Contents Introduction 7 Chronology 9 Background to war The rise of Athens 11 Warring sides Athens and Sparta 19 Outbreak Fear and suspicion lead to war 28 The fighting The first twenty years 33 Portrait of a soldier A ships captain at war 63 The world around war Politics and culture 73 Portrait of a civilian Hipparete, an Athenian citizen woman 79 How the war ended The fall of Athens 85 Conclusion and consequences The triumph of Sparta? 91 Further reading 93 Index 94
IntroductionThis book gives a concise account of one of Thucydides work is incomplete, tailing offthe key periods of Classical Greek history. literally in mid sentence, just as he isThe Peloponnesian War, which lasted from explaining what happened after an Athenian431 to 404 BC, was a conflict between the naval victory in 411. It is likely that he hadGreek city-states of Athens and Sparta. It was either died, or at least stopped working on ita confrontation between the leading land by 396 because he does not seem to knowpower of the time, Sparta, and the leading sea about an eruption of Mount Etna on Sicilypower, Athens. In a wider sense it was also a that occurred in this year. We do not knowclash between a cautious, traditional whether he simply had not written any ofoligarchy and an ambitious, innovative the remaining books which would havedemocracy. It is called the Peloponnesian War covered the period 410 to 404 (there werebecause Sparta was the head of an alliance of probably to be two more), or whether he hadGreek states from the Peloponnese, the drafts or notes but no final versions.southernmost peninsula of mainland Greece. Another Athenian historian, Xenophon,The stories of the Peloponnesian War feature continued the story of the war from a pointsome of the great personalities of the just a few months after the latest eventsClassical World, including the revered recorded by Thucydides. This could implyAthenian statesman Perikles, the bold and that Xenophon had a version of Thucydidesresourceful Spartans Brasidas and Gylippos, work which was slightly longer than the onethe flamboyant Athenian general Alkibiades which now survives, for it seems clear that heand the Spartan leader Lysandros, who intended his to be a continuation ofeventually achieved the decisive naval victory Thucydides, although he is less detailed andthat the Spartans needed to win the war. analytical than Thucydides. Xenophon called The enduring fame of the Peloponnesian his work the Hellenika, meaning an accountWar is due in no small way to its principal of the doings of the Hellenes, which was the historian, Thucydides, an Athenian citizen Greeks name for themselves. We canwho took part in some of the early stages of supplement these two main accounts fromthe war as a naval commander. He was exiled the works of many later classical writers, whofrom Athens in 424 and he decided to write provide biographical and historical detailsa detailed account of the war because, in his not mentioned by Thucydides or Xenophon,view, it was such an important war that it along with a small number of originalwas more worthy of a written history than documents from the time of the war, mostlyany previous conflict. He carefully gathered decrees of the Athenians inscribed on stone.as much information as possible, from Thucydides was the first writer who, ineye-witnesses and documents, so that he explaining the origins of a war, made a clearcould offer as accurate and well considered distinction between the immediate, publiclyan analysis of events as possible. He was proclaimed reasons for the conflict and theaware that this sort of history might not longer-term, underlying causes of tensionappeal to those who preferred a more between the two sides. This explanatoryromanticised and sensational account of the scheme is still regularly employed by modernpast, but he observed in his introduction: historians when they seek to account for theThis is a possession for all time, rather than outbreak of more recent wars. It is aa prize piece that is read and then forgotten. testament to the fascination of Thucydides
8 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian Warsubject and the quality of his work that, even regularly study the events of thein the twenty-first century, students of Peloponnesian War for the lessons it canhistory, politics and warfare in universities teach them about politics, diplomacy,and military academies across the world strategy, tactics and the writing of history. This helmet was worn by a Greek heavy infantry soldier, or hoplite in the sixthcentury. By the start of the fifth century the city-states of Classical Greece hadalready fought many small scale wars, mostly as the result of border disputes withtheir neighbours.The Peloponnesian War was on a much grander scale thananything the Greeks had previously seen. (Ancient Art and Architecture)
Chronology478 Formation of the Delian League 433 Alliance of Athens and Corcyra; sea465-64 Earthquake at Sparta; (Messenian) battle of Sybota; Athens renews Helots revolt treaties of alliance with Leontini462 Spartans appeal for Athenian and Rhegion help against Messenians; Kimons 432 Revolt of Poteidaia; Megarian forces sent away by Spartans; decrees reforms of Ephialtes; Athenians 431-404 Peloponnesian War form alliance with Megara, Argos 431 Thebans attack Plataia; and Thessaly Peloponnesians invade Attika461 Ostracism of Kimon 430 Plague reaches Athens; Perikles459-54 Athenian expedition to Cyprus and expedition to Peloponnese; Egypt Perikles is deposed as general and459 Athenians begin building their fined; Poteidaia surrenders to Long Walls Athenians; Phormios expedition457 Battles of Tanagra and Oinophyta to Naupaktos456 Defeat of Messenians at Mt 429-27 Siege of Plataia Ithome; Tolmides expedition 429 Death of Perikles around the Peloponnese 428-27 Revolt of Mytilene; ebphora taxc. 455 Thucydides the historian born levied in Athens454 Delian League Treasury transferred 427-24 First Athenian expedition to Sicily to Athens (Tribute Lists begin) 425 Athenians fortify Pylos; Spartans451 Perikles law on Athenian captured on island of Sphakteria; citizenship; five-year truce between Spartan peace offer refused by Athens and Sparta; 50 year peace Athenians treaty between Sparta and Argos 424 Athenians take Kythera and launchc. 450 Alkibiades born raids on Lakonian coast; Boiotians449 Peace of Kallias between Athens defeat Athenians at the battle of and Persia Delion; Brasidas captures447 Building of the Parthenon-begun Amphipolis; Thucydides the446 Athenians defeated at battle of historian exiled Koroneia and driven out of Boiotia; 423 One year armistice between Athens Thirty Years Peace agreed between and Sparta; revolts of Skione and Athens and Sparta Mende; Dareios II (Ochos) becomesc. 443 Athenians make treaties with king of Persia Sicilian cities of Leontini and 422 Kleon and Brasidas killed at Rhegion Amphipolis441-140 Revolt of Samos 421 Peace of Nikias; 50-year alliancec. 440 Hipparete born concluded between Athens and439 Surrender of Samos Sparta438 Dedication of the Parthenon 418 Battle of Mantinea437/436 Foundation of Amphipolis 416 Athenians invade and capture435 Conflict between Corinth and Melos Corcyra over Epidamnos begins 415 Egesta appeals to Athens for help
10 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian War against Selinous; Second Athenian 406 Athenians defeated at Notion; expedition to Sicily; Alkibiades Alkibiades goes into exile; Spartans recalled defeated at battle of Arginousai;414 Siege of Syracuse; death of trial of Athenian generals Lamachos; Spartans send Gylippos 405 Athenians defeated at battle of to Syracuse Aigospotamoi413 Athenians send reinforcements to 405-404 Siege of Athens; Death of Dareios Sicily; Spartans capture and fortify II; Artaxerxes II becomes king of Dekeleia; defeat and surrender of Persia Athenians in Sicily 404 Peace between Athens and Sparta;412-11 Spartans and Persian king Athenian Long Walls partially negotiate treaty; revolts of destroyed Athenian allies 404-403 Rule of Thirty Tyrants in Athens411 Oligarchic revolution installs 401 Revolt of Kyros the Younger government of 400 in Athens; 387/6 Kings Peace army and fleet at Samos remain loyal to democracy; Alkibiades takes command410 Spartans defeated at Kyzikos; [AUTHORS NOTE ON DATES: AH dates are restoration of full democracy in BC. The official Athenian year, which was Athens used by Thucydides and Xenophon as their409 Messenians driven out of Pylos; main dating device, began and ended in Spartans take control of Chios midsummer. As a result some of the dates in408-407 Kyros the Younger sent to take this book are given in the form 416/15, control of Persias western satrapies which indicates the Athenian year that407 Lysander takes control of Spartan began in the summer of 416 and ended in fleet the summer of 415]
Background to warThe rise of AthensThe origins of the Peloponnesian War lie in This painted water jug was produced in Athens after thethe rise to power of its two protagonists, the Peloponnesian Wat: It shows a Greek hoplite (heavy infantryman) and an archer fighting a cavalryman who iscity states of Athens and Sparta and their dressed as a Persian.The hoplite carries a large, roundpolitical estrangement during the middle shield on his left arm and uses a spear of between eightpart of the fifth century BC. Athens and and 10 feet in length. Aside from his essential helmet heSparta had been the two leading states in the wears no other armour (Ancient Art and Architecture)alliance of Greek city-states formed tocombat the Persian kings invasion in 480.Both could claim to have been instrumentalin saving the Greeks from conquest by thePersians, since the Athenians had taken theleading role in the naval victory over thePersians at Salamis in 480, but the followingyear the Spartans led the Greek army thatdefeated King Xerxes land forces and endedthe threat of Persian conquest. After the Persians had been driven out ofmainland Greece the alliance began to breakup. The Spartan regent Pausanias led avictorious expedition to liberate Greek citiesin the Eastern Aegean from the Persians, buthe behaved with great arrogance and histreatment of the Eastern Greeks angeredmany of them. The Spartans recalledPausanias and withdrew from the waragainst the Persians, leaving the alliancebereft of leadership. The Athenians wereinvited by several of the leading Greekstates, particularly the cities and islands ofIonia, to lead them in a continuation of thewar against the Persians. In 477 they created The Spartans already had their owna new alliance to ravage the territory of the alliance known as the Peloponnesian League.Persian king in compensation for the It was made up mainly of the small city-statessubjugation of the Ionians and the invasion in the Peloponnese, but some larger ones,of Greece. Each of the allies agreed to such as Corinth, belonged, as did most of thecontribute men, ships or money to a cities of Boiotia, the region to the north ofcommon pool of resources which was Athens. They had far greater autonomy thanadministered and commanded by the the members of the Delian League and theyAthenians. This alliance is called the Delian could vote on equal terms with the SpartansLeague by modern historians because its in the League conferences. It was essentially aofficial treasury was established at the defensive alliance that was only activatedsanctuary of Apollo on the tiny island of when there was a clear threat to the securityDelos, in the centre of the Cyclades. of one or more of its members.
12 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian War A bronze statue of Athena, patron goddess of the Athenians c. 450.The statue shows Athena wearing a hoplrtes helmet. Her right arm originally held a spear and on her left can be seen the remnant of a strap for a large, round hoplite shield. The base bears an inscription saying, Melisso dedicated this as a tithe to Athena. (Ancient Art and Architecture) whole League force was lost. Kimon had been exiled in 461 but he returned in 451 to lead further campaigns, including an invasion of the Persian held island of Cyprus, where he died in 449. Later that year the Athenians negotiated a formal peace treaty with Persia, known as the Peace of Kallias. The Delian League had proven a remarkably successful alliance in terms of its victories over the Persians and the security and prosperity it earned for its members, but what had started out as a League of Greek states under Athenian leadership gradually took on the character of an Athenian Empire. As early as 470 the Aegean island state of Naxos tried to opt out of its obligations, but was forced back into line. Its contribution to the League was changed from a certain number of ships for each campaign to a fixed annual tribute of money, a process that was applied to more and more states. In 465 the island of Thasos tried to revolt; its citizens endured a two-year siege but eventually capitulated. They were reduced to tribute status and made to pay an indemnity, collected by the Athenians. In 454 the Leagues treasury was transferred to Athens. This move has made it possible for historians to study theThe Athenian Empire finances of the League in some detail, because the Athenians gave one sixtieth ofThe Delian League successfully waged war the annual tribute to their patron goddessagainst the Persians, culminating in a Athena each year, recording the paymentsmagnificent victory under the command of on stone slabs. Many of these so-calledthe Athenian general Kimon at the tribute lists have survived and they showEurymedon river in 466. A Persian fleet of both the widening extent and the increasing200 ships was destroyed and with it the wealth of the Athenian Empire. Alliedmain threat to the security of the Greeks in revolts were put down with considerablethe Aegean. In 459 the Delian League sent ferocity and in some cases the Athenians200 ships to the Nile Delta to assist in an appropriated land from the recalcitrant alliesEgyptian revolt against the Persians, but four and established colonies of Athenianyears later this revolt was crushed and the citizens there, to act in part as garrisons.
Background to war 13Inscribed records of decisions of the In the fifth century BC, the Greeks feltAthenian Assembly routinely refer to the that going to war in order to resolve aallies as the cities which the Athenians dispute or assert a claim to something was arule. Athens dominated the economic life right and proper thing to do. This certainlyof her subject allies, particularly their did not mean that they always resorted tomaritime trade. Some of the profits of the violence in order to settle arguments, but theEmpire were spent on the Athenian navy, on attempt to decide matters by armed forcepay for Athenian citizens who carried out was accepted as a normal way of behavingpublic offices and, it was rumoured among for communities and states. If a state was feltthe other Greeks, the magnificent public to deserve punishment, it was not unusualbuildings which adorned the city of Athens for the inhabitants to be sold into slavery; infrom the 440s onwards. extreme cases the men might all be executed. Given the small size of most individual states, it was natural that treaties for mutualThe First Peloponnesian War defence against third parties were regularly made, with each side promising to come toThe major turning point in relations the aid of the other in the event of an attack.between the Athenians and the Spartans A common formula for such alliances wascame in 462 BC. Two years earlier an that both parties agreed to have the sameearthquake had devastated Sparta, killing friends and enemies.thousands. It sparked off a major revolt One of the first things the Athenians didamong the Helots of Lakonia and Messenia, to vent their anger against the Spartans,who were servile populations under direct therefore, was to make an alliance in 460Spartan rule. Some of the Messenians with Argos, Spartas most powerful neighboursuccessfully resisted Spartan attempts to in the Peloponnese and her long-standingbring them to heel and established enemy. They also took advantage of a borderthemselves on Mount Ithome in Messenia. dispute between their western neighbour,In 462, in response to a Spartan appeal to all Megara, and her neighbour Corinth to detachher allies for help, Kimon persuaded the Megara from the Peloponnesian League. ToAthenians that he should lead a small army make Megara more secure from attack theto assist them. Kimon and his force had not Athenians built fortifications which linkedbeen in Messenia for very long when they, the port of Nisaia to the city of Megaraalone of all the allies whom the Spartans had proper. The Athenians were acting out ofinvited to help them, were dismissed. The self-interest in strengthening Megara. Areason for this seems to have been a growing Peloponnesian attack on their own territorysympathy for the Messenians cause among would probably have to come through thethe Athenians. Megarians territory, known as the Megarid; Kimon was exiled on his return by the an Athenian garrison was established inAthenians, who felt humiliated and insulted Megara. In 459 the Athenians began buildingby the Spartans actions. From 460 to 446 their own fortifications, known as the Longthere was constant political tension between Walls, to link the city of Athens to its mainthe two sides, with both Athens and Sparta port at Peiraieus.forming alliances with each others enemies. Another Athenian alliance, with theIn some cases the tension resulted in a series Thessalians, improved both their military andof military conflicts which exacerbated the strategic position. The extensive open plains ofrivalry. These conflicts are sometimes called Thessaly were ideal country for breeding andthe First Peloponnesian War, although to training horses, so the Thessalians were amongsome extent they lack the continuity and the best cavalrymen in the Greek world,coherence which is characteristic of a whereas mountainous Attika did not suit thesingle war. breeding of horses and produced few
14 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian Warcavalrymen. The Thessalians were also the territory, then headed north into thenorthern neighbours of the Boiotians, whose Corinthian Gulf, capturing the Corinthian-southern borders with the Athenians were the held city of Chalkis on the northern shore ofsubject of several disputes. In Thessaly and the narrow entrance to the Gulf. ThisMegara the Athenians saw opportunities to expedition demonstrated the strategicweaken the Spartans by putting pressure on advantage of Athens massive fleet. A moretheir allies. significant outcome, however, was the In 457 the first major clash between the capture of the small city of Naupaktos, alsotwo sides occurred. The Peloponnesians on the northern shore of the Gulf ofbypassed Megara by taking their army by Corinth. Here the Athenians established asea across the Gulf of Corinth. They large group of Messenians who had beenencountered an Athenian army at Tanagra allowed to leave by the Spartans as the onlyin Boiotia. The ranks of the Athenians were way of ending the Messenian revolt. Theyswelled to over 14,000 men by their allies, were to play a major role in the futureincluding 1,000 Argives, a large contingent confrontations between Athens and Sparta.from the Ionian states of the Delian League The Athenians made more sorties north toand a force of Thessalian cavalry. The punish the Thessalians for their treachery atSpartans and their allies numbered less than Tanagra and in 454 they sailed into the12,000, but after two days of heavy fighting, Corinthian Gulf once more to discourageduring which the Thessalians changed sides, naval activity by the Corinthians and harrythe Spartans won a prestigious victory. Once their allies and friends in Western Greece.they had returned to the Peloponnese, But the destruction of the Athenianhowever, the Athenians defeated the expedition to Egypt, increasing difficulties inBoiotians in a separate battle at nearbyOinophyta, gaining control over much of This model shows an Athenian trireme at rest in onecentral Greece as a result. of the specially constructed ship-sheds around the In 456 the Athenian general Tolmides Peiraieus. As well as the ships and their crews a Greek city needed to invest in substantial facilities in order Lotook a force of 50 ships and, stopping at maintain an effective navy. For many of the cities inGytheion on the coast of Lakonia, burnt the the Delian League the cost was too great, so theySpartans dockyard facilities. The Athenians contributed money rather than ships to the Leaguesalso ravaged some of the surrounding war efforts, (J F Coates)
Background to war 15A sixth-century black-figure Athenian painted vase showing two warriorsfighting. Although Greek armies regularly consisted of several thousandmen, artists preferred to paint scenes of individual duels in the tradition ofthe Greek heroes of the Homeric epic the Iliad. (Ashmolean Museum)
16 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarScenes of parting like this one are quite common on structure was created by the Boiotians, withAthenian painted pottery from the fifth century. Athens their largest city, Thebes, taking a leadingand her allies were at war with Persia or their fellow role. This move inspired the island of EuboiaGreeks almost continually from the Persian invasion of480 to the conclusion of the Thirty Years peace in 446. to revolt from Athens. While the Athenians(Ancient Art and Architecture) were trying to suppress the Euboians, the Megarians, encouraged by Corinth andcontrolling the Athenian Empire, and the Sikyon, also revolted, killing their Athenianreluctance of the Spartans to venture out of garrisons, and the young Spartan kingthe Peloponnese reduced the belligerence of Pleistoanax led the army of theboth sides. A five-year truce was agreed in Peloponnesian League into the Megarid to451, as well as a Thirty Years Peace between consolidate the revolt of Megara. TheSparta and Argos. Athenian general Perikles rushed his forces In 446 the Boiotians began to agitate back from Euboia to confront Pleistoanax,against Athenian domination and a punitive who had reached Eleusis. The Spartan kingexpedition led by Tolmides was defeated at withdrew without any attempt at battle,Koroneia, with many Athenians taken leaving Perikles free to return to Euboia andcaptive. In order to secure their safe return suppress the revolt. There were accusationsAthens abandoned all of Boiotia except the that he had bribed the Spartan king andsouthern city of Plataia. A federal political Pleistoanaxs senior adviser, Kleandridas, was
Background to war 17This photograph shows an impression taken from one of the huge stones on whichthe Athenians recorded the dedication of /so of their annual tribute to the goddessAthena. By studying the details of these tribute lists histonans have discovered howsome of the cities that revolted from the Delian League were punished through lossof territory and the imposition of colonies of Athenian settlers, which resulted intheir payments being reduced. (Archive of Squeezes. Oxford)
18 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian War Athens and Peiraeus during the warcondemned to death for treason and forced suspicion which had caused the Firstinto exile to avoid execution. He eventually Peloponnesian War was not dispelled by thesettled in Thurii, an Athenian colony in Thirty Years Peace, however, and both sidesSouthern Italy, where he became a leading continued to look for ways to disadvantagemilitary commander and was influential in each other. When the island of Samos in thebringing the city into an alliance with the Eastern Aegean revolted against Athens withPeloponnesians in 435. Pleistoanax himself Persian help in 441, the Spartans tried towas tried and acquitted, but he nevertheless take advantage of this and go to war withwent into exile as well. Athens, but at a meeting in 440 they could In 446 the Athenians agreed a peace not persuade a majority of members oftreaty with the Spartans, to last for 30 years. Peloponnesian League to vote with them.Its terms were that each side should retain its Nevertheless there was a growing senseterritory and alliances. Athens gave up any among the Greeks that a decisiveclaim over Boiotia and agreed to stop trying confrontation between Athens and Spartato expand her empire at the expense of the was looming. In the historian ThucydidesPeloponnesian states, but she kept control of view, although there were several short-termNaupaktos. An important clause in the treaty justifications for the main Peloponnesianprovided for independent arbitration of any War, it was the increasing magnitude ofdisputes that might arise over the observance Athenian power and the fear this caused toof its terms. The mutual dislike and the Spartans that forced them into war.
