The period of high classics (V century BC). Peloponnesian wars.
Peloponnesian Union.The Lacedaemonian state united the polis of the Peloponnese around itself, creating the Peloponnesian Union in the VI century BC. In structure, it was very amorphous, without a rigid hierarchy and centralized subordination of policies to the all-Union body - the Union Assembly. His meetings were held rarely and only at the request of the Spartans. The union was a tool of Sparta to create hegemony in the Peloponnese, since Lacedaemon was interested in the disunity of the allied policies, this was evidenced by the form of the conclusion of the union, which was a series of treaties of Sparta with the Peloponnesian cities. Lacedaemon allowed the allies to have not only an oligarchic internal structure, but also a democratic one, granting sufficiently broad autonomy to their policies, unlike the Athenian Union. Partial sovereignty allowed them to be independent in internal affairs. Sparta, on the other hand, collected satellites only because of necessity during military operations, since the Peloponnesian Union had military-defensive tasks.
The causes of the Peloponnesian War of Athens and Sparta.
The war between Athens and Sparta, called the Peloponnesian, lasted from 431 to 404 BC. Its events are described in the "History" of Thucydides, the second major historian of antiquity after Herodotus, and he should have the palm in the creation of history as a science, since Thucydides was the first to critically approach his sources of information and in detail analyzed the events in which he was a participant.
The war reflected the crisis of Greek society. A kingdom divided by itself cannot stand, so when the Greeks went to war against the Greeks, their society began to collapse from within. The war led to the weakening of both Athens and Sparta. Its reasons were the confrontation between the oligarchic and democratic systems represented by two unions: the Athenian and the Peloponnesian, who claimed supremacy in Greece. The conflict was also economic in nature. Corinth, one of the major polis that were part of the Peloponnesian Union, had extensive ties with the West, traded with Great Greece and Sicily. When Athens tried to establish trade with Syracuse, they encountered Corinth, which became one of the initiators of the war on an economic basis.The war was caused by contradictions within the Athenian maritime power, which transformed into the dictatorship of Athens. Some cities separated from the Athenian Union and moved to the opposite camp. The Megara polis, located on the Isthmian Isthmus, left the union. Athens applied economic sanctions by introducing the so-called Megarian Psephism (432), when Megarians were prohibited from importing goods into Athens. The ban was a strong blow to Greek trade, since Megara was a transit point between the Peloponnese, Central and Northern Greece. In addition, Potidea, a colony on the Chalcid Peninsula, was postponed from the Athenian Union, and Athens sent a military expedition there in 432, since Potidea was also an important economic point. By the beginning of the war, Athens had a large fleet, so they expected to conduct military operations mainly at sea, with the help of amphibious landings in the Peloponnese, while the Spartans relied on land force, since their phalanx was considered invincible. The peculiarities of the fighting consisted in the fact that they were conducted not in one area, but practically throughout the Mediterranean: in the Peloponnese, in Central Greece, and in Halkidiki, partly in Asia Minor and in Magna Graecia, that is, the war covered a large territory. Moreover, it was very cruel and as bloody as only a civil war can be, since the forces of the parties were equal and for a long time no one could win.
Archidam's War (431-421).
The first period of the Peloponnesian War is called the Archidamian War (431-421). It was named after the Spartan commander Archidamus, who in 430 organized a campaign in Central Greece: invaded Boeotia and, having ruined it, headed for Athens, devastating Attica. The Athenian strategist Pericles suggested that citizens not resist, but take refuge in the city, because thanks to the "Long Walls" built by him (fortifications from Athens to Piraeus, a port in the Saronic Gulf) Athens was a powerful fortified point. Due to the congestion of people in the city, an epidemic of plague or typhus began, which lasted three years. The Athenians began to grumble and blame Pericles for their troubles, because it was because of him that they stayed in the city and the Peloponnesian War began not without his participation. For the first time, the Athenians did not choose Pericles as a strategist, to which position he was re-elected for fifteen years. In 429, Pericles, infected with the plague, died.
