I have thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in your research project
for the past three days. After putting all of the pieces of your
questions together, it becomes apparent that they are interrelated,
and the finished picture is one of alliances, motivators and
strategies, and how they played out in the Peloponnesian War.
The Peloponnesian War was a protracted struggle, with a complex tangle
of players, composed of the city-states that were the allies
themselves, and the individual personalities and ideologies that
shaped the strategies. I have attempted to: first, distill them down
into something that is manageable, while still being understandable;
and secondly, fit the various pieces of my research into the areas
indicated by your questions.
PART I: ENTANGLING ALLIANCES
ALLIES OF SPARTA: The Peloponnesian League
?The Peloponnesian League was an alliance of states in the Peloponnese
in the 6th and 5th centuries BC.
?By the end of the 6th century, Sparta had become the most powerful
state in the Peloponnese, and was the political and military hegemon
over Argos, the next most powerful state. Sparta acquired two powerful
allies, Corinth and Elis, by ridding Corinth of Tyranny, and helping
Elis secure control of the Olympic Games . Sparta defeated Tegea in a
frontier war and offered them a permanent defensive alliance; this was
the turning point for Spartan foreign policy.
?Many other states in the central and northern Peloponnese joined the
league, eventually it included all Peloponnesian states except Argos
and Achaea. Spartan superiority was guaranteed when Sparta defeated
Argos in battle in 546.?
ALLIES OF ATHENS: The Delian League
An interesting perspective on the ?entangling alliances? formed by
those city-states allied with Athens is presented in the Autumn, 1997
issue of Formulations,
?In the wake of the Greco-Persian Wars, a number of Greek states
allied with Athens to form a mutual-defense league to forestall any
future Persian invasion. Member states were given a choice between
providing military equipment or paying a fee; most states found it
more convenient to pay the fee, while Athens always supplied warships
instead. The result was that the mutual-defense league was converted
into an Athenian empire, with all the member states paying tribute to
Athens, who controlled all the military equipment.?
Entangling Alliances: For and Against
by Roderick T. Long
This alliance was called the Delian League, as the treasury was
initially housed on the sacred isle of Delos. In 454, the treasury was
moved to Athens, further heightening its power.
Plutarch, in his Life of Pericles, says:
?[The enemies of Pericles were] crying out how that the
commonwealth of Athens had lost its reputation and was ill-spoken of
abroad for removing the common treasure of the Greeks from the isle of
Delos into their own custody; and how that their fairest excuse for so
doing, namely, that they took it away for fear the barbarians should
seize it, and on purpose to secure it in a safe place, this Pericles
had made unavailable, and how that "Greece cannot but resent it as an
insufferable affront, and consider herself to be tyrannized over
openly, when she sees the treasure, which was contributed by her upon
a necessity for the war, wantonly lavished out by us upon our city, to
gild her all over, and to adorn and set her forth, as it were some
vain woman, hung round with precious stones and figures and temples,
which cost a world of money."
?Pericles, on the other hand, informed the people, that they were
in no way obliged to give any account of those moneys to their allies,
so long as they maintained their defense, and kept off the barbarians
from attacking them.?
Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans
University of Adelaide
?The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired
in Lacedaemon [Sparta], made war inevitable?
University of Rochester
Theories of International Relations
(Apologies for the long link. It is the html version of a PowerPoint
presentation addressing the question of why it was so hard to end a
war that no one wanted (World War I) and making a comparison with the
Peloponnesian War and entangling alliances in both conflicts.)
At the end of the Persian War (449/448 BC), Athens banded with the
city-states of the Peloponnesian League, and it became the Hellenic
League. Sparta subsequently withdrew, and reformed the Peloponnesian
League with its original allies. The Hellenic League then became the
Delian League, setting the stage for the Peloponnesian War.
The rapid expansion of the Athenian Navy was financed by its allies in
the Delian league. This placed an obligation on Athens to come to
their defense. The Peloponnesian League, on the other hand, saw this
growth in the Athenian Navy as a direct threat, and were pressing hard
for Sparta to declare war. Both powers were being placed in the
position of having to go to war because of their alliances.