Warring sidesAthens and SpartaIn the fifth century BC Greece was divided territory. Although there were manyinto hundreds of independent city-states; the differences in the ways that each state wasGreek word for this type of state was polis organised and governed, broadly speaking(plural poleis). The size of these states varied they came in two types: either a democracy,considerably, but most comprised an urban where decision making was in the hands ofcentre, where much of the population lived, the majority of the citizens, or an oligarchy,and where the principal public buildings in which effective control of decision makingwere located, plus a surrounding rural was limited to a minority of the citizens. Greece in the Peloponnesian War 431-404
20 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarAthens practice meetings tended to be dominated by a handful of individuals. TheseAthens was a relatively large state comprising politicians were often men of aristocraticthe peninsula of Attika, with the city of birth, whose wealth, education, familyAthens as its political and religious centre. connections and military experienceThe Athenians had a very broadly based, commanded respect among the ordinarydemocratic constitution. The major decisions citizens. Kimon, the leader of severalwere taken by the Assembly, attendance at successful Delian League expeditionswhich was open to all adult male citizens. against the Persian Empire was one suchThe Assembly met regularly to debate figure, but the most influential politicianproposals on important issues put before it by in the mid-fifth century was Perikles, thea committee, but anyone who wanted to son of Xanthippos. As well as being rich,could speak out in a debate, or make their well bred and a good military commander,own proposal, as long as it was not contrary Perikles was an excellent orator. He wasto one that had already been voted into law. able to persuade the citizens in theThe Assembly could not meet every day, so Assembly to elect him as a general yearmundane financial and administrative after year and to vote in favour of hismatters and the day-to-day running of the proposals for using the political powerstates affairs were in the hands of several and financial resources of the Atheniansmaller committees. The most important of Empire for the benefit of the poorerthese was the Council, consisting of 500 men citizens. After Perikles death in 429 manywho were selected by lot from citizens over other politicians competed for popularitythe age of 30. It was the Council that and influence over the Athenians, but noneprepared the agenda for meetings of the ever managed to attain such a dominantAssembly. A sub-committee of 50 members of position again.the Council was permanently on duty eachmonth, living in a special building next tothe Council chamber. Membership of the A photograph of the remains of the Athenian Acropolis. The rocky outcrop in the middle of AthensCouncil and the other committees changed had been a citadel and a sanctuary for many centuriesevery year, which meant that there were and had several temples, Around 447 Pericles persuadedplenty of opportunities for ordinary citizens the Athenians to transform it by building a monumentalto participate in government. set of marble buildings which were to be the most magnificent in the Greek world,They served as potent Although in theory any Athenian citizen symbols of the wealth, power and pride of thewas entitled to speak out in the Assembly, in Athenians. (Ancient Art and Architecture)
Warring sides 21Sparta rigours of warfare, but still in full possession of their mental faculties. The main functionSparta was the name of the city in the of the members of the gerousia was to overseecentre of the fertile territory of Lakonia (also observance of Spartas laws and customs,called Lakedaimon). Unlike Athens Sparta particularly in relation to the upbringing andhad few monumental buildings and it was discipline of citizens. They could act as aessentially a loose amalgamation of five consultative body for the kings and thevillages. The Spartans had gradually evolved ephors on major public decisions, althougha system that combined monarchical and there is no clear evidence as to their role indemocratic elements within an oligarchy. determining foreign policy. They discussedOver the preceding centuries most of the and prepared proposals which were putGreek states had expelled their kings, or before the assembly of Spartan citizens, andreduced them to purely ceremonial they acted as a court for political trials, orfunctions, but the Spartans retained two inquests into the conduct of kings and otherkings who acted as leaders in warfare and leading Spartans. The two kings were alsoreligious matters. In most respects, however, members of the gerousia. They could exerciseSparta was a typical oligarchy, with its a leading role in its deliberations throughpublic business in the hands of a few men. informal ties of patronage and friendshipMajor decisions were referred to an assembly with its members.of adult male citizens, but there was little or An interesting difference in the way theno chance for the ordinary citizens to citizen assemblies of Athens and Spartadiscuss or debate them. They were simply operated was that, whereas the Atheniansexpected to indicate their agreement or assessed the size of a majority by countingdisagreement with what their leaders raised hands, the Spartans judged decisionssuggested. Debates on important issues were on the basis of how loudly the assembledrestricted to smaller groups of elected citizens shouted in favour of a proposal, or aofficials. Every year the Spartans elected a candidate for election. Such a method wasboard of five overseers or ephors, who had less precise and the outcome could be morewide ranging executive, disciplinary and easily manipulated by the presidingjudicial powers over all the people of magistrates. It is indicative of a strongLakonia, including the two kings. Although reluctance among the members of the rulingthey were not subject to any written laws oligarchy to allow the citizen body to haveand they had the authority to prosecute any true sovereignty over public affairs. ThisSpartan citizen, regardless of their official antipathy towards full democracy, asstatus, the ephors were only in power for a practised by the Athenians and many ofyear and they could not be re-elected at their allies, was one of the fundamentalany time. causes of tension between the two sides. The Spartans did not have a deliberativecouncil that routinely discussed all publicbusiness, as the Athenian Council of 500 did. Military hierarchiesInstead they had a council of senior citizens,called the gerousia, whose 28 members were The command structures of the two sides alsoelected by their fellow citizens for life, but reveal a lot about their different political andthey normally did not achieve this status social systems. Athenian armies were usuallyuntil they were over 60 years of age. This commanded by one or more members of ahigh age limit is not particularly surprising board of 10 generals, who were electedgiven the ancient Greeks traditional respect annually by the citizens. Successful generals,for age and experience. Men who had like Kimon or Perikles, were often re-electedreached 60 were considered to be in physical and they exploited their popularity anddecline, and so no longer suited for the prestige to play a leading role in Athenian
22 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian Warpolitics, whereas unsuccessful, or unpopular them. Even the great Perikles suffered thegenerals would not be re-elected. The humiliation of being deposed and fined earlygenerals could be held to account for their on in the war because the Athenians did notactions by the Assembly, which sometimes regard his strategy as being successful. Theacted as a court sitting in judgment over ultimate sovereignty of the Athenian citizens over their generals tended to have anThe two men on this Spartan relief are probably citizens. inhibiting effect on their actions.The Spartans prided themselves on their constant The full Spartan army could only bereadiness to light for their crty.They were expected to commanded by one of the kings, or avalue their city and their comrades above themselves andtheir families. Until the age of 30 they did not even live in regent if the kings were unable to taketheir own homes, but stayed in their mess halls and visited command in person. The kings weretheir wives occasionally. (Ancient Art and Architecture) accompanied on campaign by two ephors,
Warring sides 23A Roman bust of Perikles based on an Athenian original. active service. The ephors could, however,Perikles was so good at persuading the Athenians to prosecute the kings before a courtvote for his proposals that the historian Thucydides felt consisting of themselves and the gerowia, ifthat although the Athens of his time was called ademocracy, in fact it was ruled by its leading citizen. they considered that they had acted(Ancient Art and Architecture) inappropriately while in command of the army. During the Peloponnesian War the full Spartan army rarely took the field.but the kings seem to have exercised Instead one of the kings led armiescomplete authority while the army was on consisting of a small proportion of Spartan
24 Essential Histories -The Peloponnesian WarThis Athenian vase depicts a soldier taking leave of his family as he goes offto war It was part of the public duty of an Athenian citizen to fight whencalled upon. Normally it was only the fairly prosperous citizens who couldafford the equipment of a hoplite.The poorer citizens were more likely toserve as oarsmen or sailors in the fleet. (Ancient Art and Architecture)
Warring sides 25citizens, along with the combined forces of allies, principally the large and populoustheir Peloponnesian League allies on island of Chios. It is unlikely that thecampaigns in Southern and Central Greece. allies regularly contributed as many asFor expeditions further afield they sent half of the soldiers involved in all themuch smaller Spartan detachments, led by military undertakings of the Peloponnesianspecially appointed Spartan officers. These War. Athens despatched troops to manymen were allowed a great deal of latitude in parts of the Greek world during the wardeciding how to conduct their operations, and often there will have been only a fewbut internal rivalries and jealousies were allied soldiers involved, mostly servingcommonplace among the Spartans. At as mercenaries.several points during the war successful Naval manpower requirements were oncommanders were refused reinforcements or a far larger scale. Few cities, even one aprevented from carrying on their populous as Athens, had the necessaryachievements because other Spartans did resources to man a large fleet, since anot want them to gain too much prestige. trireme normally required 150-170 oarsmen, plus skilled sailors and steersmen, who were especially hard to find. In 433, for example,Athenian manpower when the Corinthians were preparing a major expedition against Corcyra, theyIt has been estimated that the total number offered very generous rates of pay toof adult male Athenian citizens in 431 was potential rowers from all over the Greekaround 40,000. Of these about 1,000 were world in a desperate attempt to recruitwealthy enough to serve as cavalrymen, enough oarsmen to man their ships.which involved maintaining their own Similarly, it was vital for the Athenianshorses. Of the rest as many as 20,000 may to be able to recruit from as wide a pool ofhave been eligible to serve as hoplites, the naval manpower as possible and they had toheavily armed infantrymen who usually pay recruits well enough to prevent themformed the core of a Greek citizen army, but from deserting to the other side, orless than half of them would be called upon returning home.to fight at any one time. In practice theforces that Athens mobilised during the warwere composed of her own citizens and Spartan manpowerthose of her allies, supplemented bymercenaries. Athens commanded fleets and Male Spartan citizens (Spartiates in Greek)armies drawn from her Delian League allies were almost constantly in training asmany times during the fifth century but hoplites. They did not have any otheronly on a few occasions are we able to get a occupation and their farmland was workedclear idea of the proportions of Athenian to for them by slaves. Their training began at aallied forces involved in the campaigns of very early age, usually five or six years andthe Peloponnesian War. The most detailed continued through various stages until, at 18breakdown is provided by Thucydides when years old, they were allowed to attendhe describes the forces sent on an meetings of the citizen assembly and goexpedition to Sicily in 415. There were abroad on military expeditions. At this age5,100 hoplites, or heavy infantrymen, of they were admitted to a mess group (thewhom 2,200 were Athenian citizens, Greek word for which is syssition). Each mess750 were mercenaries from the Peloponnese, group was made up of about 15 Spartansand the remaining 2,150 were supplied by who trained, exercised, dined and foughtAthens subject allies of the Delian League. together. In theory they were all of equalThe fleet of 134 trireme warships was made status and contributed food and otherup of 100 Athenian vessels and 34 from the resources to a common stock of supplies. If
26 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian Warthey could not afford to make their regular Messenia. These slaves were called Helotscontributions they could be deprived of their and they were the descendants of peoplefull citizen status. who were conquered and enslaved by the The total number of full Spartan citizens Spartans in a series of wars from aboutwas never very large. Even when it was at 950 to 700 BC. The Messenians proved veryits greatest extent, towards the end of the difficult to control and organised majorsixth century BC, it was probably less than revolts against the Spartans on several10,000, and by the start of the occasions. The Helots of Lakonia were lessPeloponnesian War there may have been rebellious and substantial numbers of themonly half that number of adult male citizens normally accompanied the Spartans to war,available for military service. So from where acting as baggage carriers and fighting asdid the Spartans obtain the manpower for light armed soldiers. During thetheir armies? To some extent they relied Peloponnesian War they were used asupon the non-Spartan population of oarsmen and sailors on Spartan navalLakonia, especially those men who lived in vessels. In exceptional circumstancesthe towns and villages around Sparta and Helots were equipped and trained to fightwere called the Perioikoi, which means as hoplites, on the understanding thatdwellers around. The Perioikoi lived in they would be given their freedom at theautonomous communities, some of which end of the campaign for which theywere large towns or even small cities. Unlike were recruited.the Spartans they worked for a living, as An important feature of the Spartanfarmers, traders and craftsmen. It was the system for maintaining discipline andPerioikoi who made the armour and obedience was the regular use of physicalweapons used by Spartans as well as violence. From the start of their boyhoodday-to-day items like pottery, furniture and training Spartans were beaten by their elderscloth. Usually they fought as hoplites and superiors. Spartan citizens werealongside the Spartans themselves. especially encouraged to use violence When they needed to assemble a large against the Helots. Each year the Spartanarmy to take on another Greek state, like ephors declared a ritual war on the Helots,Athens or Argos, the Spartans called upon thus justifying the killing of anythe allied states of the Peloponnesian troublesome Helots and keeping the restLeague. The nearest of these were the cities in a constant state of fear. Yet for all theirof Arkadia, the mountainous region to the heavy-handed domination and control ofnorth and west of Lakonia. The main the Helots, the Spartans could not doArkadian cities of Orchomenos, Tegea and without them. It was the labour of theMantinea were not very large, but each Helots that furnished the individual Spartanof them could easily muster several citizens with natural products for theirhundred soldiers. Larger contingents were contributions to the communal messes.contributed by more distant states like Throughout the Classical period theCorinth and Thebes. These allies probably Spartans main priority was always to keepprovided the majority of hoplites in any their dominant position over the Helots,Spartan army, especially when serving who were so essential to their own way ofoutside of the Peloponnese. life. But this was no easy task, even for men who were constantly prepared for war. The Messenian revolt of 462-456 showed howThe Helot curse fragile the Spartans control was, and the abrupt dismissal of Kimon and his AthenianThe Spartans also made considerable use of contingent indicates how sensitive Spartansthe large, publicly owned, slave population were to any interference in theirof Lakonia and its neighbouring region, relationship with the Messenians. The
Warring sides 27 This bronze statuette of a hoplite was probably made inLakonia and dedicated by a Spartan citizen at thesanctuary of Zeus in Olympia.The Spartans were famousfor their zealous observance of religious rituals. Manysimilar offerings have been found in sanctuaries aroundthe Peloponnese and elsewhere in Greece. (Ancient Artand Architecture)continual need to subjugate this conqueredpopulation was the main reason why theSpartans were reluctant to commit largenumbers of citizens to campaigns outsidethe Peloponnese. In the words of themodern scholar Geoffrey de Sainte Croix,who studied the history of thePeloponnesian War in great detail: TheHelot danger was the curse Sparta hadbrought upon herself, an admirableillustration of the maxim that a peoplewhich oppresses another cannot itself befree.
OutbreakFear and suspicion lead to warThe most immediate, short-term cause of the The other Corinthian complaint was overPeloponnesian War, according to Thucydides, Athens treatment of the city of Poteidaia.was the judgment of the Spartans, endorsed This city, located on the westernmost spur ofby their allies, that the Athenians had broken the Chalkidike peninsula, had originallythe terms of the Thirty Years Peace. A key been founded by Corinthians and stillclause was a guarantee that no state would be received its annual magistrates from Corinth.deprived of its autonomy. This did not mean It was a tribute-paying member of the Delianthat the Athenians could not demand tribute League and of great strategic importancefrom their subject allies, nor that the Spartans because of its proximity to the territory ofhad to relinquish control over the the Macedonian king, Perdikkas, who was aPeloponnesian League. Rather it meant that former ally of Athens. Perdikkas was nowno state should be deprived of the freedom to encouraging the cities of Chalkidike to revoltrun its own affairs, insofar as it had done from Athens. They had formed a league withbefore the peace treaty was agreed. The its political and economic centre atAthenians were accused of failing to respect Olynthos. The Poteidaians had been orderedthis clause by several of the Greek states. by Athens to send their Corinthian magistrates back home and dismantle their fortifications. While they negotiated withThe case against Athens the Athenians they sent an embassy to the Peloponnese and obtained an assurance fromThe Spartans were under considerable pressure Sparta that if the Athenians attackedfrom their allies in the Peloponnesian League Poteidaia, Sparta would invade Attika. Theto restrain the Athenians. In 432 they invited Athenians were fearful that they might loseall interested parties to put their case before a control of this prosperous area, whichmeeting of the Spartan Assembly. Prominent provided some seven per cent of their tributeamong the states arguing for war was Corinth. revenue, so they sent forces to lay siege toThere were two main Corinthian complaints. the city, which had been reinforced byOne was the action of Athens on behalf of troops from Corinth and mercenaries fromCoreyra (modern Corfu) against the the Peloponnese. The CorinthiansCorinthians. In 435 the Corinthian colony of complained that Athens was breaking theCorcyra was involved in a dispute with her terms of the Peace and demanded that thecolony at Epidamnos, in modern Albania. Spartans invade Attika.This dispute escalated to involve the A further complaint against Athens wasCorinthians, on the side of Epidamnos, in a made by the people of Megara, whonaval battle in 432 with the Athenians, who complained that they had been excluded fromhad made a defensive alliance with Corcyra in access to the harboursand market-place of433. Corcyra had a large navy of her own and Athens by a decree of the Athenian Assembly.the Corinthians and other Peloponnesians The purpose of what is known as the Megarianfeared that their alliance might make the decree seems to have been to put pressure onAthenians invincible at sea. They also saw the the Megarians to abandon their alliance withAthenians involvement as unjustifiable Sparta and the Peloponnesians and resumeinterference in their affairs, contrary to the their alliance with Athens, which they hadterms of the Thirty Years Peace. abandoned in 446. The Megarians territory
Outbreak 29These sketches show reconstructions of typical Athenian houses based onarcheological remains.The walls were built of sun-dried clay bricks and theroofs were covered with large pottery tiles.The windows had no glass, onlywooden shutters. Most houses were built around a small courtyard and thoseof wealthier families would usually have an upper storey. (John Ellis Jones)
30 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian Warbordered on Attika in the east and provided simply a set of religious sanctions imposedpotential access for a Peloponnesian army to because the Megarians had cultivated someattack Athens. The exclusions from Athenian land which was supposed to be leftharbours and markets seem to have had a very untouched as it was sacred to the gods, assevere effect on Megarian trade. This is not well as some disputed territory on the bordersurprising as Athens was the largest city in between Attika and the Megarid. They alsoGreece and her commercial harbour at accused the Megarians of sheltering runawayPeiraieus was a major centre of maritime trade. Athenian slaves. Representatives from the island state ofAigina also complained that their autonomywas being infringed by Athens. Aigina had The Spartans and their alliesbeen part of the Athenian Empire since 458, vote for warbut is not unlikely that the Athenians hadrecently begun to behave more aggressively Having heard the complaints and thetowards Aiginetans for similar reasons to those counter-arguments of the Athenians, thewhich were causing them to put pressure on Spartans removed everyone except the fullMegara. The Athenians must have been Spartan citizens from the assembly place soconscious of the fact that Aigina provided a that they could discuss the matter amongpotential base for naval attacks on Athens and themselves. The vast majority of theher maritime trade. Autonomy was fine for Spartans were angered by what they hadsome of the more distant islands or cities in heard. Their allies had convinced them thatthe Aegean, but for places on their doorstep the Athenians had broken the terms of thethe Athenians preferred the same kind of close Thirty Years Peace and were acting withcontrol as the Spartans exercised over their unreasonable aggression. In consequenceMessenian neighbours. An Athenian garrison there was great enthusiasm for immediatelywas installed on the island by 432 and, declaring war on Athens. At this point onealthough the Aiginetan tribute payments were of the two kings, Archidamos, introduced areduced by over half, this meant an effective note of caution. He seems to have arguedend to the Aiginetans right to govern that it was premature of the Spartans tothemselves freely, again contrary to the key rush into war a with Athens, whoseclause of the Thirty Years Peace. extensive empire provided her with the The Athenians claimed that they had the resources to fight a protracted war moreright to do as they pleased regarding their easily than the Spartans. He pointed outempire, which they had won for themselves that Athens chief strength lay in her navalat considerable cost. They probably had not power, while Sparta was essentially a landexpected their treatment of Aigina to become power. He advised sending diplomatican issue, given the fact that in the case of missions to try to seek negotiatedSamos in 440 the Corinthians themselves had settlements of the various disputes, while atupheld the right of Athens to police its own the same time recruiting new allies,empire. In the case of Corcyra they felt that accumulating resources and preparing for athey were doing no more than responding to war in which expensive naval campaignsa defensive request from an ally, although it would be necessary to obtain victory. Heis unlikely that they entered into the alliance had to put his arguments carefully, in orderwithout some expectation of clashing with to avoid offending the Spartans sense ofthe Corinthians. They pointed out that duty towards their allies and their greatPoteidaia was one of their tribute-paying pride in their martial prowess, whilst at theallies and had been encouraged to revolt by same time pointing out to them the truethe Corinthians, who were openly fighting size of the task that lay before them.against them on the side of the Poteidaians. Thucydides version of a key part of hisThe Megarian decree, they claimed, was speech is as follows:
Outbreak 31 No-one can call us cowards if, in spite of our had broken the terms of the Thirty Yearsnumbers, we seem in no hurry to attack a single Peace.city. Their allies are no less numerous than ours Even now the Spartans were reluctant toand theirs contribute money. And in war it is the act. They sent an embassy to Athens to tryexpenditure which enables the weapons to bring to negotiate a settlement. The autonomy ofresults, especially in a conflict between a land Poteidaia and Aigina was raised in thesepower and a sea power. Let us gather our discussions, but the main sticking pointresources first and not get rushed into premature seems to have been the Megarian decree,action by the words of our allies. We shall have which the Athenians refused to rescind.to bear the brunt of it all, however things turn Eventually a Spartan envoy delivered theout. So let us consider the options in a calm message, We want peace and we want thefashion. Athenians to let their allies be free. Perikles told the Athenian Assembly that the In response to Archidamos sensible and Spartans could not be trusted to stop atcautious arguments the ephor Sthenelaidas these demands, but would try to force themappealed to the sense of outrage at the to give up more and more in the name ofAthenians high-handed behaviour and freedom for the Greeks. He encouraged theexhorted the Spartans to take decisive action Athenians to tell the Spartan envoys thatagainst them. Thucydides version of his they too should stop interfering in thespeech dismisses Archidamos concerns over affairs of their own allies, and submit theresources and emphasises the need to problem of supposed infringements of therespond decisively to the demands of Thirty Years Peace to arbitration. At thisSpartas allies: point the Spartans abandoned the negotiations. As Thucydides stressed, the For while the other side may have plenty of underlying cause of the war was Athensmoney, ships and horses, we have good allies growing power and the fear that causedwhom we cannot betray to the Athenians. Nor is among the Spartans and their allies. Nothis something to be decided by diplomacy and amount of diplomacy would change thenegotiations; its not through words that our reality of that power or the fear that itinterests are being harmed. Our vengeance must was generating.be strong and swift... So vote as befits youSpartans, for war! Do not allow the Athenians tobecome stronger and do not utterly betray your The Thebans strike firstallies! With the gods beside us let us challengethe unrighteous! The Boiotians also had grievances against the Athenians going back nearly 30 years. In spite of the fervour of his rhetoric, Plataia was the only Boiotian city which hadwhen Sthenelaidas, as the ephor presiding not joined the Boiotian League, in whichover the Spartan assembly, put the matter to the Thebans were the dominant force. It isa vote, he claimed that he could not tell not entirely surprising, therefore, that thewhether the shouts were louder for or opening encounter of the Peloponnesianagainst going to war. So he told the Spartans War was not a Spartan led invasion ofto separate into two groups and then it was Attika, but a pre-emptive strike on Plataia byclear that the majority favoured war. All that the Thebans, who were anxious to secure asremained was for the Spartans to call a much of their border with Attika as possible.congress of the Peloponnesian League to get They were acting in concert with a group oftheir allies approval for a war against the Plataians who were unhappy with theirAthenians. The vote was not unanimous, citys long-standing alliance with Athensbut the Corinthians persuaded a majority of and wanted to bring it over to the Spartanthe Peloponnesians to declare that Athens side in line with most of the rest of Boiotia.
