The Peloponnesian War

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2003-05-12
  • Publisher: Viking Adult

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For almost three decades at the end of the fifth century B.C., Athens and Sparta fought a war that changed the Greek world and its civilization forever. A conflict unprecedented in its brutality, the Peloponnesian War brought a collapse in the institutions, beliefs, and customs that were the foundations of society. Today, scholars in fields ranging from international relations and political and military history to political philosophy continue to study the war for its timeless relevance to the history of our own time. Now Donald Kagan, classical scholar and historian of international relations, ancient and modern, presents a sweeping new narrative of this epic contest that captures all its drama, action, and tragedy. In describing the rise and fall of a great empire he examines the clash between two disparate societies, the interplay of intelligence and chance in human affairs, the role of great human beings in determining the course of events, and the challenge of leadership and the limits in which it must operate. The result is an engrossing, fresh perspective on a key historical event that will be welcomed by general readers and history buffs alike-and anyone seeking a better understanding of the pivotal events that shaped the world as we know it.

Author Biography

Donald Kagan is Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xxiii
The Road to Warp. 1
The Great Rivalry (479-439)p. 3
Sparta and its Alliancep. 3
Athens and its Empirep. 7
Athens Against Spartap. 13
The Thirty Years' Peacep. 18
Threats to Peace: Thuriip. 20
The Samian Rebellionp. 22
"A Quarrel in a Far-away Country" (436-433)p. 25
Epidamnusp. 25
Corinthp. 28
Enter Athens (433-432)p. 30
The Battle of Sybotap. 34
Potidaeap. 36
The Megarian Decreep. 39
The Decisions for War (432)p. 41
Sparta Chooses Warp. 41
The Athenian Decision for Warp. 47
Pericles' Warp. 55
War Aims and Resources (432-431)p. 57
Spartap. 57
Athensp. 60
The Theban Attack on Plataea (431)p. 64
The Spartan Invasion of Atticap. 66
Attacks on Periclesp. 68
The Athenian Responsep. 70
Pericles' Funeral Orationp. 73
The War's First Year: An Accountingp. 74
The Plague (430-429)p. 76
Epidaurusp. 76
The Plague in Athensp. 78
Pericles Under Firep. 79
Peace Negotiationsp. 80
Pericles Condemnedp. 83
The Spartans go to Seap. 84
Potidaea Recapturedp. 85
Pericles' Last Days (429)p. 87
Sparta Attacks Plataeap. 87
Spartan Action in the Northwestp. 90
Enter Phormiop. 91
The Spartans Attack Piraeusp. 96
The Death of Periclesp. 97
Rebellion in the Empire (428-427)p. 99
The "New Politicians" in Athensp. 99
Conspiracy on Lesbosp. 100
Athens Reactsp. 101
Mytilene Appeals to the Peloponnesiansp. 102
The Siege of Mytilenep. 104
Sparta Acts on Land and Seap. 105
The Fate of Mytilenep. 107
The Mytilene Debate: Cleon Versus Diodotusp. 109
Terror and Adventure (427)p. 113
The Fate of Plataeap. 113
Civil War at Corcyrap. 114
First Athenian Expedition to Sicilyp. 118
New Strategiesp. 123
Demosthenes and the New Strategy (426)p. 125
The Spartans in Central Greecep. 125
Athenian Initiativesp. 128
Demosthenes' Aetolian Campaignp. 129
The Spartans Attack the Northwestp. 132
Pylos and Sphacteria (425)p. 137
Athens' Western Commitmentsp. 137
Demosthenes' Plan: The Fort at Pylosp. 138
The Spartans on Sphacteriap. 140
The Athenian Naval Victoryp. 142
Sparta's Peace Offerp. 144
Cleon Against Niciasp. 147
The Spartan Surrender on Sphacteriap. 150
Athens on the Offensive: Megara and Delium (424)p. 157
Cythera and Thyreap. 157
Disappointment in Sicilyp. 159
The Assault on Megarap. 162
Athens' Boeotian Invasionp. 165
Deliump. 167
Brasidas' Thracian Campaign (424-423)p. 171
The Capture of Amphipolisp. 173
Thucydides at Amphipolisp. 176
Trucep. 178
Nicias' Expedition to Thracep. 180
The Coming of Peace (422-421)p. 182
Cleon in Commandp. 182
The Battle of Amphipolisp. 185
The Death of Brasidas and Cleonp. 187
The Coming of Peacep. 187
The Peace of Niciasp. 191
The False Peacep. 195
The Peace Unravels (421-420)p. 197
A Troubled Peacep. 197
The Spartan-Athenian Alliancep. 198
The Argive Leaguep. 200
Sparta's Problemsp. 203
The Corinthians' Mysterious Policyp. 206
The Boeotiansp. 207
The Alliance of Athens and Argos (420-418)p. 210