ALLIANCES AS CENTERS OF GRAVITY
The U.S. Army Field Manual describes a ?center of gravity? as:
"The hub of all power and movement upon which everything depends.
That characteristic, capability, or location from which enemy and
friendly forces derive their freedom of action, physical strength, or
the will to fight." (U.S. Army Field Manual FM 34-1: Intelligence
and Electronic Warfare Operations , 1994)?
The Convoluted Terminology of Information Warfare
by Randall Whitaker, Ph.D.
With that in mind, let?s take a look at the alliances as prime
motivators and ?centers of gravity? to the Peloponnesian war.
After the Persian war, there was an uneasy balance of power in the
region. Athens was turning into an Empire, funded by the Delian League
and greatly feared by Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Democracy
vs. Oligarchy. But both were controlled by the situations created by
Athens was obligated, by virtue of the terms of their alliance;
namely, that the free city-states that were their allies would pay
tribute to enable the strengthening of the Athenian Navy which would,
in turn, enable it to be used for the defense of the allies against
Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athens represented independence,
freedom and individuality.
Sparta, as a strict oligarchy and by means of its land strength,
dominated and influenced its allies, who saw in the Athenian Empire a
direct threat to themselves. Sparta represented conservatism,
totalitarianism, and obedience to the law.
The following is an excerpt, from a review of Donald Kagan?s book The
?The conflagration of the second Peloponnesian War, the subject of
Thucydides? history, can be traced to a spark on the periphery of
Greek life, the city of Epidamnus, in which a civil war pitted
democrats against oligarchs. The former appealed to Corcyra, which was
the metropolis of Epidamnus. Refused help by Corcyra, the democrats of
Epidamnus turned next to Corinth, which did help. This angered the
Corcyreans, who sent a fleet to recapture their erstwhile colony,
defeating the Corinthian fleet along the way. The Corinthians declared
war on Corcyra, who then appealed for help to Athens. The Corinthians
likewise sent representatives to Athens to dissuade them from helping
?The Athenians did not wish to break the Thirty-Year Truce, but they
were afraid that if Corinth, which was close to the Spartans, defeated
Corcyra and took control of its large fleet, it would tip the balance
of power against them. They tried to deter the Corinthians, but were
drawn into a sea battle, which infuriated the Corinthians. Athens now
feared that Corinth would cause problems in Potidaea, which indeed did
revolt against Athens.?
The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
Reviewed by Mackubin Thomas Owens
THE SICILIAN CAMPAIGN
?In 416 a town in Sicily suggested that the Athenians come to their
aid against their enemies. In the assembly, Alcibiades (the brilliant
but erratic ward of Pericles) spoke in favor of the suggestion, the
general Nicias (who had negotiated the peace with Sparta) against it.
The argument in favor was that by subduing Sicily, which had a large
number of Greek colonies, the Athenians would get an increase in
their forces with which to defeat the Peloponnesians. The Athenians
voted for the campaign, put both Alcibiades and Nicias in charge. Bad
idea: Nicias eventually was in sole command and proved to be a very
indecisive leader. It was never a very sensible idea to put in charge
of an operation someone who obviously did not have confidence in it.
?In 415 the Athenians sent out a great fleet, and in 414 besieged
Syracuse, the main Greek city in Sicily. The Spartan Gylippus was
summoned to command the defences and put everything in order. In 413
the Athenian siege began to go badly. Nicias was advised to retreat
but wouldn't until it was too late. Superstitions about an eclipse
postponed the retreat, which became a complete debacle since the
delay allowed Gylippus to make preparations against it. The entire
Athenian force was wiped out.?
University of Alberta
?The Delian League, thus converted to the Athenian Empire, went on to
shoot itself fatally in the foot by an ill-devised assault on the
distant state of Syracuse, an ally of its nearby enemy, Sparta.
Thucydides? History of the Peloponnesian War describes the
catastrophic Sicilian campaign (415 -414 BC) as an object lesson on
the folly of reaching too far afield. The Sicilians? utter wipe-out of
the Athenian army makes Custer?s last stand sound like a tea party.