32 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarThe majority of the Plataians were unaware morning and they withdrew after beingof this plot and they were taken completely promised that the prisoners would not beby surprise. When an advance force of harmed. The Athenians were told about thearound 300 Theban hoplites entered the city attack and sent a herald to urge theand told the Plataians that they should join Plataians not to act rashly. By the time thisthe League of Boiotian cities, they were message arrived, however, the Plataians hadinitially cowed, but once they realised that gathered all their property into the city andthe rest of the Theban army had been executed their Theban prisoners. There wasdelayed by heavy rain their anti-Theban and now no doubt that the Thirty Years Peacepro-Athenian feelings reasserted themselves. was over and Plataia was reinforced by theAfter a vicious struggle at night, in the Athenians, who evacuated the women,pouring rain, which involved not just the children and men who were too old to fight.Plataian citizens but many of their women The attack on Plataia provided an earlyand slaves, 120 Thebans were dead and the indication of the level of bloodshed whichrest surrendered. The main strength of the was to become commonplace in the GreekThebans did not arrive until later the next world over the next three decades.
The fightingThe first twenty yearsThe Archidamian War whose name is given by modern historians to this part of the war.The first 10 years of conflict between Athens The Athenians also doubted their ability toand Sparta were considered by many of the defeat Sparta and her allies in a major hopliteGreeks to have constituted a separate war. At confrontation, so, at the urging of Perikles,the start of the war the Peloponnesian strategy they retreated behind their fortifications andwas to invade the territory of Attika by land, waited for the Peloponnesians to give up anddamaging crops and buildings and forcing the go home. They struck back by using theirAthenians to come out of their city and settle superior naval forces to attack the territory ofthe war in a decisive pitched battle. ThePeloponnesians were confident that they would The young man featured on this Athenian wine jug ofwin such a battle. If no such confrontation was about 430 BC is equipped with the typical large roundachieved, the Peloponnesians hoped that the shield, long spear and short sword of the hoplite. HeAthenian citizens would soon grow weary of wears no body armour, only a heavy tunic and a headband to ease the fit of his bronze helmet.The lionthe attacks and look for a settlement on terms device on his shield is a personal one. At the start of thefavourable to their opponents. For the first few Peloponnesian War most Greek cities did not haveyears the Peloponnesian army was led by the standardised symbols for their soldiers, which sometimesonly available Spartan king, Archidamos, caused confusion in battle. (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)
34 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarSparta and her allies, hoping to make them arrived in Attika early in the summer, whenlose their enthusiasm for the conflict. This the crops were still a long way from ripeningstrategy could not win them the war, but it and the weather was very stormy. This made itcould prolong the stalemate and might difficult for the Spartans to feed themselvesdiscourage enough of the enemy to force while they were camped on Athenian territorythem to make peace. The strategists on both and the troops began to complain. Then newssides probably thought that there would be arrived of a serious Athenian incursion atonly a few years of fighting before a Pylos on the western coast of the Peloponnesesettlement was reached. and the whole army was withdrawn, having In fact the annual invasions of the stayed in Attika for only 15 days.Archidamian War, of which there were five A devastating plague struck Athens in 430,between 431 and 425, did not always last very with further outbreaks in 429 and 426. Thelong, nor, indeed, did they succeed in doing second year it killed Perikles himself, but evenmuch damage. Athenian cavalry harried the this misery did not convince the Athenians tolight troops on the Peloponnesian side and seek peace. If anything it probably made themeven the longest invasion, lasting 40 days in keener to cause harm to their enemies in430, failed to cause much harm. Athens could return and the scale and range of navalimport much of its food, particularly grain, counter-strikes was stepped up after Periklesvia the shipping routes secured by Athens death. The Peloponnesians themselves mademaritime empire and powerful navy. In any limited use of their naval forces, which werecase it proved difficult to assemble the principally furnished by the Corinthians. APeloponnesian forces at the right time to grandiose scheme was hatched to involve thestrike against Attikas agricultural resources, in Western Greeks of Sicily and Southern Italy inpart probably because many of the soldiers the war and create a huge fleet of 500wanted to be at home on their own farmland. triremes, but this came to nothing and theIn 429 the Peloponnesians were persuaded by Athenians took the initiative in the west bythe Thebans to make a determined attempt to sending expeditions to Sicily. They went atovercome the resistance of Plataia. The the invitation of an old ally, the city ofSpartan king Archidamos, conscious of the Leontini, which asked for their help againsthistorical significance of Plataia as the site of the larger city of Syracuse. Two smallSpartas great victory over the Persians in 479, Athenian fleets were sent to Sicily in 427 andtried to negotiate a surrender, but assurances 425, partly with the aim of disrupting grainfrom the Athenians that they would not supplies from the island to the Peloponnese,abandon the Plataians convinced those still but also with an eye towards adding as muchinside the city walls to hold out. The Spartans of the island as they could to the Athenianbuilt a circuit of wooden siege fortifications to Empire. In 424, however, the Sicilian citiesprevent any forces from getting in to relieve came to an understanding among themselvesthe 600 or so remaining people. A breakout and the Athenians returned home withoutwas achieved during a winter storm by about anything to show for their efforts.200 men, who climbed over the walls usingladders, but they could not persuade theAthenians to send a force to relieve the siege. The revolt of Mytilene and the In the summer of 426 the new Spartan end of Plataiaking, Agis, son of Archidamos, was leadinganother expedition of Peloponnesian forces The next major setback of the war for theinto the Isthmus of Corinth on their way to Athenians was a revolt in 428 on the islandAttika when there was an earthquake, which of Lesbos, led by the largest city, Mytilene.forced them to turn back before they had even The cities of Lesbos had been founders of thereached Athenian territory. In the following Delian League and their contributions to itsyear a similar expedition, also led by Agis, resources were crucial to the Athenian war
The fighting 35effort. With the exception of Methymna they saved, but Mytilene was deprived of her fleethad oligarchic governments and they decided and much of her territory.that in her severely weakened state Athens At about the same time the small garrisonwould not be able to respond effectively to of Plataia finally succumbed to starvationan attempt to break away from her control. and surrendered to the Spartans. They wereThe Athenians despatched a small army and treated very harshly on the insistence ofa fleet to blockade Mytilene, which was their neighbours the Thebans. All of the 225dependent on reinforcements and food surviving men were subjected to a trial bysupplies from overseas. The Mytileneans the Spartans, at which they were each asked:asked Sparta and the Peloponncsian League Have you done anything of benefit to thefor help and a relief force was slowly Lakedaimonians (i.e. the Spartans) and theirassembled under the command of the allies in the current war? As none of theSpartan Alkidas. The Athenians moved faster, defenders could answer yes to this question,however, sending a second fleet of 100 ships the Spartans decided that they were justifiedearly in 427, in spite of the losses caused by in executing all of them. The 110 womenthe plague. The oligarchic regime at Mytilene who had stayed behind were sold as slaves.distributed weapons to the mass of thepopulation to stiffen their defences, but thisplan backfired and the newly empowered Naval warfarecitizens demanded a general distribution ofgrain to feed the starving population. When At sea the war was fought almost entirelythis did not materialise they surrendered the between fleets of triremes. These werecity to the Athenian commander Paches, who warships rowed by up to 170 oarsmen andsent the leaders of the revolt back to Athens. manned by 30 or more sailors and soldiers. A debate ensued in the Athenian Assembly The number of rowers could be varied so thatabout the appropriate punishment for the a trireme could carry enough troops to act asMytilenean rebels. The politician Kleon an assault ship for small forces, or it could bepersuaded the citizens that an example had to used to tow and escort troop carriers if abe made of the people of Mytilene in order to larger army needed to be transported. Whendiscourage further revolts. He proposed that fully crewed the ships were dangerousall the adult male citizens should be executed offensive weapons in themselves, eachand the women and children sold into sporting a heavy bronze ram on its prow,slavery. The Assembly voted in favour of this which could damage an enemy vessels hull ifand despatched a ship to tell Paches to carry it impacted with enough force. Consequentlyout this brutal decree. The next day, however, the best naval tactics involved manoeuvringmany people realised the injustice of the behind or to the side of an enemy ship anddecision. A second meeting of the Assembly rowing hard enough to smash the ramwas called and the citizens voted to rescind against its hull and rupture it. Another, moretheir decree and only to punish those who dangerous, tactic was for the helmsman towere guilty of leading the revolt. A second steer close into the enemy on one side andtrireme was sent out with the revised orders. break off their oars, having signalled his ownIts crew rowed in shifts, not putting in to land rowers to ship their oars just before theat night, as was normal on such a voyage. vessels made contact. The triremes wereAmbassadors from Mytilene supplied them lightweight vessels that did not easily sinkwith food and drink while they rowed and when they were holed, but instead theypromised great rewards if they could make up would often remain afloat, or perhapsthe 24 hours start that the previous ship had partially submerged, and they could be towedon them. Eventually they reached Mytilene away by whichever side was the victor. Thejust as Paches was reading the orders delivered crews of damaged ships were very vulnerable,by the first ship. The mass of the citizens were however, and unless their own ships came
36 Essential Histories T h e Peloponnesian Warquickly to their rescue they might be captured, manoeuvrability of the Athenians. Afteror if the ship was completely awash with water initially losing nine ships to thisthey could easily drown. Surprisingly few overwhelming force, Phormio and hisGreeks were strong swimmers, since they did remaining commanders broke away andnot swim for pleasure. Even if there was an retreated towards Naupaktos. Theaccessible coastline close by it might be held Peloponnesians pursued, but their lead shipsby enemy troops who could kill or capture became too spread out to support each other.those men who did make it ashore. As the final Athenian ship reached Naupaktos it went behind a merchant ship at anchor in the bay and turned on the foremost of theAthenian naval superiority pursuing vessels, ramming it amidships and causing the rest to stop rowing and wait forIn 429 the Peloponnesians sent out a fleet their comrades. This decision left them sittingunder the command of the Spartan Knemon in the water and vulnerable to the swiftto challenge the Athenian squadron under the counter-attacks of the Athenians, who nowcommand of Phormio based at Naupaktos. rowed out and rejoined the battle. BecauseThis naval base was strategically located to they were now very close to the shore some ofintercept Peloponnesian fleets sailing to and the Peloponnesians ran aground, or camefrom Corinth, the Northern Peloponnese and close enough for the Messenians who wereEastern Boiotia. Phormio had only 20 ships, based at Naupaktos to swim out, some inwhereas Knemon had a total of 47, drawn their armour and swarm aboard some of thefrom Corinth and Sikyon. Nevertheless ships. The Athenians recaptured most of theirPhormio attacked and succeeded in putting own ships, which the Peloponnesians hadthe Peloponnesians on the defensive. They been towing behind them. They also took sixformed most of their ships into a circle with Peloponnesian vessels, on one of which was athe prows facing outwards, their aim being to Spartan commander called Timokrates, whoprevent the Athenians from getting behind killed himself rather than be captured by theany of them. Five of the best ships were Athenians. From this point onwards thestationed in the centre of the circle to attack Peloponnesians generally avoided navalany Athenian vessel that managed to get confrontations with the Athenians until theinside the formation. Phormios response to Athenian navy had been seriously weakenedthis tactic was to tell the commanders of his by the Sicilian Expedition. In 425, when theown ships to sail around the fringes of this Peloponnesian fleet sent to Corcyra wascircle, getting gradually closer to the recalled to assist in removing DemosthenesPeloponnesians and forcing them to back in forces from Pylos, they chose to drag theirtowards each other. Eventually, with the help ships over the narrow isthmus of Leukasof a strong early morning wind, the circle of rather than risk a meeting with the Athenianships became too tightly packed and were fleet, which was heading for Corcyra.unable to maintain their formation without Nevertheless the Athenians did not havecolliding with each other. When it was clear things entirely their own way at sea. In 429that the Peloponnesians had lost all semblance the Spartans with Knemon were invited byof order Phormio attacked, sinking several of the Megarians to transfer their survivingthe enemy and capturing 12 ships. crews to 40 ships docked at Niasia, the The superior seamanship and tactics of the Megarian port nearest to Athens. These shipsAthenians were rewarded with another could then be used to make a surprise attacksuccess soon afterwards when a larger force of on the Athenian port of Peiraieus, which was77 Peloponnesian ships drove Phormio into not well guarded. Strong winds and, inthe narrow stretch of water at Rhion, hoping Thucydides view, a lack of courage, causedto trap them against the northern shoreline, them to abandon the idea of attackingthus negating the greater speed and Peiraieus and to strike at the island of
The fighting 37 A sketch showing how the Athenian harbour at confrontation on land. Meanwhile, theMounychia in Peiraieus may have looked in the fourth Athenian generals Eurymedon and Sophoklescentury. Early on in the Peloponnesian War a daring were taking 40 ships to Sicily, via Corcyra.attempt by the Spartans to attack the harbour showedthe Athenians that they needed to fortify it.The entrance They made a detour into the area of Pylos onis narrow and there is a chain stretched across it to the western coast of the Peloponnese toprevent unauthorised ships from getting in. (J F Coates) attempt a scheme devised by the general-elect Demosthenes who was travelling with them.Salamis instead. They captured three Demosthenes plan was to turn Pylos intoAthenian ships on the north of the island a fortified post for a detachment of theand did a considerable amount of damage Messenian exiles from Naupaktos to use as abefore the arrival of an Athenian fleet and base for conducting raids againstconcerns over the state of their ships Peloponnesian territory. From Pylos theyforced them to withdraw. The episode had could easily penetrate Messenia and, withdemonstrated that Athenian territory was their ability to speak the local dialect, theiralso vulnerable to seaborne attack and steps knowledge of the land and their kinshipwere taken to close off the harbour entrances with the Messenians, they could stir upat Peiraieus and station more ships on guard trouble for the Spartans in their own backduty in the future. yard. Demosthenes seems to have had some difficulty convincing the two current generals to carry out his plan, but eventuallySpartan defeat at Pylos an improvised set of fortifications was built and Demosthenes was left there with fiveIn the spring of 425 the Peloponnesian army, ships while the rest of the fleet sailed onled by the young Spartan king Agis, again towards Corcyra.invaded Attika. They settled down to spend Initially the Spartans, did not see anythe summer devastating as much Athenian serious threat from this Athenian footholdterritory as possible and to try, once more, to on their territory, but when King Agis andforce the Athenians into a major his advisers heard the news they abandoned
38 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarThis bronze hoplites helmet is in the style known as their invasion of Attika and hurried toCorinthian. Such helmets afforded good protection to the Pylos, gathering forces for a strike againstwearer, but they severely restricted vision and hearing, Demosthenes. A Peloponnesian fleet thatmaking the hoplites heavily dependent on the coherence oftheir formation. This example is inscribed with the name had been on its way to Corcyra was recalledDendas, perhaps the person who dedicated it in a sanctuary. to assist them, Demosthenes also sent forMany men preferred simpler helmets such as those seen in help and the Athenian fleet turned round atthe illustration on page 86. (Ancient Art and Architecture) Zakynthos and headed back to Pylos.