The Athenian Breach with Spartap. 210
Spartan Humiliationsp. 215
Alcibiades in the Peloponnesusp. 217
The Spartans Against Argosp. 218
Confrontation in the Argive Plainp. 221
The Battle of Mantinea (418)p. 228
Agis' March to Tegeap. 228
To Force a Battlep. 230
The Allied Army Movesp. 234
The Battlep. 235
Politics Intervenep. 239
The Meaning of Mantineap. 241
After Mantinea: Politics and Policy at Sparta and Athens (418-416)p. 244
Democracy Restored to Argosp. 244
Politics at Athensp. 245
Ostracism of Hyperbolusp. 245
The Athenian Conquest of Melosp. 247
Nicias Against Alcibiadesp. 249
The Disaster in Sicilyp. 251
The Decision (416-415)p. 253
Athens' Sicilian Connectionsp. 253
The Debate in Athensp. 254
The Debate to Reconsiderp. 256
The Home Front and the First Campaigns (415)p. 262
Sacrilegep. 262
Witch Huntp. 264
Athenian Strategyp. 267
The Summer Campaign of 415p. 270
The Flight of Alcibiadesp. 273
The First Attack on Syracuse (415)p. 275
The Athenians at Syracusep. 275
Syracusan Resistancep. 279
Alcibiades at Spartap. 280
The Siege of Syracuse (414)p. 284
The Illness of Nicias and the Death of Lamachusp. 286
Athens Breaks the Treatyp. 289
Help Arrives at Syracusep. 289
Nicias Moves to Plemmyriump. 291
Nicias' Letter to Athensp. 293
The Athenian Responsep. 295
The Besiegers Besieged (414-413)p. 298
Sparta Takes the Offensivep. 298
The Fort at Deceleap. 299
Reinforcements for Both Sidesp. 300
The Capture of Plemmyriump. 301
The Battle in the Great Harborp. 303
The Second Athenian Armada: Demosthenes' Planp. 306
The Night Attack on Epipolaep. 307
Retreat or Remain?p. 308
Eclipsep. 310
Defeat and Destruction (413)p. 313
The Final Naval Battlep. 313
The Final Retreatp. 316
The Fate of the Atheniansp. 319
A Judgment on Niciasp. 321
Revolutions in the Empire and in Athensp. 325
After the Disaster (413-412)p. 327
The Probouloip. 328
Spartan Ambitionsp. 330
Agis in Commandp. 333
Persian Initiativesp. 333
The Spartans Choose Chiosp. 335
Alcibiades Intervenesp. 337
Tissaphernes' Draft Treatyp. 339
War in the Aegean (412-411)p. 341
Athens Fights Backp. 341
Decision at Miletusp. 344
Alcibiades Joins the Persiansp. 346
A New Spartan Agreement with Persiap. 349
A New Spartan Strategyp. 351
Rebellion at Rhodesp. 354
The Importance of Euboeap. 356
A New Treaty with Persiap. 357
The Spartans in the Hellespontp. 358
The Revolutionary Movement (411)p. 361
The Aristocratic Traditionp. 362
Democracy and the Warp. 364
Thrasybulus and the Moderatesp. 365
The Real Oligarchsp. 367
Phrynichus Against Alcibiadesp. 368
The Coup (411)p. 371
Peisander's Mission to Athensp. 371
The Oligarchs' Breach with Alcibiadesp. 373
Divisions Among the Plottersp. 375
The Democracy Overthrownp. 376
The Oligarchic Leadersp. 379
The Four Hundred in Power (411)p. 381
The Democracy at Samosp. 384
Pharnabazus and the Hellespontp. 387
Alcibiades Recalledp. 388
The Five Thousand (411)p. 392
Dissent Within the Four Hundredp. 392
The Oligarchic Plot to Betray Athensp. 393
The Threat to Euboeap. 396
The Fall of the Four Hundredp. 398
The Constitution of the Five Thousandp. 398
The Five Thousand in Actionp. 400
War in the Hellespont (411-410)p. 402
The Phantom Phoenician Fleetp. 402
The Battle of Cynossemap. 403
The Battle of Abydosp. 408
The Battle of Cyzicusp. 410
The Fall of Athensp. 415
The Restoration (410-409)p. 417
Sparta's Peace Offerp. 417
Democracy Restoredp. 420
The War Resumedp. 424
The Return of Alcibiades (409-408)p. 427
Athens Attempts to Clear the Straitsp. 427
Athenian Negotiations with Persiap. 431
Alcibiades Returnsp. 432
Cyrus, Lysander, and the Fall of Alcibiades (408-406)p. 437
Prince Cyrus Replaces Tissaphernesp. 437
The Emergence of Lysanderp. 438
The Collaboration of Cyrus and Lysanderp. 441
The Battle of Notiump. 442
The Fall of Alcibiadesp. 446
Arginusae (406)p. 448
The New Navarchp. 448
Conon Trapped at Mytilenep. 451
Athens Rebuilds a Navyp. 452
The Battle of Arginusaep. 454
Rescue and Recoveryp. 459
The Trial of the Generalsp. 461
The Fall of Athens (405-404)p. 467
Another Spartan Peace Offerp. 467
The Return of Lysanderp. 469
The Battle of Aegospotamip. 471
The Results of the Battlep. 476
The Fate of Athensp. 478
Theramenes Negotiates a Peacep. 480
Conclusionp. 485
Sources for the History of the Peloponnesian Warp. 491
Indexp. 495
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