Sparta, the great land power, biding its time, eventually defeated
Washington?s Roman Model
Gordon Coggins, retired professor Brock University
?The underlying cause of the war was Sparta's fear of the growth of
the power of Athens. This is Thucydides' own final judgment. The whole
history of the rise and power of Athens in the 50 years preceding
justifies this view, though the immediate occasion of the war
concerned Corinth, Sparta's chief naval ally. Since the peace of 445
B.C. Pericles had consolidated Athenian resources, made Athens' navy
incomparable, concluded in 433 B.C. a defensive alliance with the
strong naval power Corcyra (Corinth's most bitter enemy), and renewed
alliances with Rhegium and Leontini in the west. The very food supply
of the Peloponnese from Sicily was endangered. In the Aegean Athens
could always enforce a monopoly of seaborne trade. To this extent the
Peloponnesian War was a trade war and on this ground chiefly Corinth
appealed to Sparta to take up arms. The appeal was backed by Megara,
nearly ruined by Pericles' economic boycott, and by Aegina a reluctant
member of the Athenian Empire.
?But if Sparta had not also been eager for war then peace would have
lasted. Sparta was waiting an opportunity that came when Athens was
temporarily embarrassed by the revolt of her subject-ally Potidaea in
Chalcidice in the spring of 432 B.C. The rebel city held out until the
winter of 430 B.C. and its blockade meant a constant drain upon
Athenian military, and naval resources. Sparta seized the opportunity.
Confident of speedy victory she refused an offer of arbitration made
by Pericles. Instead, Sparta sent an ultimatum that would have
practically destroyed Athenian power. Pericles urged the people to
refuse and Sparta declared war.?
The Peloponnesian War
PART II: STRATEGY
STRATEGY OF PERICLES
?At the start of the war, Pericles decided on a war of attrition. The
Long Walls (those connecting Athens and the port of the Piraeus) had
made Athens an "island," and so long as Athens maintained its empire
and kept open the routes to Black Sea grain, nobody could defeat it.
Pericles therefore decided to abandon the countryside of Attica and
move the rural population into the city. The Spartans' normal policy
was to move into an area and defeat its army when it came out to
protect the farmland. According to Pericles' plan, if Attica was
abandoned, the Spartans could do no major damage to the Athenians,
who in the meanwhile would use their fleet to harass the
Peloponnesian League until the Spartans got tired of the war. For the
democrats, the abandonment of the countryside had the added advantage
that the people most harmed by it were the wealthy aristocrats and
by Christopher S. Mackay
University of Alberta
STRATEGY OF CLEON
Cleon was the first representative of the commercial classes in
Athens, having inherited a successful tannery business from his
father. He was also a vigorous opponent of Pericles. In 430, when
Athens was being devastated by plague, he was at the forefront of the
opposition to the regime of Pericles. He went so far as to accuse
Pericles of mismanaging public funds, and was successful in having him
ousted. In a reversal of public feeling, Pericles was soon reinstated,
but his death in 429 from plague, left the field open for Cleon to
make a comeback.
While he lacked polish, Cleon was a naturally powerful speaker,
skilled in manipulating the feelings of the common people. He was
chiefly motivated by a driving hatred of both the aristocracy and of
?After the death of Pericles, his successor, Cleon, won a great
victory at Sphacteria, capturing between 300 and 400 Spartan hoplites,
and denied a Spartan bid for peace. The Athenians began fortifying
posts around the Peloponnese, and began raiding along its coasts. One
of these posts was at Pylos, where the course of the first war was
?Near Pylos is the isle of Sphacteria. In the 7th year of the war, the
Spartans occupied this island in order to attack the Athenians post at
Pylos. The Athenian navy was able to isolate a large part of the
Spartan army on this island, and after a long siege, captured or
killed all of the men on the island.?
The Peloponnesian War
The First War
At this point, the Spartans began to negotiate for a truce to end the
war. The captured Spartans numbered 420. While this seems a small
number of soldiers, whose potential loss would not call for something
as drastic as surrender, the answer lies in the composition of the
Greek army. Soldiers were generally of the highest social classes
--the landowning citizens-- a small number who were in turn, supported
by a very large group of slaves or serfs who did all manual labor
other than fighting. While this made the Spartan army the best, as
they were freed from the burden of all nonmilitary duties, it also
made them susceptible to the risk of rebellion by the large slave
In addition, the loss of 420 citizens, out of a total class population
of only 5000, would pose a long-term threat to their survival as a
society. These were risks that Sparta could not take.