The fighting 39This fifth-century sculpture from the temple of Aphaia on Spartan attacks. The Spartans efforts took on aAigina shows the hero Herakles. recognisable by his lionskin frantic edge, with one of their triremeheadress. He is in the act of shooting an arrow from a commanders, Brasidas, putting his ship andkneeling position. Archers were often carried on warships his own life at risk by running his shipand would target the officers, steersmen, sailors andsoldiers on enemy ships. (Ancient Art and Architecture) aground inside the area fortified by the Athenians and trying to force his way onto the The Spartans were determined to remove land. He was badly wounded and lost histhe enemy before their reinforcements could shield, but his bravery earned him mucharrive. They attacked the Athenian position praise. The next day the Athenian fleet arrived,from the land and the sea for two days. They now numbering 50 vessels with the additionlanded a small force of hoplites on the island of ships from Naupaktos and four alliedof Sphakteria as part of the attempt to triremes from Chios.blockade the fort by land and sea. The The character of the confrontation changedSpartans were wary of the advantage that the dramatically once the Athenians had a strongAthenians had over them in naval naval force at their disposal. They easily droveconfrontations, and seem to have decided that the 43 Spartan ships away from theoccupying the island would restrict Athenian promontory of Pylos and onto the beaches inaccess to the bay behind and prevent them the bay, disabling some and capturing others.from putting forces in the rear of the Spartans The blockade of the fort was lifted and theown positions on land. Demosthenes beached Spartans were left camped on the mainlandhis few remaining ships and deployed their watching helplessly as the Athenians sailedcrews as makeshift infantry. He and his men around Sphakteria unopposed. The mostheld out resolutely against almost continuous unfortunate result of this reversal of fortune
40 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian Warwas that 420 Peloponnesian hoplites and More Athenian forces came to Pylos and atheir Helot attendants were left stranded on stalemate ensued. The conditions for thethe island. Athenians were not easy, as despite being The Spartans immediately sent a masters of the sea, they did not controldelegation from the gerousia and the much of the coastline. Their fort was stillephorate to assess the situation. Their under attack from the Spartan army on theappraisal was an honest but bleak one. The mainland and Demosthenes had less thansituation was untenable for the men on 1,000 soldiers to defend it. The SpartansSphakteria because they could not be rescued offered cash rewards to anyone who wasand the Athenians could put their own prepared to dodge the Athenian triremessoldiers on the island and eventually patrolling around the island and bring foodoverwhelm them with sheer numbers. Even to the men there, either by swimming or inthat might not be necessary, however, as small boats. Enough Helots and Messenianthere was virtually no food on the island, so fishermen volunteered to maintain the foodthey might easily be starved into surrender. supply. Eventually the Athenians began toThe official delegation went straight to the feel the difficulty of supplying their ownAthenians and negotiated a truce, which forces at such a great distance and in aallowed them to get provisions to their men confined space with nowhere to beach theirand halted Athenian attacks. In return the ships in safety.Spartans surrendered what remained of their Back in Athens, Kleons arrogant handlingfleet and all the other triremes that they had of the Spartan peace envoys put the onus onback in Lakonia (a total of 60 ships), and him to find a solution. He tried to deflect itsent an embassy to Athens to discuss a full by blaming the lack of progress on the boardpeace treaty. of generals. They should make a determined These negotiations could have ended the assault on the island and kill or capture thewar, but instead they came to nothing. The men there, he said. He would have done soSpartan envoys were prepared to make huge already, if he were a general. One of theconcessions to recover their men, but they current generals, Nikias, took him at hisrefused to do so in front of a full session of word and invited him to select whateverthe Athenian Assembly, which was what the forces he required and show them how to doAthenians insisted upon. Such a public it. The mass of citizens cheered thisdisplay of weakness and humility was simply suggestion and shouted for Kleon to take uptoo much for the proud Spartans, accustomed the challenge. Kleon was trapped by the kindas they were to having their most important of crowd-pleasing rhetoric that he normallydecisions settled by a small group of senior used against others. He obtained a mixedcitizens in a private meeting. There was a force of tough, experienced hoplites from thesubstantial body of opinion in Athens that Athenian citizen colonies of Lemnos andfavoured coming to terms now, but the more Imbros, and plenty of light infantry, bothbelligerent and arrogant feelings of Kleon and peltasts (light infantryman armed withhis supporters carried the day. When Kleon javelins) and archers. He promised to destroyaccused them of lacking sincerity the or capture the Spartans in 20 days.Spartans gave up and returned home. Thetruce was over and the Spartans requested thereturn of their ships, but the Athenians held The most amazing thingon to them claiming that some of the detailsof the agreement had not been adhered to by Kleons boast that he could resolve thethe Spartans. Thus they were able to bring an situation in 20 days, coming from a manend to Spartan naval activity for the time who had never previously held any militarybeing and increase the pressure on the men command, was probably a piece of sheertrapped on Sphakteria. arrogance. However, he did have enough
The fighting 41This photo shows the bronze covering of a hoplite shield; sentries completely by surprise. Oncethe wooden core has long perished. It is pierced with letters bridgeheads were established they floodedthat tell us it was booty taken from the Spartans at Pylos in the island with the Messenians from the fort425 by the AtheniansThe taking and dedicating of trophieswas a key part of Greek warfare.They served as physical at Pylos, plus archers, peltasts and severalreminders of a god-given victory over the enemy (American thousand ordinary rowers from the fleet,School of Classical Studies at Athens: Agora Excavations) whose only offensive weapons were sling stones and rocks. By holding the hoplitesunderstanding of warfare to choose back from a direct engagement with theDemosthenes, the energetic commander superior Spartan troops, and using the rest ofwhose plan had started the whole affair, as his force to harry the enemy with missileshis chief adviser. Between them they came Demosthenes forced the Spartans to retreatup with a tactically sound approach. They rather than be gradually picked off wherelanded 800 hoplites on the island from both they stood. If they could have achievedsides at dawn and caught the weary Spartan close-quarter combat with the enemy the
42 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarSpartans might have been able to defeat their release, but the Athenians demandedthem, but their heavy armour slowed them more than they could give in return.down. It also proved insufficient protection The strategic value of Demosthenes planagainst the showers of arrows, javelins and was demonstrated because the Pylos fort nowstones from unarmoured men who easily ran became a thorn in the side of the Spartans,off before they could be engaged by the as the Messenians, emboldened by theirlumbering hoplites. The Spartan commander, success on Sphakteria, launched raids intoEpitadas, was driven back to an old fort on the surrounding countryside and causedsome high ground at the north end of the many Helots to desert. Nikias and the otherisland where his surviving men, many of Athenian generals took a force of 80 shipsthem severely wounded, prepared to make a and raided the territory of the Corinthians,stand. The Messenians, however, clambered doing considerable damage and establishingover the cliffs and came up behind the another fortified post at Methana, fromSpartans, who were now surrounded and where it was possible to ravage much of thehopelessly outnumbered. Eastern Peloponnese. Before all the Spartans were killed Kleonand Demosthenes decided to offer them achance to surrender. Epitadas was dead by Athens in the ascendancythis time, and his second in command wastoo badly wounded to move, so the third in The following year, 424, the Athenians begancommand, Styphon, asked permission to to reap the benefits of having over 100consult his superiors among the Spartans on Spartan citizens as hostages. There was nothe mainland. A tense exchange of messages Peloponnesian invasion of Attika this yearfollowed between Styphon and the dismayed because the Athenians had told the SpartansSpartan officers across the bay. Finally the that they would execute the prisoners if thisfollowing instruction was issued: The happened. On the contrary, it was theLakedaimonians (i.e. the Spartans) order you Athenians who took the initiative byto do whatever you think is in your own best attacking Kythera, a large island off theinterests, provided you do not act Peloponnesian coast to the south of Lakonia.dishonourably. This remarkably unhelpful The inhabitants were free men of Perioikoimessage was the final straw for the 292 men status and their loyalty to the Spartans waswho were still alive. After a brief discussion guaranteed by their proximity to Lakoniathey laid down their arms and surrendered and the Spartan practice of posting a garrisonto the Athenians. One hundred and twenty there with a Spartan commander. Nikias,of them were full Spartan citizens. Nikeratos and Autokles sailed there with To the rest of the Greeks the most amazing 60 ships and an invasion force ofthing that occurred in the whole of the war, 2,000 hoplites. They defeated the Kytheranswas how Thucydides chose to describe the and their garrison in a brief battle andSpartan surrender at Sphakteria. It was persuaded them to swap sides, having alreadyunthinkable that a Spartan force, however made them aware through messages fromhard pressed, would give in to their Nikias that their lives would be spared andopponents. They were expected to fight to the they would be allowed to remain on thedeath, as King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans island if they gave in quickly. Kytherahad chosen to do against the might of the became another tribute-paying island in thePersian army at the battle of Thermopylai in Athenian Empire. Erom here it was easy for480. The blow to Spartan prestige was the Athenians to raid the coast of Lakonia,tremendous, and the boost to Athenian rendered especially vulnerable by themorale was equally great. The captured men Spartans rash decision to surrender theirwere taken back to Athens by the fleet. A ships as part of the truce negotiated at Pylos.series of Spartan embassies tried to negotiate It was now the Spartans turn to post cavalry
The fighting 43The scene on this Athenian red-figure wine jug shows Peloponnese and attacked Thyrea, on theNike, the goddess who personified Victory, decorating a border between Argos and l.akonia. This wasbronze tripod with a ribbon, Nike was usually portrayed where the Spartans had settled refugees fromwith wings because the Greeks believed that it was the Aigina. The local Spartan garrison, fearing agods who told her whose side to fly to and no mencould force her to stay with them.(Ashmolean Museum) repeat of the Sphakteria episode, fled and left the hopelessly outnumbered Aiginetan exilesdetachments and scatter small units of troops to the mercy of the Athenians. Theto defend their farmland from enemy attacks. Athenians killed many of them on the spot Nikias and his fellow generals took and transported the rest back to Athens fortheir fleet on to the eastern coast of the public execution. In this respect they
44 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarThe small temple on the Acropolis dedicated to Athena Nike (Victory) was built in the420s. It may reflect the Athenians sense of triumph over their Peloponnesian enemies,but it was mostly decorated with scupltures showing mythological scenes or depictingthe famous Athenian victory over the Persians in 490. (Ancient Art and Architecture)
The fighting 45behaved no better than the Thebans and the Boiotians, their neighbours to the northSpartans had done towards the unfortunate of Attika, who were dominated by the city ofcitizens of Plataia. Thebes, Spartas principal ally outside of the The next Athenian target was Megara, Peloponnese. Demosthenes and his fellowwhere a pro-Athenian democratic faction in general Hippokrates had devised a complexthe city was plotting with Demosthenes to plan to capture and fortify Delion, a positionlet an Athenian army into the city at dawn on the coast of Boiotia, near Tanagra. Fromto force the Peloponnesian garrison to there they hoped to force most of thesurrender. The plot was only partially Boiotians to revolt against Theban control.successful but it did enable the large The plan called for two armies to convergeAthenian army to take control of the nearby on Delion from the north and south.port of Nisaia. The garrison of Peloponnesian Demosthenes army was to include alliestroops stationed there offered to pay a from Akarnania in Western Greece, someransom for themselves and hand over the Phokians and Boiotians from Orchomenos,Spartans among them in return for safe while Hippokrates led an army composedpassage. This was doubtless another largely of Athenian citizens. The plan wentsymptom of the low esteem in which the wrong from the outset. DemosthenesSpartans were held after the Sphakteria intentions were betrayed to the Thebans anddebacle. The city of Megara itself was not he was prevented from making thecaptured, however, partly thanks to the rendezvous. Hippokrates and the Athenianresolute action taken by the Spartan Brasidas, hoplites reached Delion and fortified it, butwho was at Sikyon recruiting troops for an as they were heading back to Attika theyexpedition into the Thracian region. He were confronted by the Thebans and most ofquickly assembled a force of 4,000 hoplitcs the other Boiotians. As often happened in awho linked up with some Boiotian cavalry to hoplite battle the right wing of each armycheck the Athenian advance on the city. The drove back its opponents, but the superiorhoplite force that Brasidas used was largely Boiotian cavalry forces scattered thecomposed of Corinthians, whose territory Athenian right wing and the heavybordered Megara and who were likely to concentration of Theban hoplites forced thesuffer the most from further Athenian gains Athenian left into headlong flight. Overin the area. At this point in his narration of 1,000 Athenians were killed, including theirthe events of the war Thucydides makes the general Hippokrates.following comment on the Atheniancitizens ambition and overconfidence: Brasidas fights back So completely were they taken in by theircurrent good fortune that they assumed that no- In 424 the Spartans decided to strike at aone could possibly stand against them; and they vulnerable area of the Athenian Empire, thebelieved that both the possible and the Greek cities of the north-eastern Aegean,impossible alike could be accomplished, especially the peninsula of Chalkidike.regardless of whether their resources were great or Unable to mount any naval expeditions,meagre. The reason for this was the completely they sent a small army overland from theunlocked for success in whatever they did, which Peloponnese to Northern Greece. It wasgreatly raised their expectations. under the command of Brasidas, the Spartan who had fought so bravely at Pylos and was beginning to gain a reputation as a skilfulAthenian defeat at Delion tactician. The Spartans were not prepared to risk more of their own citizens so far fromThe Athenians were content to retain the home, so his force consisted of 1,000 hopliteport of Nisaia and turned their attention to mercenaries, from various parts of the
46 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarThis photo is of the Hellenic naval vessel Olympics, a silver and gold. It had a population drawnworking reconstruction of an Athenian trireme. Such from all parts of Greece, with only a smallwarships routinely used their sails for long voyages, but Athenian clement. The strength of thesethey were propelled by their oars alone during battles:the masts were removed and stored on land. Some citizens loyalties to the Athenians wastriremes were used to transport soldiers and a few were dubious, but there was an Athenian hopliteeven converted to carry up to 30 horses. (Ancient Art garrison there, commanded by the generaland Architecture) luikles. The sudden appearance of Brasidas,Peloponnese and 700 i lelots who had accompanied by Ghalkidian forces from thevolunteered to fight as hoplites in exchange cities that had joined him, caught thefor their freedom. Funding came from the inhabitants of Amphipolis completelyking of Macedon and the recently formed unprepared. Many of them were outside theLeague of the Greek cities of Chalkidike, all city walls, working on their farmland.of whom wanted to reduce Athenian Nevertheless Eukles managed to despatch ainfluence in the area. ship to alert the historian Thucydides, who One of Brasidas first successes was was an Athenian general for this year andagainst the city of Amphipolis. He had had a force of seven triremes on the island ofalready persuaded the Chalkidian cities of Thasos, less than a days sail away to theAkanthos and Stageira to revolt from south east.Athens, but Amphipolis was a more difficult, The news of Brasidas arrival wasthough tempting target. It had been communicated to Thucydides as quickly asfounded under Athenian direction in possible. The distance between Amphipolis437/436 to control a strategically vital and Thasos is about 50 miles (80km) and thecrossing point of the river Strymon, a major journey would normally have been atrade and communication route, and to relatively straightforward one forprovide a base for exploitation of the experienced mariners. It was winter however,natural resources of the Pangeion mountain and navigating across to the mainland, alongregion, principally timber for ship-building, the coast and up the river Strymon in poor
The fighting 47weather and failing light could have been the Athenian commander. It would seem thatquite hazardous. Thucydides does not say a lack of firm information on the prospects ofhow difficult his voyage was, but his failure relief, combined with the certainty of lenientto cover the distance in less than six hours is treatment by Brasidas, caused a catastrophiccertainly not indicative of incompetence or loss of confidence in the Athenians. It washesitancy. He says that he set out easier to believe in the visible Spartan forcesimmediately and at full speed with his than in the unseen fleet of Thucydides whoseseven ships from Thasos, but he still failed to approach could only be presumed to bereach the city in time to prevent its happening. Without any means ofsurrender, and nearly failed to save the city communicating quickly with each other overof Eion, further down the river .Strymon. long distances, Greek commanders were Thucydides says that even the Athenians constantly plagued by doubts and fears ofin Amphipolis did not expect relieving betrayal and abandonment. Brasidas wasforces to arrive quickly, which suggests that able to exploit this weakness to seize controlthey were uncertain when, or possibly of a vital Athenian outpost. The consequencewhether, their call for help would reach for Thucydides was that the Athenianhim, in spite of the fact that he was close Assembly chose to blame him for the loss ofby. Perhaps there was an additional worry Amphipolis and he was exiled from his homeabout what his reaction to the news would city. His loss was posteritys gain, however, asbe? They would only know if he had heeded he was able to travel around the Greek worldtheir call when they saw his ships coming gathering vital information for his history ofup the river from Lion. Yet Brasidas decided the Peloponnesian War.to offer them generous, remarkablyun-Spartan surrender terms, allowingthe inhabitants to retain their possessions The fragile truce of 423and political rights in exchange foracknowledging Spartan authority. Those Brasidas continued to campaign in the area,who did not wish to stay under these terms but he met some determined resistance fromwere allowed to take their possessions and the local Athenian garrison in the city ofleave unmolested. In contrast, when the Torone, until some of its population openedPlataians finally surrendered in 427 all of the gates and the Athenians were forced tothe men, except those who could claim that flee by ship. Emboldened by his successes hethey had been helping the Spartans, were put the resources of Amphipolis to good usekilled and the women who had stayed with by building triremes on the banks of thethem were enslaved. Unlike many other river Strymon.Spartan commanders during the war, The Athenians clearly had to find a way toBrasidas was operating a long way from put a stop to what Brasidas was doing andhome and had no-one overseeing his their possession of the Spartans taken at Pylosactions, but his leniency to the inhabitants in 425 gave them a strong bargaining positionwas based on his own expectation that a in peace negotiations. Sparta persuaded herrelief force would arrive quickly and that allies to agree to offer a truce for one year as a Thucydides would easily be able to exploit preliminary step towards a long-termhis local connections to summon up further settlement. The Athenian assembly acceptedforces to challenge Brasidas. and oaths were taken by representatives of So why did Eukles and his compatriots not both sides in the summer of 423. The terms ofcome to the same conclusion and determine the truce included a clause allowing each sideto hold out even for a single day? Thucydides to keep its own territory, specific restrictionssays that the population of Amphipolis felt on movement of troops and communicationsthey were better off surrendering on Brasidas, with strategically sensitive areas, particularlygenerous terms and they would not listen to around Megara, restrictions on Peloponnesian
48 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian Warmovement at sea and a ban on accepting any but it increased the vulnerability of Northerndeserters from the other side, whether they Attika to raids and made it more difficult forwere free men or slaves. This would have the Athenians to bring supplies into their cityincluded any more Messenians fleeing to from the island of Euboia. In the meetings ofPylos and should also have put a stop to the the Assembly there was a growing sense ofdefections from Athens tribute-paying cities impatience, which led to demands for somein Northern Greece. decisive activity on the part of their generals. In the midst of the negotiations for this This sense of frustration made it easier fortruce Skione, one of the Chalkidian cities, Kleon to persuade the Athenian assembly torevolted. Brasidas, who had persuaded the vote for a strong expedition to be sent to theSkionians to come over to his side, claimed north to deal with Brasidas. The Assemblythat it was not contrary to the terms of the authorised Kleon to take command oftruce because it happened before the oaths 30 triremes, with 1,200 Athenian hoplites,were taken. The Athenians were furious with 300 cavalry and a strong force drawn fromthe Skionians, however, and Kleon persuaded the subject allies. He gathered further troopsthe assembly to vote for a decree that the city from those besieging Skione and attackedshould be sacked and its citizens executed as a Torone. The city was quickly taken by apunishment. This harsh decision did not deter combined land and sea assault. The ToronianSkiones neighbour Mende from changing women and children were sold into slavery,sides as well, although in this case there was while the surviving 700 men, consisting ofno doubt that it happened after the truce was some Toronians, some Chalkidians fromratified. Brasidas might have made even other cities and a few Peloponnesians, weregreater gains had he not had to divert most of taken back to Athens to join the other enemyhis forces to a joint campaign with his royal prisoners.ally and paymaster King Perdikkas of The main target for Kleons expeditionMacedon. The Athenians took advantage of was the recovery of Amphipolis. Brasidas alsohis absence to send an expedition to the realised the importance of the city and heregion under the generals Nikias and hired additional Thracian mercenaries toNikostratos. They managed to recover Mende, bolster his defences. Kleon based himself atwhose citizens changed sides again in time to nearby Eion, but he took his army closeavoid the full wrath of Athenian retribution, enough to Amphipolis to observe thebut Skione held out longer. Brasidas might dispositions of Brasidas forces inside thehave been able to raise the siege there too, if city. When they appeared to be preparing toSpartan reinforcements had managed to get come out for battle he ordered his men tothrough Thessaly, but they were blocked withdraw. But Brasidas had selected 150 ofwith the connivance of King Perdikkas, who his best hoplites as a strike force and hehad fallen out with Brasidas and was now rushed out of the gates while Kleon was stillco-operating with the Athenians. trying to turn his army round and organise it for the march back to Eion. As more of Brasidas men poured out of the city toDeaths of Kleon and Brasidas engage them the Athenians panicked and fled. Kleon was killed by a ThracianThe war continued in a sporadic fashion mercenary along with about 600 hoplites.despite the truce. The Athenians tried to On the other side there were only sevenrevive their interests in Sicily by encouraging casualties, but they included Brasidas, whoopposition to Syracuse, but no significant had once again chosen to lead by exampleprogress was made. A Boiotian force captured, and was fatally wounded. He survived longthrough treachery, the fort of Panakton on enough to hear the extent of his victory andthe border between Athens and Boiotia. This the jubilant citizens of Amphipolis gave himwas not a serious defeat for the Athenians, a magnificent funeral and installed a shrine
The fighting 49The Propylaia of the Athenian Acropolis was a side. Their simultaneous deaths were takenmonumental gateway to the sanctuary which contained by everyone involved as symbolic of thetemples altars and other sacred buildings. Ritual processions stalemate that had been reached after nearlyof men, women and children passed through it during the 10 years of war. Those who advocated peacemany religious festivals that were celebrated by the citizensin honour of their gods. (Ancient Art and Architecture) were now able to push along negotiations for a long-term treaty. By the end of 422 the Spartans were faced with the prospect ofto him as their honorary founder, in place of further Helot revolts if the raids from Pylosthe original Athenian founder. When news and Kythera continued. More urgent,of Brasidas death was brought back home he however was the need to recover overwas hailed as the best of the Spartans, but 100 full Spartan citizens from the Athenians.his mother is reputed to have said: My son Why were these few Spartans who becameBrasidas was indeed a fine man, nevertheless trapped on Sphakteria so precious that theirhe was not as good as many other Spartans. imminent capture brought the Spartan warFor this display of traditional Spartan effort to a standstill and securing their returnreticence and patriotism the ephors decided dominated Spartan thinking for nearly fourto award her public honours. years? There were other, allied prisoners to be exchanged, of course, including those captured by Kleon at Torone. The SpartanThe Peace of Nikias manpower shortage referred to earlier must also be part of the explanation. In addition,The deaths of both Brasidas and Kleon took a Thucydides tells us that some of them werelot of the momentum out of the war important people back in Sparta, withbetween Athens and Sparta. Both had been relations among the Spartan citizens whoenergetic and ambitious in proposing and held high office, yet after their return theycarrying out schemes to wear down the other were condemned as cowards and deprived of
50 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian Wartheir citizen rights for surrendering instead Athenians that, when they first heard of it,of fighting on. Ultimately it may have been they were persuaded by Kleon to vote for athe symbolic and emotional significance of harsh punishment. The men were to bethese prisoners that made the Spartans executed and the women and children solddesperate to wrest them from the grasp of into slavery. This time, unlike the situationthe gloating Athenians. As long as they over the revolt of Mytilene, there was noremained in Athens they were living, change of heart. Skiones stubborn resistancewalking proof that, for all their training, seems to have hardened the attitude of thediscipline and haughty disregard for others, Athenians, who were not prepared to bethe Spartans were not the bravest and the merciful towards subject allies who had triedbest of the Greeks. Once they were back to break away from their empire.home they could be stripped of their Spartan The Spartans main requirements werestatus and replaced by some of the other, met with the return of Pylos and Kythera tobraver Spartans that Brasidas mother had them and a general exchange of prisoners.ranked above even her remarkable son. They also concluded a new treaty with For the Athenians there was also a Athens that included a clause promisinggrowing manpower shortage, as the Athenian help in the case of another Helotdeployment of allied troops in Kleons forces revolt. Nevertheless, they could hardly claimillustrates. They also would have welcomed that their grandiose mission to liberate thethe prospect of recovering prisoners held by Greeks from the tyranny of Athens had beenPcloponnesians and their allies, and they achieved. The Athenians and their empirewere probably just as concerned about the were still there.heavy toll that the war effort was taking on The peace of Nikias certainly did not lasttheir financial reserves and the revenues for 50 years. Within months of thefrom their slightly diminished empire. The Athenians and Spartans agreeing to ceaseconfidence that the Sphakteria victory had hostilities and exchange conquests theirproduced must have been severely dented by relationship had deteriorated into mutualthe defeats at Delion and Amphipolis. The suspicion. Gradually the tension escalated asAthenian general Nikias played a leading role it had done in the 430s, until both sidesin the negotiations that produced a peace were openly at war with each other again.treaty, so modern scholars have named the Indeed, Thucydides, looking back on thesetreaty after him. events with the benefit of hindsight did not It is clear that the aim was to conclude a think it was a proper peace at all, but merelytreaty similar to the Thirty Years Peace a break in open hostilities directed againstwhich had been negotiated in 446, but with the territory of the two protagonists. Outsidean initial duration of 50 years. Each side was of Attika and Lakonia, he argued, each sidesupposed to give up any territories that it did much to harm the interests of the otherhad gained by force during the war, such as until the renewal of the conflict wasthe border fortress of Panakton. The Thebans inevitable. In part the failure to maintainrefused to restore Plataia and the Athenians peace can be blamed on the reluctance of theinsisted on holding onto the Megarian port allies on both sides to accept the terms ofof Niasia, both claiming that these places the treaty. The Corinthians and the Boiotianshad surrendered voluntarily. The Athenians both refused to be bound by it, particularlyrecovered the strategically vital city of as it was made without their consent andAmphipolis, but the other Chalkidian cities included a provision for alterations to bewere allowed to declare themselves made by mutual agreement between Athensautonomous, as long as they resumed their and Sparta, without reference to any allies.payments of tribute to Athens. The rebellious The Boiotians demonstrated theircitizens of Skionc were less fortunate. Their disapproval by holding on to Panakton untilchange of sides had so angered the they had destroyed its fortifications.