INTRODUCTIONFor almost three decades at the end of the fifth century b.c. the Athenian Empire fought the Spartan Alliance in a terrible war that changed the Greek world and its civilization forever. Only a half-century before its outbreak the united Greeks, led by Sparta and Athens, had fought off an assault by the mighty Persian Empire, preserving their independence by driving Persia's armies and navies out of Europe and recovering the Greek cities on the coasts of Asia Minor from its grasp. This astonishing victory opened a proud era of growth, prosperity, and confidence in Greece. The Athenians, especially, flourished, increasing in population and establishing an empire that brought them wealth and glory. Their young democracy came to maturity, bringing political participation, opportunity, and political power even to the lowest class of citizens, and their novel constitution went on to take root in other Greek cities. It was a time of extraordinary cultural achievement, as well, probably unmatched in originality and richness in all of human history. Dramatic poets like Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes raised tragedy and comedy to a level never surpassed. The architects and sculptors who created the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis in Athens, at Olympia, and all over the Greek world powerfully influenced the course of Western art and still do so today. Natural philosophers like Anaxagoras and Democritus used unaided human reason to seek an understanding of the physical world, and such pioneers of moral and political philosophy as Protagoras and Socrates did the same in the realm of human affairs. Hippocrates and his school made great advances in medical science, and Herodotus invented historiography as we understand it today. The Peloponnesian War not only brought this remarkable period to an end, but was recognized as a critical turning point even by those who fought it. The great historian Thucydides tells us that he undertook his history as the war began, in the belief that it would be great and noteworthy above all the wars that had gone before, inferring this from the fact that both powers were then at their best in preparedness for war in every way, and seeing the rest of the Hellenic people taking sides with one side or the other, some at once, others planning to do so. For this was the greatest upheaval that had ever shaken the Hellenes, extending also to some part of the barbarians, one might say even to a very large part of mankind. (1.1.2)1From the perspective of the fifth-century Greeks the Peloponnesian War was legitimately perceived as a world war, causing enormous destruction of life and property, intensifying factional and class hostility, and dividing the Greek states internally and destabilizing their relationship to one another, which ultimately weakened their capacity to resist conquest from outside. It also reversed the tendency toward the growth of democracy. When Athens was powerful and successful, its democratic constitution had a magnetic effect on other states, but its defeat was decisive in the political development of Greece, sending it in the direction of oligarchy. The Peloponnesian War was also a conflict of unprecedented brutality, violating even the harsh code that had previously governed Greek warfare and breaking through the thin line that separates civilization from savagery. Anger, frustration, and the desire for vengeance increased as the fighting dragged on, resulting in a progression of atrocities that included maiming and killing captured opponents; throwing them into pits to die of thirst, starvation, and exposure; and hurling them into the sea to drown. Bands of marauders murdered innocent children. Entire cities were destroyed, their men killed, their women and children sold as slaves. On the island of Corcyra, now called Corfu, the victorious faction in a civil war brought on by the

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