Anti-Athenian sentiments increased more strongly among the allies, and troubles began inside the Athenian maritime union. The Spartans (428) captured Plataea, where a famous battle with the Persians had previously taken place, and brutally dealt with the inhabitants, killing all the defenders, and capturing women and children into slavery.In 425, the new Athenian strategist Demosthenes1 organized a military expedition to the southern Peloponnese and took the city of Pylos, known since ancient times. Demosthenes, from a political point of view, acted quite competently, calling for an uprising of the Helots, who quickly switched to the side of Athens. For the first time, the Athenians managed to occupy the invincible Spartans on the island of Sphacteria, near Pylos, and the Lacedaemonians asked for peace. The Athenian citizens were divided into two political groups. At the head of the first was Cleon, the owner of a craft workshop, who advocated a war to the bitter end, beneficial to merchants, artisans and sailors. The continuation of hostilities was opposed by simple farmers, led by a large landowner Nikiy. Middle Greece was completely ruined, because the vineyards were cut down and the crops burned, which was reflected in the literature of that time: Aristophanes, who acted as a champion of peace with the Spartans, created the comedy "Acharnians", in which a certain Athenian single-handedly concluded an agreement with Sparta: there was a war around his plot, blood was shed, and he stayed in peace and prosperity. In the end, the war party prevailed, and Cleon, who had never commanded an army, was appointed military commander by the decision of the people's Assembly. He went to the Sphacterium and defeated the Spartans, not engaging in direct combat with the enemy, but ordering the Spartans to be pelted with stones and spears without close combat. To the greatest shame for Sparta, some of the Lacedaemonians were captured.
In 422, the Spartans retaliated by heading overland to Chalkidiki and occupying the important Athenian stronghold of Amphipolis, where there were timber and gold mines. In addition, a trade route from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean passed nearby. Under Amphipolis, the Athenian troops were commanded by the future historian Thucydides. He was a mediocre military commander and could not defend the city. After the defeat, the Athenians expelled Thucydides, and he had no choice but to write history, thanks to which he became famous much more than in the military field.
Nikiev Mir (421-415).
In 421, both exhausted parties concluded the Peace of Nikias by the name of the named Nikias, who led the Athenian delegation. According to the treaty, Athens and Sparta pledged not to fight for fifty years, returned prisoners to each other and liberated captured cities. Athens promised to help Lacedaemon in suppressing another uprising of its recent allies, the Helots. The Athenians returned the hostages, but the Spartans did not liberate Amphipolis, which caused great indignation among the Athenians who decided not to return Pylos.
The Sicilian expedition.
Passive confrontation in 415 resulted in a new conflict. A new talented figure, a disciple of the famous philosopher Socrates Alcibiades, has moved into the political arena. He was a witty, brilliant orator, a cunning and power-hungry politician who did not disdain any means to achieve his own goals. In 415-413 . Alcibiades organized a military expedition of Athens to Sicily. By occupying this important area of Magna Graecia for the Peloponnesian Union, the Athenians would have managed to gain the upper hand over Sparta. A powerful fleet was equipped, but on the eve of departure, images of Hermes (Hermes) were damaged or overturned on the streets of Athens. Alcibiades was accused of committing blasphemy. But he retained the position of squadron commander for the duration of the expedition, since he enjoyed great influence among the people.
The army arrived in Syracuse, and at that moment it was overtaken by a ship sent by the people's assembly demanding the return of Alcibiades and his trial. Alcibiades fled to Sparta and betrayed all the Athenian plans to the recent enemies.Meanwhile, the siege of Syracuse began, and Nikias took the place of the fleeing Alcibiades, who was still not a supporter of active actions and besieged the city sluggishly, hoping for a quick recall of the army. Despite the help sent by Athens, the campaign ended in tragedy for Nikias. Near Syracuse, his army was defeated, and the Athenians began to retreat into Sicily, where a significant part of the Hoplites were captured, and Nikias himself was executed. The Spartans forced the captured Athenians to work in the mines instead of slaves. Thucydides' work ends with a description of these events.
The Dekelean War (413-404).