The fighting 5 Athenian irritation with what they saw as Argives into a vulnerable position between afailure by the Spartans to keep their side of small Spartan-led force and a larger onethe agreement was exploited by an ambitious comprising the Boiotians, Corinthians andyoung politician called Alkibiades, a relative other allies of Sparta. But instead of pressingof Perikles. He persuaded the Assembly that on to what seemed like certain victory, Agisthe way to get back at the Spartans was to met with a few representatives of the Argivesencourage trouble for them in the and, without consulting any of his allies,Peloponnese. An excellent opportunity to do agreed to withdraw under a truce that was tojust this came about because the peace treaty last for four months.which had been concluded between Sparta Agis was severely criticised back in Sparta,and Argos in 451 was about to expire. but the pious and tradition-bound SpartansThroughout the Archidamian War the felt obliged to observe the truce. He was,Argives had maintained a neutral position to however, obliged by the ephors to accept atheir own benefit. Unlike many of their 10-man board of special advisors to preventneighbours they were not economically and him making any similar political errors. Insocially worn out from 10 years of 418 the Argives gathered their allies onceinconclusive warfare. The people of Argos more and set out to force otherwere also very well aware of their former Peloponnesian states to join their coalition.glories, celebrated in myths and stories of They easily persuaded the city ofArgive kings leading the Greeks. A Orchomenos to come over to them anddemocratic faction in Argos started working moved south to Mantinea, intending to usewith Alkibiades and his supporters in Athens the city as a base from which to put pressureto create a new, anti-Spartan coalition by on Tegea. The Spartans were forced torecruiting cities like Elis and Mantinea who respond to a direct threat to one of theirresented the extent of Spartan influence in principal allies.the Peloponnese. In 419 the Argives attacked Epidauros, inorder to secure their eastern flank against the The battle of MantineaCorinthians and to provide a convenientlanding point for Athenian forces, which Led by Agis, the Spartan army marched intocould not enter the Peloponnese hy land the territory of Mantinea and implementedbecause the Corinthians blocked their route. their standard policy of ravaging the enemysThe Spartans had to respond to this show of land in order to force them to come out andArgive force, so they reinforced Epidauros by offer battle in defence of their crops.sea. The Argives were dismayed that the Unfortunately, in that part of theAthenians, whose naval strength was far Peloponnese the harvest was mostlysuperior to the Spartans, did nothing to completed by this time, and the damage didhinder this move. What the Athenians did not amount to much. The allies were notdecide to do was to add an additional section eager to risk a battle as they were hoping forto the public inscription recording the terms reinforcements in the shape of a large force ofof the Peace of Nikias, claiming that the about 3,000 hoplites from Elis and a furtherSpartans did not keep their oaths. In 419 the 1,000 from Athens. When they eventuallySpartans gathered a substantial army in the did emerge from Mantinea, instead ofPeloponnese to attack Argos, and summoned marching directly against the Spartans theyfurther troops from their more distant allies, took up a defensive position on the slopes ofincluding Corinth and Boiotia. The Argives the nearby hills and waited for Agis and themarched into the heart of the Peloponnese Spartans to make the next move.to try to prevent these forces joining up, but Agis was determined to force a battle, sothey were unsuccessful. Dividing his forces, he ordered his army to advance towards thethe Spartan king, Agis, manoeuvred the enemy, up an increasingly steep slope.
52 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarThucydides says that when the two armies Thousand, whose relations with the Spartanswere close enough to throw javelins or cast had usually been good, but who were understones at each other, one of the older men pressure from their own citizens toin the Spartan ranks called out to Agis, demonstrate that they would not come tosaying that he was trying to make up for terms with the enemy in order to avoid aone mistake with another. He meant that battle. They were also expected to fulfil onAgis was trying to atone for his earlier, the promises offered by the new alliance toignominious withdrawal from Argos by places like Mantinea, which were looking forleading a reckless attack on a strong enemy a genuine alternative to the traditionalposition. It may well be that the old man dominance of Sparta in the Peloponnese. Thewhose words brought Agis to his senses was Argives and their allies, therefore, movedone of the members of the gerousia, the down from the hilltop and onto the plain toSpartan council of elders; he may even have the south of Mantinea. They lined up in thebeen one of the 10 advisers. Whatever its order of battle they had decided upon for theorigin, the rebuke seems to have worked, as confrontations with the Spartans.Agis ordered a last-minute about turn, Their right wing, traditionally the strongesttaking the army back to the city of Tegea. in a hoplite battle, was occupied by theHe was fortunate that his foolhardy advance Mantineans, whose home territory was nowand sudden retreat confused the under threat, and by hoplites from some ofcommanders of the Argive coalition. They the smaller cities of Arkadia. Next to themdid not immediately try to pursue the were the elite 1,000 hoplites from Argos,retreating Spartans, probably because they while the bulk of the Argive hoplites occupiedwere concerned that their opponents the centre and the left wing, along withmight turn about once more and attack 1,000 hoplites and some cavalry from Athens.them when they were no longer in such a Meanwhile the Spartans had advancedstrong position. towards Mantinea, unaware that the King Agis and his allies were still faced opposing army had left its previous positionwith the problem of how to draw the and was now much closer to them. Emergingcoalition allies down from their from a wood, they were surprised andcommanding position and into a more disconcerted to find the enemy drawn up forfavourable location to engage them in battle. battle in front of them. Agis hastily arrangedThey decided that as an alternative to his forces for the battle, adopting the usualthreatening the Mantineans crops, they Spartan procedure of putting the Skiritai,would threaten their water supplies by hoplites from the Skiris region of Arkadia, ondiverting the course of the main river in the his left wing, alongside hoplite companiesarea so that, when the rains came in the formed from freed Helots, including thoseautumn, it would flood the territory of the men who had returned from BrasidasMantineans and ruin their land. In order to expedition to Thrace. At the centre were theprevent this the enemy would be forced to Lakonian hoplites, both Spartans andcome down from the hills and onto the Perioikoi. The Spartans other Arkadian allies,flood plains of the river, where the flat land including the Tegeans, were stationed on thewould not give an advantage to either side. right wing, with some Spartan officers toThis idea must have been suggested by the stiffen their resolve. At the extreme ends ofTegeans who had a long history of disputes each wing Agis stationed a couple of hundredwith the Mantineans over how to manage Spartan cavalry. Both sides had some cavalrythe flood plains. and a small number of light-armed troops, In the meantime the Argives and their armed with bows, javelins and slings, butallies were on the move. The senior the bulk of each army consisted of hoplites,commanders of this coalition force were 8,000 on the Argive side and aboutmembers of the aristocracy of Argos, the 9,000 on the Spartan side. These were very
The lighting 53large numbers for a hoplite confrontation Worried that his left would be outflankedand the ensuing battle demonstrated several and easily defeated, Agis ordered the menof the key strengths and weaknesses of this there to move towards their left. However,form of massed infantry warfare. this threatened to open up a significant gap Thucydides observes that there is a in the line, so, as the two armies closed withmarked tendency for a hoplite phalanx to each other Agis told two Spartan companymove to its right as it approaches the enemy. commanders to take their men from theThis is the result of the fact that each mans right of the Spartan hoplite line and fill theright side feels vulnerable because his shield developing gap between his left wing andcannot fully cover that side of his body. To centre. They refused, being experiencedcompensate he moves closer to the Spartan officers who understood that to doprotruding shield of the man on his right, so would leave an even more dangerous gapand so on down the line, resulting in a between the right wing and the centre. Agisgeneral drift to the right of the whole army. tried to get his left wing to move to the rightSo, as both armies advanced, each one began again, to close up the front line of his army,to extend its right wing beyond the but it was too late and as the armies clashedopponents corresponding left wing. At the there was a considerable gap between thebattle of Mantinea this tendency was freed Helots and the Spartans.exaggerated by the fact that the Spartanarmy was larger and its front was wider, so This relief sculpture comes from a large tomb built for athat the line of the Tegeans and Spartans on local aristocrat in South Western Asia Minor around 400.Agis left extended well beyond that of the It shows hoplites fighting in a phalanx formation. If theAthenians and Argives opposite them. discipline and cohesion of the formation was maintained it was very difficult to overcome. An unexpected attack,Conversely, on Agis left wing the line of the or one coming from the flank or rear; could easily panicSkiritai and freed Helots did not extend as far the hoplites and break up their formation. (Ancient Artas the line of the Mantineans. and Architecture)
54 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian War The battle of Mantinea 418 BC
The fighting 55 The Mantineans, their Arkadian allies and enemy centre and left so that he could turnthe 1,000 Argives exploited this gap, driving the bulk of his army against the Mantineans,Agis left wing back and nearly encircling it. Arkadians and elite Argives, encircling themIf they had slowed down, consolidated the and inflicting heavy casualties.split between the two parts of Agis army and Once again, however, an experiencedthen moved to their left, attacking the main senior Spartan officer intervened. This wasformation of Spartan hoplites from the flank Iharax, one of the men appointed to adviseand rear, they might have won a remarkable Agis after his last campaign against Argos.victory. Instead they rushed forward, Pharax drew King Agis away from the frontbreaking up Agis left wing and driving the line where he was fighting and told him tomen before them until they reached the give orders to leave an escape route for thebaggage train, which was guarded by a few 1,000 elite Argive hoplites. The historianolder men, many of whom they killed. Diodoros says that this was because theyMeanwhile, their own centre and left wing were so determined and desperate that theywere faring badly. The Spartans easily might have inflicted serious damage on theovercame the Argives in front of them, who Spartan forces, but it may well be that therepanicked and fled after only a brief show of was a political angle to Pharaxs advice. Theresistance. They were older men, less well elite Argive hoplites were men from thetrained than the 1,000 elite hoplites who richest families in Argos and they were thosewere pursuing Agis defeated right wing, and most likely to support an oligarchic regime,more accustomed to fear the Spartans. The which was what the Spartans wanted. If theyAthenians on the extreme left of the Argive were slain, however, their influence wouldarmy were being encircled. It was only the have been lost and the pro-Athenian,brave action of their cavalry that prevented a democratic element in Argos would havecomplete rout. So the battle had become found it easier to continue governing anddivided into two separate groups of victorious pursuing its anti-Spartan alliances. It was,hoplites pursuing their defeated and therefore, the Mantineans, the ordinarydemoralised enemies. Such circumstances Argives, the Athenians and the Arkadianswere typical of hoplite confrontations and, as who suffered the most casualties at thewas often the case, it was the army which hands of the Spartans, losing over 1,000 menretained the most discipline and cohesion between them, while the elite Argives gotafter the initial stage of the engagement that away almost unscathed.was able to win the day. Agis, seeing his left The immediate consequence of this victorywing in disarray, ended the pursuit of the was the restoration of the Spartans military reputation, but it did not produce a long-term resolution of the conflicts between the Greek 1. As the two armies approached Agis ordered the men states. Reluctant allies of Sparta also knewon his left wing to move to their left. The Spartans whowere told to (ill the gap between his left and centre did what to expect if they looked elsewhere fornot do so. Both aimies drifted to their right as they support. They had defeated the rival city ofcame closer Argos, bringing a halt to her scheme to2. The Mantineans. Arkadians and elite Argive 1.000 dominate the Peloponnese in place of Sparta.drove the left wing of Agis army back towards their The following year the oligarchic faction inbaggage.The Spartan centre and right defeated and Argos was able to overthrow the democraticpanicked the Argives, Arkadians and Athenians in front ofthem. government with Spartan assistance. A3. Agis turned the soldiers on his right and centre to democratic revival followed soon after,help his stricken left wing. Before the elite Argive 1.000 however, while the Spartans were busy withwere surrounded Pharax advised Agis to leave them an one of their many religious festivals, and theescape route. oligarchic regime was removed. New overtures4. As the elite Argive 1.000 escaped the Spartanssurrounded the remaining Mantinean and Arkadian were made to the Athenians and there werehoplites, inflicting heavy casualties. further plans for joint operations in the
56 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarPeloponnese. The Athenians, meanwhile, house each night and plied them with richwere re-establishing a healthy financial food and plenty of wine, served in expensiveposition. Peace with Sparta made it easier to gold and silver dishes and cups. What thedraw in revenues from trade and the tribute overindulging Athenian envoys had failed toof their allies, while at the same time it notice, however, was that the same silver andreduced expenditure on military pay and gold utensils were being used on each occasion,equipment. In 416 they launched an so the impression of a highly prosperous cityexpedition to take control of the small island with riches was all a clever ruse.of Melos, whose population might have Having heard this news of an apparenthoped for assistance from the Spartans, but abundance of money to finance an expeditionwho were abandoned to the less than tender to Sicily the citizens of Athens debated whatmercy of the Athenians. proportion of their own men and materials to commit to it. The Athenian forces that had operated in Sicily in the years 427-424,Athens and Sicily ostensibly on behalf of Leontini, had made some headway in securing allies, obtainingIn the spring of 415 an embassy arrived at funds and using their limited militaryAthens from her ally Egesta, one of the resources to thwart the imperial ambitions ofsmaller cities of Sicily, located in the North Syracuse and prevent any assistance comingWestern part of the island, Athens alliance from Sicily to the Peloponnesians. It is likelywith Egesta dated back to the 450s when the that Alkibiades and his ambitious supportersAthenians were looking for opportunities to played on renewed fears of Syracusanmake alliances with enemies of the Spartans intervention in the war, but at the same timeand their allies. They had also made alliances they invited the Athenians to revive theirwith the Sicilian Greeks of Rhegion and dream of conquering Sicily and helpingLeontini around this time and they had themselves to the wealth and resources of theintervened in Leontinis struggle with Western Mediterranean. They painted aSyracuse in 427, to counter the potential for picture of weak opponents, so divided bySyracuse and her Sicilian allies to send internal strife that they could not possiblyassistance to the Peloponnesians. Syracuse resist the military might of Athens. Most ofhad been founded by settlers from Corinth, the Athenians had no idea how large the citiesand it would have been natural for the of Sicily were, or how strong and determinedSyracusans to join the line up alongside their their citizens might be. Alkibiades played onmother city against the Athenians. this ignorance to make the success of the The Egestans were seeking help against expedition seem almost inevitable. The older,their southern neighbour Selinous, an ally of more cautious leaders like Nikias advocatedSyracuse. Realising that the Athenians would rejecting the request altogether andnot send significant help if there were no concentrating on problems closer to home,funds available to pay for it, the Egestans especially the recovery of the coastal regionsinsisted that they would be able to cover most of Thrace. This objective, they argued, wasof the expenses of a large fleet and army. more realistic and more important than a wildInitial Athenian interest was tempered by the adventure into the West.need to have proof of the availability of the The ambitious, imperialist argumentfunds, so an investigative embassy was prevailed, however, and the assembly voted todespatched to Egesta. They returned bearing send 60 ships under the joint command of60 talents of silver with them and the promise three generals, Alkibiades, Nikias and a veteranthat there was plenty more where that came commander called Lamachos. The official tasksfrom because the Sicilians were very wealthy. of the generals were to help Egesta againstIn fact they had been fooled by the Egestans Selinous and to re-establish the city ofwho invited the envoys to dine in a different Leontini, which had been broken up by
The fighting 57Syracuse in 424. There was also a third, very without much clear evidence, that a group ofvague directive given to the generals: If the the wealthiest citizens were hatching a plot towar were to be going well for them, they were overthrow the democracy and install analso to manage matters in Sicily in whatever oligarchic government. Several individuals fledmanner they might feel was in the best the city and it was eventually decided to recallinterests of the Athenians. Thucydides was in Alkibiades to stand trial.no doubt that this meant that the real When the expedition reached Athens allyintention of the expedition was to conquer of Rhegion, on the toe of Italy, they wereSicily. He was sure that the lure of fabulous denied entry to the city, but a market was setwealth and limitless conquests had won out up and they drew their fleet out of the waterover Nikias warnings against overambition. and onto the beach. Three ships were sent offWhen Nikias tried to dissuade the assembly by to Egesta and they returned with the bad newsinsisting that the forces allocated were too that there was no more money available fromsmall and that a huge, expensive commitment that particular source. The people of Rhegion,was needed to bring about success, he despite their Ionian kinship with Leontini,expected the citizens to have second thoughts. refused to join in the war and declared theirInstead they voted to allow the generals to neutrality. The three Athenian generalstake as large a force as they thought fit. considered their options, but they disagreed on Shortly before the expedition set sail an how to proceed. Nikias suggested sailing roundominous act of religious vandalism occurred. to Egesta on the western side of Sicily to try toAll over Athens, at cross-roads, public obtain further funds. With or without thissanctuaries and outside the entrances to money they could settle the dispute betweenmany private houses there were statues called Egesta and Selinous, by force if necessary, andherms. They usually consisted of marble then come back around the southern coastline,blocks surmounted by busts of the god of allowing the cities a good view of the powerfultravellers, Hermes, often with ithyphallic Athenian fleet. If an opportunity shouldappendages. One night a group of men went present itself they might also sort out theround the city systematically mutilating these quarrel between Leontini and Syracuse.statues. The timing and scale of the damage Alkibiades was in favour of delaying anyclearly implied an orchestrated attempt to offensive action until they had gathered morecreate an omen that would cause a delay or allies among the Sicilians, both the nativeeven cancel the expedition. A general call for population and the Greek cities. Lamachosinformation about the apparent conspiracy proposal was the simplest, an immediate directproduced no immediate suspects, but assault on Syracuse, before the enemy hadaccusations were brought against several made adequate preparations. He argued thatwealthy citizens, including Alkibiades, of the Syracusans lack of readiness, combinedreligious sacrilege. They were accused of with the fear induced by the appearance ofconducting obscene parodies of the Sacred such a large Athenian force would give themMysteries, archaic fertility rituals celebrated their best chance for a quick victory.twice each year by initiates in the cult of the Eventually Lamachos was persuaded togoddess Demeter and her daughter agree to Alkibiades plan and so Nikias wasPersephone at Eleusis, near the border with outvoted two to one. The Athenians set off toMegara. Alkibiades demanded an immediate persuade more of the Greek cities of easterntrial, but it was decided to allow the Sicily to side with them. At Messene theyexpedition to sail while further enquiries were were not allowed into the city, but Naxoscarried out. A series of dubious denunciations agreed to join their alliance and Katana wasand confessions followed, some concerned won over. Soon after the success at Katana,with parodies of the Mysteries and others the however, a trireme arrived from Athens withequally mysterious mutilation of the herms. a summons for Alkibiades and several othersThe ordinary Athenian citizens suspected, to return to stand trial for their parts in the
58 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian War Sicily during the Peloponnesian Warscandalous parodying of the Eleusinian The siege of SyracuseMysteries. Alkibiades was reluctant to goback, fearing, with some justification, that In the spring of 414 the Athenians moved onhis political opponents in Athens had been to the offensive and attacked Syracuse inconspiring against him in his absence and earnest. They brought 250 cavalrymen fromthat he could not expect a fair trial because Athens and 300 talents of silver to financeOf the atmosphere of panic and suspicion their activities. The Athenian fleet landed thethat had been created back in Athens. When army to the north of Syracuse and tookthey reached Thurii in Southern Italy he control of the heights of Epipolai, a plateauescaped and eventually made his way to above the city. From there they set aboutSparta, where he was given a cautious building siege walls. The Syracusans triedwelcome. He was condemned in his building counter-walls to prevent their cityabsence and sentenced to death, as were being entirely cut off from the land. In aseveral others. battle to wrest control of the Syracusan Nikias and Lamachos attempted to press fortifications Lamachos was separated fromon with the campaign in Sicily, raising some the main Athenian forces with only a fewfunds and making a sudden attack on other hoplites around him. A SyracusanSyracuse, which resulted in a defeat for the officer called Kallikrates then challenged himSyracusans outside their city. The battle to single combat; they both killed eachindicated that the Athenian forces needed other, but the Syracusans easily overcamecavalry support and more money to wage a Lamachos companions and took his body,successful war against Syracuse and because stripping the armour from it and taking itit was getting late in the year the two back to the city. Nikias, who was too ill toAthenian generals decided to abandon participate in the main battle, managed tomilitary action and retire to Katana for beat off an attack on the main Athenianthe winter. fortifications and the Syracusans were then
The fighting 59 Siege of Syracusedismayed to see the Athenian fleet sailing gather some soldiers from other parts of Sicilyinto their Great Harbour. and he encouraged the Syracusans to take the The Syracusans had sent urgent messages offensive, inflicting the first significant defeatto the Peloponnese asking for assistance and on the Athenians through his skilful use ofCorinth, as the mother-city of Syracuse, had cavalry. The Syracusans continued with theirpressed the Spartans to act. Corinth and counter-walls and succeeded in building themSparta sent only a few ships and troops, but out to a point where the Athenians werethe Spartans supplied a determined and unable to complete their circumvallation ofresourceful commander in the mould of the city. While the Syracusans began trainingBrasidas. His name was Gylippos. It was the their naval forces to take on the Athenians,news of his arrival, slipping past the ships Gylippos went in search of morethat Nikias belatedly sent to try to intercept reinforcements. Nikias also decided that helpbim, that halted discussions among the was needed and he sent a letter back to thedisheartened Syracusans about negotiating a Athenians asking either for permission totruce with Nikias. Gylippos managed to return home or for massive reinforcements.
