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                                                     The Peloponnesian War
Young Spartans exercising The policy of Pericles succeeded in arousing the fear of both Sparta and Corinth, who might expect in the event of a war to be aided by dissident cities of the League who wished to escape from the domination of Athens. In 431 b.c, the league that had been organized by Sparta launched a preventive war, known to history as the Peloponnesian War, one of the most destructive wars of the ancient world. In general, it may be said that the Spartans and their allies were successful by land, while the Athenians were successful by sea. But after the death of Pericles about a year after the beginning of the

Edgar Degas chalcography (1860). Young Spartans exercising.

war, the leadership in Athens fell into the hands of less moderate statesmen. Although for a time a peace was patched up under the influence of a conservative Athenian statesman, the war-party, evidently supported by the mass of the people, soon renewed the war. In 415 b.c, under the leadership of Alcibiades, a brilliant but erratic genius, a great expedition which ought to have succeeded was launched against Syracuse, a colony of Corinth.


But the enemies of Alcibiades, though unable to prevent the launching of the expedition, were strong enough to force his recall before he had won any successes in Sicily. This left the command in the hands of a general who had from the first disapproved of the expedition. He wasted time and took no decisive action, while Alcibiades, who had refused to come home to stand trial for a supposed impiety he had committed, went to Sparta and divulged the strategic secrets of Athens. The Spartans sent out an effective general named Gylippus, who destroyed the entire Athenian expedition.

The Athenians were so shocked by their defeat that they abolished the democracy for a period of about a year. The new government, however, was unpopular and did not achieve much. In despair the Athenians recalled Alcibiades and gave him the command. Though he won several victories he soon fell from favor, accused this time of intriguing with the Persians for his own profit. The Persians, in fact, regarded Alcibiades as their most dangerous enemy, but dealt with him as well as with his Spartan opponent, the able admiral Lysander (son of a helot woman) in their attempts to accomplish the defeat of Athens by means of well-placed bribes. It was Lysander whom the Persians really favored, and he who won the crucial battle of Aegos potami in 404 B.C., after Alcibiades had once more been driven into exile. The victory enabled him to cut off the Athenian grain supply and compelled the surrender of the city. Sparta, ever mindful of the fact that Athens had played a noble part in defeating the Persians a century before, refused to accept the advice of her allies that the city should be destroyed and contented herself with dismantling its defences. Nevertheless, Athens was not able in the following century to recover the leadership in Greece which she lost through the Peloponnesian War.






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