On the advice of Alcibiades, the Spartans entered Attica and captured the mountain fortress of Dekeleia, after which the final stage of the Peloponnesian War is called the Dekeleian War (413-404). In Dhekeleia, the Spartans took advantage of the technique recently applied by the Athenians to the Helots, declaring that they would grant freedom to all slaves who defected to their side. About 20 thousand slaves escaped to the Lacedaemonians, dealing an effective blow to the economy of Athens, forced to raise taxes from the allies. This action led to the fall of a number of cities from the Union, in particular, on the islands near Asia Minor. Sparta, meanwhile, concluded an alliance with Persia (412-410) and received money from it to build a fleet in exchange for the return of some Asian cities to the Persians in the future. Persia did not have enough forces to independently intervene in the conflict and take the initiative into its own hands, and it benefited from the weakening of both belligerents.In Athens, after the Sicilian Expedition, an oligarchic coup took place when the Council of Four Hundred (411) seized power, which abolished the democratic constitution and decided to conclude an alliance with Sparta. The latter reacted to the new advice with distrust and did not agree to peace. Only the Athenian military squadron, located off the island of Samos, near the coast of Asia Minor, did not obey the advice. The fact of the seizure of power by the oligarchs was the first sign of the crisis inside Athens.
Alcibiades, meanwhile, came into conflict with the Spartans and fled to Persia, and from there to the Athenians, who accepted him despite his open treason, since Alcibiades was an experienced military commander. The Persians, sowing discord among the Greeks, now began to help Athens. Alcibiades became the head of the Athenian fleet, which disobeyed the oligarchs, headed for the Propontis (modern Marmara Sea), and won a brilliant victory over the Spartans, as a result of which Athenian domination over the Black Sea straits was restored (411-410) and the tyranny of the four hundred was overthrown (410).The strengthening of Athens was not beneficial to Persia, which began to support Sparta, which built its fleet and defeated the Athenian. The accusation of defeat was unfair to Alcibiades, who at that moment was in another place and did not participate in the battle. Nevertheless, he was expelled (407), and this time definitively. He fled to the East, where he later died.
Soon, in 406, the Athenian commanders won a brilliant victory at the Arginus Islands (near Lesbos), but were executed by false slander for not burying the dead Athenians and thus committed blasphemy. As a result, the Athenian army lost talented generals and became easy prey for the Lacedaemonians, among whom the gifted but extremely vain military commander Lysander, who erected statues to himself and advocated the restoration of elective tsarist power, advanced. In his opinion, an intelligent, talented and courageous person, that is, himself, should have become the king. Thanks to Lysander, the Spartans built a fleet capable of resisting the Athenian, and in 405 they won at Egospotamos ("Goat River") on the coast of the Hellespont. This battle marked the final turning point in the war, as during it the Athenian fleet was almost completely destroyed. Lysander blocked Athens from land and sea, famine began in the city, and in 404 Athens surrendered.A peace treaty was concluded (404), according to which the Athenian Maritime Union, created in 479 during the Greco-Persian wars, was dissolved, Athens was included in the Peloponnesian Union, lost the fleet and paid a large indemnity. The long walls were destroyed, and an oligarchic system was introduced in Athens.
The victory of Sparta was largely due to its best military organization. The role of the third force, which supported one of the equal sides, was played by Persia, which helped Sparta with money at the final stage of the war. The defeat of Athens was the result of discord within the Athenian Maritime Union, which had a narrow social basis - Athenian citizenship.In 404, the tyranny of the "thirty" was established in Athens, when the people's Assembly, under pressure from Lysander, "elected" thirty noble citizens (one of them, Critias, was, like Alcibiades, a disciple of Socrates), whose duty it was to draft a new constitution of Athens. A Spartan garrison was introduced into the city and an open terror began against supporters of democracy: they were thrown into prisons, executed. Fifteen hundred people were killed in eight months. A dull discontent was brewing in Athens, which led to an uprising against the tyrants in 403. The oligarchs were expelled, and relative peace was established in Athens. Sparta was forced to recognize the restored democratic structure of Athens and refused to interfere in their internal affairs.