60 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarHe also requested a replacement general skilled Athenians. The Syracusans adopted abecause a serious kidney disease was making it Corinthian idea that involved shortening thedifficult for him to carry out his duties. bow sections of their triremes and fitting extra beams across the hulls at the point where the anchors were usually housed. The effect ofAthenian defeat in Sicily this was to transform the sleek, sharp-prowed vessels designed for penetrating the vulnerableIn view of their ambition and determination hulls of enemy triremes, into stockier, blunt-in the earlier stages of the war, it is no great nosed ships which were capable of rammingsurprise that the Athenians rejected the idea the lighter-built Athenian ships head on andof recalling the whole expedition. Nor did disabling them, without being badly damagedthey allow Nikias to step down, but they did themselves. In the relatively confined watersappoint two of his officers to assist him and, of the Great Harbour at Syracuse such tacticsmore importantly, they sent Demosthenes, were far more effective than those employedthe hero of Sphakteria, to Syracuse with a by the Athenians, who preferred to row roundlarge fleet of reinforcements. Before these an enemy ship and strike them from the sideforces arrived, however, Gylippos and the or rear.Syracusans managed to seize the main forts When the Syracusans were ready to try outand stores at Plemmyrion on the southern their new tactics they also used anotherside of the Great Harbour after a combined Corinthian stratagem. They challenged theland and sea operation. This defeat forced Athenians at sea in the morning and thenthe Athenians to crowd into an inadequate broke off, apparently giving up for the day;camp in unhealthy, marshy ground on the but they had arranged for food to be broughtwest side of the Great Harbour. directly to shore so that their crews could The Syracusans also modified their triremes take a quick meal and then set out againto utilise a new tactic against the highly while the Athenians were unprepared and hungry. In the fighting which followed manyA silver coin from Syracuse dating to about 400 and of the Athenian triremes were badly damagedshowing, beneath the main image of a chariot racing by the heavy prows of the Syracusan shipsvictory, a trophy of captured armour. Such trophies were and seven were lost completely.usually erected at the site of a battle by the winning side, Just when things were looking bleak forusing armour from the defeated enemy.This coin may bemeant to commemorate the defeat of the Athenians in Nikias and his men, however, Demosthenes413. (Ancient Art and Architecture) sailed into the Great Harbour with 73 ships, 5,000 hoplites and thousands of light infantry. With his characteristic decisiveness Demosthenes recommended a strong attack on the Syracusan counter-walls, but this was beaten off. A risky night attack from the heights of Euryalos attempted to take the fortifications in the rear, but the Syracusans, reinforced with non-Spartan troops from Lakonia and 300 elite Boiotian hoplites, routed the Athenians and drove them back once more. Demosthenes concluded that there was now no alternative but to abandon the siege and sail back to Athens. Nikias took some persuading, however, since he was still hopeful of getting a negotiated surrender through the activities of pro-Athenian faction within Syracuse, and he expected that the
The fighting 61Assembly would blame him for the executed and the rest of the survivors wereexpeditions failure. However, the situation shut up in the nearby quarries for 70 days,was made worse for the Athenians by the where many of them died of exposure andarrival of more allies to help the Syracusans starvation. Eventually most of them wereand Nikias agreed to depart. Just as the sold as slaves. Page 78 recounts how some ofAthenians were about to leave, however, an them managed to get back home.eclipse of the moon occurred. Nikias and News of the defeat was slow in reachingmany of the Athenians took this as an omen Athens and when it did the Athenians couldthat the gods disapproved of their plans and scarcely believe that their magnificentsome diviners among them prescribed a wait invasion force had been totally destroyed.of 27 days before deciding what to do next. The first person to bring news of the disaster The Syracusans took the initiative once seems to have been a travelling merchantmore. First they challenged the Athenians to who disembarked in the Peiraieus and wentanother battle and destroyed 18 of their to a barbers shop. There he began chattingships, wiping out the numerical advantage to the barber about it, assuming that it wasthat Demosthenes arrival had created. Then common knowledge. The barber, on realisingthey blockaded the entrance to the Great what he was referring to, ran up to the cityHarbour, which was less than a mile wide. and rushed into the market place to tell theThe Athenians tried to force their way magistrates what he had heard. Theythrough, but they were so comprehensively convened a meeting of the peoples assemblydefeated that the following day the and presented the barber before them withSyracusans were able to tow away the his story. Because the man could not give asurviving Athenian ships without any satisfactory explanation of the source of hisresistance. The Athenians were demoralised, information - he did not know the strangersexhausted and dangerously short of supplies. name or where he had heard the news - heThere was no alternative now but to attempt was assumed to be an agitator deliberatelya retreat overland to a friendly Sicilian spreading malicious rumours. Indeed, he wascommunity in the interior of the island. being tortured to reveal more of hisThey abandoned their sick and wounded and supposed plot when further messengersset off in two columns, one led by arrived with full details of the events.Demosthenes and the other by Nikias. TheSyracusans caught them up, however, andDemosthenes quickly surrendered, after Dekeleiabeing given assurances that the men wouldnot be starved or executed. Nikias men tried After his arrival in Sparta Alkibiades hadto push on, but when they finally reached a recommended that the Peloponnesians take awatercourse their discipline broke and they leaf from the Athenians book of strategies bybecame easy prey for the Syracusans and seizing and occupying a fortress in Atheniantheir allies, who set about slaughtering them territory. He suggested Dekeleia on thein the river bed. Nikias, who had worked so southern slopes of Mt Parnes, but the Spartanshard to make peace between Athens and were reluctant to commit themselves toSparta, surrendered to Gylippos, in the hope offensive action while the Peace of Nikias wasthat the Spartans influence would prevent potentially still valid. In the summer of 414,him from being executed. It did not, as the however, an Athenian fleet of 30 ships wasCorinthians were eager to prevent him being assisting the Argives in their ongoing borderransomed and some of the Syracusans war with Sparta and it made severalwanted to ensure that he did not reveal, incursions into Lakonian territory. Theunder torture, details of their earlier Spartans were satisfied that the enemy hadnegotiations to hand over the city to the violated the treaty and prepared to march outAthenians. He and Demosthenes were and occupy Dekeleia the following spring.
62 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian War When Agis and the 1eloponnesians force them to come to terms with theinvaded Attika in 413 they opened a new Spartans. As long as they could draw on thephase in the war. Instead of ravaging as much extensive resources of their maritime empireas they could of the Athenians territory for a they could continue the war. In order toshort while and then going home, they now deprive them of access to these resources theset up a permanent garrison in the fort of Spartans and their allies had to mount aDekeleia, From there they made raids across major naval offensive in the Eastern Aegean.large parts of Attika. The Athenians had to They began this task in 412/411, whendisperse their military strength in garrisons of several of Athens key allies defected, aftertheir own, but much of their agricultural land the news of the Sicilian disaster reachedwas rendered too vulnerable to farm, and they them and they realised that Athens hadwere prevented from using the overland route been severely weakened. In 412 the Spartansfrom Oropos to bring in supplies from the received a welcome boost to their own navalisland of Euboia. This had been a key source strength with the arrival of 25 Syracusanof food for the city of Athens during the ships, but the bulk of their fleets had to beArchidamian War, and was one reason for the provided by Sparta and her PeloponnesianAthenians ability to continue the struggle far allies, especially Corinth. The cost of thislonger than their enemies had expected. They sustained naval effort was beyond them, socould still bring resources into Athens, but Sparta had to persuade the king of Persia tonow they had to come by sea, round Cape fund and support her overseas operations.Sounion and into the harbour at Peiraieus. A Even with Persian aid it still took anotherfurther effect of the occupation of Dekeleia seven years before Athenian resistance waswas to encourage slaves to escape from their worn down and their last fleet was capturedmasters and take refuge in Dekeleia. in the Hellespont.Thucydides estimated that 20,000 suchrunaways fled from the towns, farms and, These ancient stone quarries near Syracuse were used to imprison and punish the Athenians captured after theabove all, the silver mines of Southern Attika. defeat of the Sicilian expedition in 413, many of whom Even this increase in pressure on the died there from exposure and starvation. Most of thoseAthenian homeland was not enough to who survived were sold as slaves. (AKG Berlin)
Portrait of a soldierA ships captain at warThe trials of a young trierarch major political issues a meeting of the citizen assembly sometimes acted as a law court.Some of the best sources of information on An Athenian trial was essentially a contestindividual Athenians are the written versions between the prosecutor and the defendant,of speeches delivered in the law courts. each of whom attempted to persuade theSeveral of these give details of the military jury to vote in their favour. They were givenactivities of specific people during the a certain period of time to put their case andPeloponnesian War. One of the most detailed they had to speak for themselves. Theof these accounts derives from a speech speakers would, as in a modern trial, try tomade by a defendant who was put on trial in prove guilt or innocence of the specificthe year 403/402 for embezzlement of public charge by referring to known facts, citingfunds. If found guilty he would be stripped evidence and offering the statements ofof his citizen rights and his property. As part witnesses. They might also argue that theof his defence he recited his war record to interpretation of a particular law did or didthe court. not allow it to be applied in this case, but Athenian trials normally took place at one they were also able to make more generalisedof several designated sites in or near the arguments about themselves or theirAgora, the main market place in Athens, opponents which most modern courts wouldwhich was surrounded by public buildings. not allow. The large number of jurors and They were presided over by an official called the random allotment to courts made itan archon whose main function was to impossible to bribe the jury, but theensure that proper procedures were followed. prosecutors and defendants might try to gainVerdicts were decided by the votes of a jury their sympathy, flatter them, or appeal toconsisting of Athenian citizens, aged over 30, their sense of self-interest in order to secure awho had registered themselves for a year and favourable verdict. At the time of thevolunteered to act as jurors on the day. Two Peloponnesian War it was becominghundred or more jurors would be assigned to common for litigants to hire someone toeach court in the morning and they might write a persuasive speech for them. For thishear several cases in a day. From the middle case the defendant hired Lysias, the son ofOf the fifth century they were paid two obols Kephalos, a non-Athenian businessman whofor the day, a measure proposed by Perikles. had considerable skills as a speech writer.This was later raised to three obols, on the The speech he composed for this defendantproposal of Kleon, but it was still far less was preserved and later published along withthan a strong, healthy man might be able to many others written by Lysias. Most of whatearn for a days work. Consequently many of follows is directly attested in the speech;the volunteers were men who were short of other details are deduced from the speechmoney or unfit for hard work, particularly and a combination of other historicalthe poor and elderly. The Wasps, a famous sources, mainly Xenophons Hellenika.comic play written by Aristophanes The name of the defendant in thischaracterises the jurors as bad-tempered old particular trial is not known, but we do learnmen who attended the courts for the money that he was a sponsor of dramatic chorusesand the chance to inflict punishments on (choregos) and a trierarch. This means that hethe rich and powerful. For cases involving was one of the wealthiest Athenian citizens.
64 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarThis fragment of a Classical Athenian marble relief clearly wealthy man could gain much prestige andshows the three levels of oars which propelled a goodwill from his fellow citizens.trireme. Only the topmost level of oarsmen are visible, The main duties of a trierarch were tobecause they rowed through an outrigger whereas thelower two put their oars through ports in the side of the ensure that the trireme assigned to himships hull. Constant practice was needed to co-ordinate was fully equipped, properly crewed andthe efforts of up to 170 oarsmen on each ship and the operationally effective throughout theAthenians prided themselves on having the best trained campaign period. These were primarilycrews in Greece. (Debra de Souza) financial obligations. The basic wages for the crew, plus a daily maintenance allowance soThe duty of a choregos was to supervise and that each man could buy provisions, werepay for the training and performance of a supposed to be paid from the state fundsfestival chorus, a group of singers and allocated for each particular expedition ordancers who would take part in one of the campaign. But the money available to themany public religious festivals of the generals in command of the fleet was oftenAthenians. By spending lavishly on these inadequate, forcing the trierarchs to meet thechoruses, and hopefully winning prizes, a immediate costs out of their own resources.
Portrait of a soldier 65 In order to prevent the crews from year 411/410. He continued in this capacityspending too much money on things which for the next seven years, participating in amight make them unfit for service, such as series of naval battles in which thewine and unhealthy foods, the Athenians Athenians experienced both resoundingusually allowed only half of the wages to be success and abject failure. By reciting hispaid whilst the ships were active, with the record of service as a trierarch in the recentrest being handed over when they returned war the defendant hoped to win theto Peiraieus at the end of the campaign. sympathy of the jury. He could argue that forWhen manpower was in short supply, the jury to convict him, depriving him of hishowever, the trierarchs could be tempted to property and his citizen rights would onlyoffer full pay, or additional bonuses in order harm their own interests. He could do farto attract skilled sailors or experienced more for them if he remained a wealthyoarsmen. The young trierarch emphasised at citizen, than if he lost his citizenship and allhis trial the extra amounts of money he his property.spent on his ship and his crew to ensure thatthey were the best in the fleet. A trierarch was normally expected to The generals favouritecommand the ship in person, although therewas no guarantee that he would have The young trierarchs war service startedappropriate military experience or when the charismatic Athenian generalnavigational competence. Lysias client Alkibiades was resuming his military career.claims to have inflicted great damage on He was elected as one of the 10 generals forenemy ships during the various sea battles in the Athenian year 411/410 and took awhich he was involved, but that claim is not position of joint command over the fleetsupported with any details and is exactly the which was operating in the Aegean.sort of thing he might expected to say in Alkibiades was notorious for his luxuriousorder to make the jurors think well of him. lifestyle, even when on campaign. He wasIn practice an inexperienced trierarch will wealthy enough to maintain his own trireme,have relied upon the knowledge and with his close friend Antiochos as itsjudgment of his helmsman or kubernetes, helmsman. Rather than place his bedroll onwho was usually a professional sailor. A very the ships deck, as the other officers andexperienced, skilful helmsman could demand trierarchs did, he had a section of the deckthat a trierarch pay very high wages for his cut away to make a large cabin area whereinservices. Ideally the trierarch and his he hung a hammock to provide him with ahelmsman would form a close partnership, more comfortable nights sleep. Once he hadwhich is exactly what Lysias client had to joined the main Athenian fleet, however,do when hiring a renowned helmsman Alkibiades decided to make use of the youngcalled Phantias, who stayed with his ship for trierarchs well maintained vessel. He liked toseven years. lead detachments of the fastest ships from the The defendant was very young, having fleet to lure the enemy into an ambush, or toonly recently come of age and passed the make swift surprise attacks against enemyformal scrutiny, or dokimasia which all bases and coastal cities. He could have doneyoung men had to undergo before they this in his own trireme, but he seems to havecould be officially entered on the rolls of preferred to use the trierarchs vessel on theseAthenian citizens. It normally took place in occasions, presumably because it was fastertheir eighteenth or nineteenth year and and had a better crew. The next few years ofinvolved checking the candidates the war saw an upturn in the fortunes of theentitlement to participate in the public life Athenians under Alkibiades, with severalof the city. The defendants first term as a minor victories and a major triumph over thetrierarch seems to have been in the Athenian Peloponnesian fleet at Kyzikos in 410.
66 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian War
Portrait of a soldier 67This drawing by the naval architect J F Coates shows thegeneral arrangement of his reconstruction of a typicalAthenian trireme.The hull is long, narrow and sits quitehigh in the water; the ram protrudes forward of the bowat the waterlme.The oarsmens seats are very closetogether and there is little space for carrying soldiers andsupplies. (J F Coates)
68 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarThis Athenian gravestone bears the name Dernokleides, son of Demetrios and depictsa lone man seated above the prow of a trireme. Many Athenian and allied citizens werelost at sea in the Peloponnesian War.Their relatives were often upset at not being ableto conduct proper funerals rituals for them. (Ancient Art and Architecture)
Portrait of a soldier 69 The young trierarch told the jury at his Samos to try to prevent the new Spartantrial, I would have done anything not to commander, Kallikratidas, from capturinghave him sailing with me. He pointed out the city of Methymna on the island ofthat he was not related to Alkibiades, nor Lesbos. Archestratos, the general who waswere they friends, or even members of the sailing on the trierarchs ship, was killed atsame tribe, but he was forced to accept him this point and yet another of the Athenianon board the ship because he was the overall generals, Erasinides, commandeered thecommander of the fleet. It may well be, trierarchs vessel for his own use. Soonhowever, that the trierarch was exaggerating afterwards the Spartan fleet was defeated byhis dislike for Alkibiades in order to avoid the Athenians in a major sea battle off theseeming to have been too closely associated Arginousai islands, but Erasinides and five ofwith someone who had fallen out of favour his fellow generals were tried and executedon two occasions. The jury at the trierarchs back in Athens for failing to rescue the crewstrial would have contained some passionate of the stricken Athenian ships.supporters of the restored democracy, who The young trierarchs next major battlemight consider Alkibiades a traitor and take was the disastrous defeat at Aigospotamoi, ina similar attitude to anyone who was closely the summer of 405. On this occasion theassociated with him. Athenian fleet was attacked by the Spartans Early in 406 the trierarchs ship was once while the crews were dispersed looking formore detached from the main fleet, now supplies. The young trierarch was in fullbased at Notion, while Alkibiades sailed to command of his ship on this occasion,join in an attack on the city of Phokaia. having no genera! on board, and his crewAgainst Alkibiades instructions, his personal were not caught napping, probably becausehelmsman, Antiochos, who had been left in he spent extra money to ensure that therecharge of the main fleet, got into a battle were plenty of supplies available to themwith the Spartan fleet under Lysandros and without the need for extended foraging. Hiswas defeated with the loss of 22 ships. This experienced helmsman, Phantias, may alsodefeat was only a setback for the Athenians, have advised him to keep his crew in a statebut it provided an opportunity for of readiness. As a result of his preparedness,Alkibiades rivals and enemies to bring his when the Spartans attacked he was able todominance to an end. Back in Athens he was get his trireme away and to rescue anotherblamed for the defeat and heavily criticised Athenian ship as well. All but a handful offor entrusting command of the main fleet to ships from the Athenian fleet were capturedAntiochos, a mere helmsman. A new board by the Spartans and the Athenian citizensof 10 generals was elected and Alkibiades was among their crews were executed. Soonnot one of them. Several citizens threatened afterwards the Athenians, with their cityto take out lawsuits against him, which they now blockaded by land and sea surrenderedcould easily do once he ceased to be a to the Spartans.general. Understanding that his popularityand influence had been so badlyundermined that any jury in Athens was Buying the goodwill of thelikely to be very hostile, he took his own peopletrireme and sailed off to his private fortressesin the Hellespont. The defendant proudly claimed to have The young trierarch now had a new spent the huge sum of six talents during hisgeneral on board, Archestratos, one of those time as a trierarch, which was far more thanwho had been elected following the downfall was legally required. Patriotic fervour mayof Alkibiades. In the summer of 406 partly account for this, but there are hints inArchestratos ordered the trierarch to sail with his speech that he had other motives forKonons (the new commander) fleet from being so generous on behalf of his fellow-
70 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian War LEFT AND RIGHT Battle of Arginousai, phase one 1. The Athenians drew up their 155 ships with two groups of 60, one on each wing and 35 in the centre. The ships on the wings were arranged in two staggered lines, one behind the other to discourage the Spartans from breaking through the line to attack ships from the side or rear Those in the centre used the westernmost of the Arginousai islands to protect them. The Athenian wings moved forward while their centre held station.The 120 ships in the Spartan fleet feared that they might be outflanked and attacked from the side or rear; because the Athenian lines extended beyond theirs. So they moved away from the centre and engaged the wings, gradually separating into two sections. 2. After a fierce battle the Spartan left wing was defeated, Kallikratidas was killed and the surviving ships fled south.The Spartan right wing fought harder but it was also defeated. As the Spartans fled the 35 ships in the Athenian centre joined in the pursuit.The Spartans lost 77 ships while the Athenians lost only 25. brief struggle between oligarchic and democratic factions among the Athenian fleet at Samos. This would explain why Lysias speech fails to mention any patriotic deeds performed by the father on behalf of the Athenians. It was better to avoid all mention of a man whose record was suspect and concentrate instead on the zealous contributions of his son to the Athenian cause. The young trierarchs own political sympathies are only hinted at, but they seem also to have been oligarchic, rather than particularly democratic. At his trial he tried to distance himself from Alkibiades, who was one of the instigators of the oligarchic revolution in 411, but he could not hide the fact that the infamous general spent a lot of time on his ship. They were both verycitizens. It is very likely that the young wealthy men, with a marked preference fortrierarchs father was actively involved in the the best that money could buy and may haveoligarchic revolution of 411. Like his son he become good friends. The trierarch was verywould have been a very wealthy man and vague about his own activities in the crucialprobably also served as trierarch. Thucydides year 404/403, when Athens was under thesays that the trierarchs with the fleet at Samos control of the so-called Thirty Tyrants, aplayed a major part in plotting the overthrow ruthless and unpopular oligarchicof the democracy back at Athens and the government imposed by the Spartans afteryoung trierarchs father may even have been a the Athenians surrendered. He continued tomember of the infamous council of 400, a perform his public liturgies and at the verygroup of wealthy citizens who took control of least it seems that the oligarchs made noaffairs in Athens for several months in 411. attempt to condemn him and confiscate hisThe circumstances of his death are not property, which they did to many of theirmentioned, but it may have occurred in the political opponents.
