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The Peloponnesian War
The Struggle for the
Future of Greece
 His History is our main source for the war
 Manuscript is incomplete at time of death
 Eyewitness accounts, recreation of
speeches, tell the facts, not myth
Reasons for War
 End of the Thirty Year Peace 440-431
 Spartan land dominance, Athenian sea
 Corinth “Athens is a threat to Greek
Reasons for War
 Corinth – 2nd largest naval power
 Athens - natural leader of the Greeks
 Sparta – fears Athens
Athenian Strategy
 Pericles’ plan pays off, as the Athenians
can get supplies through the long walls,
and with the help of their fleet.
The City Secured
 Attica withdraws
 Spartan army invades, ravages city
 Walls protect food supply
But the Plan is Flawed . . .
 Can’t attack from within
 Can’t keep thousands stuffed inside city
 Can’t outlast the plague
The Plague
 “In general, there was no known cause,
but people in good health were all of a
sudden attacked by violent heat in the head
and red and inflamed eyes, and internally
the throat and tongue were bleeding . . .
The body itself was not very hot, nor pale,
but reddish, livid and breaking out into all
manner of pustules and ulceratic wounds.”
The Death of Pericles
 429 BCE
 Oligarchs vs. Democrats
 Settlement vs. War
Cleon’s Plan or the Archidamian
 Invade Sparta
 Logic: Deter Spartans from invading Attica
& Helots will revolt
425 BCE – invades with army, dead in 422
The Peace of Nicias
 Nicas negotiates a treaty
 30 year truce that lasts only 7 years
 Everyone goes back to their land
 But pro-war faction does not vanish
Alcibiades the Agitator
 Everything you could want in a politician:
 Young, good speaker, clever . . .
 Highly educated, daring, good at parties
 But best of all, he was the nephew of
With a leader like this, what
could go wrong?
 He is politically amoral
 Picks the war effort because it suits him
 Wants to lead and this side needs a leader
 By 420 he is strategos
 Figures out how to attack
 Up until now, the plan had only been how
to defend Athens
The Sicilian Expedition
 Sparta depends on the Magna Graecia for
supplies and Corinth for trade
 Cut off the supplies, and you have victory
 Go for Syracuse
The Magna Graecia
Could this plan work?
 Capture Syracuse (main city in Sicily)
 Capture Sicily
 Cut Corinth and Sparta off from trade and
 How to get the fleet past Corinth?
 Could an Athenian army take Syracuse?
 How could Athens afford this?
Nicias vs. Alcibiades
 Nicias on the war:
 need large land army
 Feasibility of plan
 Take all supplies along
 Very expensive
 “With this Nicias concluded thinking that it
would either disgust the Athenians by the
magnitude of the task . . . or that they
would be persuaded to do this in the safest
way possible”
Alcibiades’ Speech
 “Know that we shall increase our power at
home by this adventure abroad . . . Let us
humble the pride of the Peloponnesians by
sailing off to Sicily . . . And at the same
time we shall become either masters, as we
very easily may, of the whole of Hellas . . .
Or in any case ruin the Syracusians, to no
small advantage to us and our allies.”
Athenians Want War
 3 Commanders to keep things fair and
balanced . . .
 Alcibiades
 Nicias
 Lamachus
The Expedition Begins
 134 triremes, 27,000 men
 Treasury is emptied
 Defacing of statues
 Alcibiades arrested
 Spartans get a spy
Nicias Takes Command
 How to win the war when the guy who
wanted it is now on the other side???
 And the guy who didn’t want it is now in
 Things are not looking good for Athens
Disaster Strikes
 Get the fleet home
 Surprise Ambush
 Land Assault
 Most terrible loses in the history of Greece
Damage Control
 Athens raises second fleet
 Lack of leadership dooms attempt
 Oligarchs take control in 414
 Democrats favored by 410
Welcome Home, Alcibiades
 Recalled from exile
 Four years of victories
 Falls from favor
405 BCE
 Athenians attempt to restock ships
 Spartans and Corinthians are waiting
 Athenians fail to guard fleet
 There can be no recovery
Spartans Invade Attica
 In 404, Athens surrenders
 Athenians forced to pull down walls of city
 Athenian fleet restricted
 Ally with Sparta (forced to do this)
The Consequences are Dire
 Lost the Empire
 Never a major political influence again
 Sparta does not have the leadership skills
to unite Greece
Coming Soon . . .
 Who is closer to the idea Greek woman:
Uma or Jessica?