The Peloponnesian Wars (Week 20 History Essay)

(This essay is a follow-up to this one, so I recommend you read that first. Thanks!)

The Peloponnesian Wars were a set of wars between Athens and Sparta.

After the Persians were defeated in 481, Athens and Sparta decided to call off their allegiance, Sparta leaving from it. Overtime, Sparta and Athens had many small conflicts that eventually built up so much tension to the point of a war breaking out between the two city-states. Megara and Corinth started the fighting, which made Athens break its alliance with Megara, which at the time was also a Spartan ally. Athens remained in control of the Delian League (a league of Athenian allies) and opposed the allies of Sparta.

The war lasted 15 years, and Athens had the upper hand, taking control of Megara and other Spartan allies. However, a little bit later, Sparta invaded Attica (an Athenian ally), which forced Athens to return its conquered land. The Thirty Year’s Peace was signed in 446 B.C. and it was agreed that Athens and Sparta would have its own ally system. However, one city-state broke it.

It was Athens.

They imposed trade sanctions on Megara (basically they said ‘no trades for you’), and fought a battle on which they had no stake in. They also demanded the walls of Corinth be torn down. The Spartan assembly agreed in 432 B.C. that Athens had violated the treaty, and then they started a war on Athens. This was called the Archidamian War, and it lasted for 17 years.

The Archidamian War started by Sparta invading the land around Athens. This was a common threat in the wars, but Sparta would have to leave the areas, due to other invasions on Sparta or rebellions nearby. The Athenians were led by Pericles, a naval general who promoted the policy of using Athens’ strong navy to ravage Sparta’s coast. This plan worked, and Athens won a victory against Sparta. However, a plague struck Athens, killing 30,000 people, which was about 1/3 of Athens’ population.

Despite that, Athens still managed to revive its navy and head out to war. The fleet was led by Demosthenes and won a significant in 425. Cleon from Athens came and finished off the rest of the stranded Spartans.

But little did Athens know, general Brasidas of Sparta marched an army against an Athenian colony. That colony was Amphipolis, the main source of Athens’ silver trade. Thucydides, an Athenian general, was defeated and then exiled. He wrote a book about the wars afterward.

The war had a brief peace treaty after Cleon and Brasidas were killed during the battle Amphipolis. The peace lasted for six years before Athens incited a rebellion against Sparta’s allies. However, Sparta prevailed and regained control of the Peloponnesian league.

After 17th year of wars, the battleground moved to Sicily. Athens went to defend its colonies against Syracuse and Sparta went to reinforce Syracuse. Sparta won its first naval victory, and it controlled Athen’s future.

Athens grew weak, and during that time Sparta found many other regions to ally with. The Syracusians and the Ionians rose up against Athens. The Persians also sided with Sparta promising ships and money to aid them in war.

The Athenians and Spartans continued to fight, but Athens started to win several victories that had it back on its feet. But in 406, the Spartans, led by Lysander, won the battle of Notium.

After the battle, the Spartans ran towards the Hellespont, which was owned by Athens and provided most of Athens grain. The Athenians engaged in combat with them but lost. Then in 404, Athens surrendered and gave up its fleet, and all its colonies and walls were torn down.

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