Portrait of a soldier 7 Battle of Arginousai, phase two How typical were the wartime experiences losing the revenues of their maritime empireof this particular trierarch? In terms of his as more and more states defected to theparticipation in raids and battles there was Spartans, whether willingly or under duress.nothing unusual, although other trierarchs The cost of combating this was enormous, aswould not have had to play host to a it involved maintaining fleets and armiessuccession of generals on their ships. To have overseas all year round. The trierarch alsoserved as a trierarch for seven consecutive paid large contributions to the war tax duringyears was highly unusual, however, and it this period and he was one of many wealthycannot be a coincidence that in this citizens who must have felt that they wereparticular case the seven years were, in effect, being made to bear the financial costs of thethe last years of the war. The financial belligerent policies of the less wealthyposition of the Athenians had deteriorated as majority of citizens. This was one reason whythe war dragged on. From 413 they were so many of the trierarchs supported the
72 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian Waroligarchic revolution in 411 which promised that his opponent has been put on trialto make peace with the Spartans. recently on charges of impiety. We do not know the outcome of the trial. Accusations made for personal or politicalThe defendant had been accused of rivalry were common in Athens andembezzlement, but there is no reason to prominent men could expect to face severalthink he was guilty. He hints in his speech during their lives.
The world around warPolitics and cultureDemocracy and oligarchy We noted on pp. 28-30 how the dispute over Epidamnos escalated to such an extentThe Peloponnesian War affected the lives of that Corcyra became involved in a war withmost of the people in the Greek world at the Corinth. Corcyra in turn drew the Atheniansend of the fifth century BC. One of the most into this war, and eventually throughimportant political effects of the long war Corinth the Spartans became embroiled asbetween Athens and Sparta was the well. Athenian expeditions intervened in thepolarisation of much of the Greek world into internal affairs of Corcyra in 427 and 425 onblocks of allies and supporters of either the behalf of the democratic faction, who droveAthenians or the Spartans. Many of the states their oligarchic opponents out of the city.involved in the war adopted or retained The exiled oligarchic faction establishedpolitical constitutions that were similar to that themselves on the mainland oppositeof the state to which they were allied. Those Corcyra and launched piratical raids on theon the Spartan side tended to have oligarchic territory held by their opponents. They triedconstitutions, whereas the allies of Athens to persuade the Corinthians and the Spartanstended to favour democracy. The Spartans to take up their cause once again and restorefound it much easier to deal with oligarchies them to power by force, but without success.than democracies. They were suspicious of Eventually they decided to abandon theirlarge citizen bodies with broad decision mainland bases and cross back over to themaking powers, whereas the Athenians saw island. They established a fortified base insuch groups of people as their natural allies, the mountains to the north of the city andand vice versa. The Spartans claimed to be continued their guerrilla attacks from there,fighting the Athenians in order to liberate the with the aim of preventing the democraticGreeks from their tyrannical rule, but the form faction from gaining control of thethat they preferred this liberation to take was countryside and encouraging the rest of theoften the repression of a broadly based, citizens to demand a change of government.democratic regime and its replacement by a The Athenians continued to maintainmuch narrower oligarchic one. As the war contact with their allies in Corcyra and useddragged on many cities were subject to the island as a staging point for theirrevolutionary changes, according to whether expeditions to Sicily.a pro-Spartan or a pro-Athenian faction had In 410 the leaders of the pro-Athenian,the upper hand. The result was a series of democratic faction in Corcyra feared thatparallel conflicts that raged in many of the their opponents were about to establish a newcity-states of Greece. Thucydides wrote a oligarchic constitution, with military backingscathing condemnation of these civil wars in from the Spartans. To forestall this theyhis account of the Peloponnesian War. He invited the Athenian general Konon to comeblamed them on people whose ambitions and from his base at Naupaktos and take controllust for power, coupled with fanatical devotion of the city. Konon brought with him a forceto their political friends, made them blind to of 600 Messenian exiles, hereditary enemies ofthe need for moderation and compromise in the Spartans, who carried out a ruthlesstheir dealings with their fellow-citizens. The slaughter of many of the leading oligarchs inwidespread tendency to exact revenge for each Corcyra and drove over 1,000 others out ofatrocity simply prolonged the hatred. the city. They were forced to take refuge on
74 Essential Histories -The Peloponnesian Warthe mainland, opposite Corcyra. Konon and of territory or tribute in return for his aidhis force then withdrew, leaving the against the Spartans. In 424 an Atheniandemocratic faction in power. In an effort to naval patrol captured a Persian envoy calledpreserve their numerical superiority they Artaphernes who was on his way to Sparta.made many slaves and foreigners citizens of The Persian king, Artaxerxes, was fed up withthe polis, hoping that they would be staunch receiving contradictory requests andsupporters of the democratic constitution. messages from successive Spartan envoys andThe remaining members of the oligarchic he wanted Artaphernes to return with afaction would not give in, however, and after definitive proposal. The Athenians tried tothe Athenians and Messenians had gone they use the opportunity to put their ownoccupied the market place in the centre of the proposals to the Great King, but Artaxerxescity and encouraged their exiled comrades to died before their envoys reached his court.return. After a day of bitter fighting in the city There was a brief but violent struggle overthe survivors of both groups decided that the succession, but eventually a new, strongtheir murderous quarrel had gone on long king, Dareios II emerged and the Atheniansenough and agreed to put aside their were able to renew their peaceful relationsdifferences and try to live together in with him.harmony. The remaining citizens of Corcyra, In 414/413 Pissouthnes, one of therealising how much death and destruction Persian kings governors or satraps in Asiahad been caused by allowing outsiders to Minor revolted. He obtained some Athenianbecome involved in their affairs, decided to assistance, but the Athenian general Lykonkeep out of the war and not to ally betrayed him to the Persian king. Histhemselves with either Athens or Sparta. illegitimate son, Amorges, continued the revolt and the Athenians helped him as well. As a result the Great King ordered another ofPersia his satraps, Tissaphernes, to make arrangements to aid the Spartans. In spite ofThe most significant royal power to become their repeated claim to be fighting in orderinvolved in the Peloponnesian War was the to liberate the Greeks, the Spartansking of Persia. The king of Persia was known negotiated a series of treaties with theto the Greeks as the Great King. He ruled an representatives of King Dareios in whichenormous empire that stretched from Asia they agreed that those territories in AsiaMinor and Egypt in the west to India and Minor which had formerly been underAfghanistan in the east. Most provinces of Persian domination should revert to histhis empire paid an annual tribute of silver control. This included many Greek cities thatto the kings treasury in Persepolis. This had joined the Delian League undertribute had been paid by many of the Greeks Athenian leadership in 478 and were nowof western Asia Minor and the Aegean until looking to Sparta to free them from478, when they began making payments to Athenian domination. In return the kingsthe Delian League instead. But the wealth of men promised to help the Spartans withthe Persian Empire far exceeded that of all of money, ships and men. This assistancethe Greek states put together. was to prove decisive in bringing the war to It is likely that both the Athenians and an end.the Persians tried to persuade the Persianking to intervene on their side from the verystart of the war. The Athenians had been Arts and culture in Athensmaking war on the territory of the PersianEmpire since 478, but they made a peace The period from the end of the Persian Warstreaty with the Persian king in 449 and were to the end of the Peloponnesian War hasprobably prepared to negotiate concessions often been called the Golden Age of Athens.
The world around war 75A gold coin of the Persian Empire from the fourth decking herself out in expensive jewels. Incentury.The design shows a Persian king carrying a bow response to such critics Perikles is said toand a spear both traditional Persian weapons for war have argued that it was not necessary to giveand hunting. Many Persian gold coins came to Greece asgifts for those Greeks who were prepared to do the an account of how all the money was spent.Great Kings bidding. (AKG Berlin) It was only fair, he claimed, if Athens used any surpluses that remained after theThe city became one of the major cultural expenses of war were met to build works thatand artistic centres of the Classical Greek would bring her glory for all time. He wasworld. The most obvious manifestation of certainly right in his prediction that suchthis was the magnificent temples and other buildings would serve to perpetuate the famepublic buildings which adorned the city. of Athens well into the future. As ThucydidesThere is some evidence that the Athenians pointed out, in contrast to Athens Sparta hadwere criticised for spending money which, it no magnificent public buildings and anyonewas claimed, they had obtained from their comparing the remains of the two cities insubject allies to beautify their own city, future ages would find it hard to believe thatwhich the critics compared to a woman they had been equally powerful.
76 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarThis model reconstructs a temple on the Athenian It is not just for her buildings thatAcropolis which was built between 447 and 438. It was fifth-century Athens has achieved lastingdedicated to Athena the Maiden, or Athena Parthenos in fame. The exquisite painted cups and vasesGreek, hence it is called the Parthenon. It was designed produced by her master potters wereby Pheidtas and contained a statue covered in ivory andgold. In an emergency the god could be removed, melted exported across the Mediterranean,down and turned into coins. (Ancient Art and particularly to Italy and Sicily and are stillArchitecture) considered to be among the great works of
The world around war 77 Euripides Among the works of the great Athenian playwrights those of Euripides stand out as the most effective at conveying to modern audiences the emotions and passions of the time. This may be partly because his plays often focus on women as either the victims or avengers of violent acts. Many of his plays were written during the Peloponnesian War. In one of them, The Trojan Women, performed at the Great Festival of Dionysos in 415, Euripides offered his Athenian audience a chilling perspective on contemporary events. In the previous summer the Athenians had invaded the island of Melos in the Southern Aegean. The Melians were distantly related to the Spartans and had tried to maintain a position of neutrality, but the Athenians laid siege to their city and starved them into surrender. The citizen men were massacred and the women and children were sold into slavery. As was traditional for Athenian tragedies, Euripides based his play on an old, familiar story, the 10-year siege of Troy by the Greeks under their great king, Agamemnon. On this occasion, however, he chose to set the play in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Troy, when the Greeks had achieved their objective and recovered Helen, the stolen wife of Agamemnons brother Menelaus, and were deciding what to do with the captured women of Troy and their children. This setting provided an opportunity for Euripides to present his audience with a view of how these women might feel as they contemplated a future as slaves of their conquerors. We cannot be sure how the Athenians reacted to a play that invited them to sympathise with the helpless victims of war.art of the Western world. Athens was also a Many of the men in the audience will havemajor centre for literature, rhetoric and bought women or children from Melos asphilosophy. Many writers and philosophers slaves. It has been suggested that the playfrom other Greek cities visited Athens, but failed to win first prize because it was soprobably the most famous literary figures of relevant to the current situation and itsthe Periklean age are the Athenian born emotional impact was too painful for thewriters of tragic and comic plays. Athenians to bear.
78 Essential Histories -The Peloponnesian War We know that Euripides plays werefamous across the whole of the Greek Euripides offers a womans viewspeaking world. Each new text was circulated In this extract from Euripides play, Theamong the Greek-speaking cities of the Trojan Women, Andromache, widow of theMediterranean and many people learnt Trojan prince Hektor, who was slain by thesections or even whole plays by heart. His Greek hero Achilles, learns that she is to beverses were particularly popular among the taken by Achilles son, who wants her asGreeks of Sicily, whose delight in them was his wife:so great that Athenian prisoners captured and I will be enslaved in the householdenslaved by the Syracusans in 413 were able of my own peoples killer, and if I putto obtain better treatment by reciting extracts Hektors love out of my mind and openfrom the plays to their captors. Some were my heart to this new husband I shall beeven said to have gained their freedom in seen to dishonour the dead. But thereturn for teaching their masters all they alternative is to hate and be hated bycould recall of Euripides works. When they my own master. And yet they say that aeventually returned home to Athens they single, sweet night removes the womansvisited Euripides to thank him in person. dislike for her mans bed. I disown anyEuripides himself never seems to have been woman who rejects her former husbandentirely at ease living in Athens. He was to devote herself to a new love. Even ainvited to Macedon towards the end of the mare who has been uncoupled from herPeloponnesian War and he remained there stable-companion does not readily takeuntil he died in 407. up the yoke. And yet dumb animals lack rational minds and are inferior to us by nature. (11. 659-671)
Portrait of a civilianHipparete, an Athenian citizenwomanChildhood in Athens considered necessary or even desirable for girls, whose upbringing was geared towardsAlthough we have only limited evidence for preparing them to be capable butthe lives of non-combatants in the subservient wives.Peloponnesian War, it is possible to puttogether information from a variety ofsources to present an account of how an War and plagueindividuals life might have been affected bythe war. One such individual is Hipparete, The outbreak of the Peloponnesian Warthe wife of the Athenian politician and must have had a profound effect ongeneral Alkibiades. Hipparete was born Hipparetes life. The city in which she wasabout 440. She was the daughter of a growing up would have changed, both inprominent Athenian citizen, Hipponikos, appearance and in atmosphere. It waswhose family owned a large amount of land already becoming more densely populated,in Attika and obtained considerable revenue both in the main urban centre around thefrom the silver mining industry. Indeed, he Acropolis, and the secondary area ofwas reputed to be the richest man in Greece. Peiraieus. The increased prosperity whichHipparetes mother, whose name is not had accompanied Athens expandingknown, had previously been married to the imperial power and flourishing maritimefamous Perikles, but they were divorced in trade encouraged people from near and farabout 455 and she married Hipponikos to come and live there.soon after. Perikles strategy of avoiding pitched Hipparetes childhood was as comfortable battles with the invading Peloponnesianand happy as was possible for the daughter armies resulted in many families having toof a citizen. Upper class Athenian girls led abandon the countryside around Athens andquiet, sheltered lives, surrounded by women move within the fortifications of the Longand only occasionally venturing out of their Walls. The narrow strips of land between thehomes to participate in religious festivals, walls became home to many thousands ofparticularly those associated with Athena, refugees, who built houses and cultivatedthe patron goddess of the Athenians. In the the ground to try to compensate for the losswords of one Athenian writer, Xenophon, of their agricultural resources, which were atthe daughter of a wealthy citizen was the mercy of the invaders. Their numbersexpected to be raised, under careful were swelled by refugees from Plataia, whosupervision, so that she might see and hear arrived in the city in the summer of 431,and speak as little as possible. Hipparete after an attack by the Thebans hadspent most of her childhood under the demonstrated their citys vulnerability.watchful eyes of her slave nurse and her The crowded, unsanitary conditions,mother, learning the skills considered especially in the hot, dry summers, mustappropriate for a young woman. These have made the city a particularly unpleasantincluded cooking, spinning, weaving and place for these refugees to live. In 430, whencaring for the sick. Since her family was a deadly plague broke out in Athens, lifewealthy she may even have learned to read there became much worse. The plagueand write, although such education was not reached Athens from the East, having already
80 Essential Histories -The Peloponnesian WarAn Athenian painted vase from the mid-fifth century, showing a woman placingwreaths on a grave.This kind of small vase was commonly used for pouring libationsat a graveside.The painting shows several similar vases on the steps of the gravemonument, which probably marks a family burial plot. (Ancient Art and Architecture)
Portrait of a civilian 8ravaged parts of the Persian Empire. The very lead the procession, with the womenmaritime traders whose business was so vital walking solemnly behind the corpse andto the citys economy also provided transport singing a mourning song. When the plaguefor the lethal bacteria. Initially the plague was at its height, however, many bodiesstruck in the port of Peiraieus, where the first were left lying untended, at the mercy ofcases were reported in the summer, soon dogs and carrion birds. Others were buriedafter the Peloponnesians had begun their or cremated in haste, sometimes severalsecond invasion of Athenian territory. From together, without the proper rituals.Peiraieus the epidemic spread rapidly to the Thucydides even describes people carryingmain part of the city. corpses around looking for a recently dug Hipparete was almost certainly infected grave to drop them in, or an already blazingby the plague, which did not discriminate pyre on which to throw them.between rich and poor in its devastating Hipparete was fortunate to have survivedrampage though the city. Thucydides, who the disease, although some members of heralso survived the infection, describes its fathers household must certainly have died,symptoms in vivid detail. They included a possibly including her mother. We knowhigh fever, severe thirst, coughing, stomach that her father survived because he was inpains, retching, uncontrollable diarrhoea joint command of an Athenian expeditionand ulcers, both internal and external. Many against the Boiotian city of Tanagra in 426.modern experts have tried to identify the Her brother Kallias also lived through thedisease from his description, but they have infection, but the horrific effects ofnot reached a firm conclusion. It was epidemic will certainly have left a lastingcertainly very contagious and probably impression on the family. Young Hipparetekilled about one-third of the inhabitants of had no choice but to remain in the cityAthens over a period of about four years, while all this was happening, whereas herwith the worst casualties coming in the father and many of the other men couldfirst year, when the lack of any acquired leave the city on commercial or diplomaticimmunity made the population missions, or as part of the military forcesparticularly vulnerable. sent on raids against the Peloponnesians Thucydides tells us that so many people and their allies. We can be sure that itdied of the plague, and so quickly, that was a dark and troubled period of her life,proper funeral procedures were neglected. as she longed for relief from the anxieties ofNormally Athenian funerals were marked by war, like thousands of other women andelaborate private and public rituals, girls in the city.especially in the case of the richer families, While people doubtless tried to carry onwho liked to use such occasions to show off their lives as normally as possible during thistheir wealth and social status. Preparing the period, for many the city must have felt likebody of the deceased was a duty for the a living nightmare, comparable to thewomen of the family, who would wash the mythical Tartaros, where the souls of thecorpse, anoint it with oil and garland it with wicked were subjected to eternal tormentsflowers. It would be laid on a bier for a day and punishments. Thucydides also blamesand a night, allowing time for family and the shattering impact of the plague for afriends to mourn and pay their respects. The general breakdown in the social structureslaws of Athens required the funeral to take and moral standards of the Athenians.place before dawn on the following day. Aprocession would leave the house of thedeceased and go outside the walls of the The generals wifecity, to either a communal or a familycemetery, where the body would be buried One example of the change in moralor cremated. The men of the family would standards during the war may be the
82 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian Warextravagant behaviour of Hipparetes activities. Citizen women participated inhusband, Alkibiades, whom she married in funerals and certain religious festivals, inabout 424, when she was aged no more than some cases as the main celebrants, but16. Alkibiades was at least 10 years older otherwise they had no role in the public lifethan her, as was usual in Classical Athens. of the cities. She will have heard about herHe came from one of a group of Athenian husbands wartime adventures and, possibly,families known as the Eupatridai, or noble discussed them with him, but war and politicsfamilies. His father, Kleinias, had been killed were seen as exclusively the concern of men.in the battle of Koroneia in 446. His mother, In a famous speech, which Thucydides putsDeinomache, was a relative by marriage of into the mouth of Perikles, in honour of thosePerikles and for a time after his fathers death who died in the early stages of the war, theAlkibiades lived in the household of Perikles, only mention of women is a commentwho, along with his brother Ariphron, was addressed to the widows of the fallen, thatAlkibiades guardian. Given the closeness of their greatest glory is not to be talked abouttheir respective families it is probable that by men, whether in praise or criticism.Hipparete would have met her future Hipparete had been brought up to respecthusband before they were married, but she is and obey the men in her life and she seemsunlikely to have spent much time in his to have done all she could to be a good wife,company. Athenian marriages were normally but on at least one occasion her husbandsarranged between the parents or guardians of behaviour drove her to attempt to end theirthe couple and it was not unusual for marriage. While Athenian men expected theircousins or even siblings to arrange for their wives to be completely faithful, married menrespective children to marry, renewing and thought nothing of having intercourse withstrengthening their family ties. In this case it their female slaves, or with prostitutes, whois very likely that there were strong financial might be slaves or free women from outsideconsiderations on Alkibiades side, as Athens. It was even considered acceptable forHipparete would have brought a substantial an unmarried man to keep a concubine in hisdowry to the marriage. There were also home, but he would be expected to end suchpolitical advantages in the match, as her arrangements once he took a wife.family connections were of the highest order. When the Athenians captured the islandShe would have been seen as the perfect wife of Melos in 416 they killed the men andfor an ambitious young man. enslaved the women and children. The primary duty of an Athenian wife was Alkibiades bought one of these unfortunateto bear children for her husband, preferably women and kept her in his household as aa male child, who could inherit his fathers concubine, eventually having a son by her.property and continue the family line. The effect of the Melian slaves presenceHipparete fulfilled this duty by providing her upon Hipparete must have been devastating.husband with a son, also called Alkibiades, Here was a woman whom her husband hadand a daughter, whose name is not known. purchased as booty, yet he preferred her toIt is likely that she had another son, but he his own well-born wife as his sexual partner.died in infancy, a common misfortune in We can imagine that Hipparete might haveancient times, when medical knowledge was sympathised with the womans plight, for ifvery limited. Athens were to be defeated in the war, then In stark contrast to her husband, who she too could expect to be enslaved by theparticipated in diplomatic missions and victors. On the other hand, by installingmilitary campaigns as her father had done, another woman in their home Alkibiadesonce she was married Hipparete probably was showing a lack of respect to Hipparete,rarely travelled beyond the confines of her even though she was the mother of hishome. Nor is it likely that Hipparete would children and the daughter of a prominenthave been involved in any of Alkibiades Athenian citizen.
