at a much earlier date was based upon a uniform democratic type of government (cf. Thuc. i. 19, viii. 64; Xen. Pol. i. 14, Hell. iii. 47, Arist. Pol. viii. 69). It is true that we find oligarchic government in Chios and Lesbos (up to 428) and in Samos (up to 440), but this is discounted by the fact that all three were “autonomous” allies. Moreover, in the case of Samos there was a democracy in 439, though in 412 the government was again oligarchic. The case of Selymbria (see Hicks and Hill, op. cit. 77) is of little account, because at that time (409) the Empire was in extremis. In general we find that Athenian orators take special credit on the ground that the Athenian had given to her alhes the constitutional advantages which they themselves enjoyed.

2. In view of the disastrous issue of the war, it is important to notice that on three occasions—(a) after Pylos, (b) after Cyzicus, (c) after Arginusae—Athens refused formal peace proposals from Sparta. (a) Though Cleon was probably wise in opposing peace negotiations before the capture of the Spartans in Sphacteria, it seems in the light of subsequent events that he was wrong to refuse the terms which were offered after the hoplites had been captured. No doubt, howexer, the temper in Athens was at that time predominantly warlike, and the surrender of the hoplites was a unique triumph. Possibly, too, Cleon foresaw that peace would have meant a triumph for the philo-Laconian party. (b) The peace proposals of 410 are given by Diodorus, who says that the ephor Endius proposed that a peace should be made on the basis of uti possidetis, except that Athens should evacuate Pylos and Cythera, and Sparta, Decelea. Cleophon, however, perhaps doubting whether the offer was sincere (cf. Philochorus in Schol. ap. Eurip. Orest. 371; Fragm. ed. Didot, 117, 118), demanded the status quo ante (413 or 431). (c) The proposals of 406, mentioned by Ath. Pol. 34, were on the same lines, except that Athens no longer had Pylos and Cythera, and had lost practically half her empire. At this time peace must therefore have been advantageous to Athens as showing the world that in spite of her losses she was still one of the great powers of Greece. Moreover, an alliance with Sparta would have meant a check to Persian interference. It is probable, again, that party interest was a leading motive in Cleophon’s mind, since a peace would have meant the return of the oligarchic exiles and the establishment of a moderate oligarchy.

Authorities. Busolt, Griech. Gesch., Bd. iii., Teil ii. (1904), “Der Peloponnesische Krieg” is essential. All histories of Greece may be consulted (see Greece: History, Ancient, section “Authorities”).  (J. M. M.) 

  1. Some historians prefer to call it the Second Peloponnesian War, the first being that of 457, which ended with the Thirty Years' Peace.
  2. The importance of this revolt lay in the fact that it immediately involved danger to Athens throughout the Chalcidic promontories, and her north-east possessions generally.
  3. So Thuc. iii. 50. It is suggested that this number is an error for 30 or 50 (i.e., Λ or N for A). It seems incredible that 1000 could be described as “ringleaders” out of a population of perhaps 5000.
  4. In 454 Athens made a treaty with Segesta (inscr. Hicks and Hill, Greek Hist. Inscr. 34); in 433 with Rhegium and Leontini (Hicks and Hill, 51 and 52; cf. Thuc. iii 86, παλαιὰ συμμαχία with Chalcidic towns in Sicily), in 444 the colony of Thurii was founded; in 427 (see above) 60 ships were sent to Sicily; and if we may believe Aristophanes (Eq. 1302) Hyperbolus asked for 100 triremes for Carthage.
  5. She had already abolished the system of tribute in favour of a 5% ad valorem tax on all imports and exports carried by sea between her ports and those of the allies.
  6. Xenophon, Hell. does not mention it: Thucydides's history had by this time come to an end.