25 Devastating Facts About The Peloponnesian War You Probably Ignored

Ancient Greece’s history is chock-full of heroic figures, glorious wars, and countless contributions to the world in various disciplines. These contributions have impressed and stimulated the minds of generations of people worldwide for more than two thousand years. However, there were events that occurred that were pretty shameful, especially for a superb civilization such as the ancient Greek. One such shameful event was the Peloponnesian War, arguably the most catastrophic and disastrous civil war in antiquity, which transformed ancient Greece from a cultural capital into a poor and decadent place.

Soon after the most glorious moment of ancient Greek warfare and the victory of the united Greek forces against the Persian Empire, the two dominant city-states of Greece, Athens and Sparta, put all logic aside. Blind from their greed, they surrendered to their thirst for absolute power and domination. Inevitably this led to the Peloponnesian War that destroyed whole cities and marked the dramatic end to the fifth century BCE and the golden age of Greece. Here follow 25 Devastating Facts About The Peloponnesian War that will remind you that civil war, or any war for that matter, can only destroy what great individuals have built with their minds.

Featured image: Shutterstock

25

The war took its name from the peninsula at the tip of southern Greece, which, to this day, is called the Peloponnese. Many Greek city-states, including Sparta, Corinth, and Argos, are situated in this region.

PeloponneseSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
24

Even though the Peloponnesian War was fought among numerous Greek city-states, most people know it as a struggle for domination and power between Athens, which led the Delian League, and Sparta, which led the Peloponnesian League.

Ancient Greek mapSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
23

The Athenian Empire was at its prime just before the Peloponnesian War started. More than 150 Greek city-states that had joined the fight against Persia were under Athenian control.

warriorsSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
22

The Peloponnesian War was actually two separate wars that took place between 431 BCE and 404, with a six year truce in between.

gatheringSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
21

The History of the Peloponnesian War is without a doubt the most popular historical account of the war, written by one of the fathers of Western history, Thucydides. The famous Athenian historian also happened to serve as a general during the war.

ThucydidesSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
20

One can also find valuable information about the Peloponnesian War in the Histories by Herodotus, and there are references to it in Aristophanes’s comedies, Xenophon’s Hellenica, and in the Athenian Constitution by an anonymous student of Aristotle.

building engravingSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
19

The First Peloponnesian War is also known as the Archidamian War, taking its name from the Spartan king Archidamus II.

Archidamus IISource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
18

This war lasted ten years from 431 BCE to 421. It was less intense than the second war and was fought mainly between Athens and Corinth, an ally of Sparta.

Castle of CorinthSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
17

However, according to most historians and academics, there were deeper issues motivating the hostility between Athens and Sparta. The Spartan leaders feared the Athenians would use their superiority in long-distance offensive weaponry, such as the naval forces of the Delian League, to destroy Spartan control over the members of the Peloponnesian League.

Greek shipSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
16

The conflict was triggered when Corinth was defeated by its colony Kerkyra. When the Corinthians attempted to regain control of the area, the Athenians offered valuable help to Kerkyra in the Battle of Sybota against the Corinthian fleet, thus disregarding the Thirty Years’ Peace treaty.

KerkyraSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
15

This was seen as the last straw in the ongoing tension between Athens and most members of the Peloponnesian League, which were troubled by Athens’ imperialist politics. In 432 BCE, the members of the Peloponnesian League gathered at the Spartan assembly, to which an Athenian delegation was also invited. The Corinthians warned Sparta that if their forces continued to remain passive, it would lose Corinth’s support and geopolitical position. Under this pressure, the majority of the Spartan assembly voted against Athens, thus declaring war against it.

Ancient CorinthSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
14

During the first war, the Spartans, who had the most trained and disciplined army in all antiquity, dominated all the battles that took place on land, while the Athenians, famous for their powerful navy, controlled the sea with ease.

Spartan helmetSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
13

To organize their defensive line, the Athenians constructed long defensive walls all the way from Athens to the seaport of Piraeus. These walls were never attacked by the Spartans or their allies during the First Peloponnesian War.

mapSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
12

This first war eventually ended with a truce called the Peace of Nicias in 421 BCE. However, this truce wasn’t meant to last for long and ended only six years later.

mapSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
11

The fragile truce among the Greek city-states after the First Peloponnesian War fell apart in 415 BCE when the Athenians attacked Syracuse in Sicily.

SicilySource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
10

The Second Peloponnesian War went on for eleven years from 415 BCE to 404 and is also called the Decelean War or Ionian War.

Peloponnesian WarSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
9

The Athenian forces suffered the most severe blow in 415 BCE when they sent a huge expeditionary force to Sicily when one of its allies was attacked by Syracuse. The Peloponnesian League sent massive amounts of forces to reinforce Syracuse against Athens, and the Athenian Empire suffered the greatest defeat in more than a century.

mapSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
8

However, five years later at the Battle of Cyzicus in 410 BCE, the Athenian fleet completely destroyed the Spartan fleet, and this allowed Athens to reestablish the financial basis of its empire. Between 410 and 406, Athens won a continuous string of victories and was able to recover large portions of its empire.

mapSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
7

The last major battle of the Peloponnesian War (the Battle of Aegospotami) took place in 405 BCE and saw the Spartan fleet under Lysander completely destroy the Athenian navy. Athens surrendered in 404, and the Athenian Empire was officially dissolved.

Source: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia Source: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
6

According to contemporary historians, the true winner of the Peloponnesian War among the Greeks was Thebes, which increased in strength and became a major power. Sparta, on the other hand, only temporarily benefited from its victory.

mapSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
5

However, the biggest winner was Persia, which regained many Greek places in Minor Asia and Anatolia, while it managed to acquire great diplomatic influence inside the Greek mainland.

mapSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
4

Ironically, the Spartans had borrowed money from the Persians so they could build a fleet of ships. These ships would end up being crucial in their victory over Athens.

Greek fleetSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
3

After Athens surrendered, it was stripped of its intimidating walls, fleet, and all its overseas possessions. The people of Corinth and Thebes wanted to burn and destroy the city but Sparta refused, as they believed Athens had contributed much to Greece during the Persian invasion.

AthensSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
2

Athens, arguably the most famous, rich, and prosperous city not only in Greece but in all the then-known world before the Peloponnesian War, was left completely devastated and humiliated. The city never regained its prewar status, while Sparta became the dominant force throughout Greece.

AthensSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia
1

For a short period of time, Athens was ruled by the Thirty Tyrants and democracy was suspended. This was a reactionary regime set up by Sparta. The oligarchs were overthrown and democracy was restored by Thrasybulus in 403 BCE.

Greek paintingSource: History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Image: Wikipedia


SEE ALSO: 25 Biggest Corporate Scandals Ever »

NOW WATCH: 25 Amazing Facts You Didn't Know About Animals

Subscribe to List25

What do you think?

0 points
Upvote Downvote
25 Cheeky Butt Facts To Make You LYAO

25 Cheeky Butt Facts To Make You LYAO

25 Awesome Pop Culture Influences On Warcraft You Might Not Have Noticed Before

25 Awesome Pop Culture Influences On Warcraft You Might Not Have Noticed Before