Portrait of a civilian 83A young hoplite is shown saying goodbye to his family on this Athenianvase, painted around the start of the Peloponnesian War Men over theage of 50 would not normally be expected to fight, unless there was ashortage of younger, fitter men,The wives and mothers of those whowent off to war might have to wait months, or even years before theyhad news of their loved ones. (Ancient Art and Architecture)
84 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian War The Athenian white-ground oil jug was painted in the last quarter of the fifth century BC.The artist has chosen to portray a handsome man in front of what seems to be his own tomb, with a young woman and a young man standing on either side.The two spears in mans hand and the shield and helmet held by the woman suggest that he is a deceased hoplite whose wife and brother (or son) are mourning his death. (Ancient Art and Architecture) It seems to have been this situation that finally induced Hipparete to leave her husband and return to her brothers house, her father having died by this time. An Athenian woman had the right to leave her husbands household if she was being mistreated, and to petition a magistrate to grant legal recognition of the divorce. When Hipparete approached the magistrate, however, Alkibiades himself was there. He dragged her back to his house, where she remained until her death, which occurred soon afterwards. Her life was a not a long one, but at least she did not live to see her husband tried for impiety and forced into exile in Sparta, his property auctioned, and her son threatened with banishment because of his fathers political activities. Nor did she witness the bitter end to the war.
How the war endedThe fall of AthensThe defeat of the Athenian expedition to outlet for his ambitious personality. In 411Sicily presented the Spartans and their allies he left the Spartan fleet and went to the onewith a golden opportunity to take the remaining centre of power and influence ininitiative in the war. They struck at Athens the war, the Persians.herself by establishing a permanent fort inAttika at Dekeleia, and they struck at thecore of her maritime empire in the Aegean Oligarchic revolution in Athensby assembling fleets and either persuading orforcing many of Athens subject allies to Tissaphernes the Persian satrap decided,desert her. For the Athenians this new phase possibly at the prompting of Alkibiades toof the war produced greater strains, both adopt a new strategy in 411. Instead ofeconomic and political. They found it helping the Spartans defeat the Athenians heparticularly difficult to fund their naval would prolong the war between them andforces as their flow of tribute revenue was take advantage of their conflict to win backinterrupted and their pool of naval some of the Greek cities and islands that hadmanpower was diminished. Many of the once belonged to the Great King. Alkibiadesnon-Athenian oarsmen and sailors were for his part began plotting to obtain his ownattracted away by the higher and more recall to Athens by engineering a change inregular pay available to those serving with the Athenian government to a morethe Spartans, who now enjoyed the conservative, oligarchic one. He hoped toenormous financial backing of the king of ingratiate himself with this new regime byPersia. When they needed to assemble a fleet offering to use his influence to bringin 406 to rescue their admiral Konon who Tissaphernes and the resources of the Persianwas blockaded at Mytilene the Athenians Empire onto the side of the Athenians.had to resort to offering freedom and Alkibiades persuaded several of the leadingcitizenship to any slaves who would men in the Athenian fleet at Samos to bringvolunteer to row the ships. about the change of government and in due One person who had changed sides in the course a programme of reforms was pushedother direction was the exiled Athenian through the Assembly with the help of aleader Alkibiades. He had found it difficult to mixture of threats, political assassinationssettle in at Sparta, where he was forced to and promises of Persian support. The resultswap the extravagant parties beloved of was a new Council of 400, replacing the oldAthenian aristocrats for a tedious round of democratic one of 500 and comprising menphysical training and the more sombre wealthy enough to afford their own hoplitereligious gatherings of the elite Spartan equipment. They were charged with drawingcitizens. He accompanied the early Spartan up a list of no more than 5,000 Athenianexpedition to the Aegean, but as a defector citizens of similar status who would form thefrom the enemy he was treated with decision making body of the newsuspicion, a situation that was not helped by constitution. The idea seems to have beenthe fact that he had an affair with King Agis that these men would be wealthy enoughwife while in Sparta. Such suspicions not to need payment for carrying out publicrestricted his opportunities for significant offices. The 400 made peace overtures toinvolvement in the war and provided no real Sparta. Meanwhile Tissaphernes made a new
86 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarThe figures on the left and in the centre of this gravestone carvedaround 410 in Athens represent the deceased men Sosias andKephisodoros.The figure on the right is bidding one of his fallencomrades farewell. As the war dragged on the large numbers of citizencasualties made many Athenians favour a peaceful settlement withSparta. (AKG Berlin)
How the war ended 87treaty with the Spartans, so the recall of land. The city of Byzantion was won over inAlkibiades ceased to be a worthwhile aim. 410 by a Peloponnesian fleet led by the There was considerable resistance to these Spartan admiral Mindaros. Byzantionsdevelopments among the ordinary Athenians position at the entrance to the Black Seain the fleet at Samos. They met in their own made it vital to Athenian interests. Inversion of the citizens assembly, deposed addition to much other trade, each year atheir current generals and declared their substantial fleet of ships carrying grain fromopposition to the new regime. Alkibiades the Black Sea sailed through the narrowconvinced them that he could bring Hellespontine channel that ByzantionTissaphernes over to their side and was protected. The Athenians took two years toelected as a general. Back in Athens splits recover the city and never managed toamong the 400, a failure to produce the list completely dislodge the Peloponnesians fromof 5,000 elite citizens and the failure of the area for the rest of the war. There werenegotiations with Sparta caused the regime several Athenian successes, notably at Kyzikosto lose its credibility. A Spartan attack on in 410, when almost the entire PeloponnesianEuboia, which prompted the cities there to fleet was lost and Mindaros was killed.revolt from Athens, hastened the collapse of A major turning point occurred in 407,the oligarchy. A meeting of an assembly when two new leaders took up the strugglewhich might be considered to comprise the against the Athenians. One was a Spartan5,000 deposed the Council of 400 and voted admiral called Lysandros, who improved theto recall Alkibiades. Some of the leaders of Spartan naval forces dramatically. The otherthe oligarchic revolution fled to Dekeleia, was Kyros, the younger son of the Persianothers were rounded up, put on trial and king, who was sent to the western satrapies ofcondemned to death. the Great Kings empire with instructions to There seems to have followed a brief period make sure that the Spartans won the war.in which the Athenian assembly and official Tissaphernes strategy had evolved into aposts in the government were restricted to the balancing act, attempting to keep themembers of the 5,000. In 410, however, a law opposing Athenian and Peloponnesian forceswas passed which allowed anyone who roughly equal in strength, wearing each otheroverthrows the democracy or holds any office down, until he could make a decisiveafter the democracy has been overthrown to intervention and drive both sides out of thebe killed without fear of reprisal and his western satrapies altogether. With the arrivalproperty confiscated. A fund was set up to pay of Kyros, however, this strategy wasthe holders of all public offices. In effect the abandoned in favour of strong support forold democratic constitution was restored. the Spartans and their allies. The relationship between Kyros and Lysandros also made a significant difference toThe final conflicts the course of the war in the Aegean. It may well be that they each recognised theThe period 410 to 406 was one of almost ambitious streak in the other man and feltcontinuous naval activity in the Eastern comfortable dealing with a kindred spirit.Aegean and the Hellespontine region. The Kyros nurtured dreams of ruling the Persianstruggle for naval supremacy between the two Empire in place of his brother, Artaxerxes, whosides eventually decided the outcome of the was the kings eldest son. Lysandros could notwar. The northern Persian satrap, realistically aspire to the Spartan kingship,Pharnabazos, encouraged the Spartans to because he was not closely related to either ofdirect their attention to the Athenian the royal families, but he seems to have feltcontrolled cities in the Hellespont, by offering that he could achieve even greater power andthem subsidies to pay the crews of their ships influence outside Sparta than the ambitiousand troops to support their incursions on Spartan commanders Brasidas and Gylippos.
88 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian WarAfter the Athenian defeat at Aigospotamoi in 405 all to catch some of Lysandros fleet in antheir subject allies deserted them, except for the ambush and suffered a serious defeat, losingstaunchly democratic island of Samos.The Athenians 22 ships. Alkibiades was held responsiblepassed a decree giving them Athenian citizenship, It wasreconfirmed in 403 when the Athenians and the Samians but, rather than return to Athens to face theboth overthrew pro-Spartan oligarchic regimes set up by wrath of the Assembly, he went off to someLysandros, The decree is inscribed here below figures of private fortresses he had established in theAthena and Hera, the patron goddesses of Athens and Hellespont. Lysandros was temporarilySamos. (Ancient Art and Architecture) replaced by another Spartan admiral, Kallikratidas, who was killed in another Alkibiades influence on the war came to Athenian naval victory at the Arginousaian end in 406 when he left the Athenian Islands in 406. The Athenians largelyfleet at Notion and instead of putting one of negated their success by condemning mostthe other generals in overall command he of their generals to death for failing to doopted for his helmsman, Antiochos, who enough to rescue the crews of damagedwas an old friend. Antiochos unwisely tried ships. The Spartans, at Kyros insistence,
How the war ended 89restored Lysandros to the command of their kings led armies up to the walls of Athensfleet. The final decisive battle was fought in and Lysandros moored his fleet outside thethe Hellespont late in 405. Lysandros fleet harbour at Peiraieus. The Athenians waitedwas besieging the city of Lampsakos and the behind their walls during a tense period ofAthenians beached their ships on the negotiations between the Spartan ephorsopposite side of the Hellespont at and an embassy headed by Theramenes. TheAigospotamoi. They sailed out for five embassy returned with the news that thesuccessive days to try to draw Lysandros Spartans had resisted pressure from herinto a battle but he stayed put. When the allies, led by Thebes and Corinth, to destroyAthenians had returned to their camp on the city and enslave the citizens. In returnthe fifth evening, and their crews were the Athenians were required to dismantledispersing to look for food, Lysandros their fortifications, surrender all but 12 ofattacked, catching them completely by their remaining ships and become allies ofsurprise. All but a handful of the the Spartans. Lysandros and his fleet sailedAthenian ships were captured. With this into the harbour and immediately set tovictory Lysandros effectively won the war work demolishing sections of the walls tofor Sparta. the accompaniment of flutes. The historian The Athenians realised that they could Xenophon, who witnessed this celebrationnot continue their struggle without a strong of Spartan victory, wrote in his account:fleet to give them access to their maritime They believed this day to be the beginningempire. In the spring of 404 both Spartan of freedom for the Greeks.
90 Essential Histories • The Peloponnesian War The Eastern Aegean and the Hellespont 41 1-404 BCIn the latter stages of the Peloponnesian War much of the fighting wasconcentrated on the cities and islands of the Eastern Aegean and theHellespont.The Spartans, with Persian help, tried to detach as many placesfrom the Athenian Empire as possible, especially the large islands of Chios,Samos and Lesbos, Control of the Hellespont was vitally important toAthenian maritime trade, particularly in grain: this is why the final, decisivesea battle was fought there.
Conclusion and consequencesThe triumph of Sparta?Thucydides blamed the eventual defeat of state. The Spartans were reluctant to commitAthens on her internal political conflicts. many of their own citizens to the conflict,Although we do not have his detailed but because they were backed up by Persiaaccount of the end of the war, he does give and a wide coalition of allies they were ableus some brief comments on its outcome to keep the pressure on the Athenians untilafter his discussion of Perikles strategy in they ran out of the money and manpowerthe early years of the confrontation. He to continue the fight.observes that, after their losses in Sicily and After their surrender to the Spartans inthe intervention of the Persian king on the 404 the Athenians had to suffer theSpartan side, the Athenians were still able to replacement of their democratic constitutioncontinue the war for another eight years. In by an oligarchy. This new regime consistedhis words it was, not before they had torn of a board of 30 men whose remit was tothemselves apart fighting against each other draw up a new long-term constitution forthat they were compelled to surrender. We Athens. These so-called Thirty Tyrants hadhave seen several examples of this internalpolitical conflict, the condemnation of An Athenian silver coin.The design features the owl as aAlkibiades, the oligarchic revolution of 411 symbol of Athena, goddess of wisdom and the lettersand the trial and execution of the generals ATHE. Lysandros entrusted most of the moneyafter the battle of Arginousai in 406. It is plundered from Athens in 404 to Gylippos, who stole some of it and hid it under the tiles of his house. Aalso clear that sustaining a war that involved Helot betrayed him to the ephors by saying that thereso many men and ships put an enormous were a lot of owls roosting under his roof. (Ancient Artstrain on the resources of a relatively small and Architecture)
92 Essential Histories • The Peloponnestan Warthe backing of Lysandros and 700 hoplites at Athens was just one of a series ofsent by the Spartans. The oligarchs, many of insensitive, arrogant moves which served towhom had fled Athens after the failed alienate them from their former allies.revolution in 411 set about settling old Lysandros sent Spartan governors andscores and enriching themselves at the garrisons to many of the Greek cities thatexpense of both citizens and non-Athenian had been subject to Athens, as the Spartansresidents like the speech-writer Lysias and briefly tried to create an empire of their ownhis brother Polemarchos, who were both out of the fragments of the Athenian one.arrested on trumped-up charges so that their They also got drawn into a war with Persia,property could be confiscated. Some of their partly over their failure to live up to theirvictims fled, like Lysias, who escaped to side of the agreement that had broughtMegara, but others, like Polemarchos were them Persian financial support, and partly asexecuted. Theramenes, one of the Thirty a result of the aid they gave to Kyros in histried to oppose this reign of terror, but he unsuccessful attempt to overthrow hiswas denounced by his colleague Kritias and brother Artaxerxes, who had become kingput to death. on the death of Dareios in 405. Many of Athens former enemies, such as From 396 to about 390 there was anCorinth, Megara and Thebes were upset inconclusive conflict between an alliance ofthat Sparta had refused their demands to Greek states, including Corinth, Argos,punish the Athenians in the way that they Thebes and Athens and the Spartans. Thishad treated Melos and Skione, by executing alliance received both financial and navaltheir male citizens and enslaving the support from the Great King, whose fleet,women and children. They also resented commanded by the Athenian admiralthe fact that the Spartans plundered Athens Konon, sailed into Athens in 394 andbut did not share the booty. They did not restored the sections of the Long Walls thatwish to see Athens become just a subject had been demolished in 404. Eventually theally of Sparta so they gave shelter and stalemate was broken by the Spartans whosupport to the opponents of the Thirty. A negotiated another treaty with the king ofsubstantial democratic faction under the Persia in 387/386. This agreement, known asleadership of Thrasyboulos returned to the Kings Peace, proclaimed autonomy forAthens and occupied the Peiraieus. In the all the Greeks, except those cities in Asiafighting that followed Kritias was killed and Minor that were supposed to have beenthe Spartan king Pausanias intervened to returned to Persia under the terms of thestop further violence. The remaining treaty of 411. If anyone broke the terms ofoligarchs and their supporters were granted this common peace among the Greeks, thena refuge at Eleusis, on the borders of Attika the Great King would make war on them.and the Athenians gradually restored their Thus the freedom of the Greeks, that hadfull democracy. been the rallying cry at the start of the The Spartans had won a resounding Peloponnesian War, was guaranteed not byvictory, but the imposition of an oligarchy the Spartans, but by the Persian king.
Further readingPrimary sources Infantry Battle in Classical Greece, Oxford, 1989.Thyucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Kagan, D., The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian translated by Rex Warner, revised by M. I. War, New York, 1969. Finley, London, Penguin, 1972. Kagan, D., The Archidamian War, NewXenophon, A History of my Times, translated York, 1974. by Rex Warner, introduction and notes by Kagan, D., The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian G. Cawkwell, London, Penguin, 1979. Expedition, New York, 1981.Fornara, C. W. (ed.), From Archaic Times to the Kagan, D., The Fall of the Athenian Empire, End of the Peloponnesiati War: Translated New York, 1987. Documents of Greece and Rome, vol I, Stainte Croix, G. de, The Origins of the Cambridge, Cambridge University Peloponnesian War, London, 1972. Press, 1983. Sealey, R., A History of the Greek City States 700-338 BC, Berkely, University of California Press, 1976.Secondary Sources Sekunda. N., and A. McBride, The Ancient Greeks, Elite 7, London, OspreyGreen, P., Armada from Athens: The Failure of Publishing, 1986. the Sicilian Expedition 415-413 BC, Spence, I., The Cavalry of Classical Greece: A London, 1970. Social and Military History with ParticularHanson, V. D., The Western Way of War: Reference to Athens, Oxford, 1993.
IndexReferences to illustrations are shown in bold Attika 13-14, 28, 30, 31, 33, 34, 37, 38, 42, 45, 48, 50, 62, 79, 85, 92Acropolis 20, 44, 49, 76, 76-77, 79Agamemnon, King 77 battle, artistic depiction of 15, 44Agis, King of Sparta 34, 37-38, 51-52, 53, 55, 62, 85 Boiotia 11, 14, 16, 18, 31, 36, 45, 48, 50Aigina 30, 31, 43 Boiotian League 31, 32Aigospotamoi, Battle of 69, 88, 89 Brasidas 7, 39, 45-47, 48-49, 50, 52, 59, 87Akanthos 46 busts 23Alkiblades 7, 51, 56, 57-58, 61, 65, 69, 70, 79, 81, Byzantion 87 82, 84, 85, 87, 88, 91Amphipolis 45-47, 48-49, 50 Chalkidike 28, 45, 46, 47Antiochos 65, 69, 88 Chios 25, 39, 90archers 39, 40, 41 chronology of wars 9-10Archidamian War 33-34,51,62 citizen assemblies 20, 21Archidamos, King of Sparta 30-31, 33, 34 city-states 7, 11, 19, 73-74Arginousai Islands 69, 88, 91 coins 60, 75, 75, 91, 91Arginousai Islands, Battle of 70, 70, 71 Corcyra 25, 28, 30, 37, 38, 73-74Argos 13, 16, 43, 51, 52, 55, 92 Corinth 11, 13, 14, 16, 25, 26, 28, 30, 31, 36, 42,Arkadia 26, 52 45, 50, 51, 56, 59, 62, 73, 89, 92Artaxerxes, King of Persia 74, 87, 92 Corinthian style 33, 33Athena 12, 12, 17, 79, 88, 91 Council of 400 70, 85, 87Athena Nike (Victory) 43, 43, 44 Cyprus 12Athenian Assembly 13, 20, 22, 28, 31, 35, 40, 47, 48, 51,85, 88 Dareio II, King of Persia 74, 92Athenian Council 20, 21 Dekeleia 61-62, 85, 86Athenian Empire 12-14, 16, 30, 34, 42, 90 Delian League 11, 12-13, 14, 17, 20, 25, 28,Athens 34-35, 74 alliance with Sparta 11, 13 Delion 45, 50 and Spartan hostages 42, 47, 49-50 Demokleides 68, 68 architecture 76, 76-77 Demosthenes 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 45, 60, 61 arts and culture 74-78 casualties of war 68, 68, 80, 80, 86 Eastern Aegean and the Hellespont 87, 90, 90 childhood in 79, 81 Egesta 56, 57 citizen assembly 20, 21 Eion 47, 48 contribution of allies 25 Eleusis 16, 57, 92 control over Empire 29-30 epiwrs 21, 22, 23, 26, 31, 49, 89, 91 defeat by Sparta 14-15, 16, 18, 85-92 Epidammos 28, 73 democracy in 20, 23, 73-74 Euboia 16, 46, 48, 62, 87 duty to fight 24, 80, 86 Eukles 46, 47 effects of plague 34, 79, 81 Euripides 77-78 fortification of harbours 37, 37 Eurymedon 12, 37 funeral rituals 81 generals as politicians 21-22 First Peloponnesian War 13-14, 16, 18 gravestones 68 funeral rituals 68, 81 houses 29 manpower for war 25 gerausia 21, 23, 40, 52 maritime trade 90 Golden Age 74-78 marriages 82 graves/gravestones 68, 68, 80, 80, 84, 86, 86 mobilisation of forces 25 Great Festival of Dionysos 77 naval forces 14, 25, 34, 35-37, 39, 85 Great Harbour 60, 61 oligarchic revolution 85, 87, 91-92 Great King 74, 75, 85, 87, 92 peace treaty with Sparta 18 Gylippos 7, 59, 60, 61, 87, 91 playwrights 77-78 public buildings 75, 76, 76-77 Hellespont 62, 69, 87, 88, 90, 90 role of women 80, 82, 84 helmets 8, 11, 12, 33, 33, 38, 38, 84 strain of sustaining war 91 Helots 13, 26, 40, 42, 46, 49, 50, 52, 53, 91 temples 44, 44, 76, 76-77 Hera 88, 88 the Long Walls 13, 79, 92 Herakles 39 trials and jurors 63-65, 69-72 Hermes 57 truce of 423 BC 47-48 Hipparete 79, 81, 82, 84 use of mercenaries 25 hoplites 8, 11, 11, 12, 12, 24, 25-26, 27, 32, 33, victory over Persians 44 33, 38, 38, 39, 40, 41, 41, 42, 45-46, 48, 51, weaponry 33, 33, 84 52-53, 53, 55, 60, 80, 84, 92
It is a testament to the fascination of the subject that even today the events of the Peloponnesian War are studied for what they can teach about diplomacy, strategy and tactics. This book reveals the darker side of Classical Greek civilization. From the horrific effects of overcrowding and the plague on the population of Athens, to the vicious civil strife that often erupted in cities allied with Athens or Sparta, this volume offers vivid and at times disturbing insights into the impact of warfare on the people who are celebrated as the founders ofWestern civilization.Front and back caver image: Attic red figure Pelike, Greece, Attika, Athens, about 430 BC:The Kleophon Painter Ceramic, Red Figure. (Museum of Fine Art, Boston)Essential HistoriesA multi-volume history of war seen from political,strategic, tactical, cultural and individual perspectivesRead them and gain a deeper understanding of warand a stronger basis for thinking about peace.Professor Robert ONeill, Series Editor ESSENTIAL HISTORIES 27