A truce was arranged, and while its terms heavily favored the
Athenians, Sparta agreed, even conceding all of their ships in the
region. It is at this point that Cleon stepped in, demanding in
addition, that Sparta turn over Nisaea, Pegae, Troezen, and Achae
(all of which Athens had been forced to give up in 446). At this,
Sparta finally balked. This would prove to be the undoing of Athens.
?The Athenians had driven such a hard bargain for peace because they
believed that the men on Sphacteria were beyond rescue. But while
they were definitely trapped, they showed no signs of giving up, and
the Athenians were not eager to attack them. The Spartans managed to
get enough food across to the island, using swimmers and small boats,
to keep their men fed. The Athenians, meanwhile, were beginning to
find their position untenable, packed into a tiny outcropping with
Historical Commentary on the Peloponnesian War
By Kurt Kuhlmann
STRATEGIC OPTIONS NOT SEIZED UPON
Some examples might include the following:
--Archidamus attempted to enter into negotiations to avoid war,
primarily to buy time for Sparta to make preparations. It was still
his hope, though, that war could be avoided, as he knew that his naval
forces would never be equal to the Athenian Navy, regardless of new
alliances, with the financial and human resources they would
contribute to the cause, or time for preparation. Pericles, however,
was not willing to entertain peace at this point.
--Pericles was supremely confident in the strength of the Athenian
Navy. Sparta was known for its powerful army. Archidamus used the time
he gained by attempting overtures of diplomacy to strengthen the
Spartan Navy. Pericles did not feel it necessary to bolster his army,
certain that his defensive strategy and powerful navy would bring
--Pericles asked the Athenian citizens to ?tolerate the insults and
accusations of cowardice the enemy would hurl at them from beneath
their walls.? He asked them to destroy their own farms and lands, and
to hide behind the city walls, waging a defensive war. In this, he
misread the Athenian culture and failed to appreciate the extent of
the sacrifice he was asking of the people.
--Pericles would engage Sparta only on the sea, where it held a
tremendous advantage, giving over the land without a fight.
--After the battle of Sphacteria, the belligerents were near a truce.
The additional demands insisted upon by Cleon caused negotiations to
break down, setting the stage for the defeat of Athens.
PART III: STRATEGIES AND STRENGTHS
The strategies and strengths of Athens vs. Sparta might be looked at
as a study in contrasts.
Athens was a sea power, with a mighty Navy, Sparta had the land power,
with the preeminent continental army of the region.
The Athenian Empire was a democratic alliance of city-states, willing
to pay for the protection of the powerful Athenian Navy. The revenue
from the alliance enabled Athens to further outfit its Navy and
fortify the city, by the construction of encircling walls, behind
which the citizens sheltered to wait out the war.
Sparta was a strict oligarchy, dominating the Peloponnesian League.
Sparta controlled it?s small ?allies?, and held considerable influence
over the stronger and more remote states in the alliance.
Pericles chose a defensive strategy, confident the powerful Athenian
navy could not be defeated. He anticipated that the Spartan army would
have no trouble seizing the lands outside of the city walls. He went
so far as to try to persuade the citizens to destroy their own homes
and lands, thereby denying those resources to the Spartan army. He
barricaded the people inside the city walls. He did not try to
strengthen the Athenian army, limiting any offensive maneuvers to
raids on the Spartan coast by the powerful Athenian Navy. Naval
warfare of that time, however, did not allow for shore bombardment
from ships, or major amphibious landings, so the damage that he was
able to inflict on Sparta was limited. He also did not take into
consideration the danger of infectious disease caused by crowding the
entire population behind city walls. Athens paid a high price for this
strategy, when plague decimated the besieged city from 430-429, and
again in 427. Pericles, himself, fell victim to the plague in 429.
The Spartan strategy, on the other hand, was an offensive one.
Archidamus? powerful army seized all Athenian and allied lands outside
of the walled city. He knew that, once engaged, the war would be a
protracted one. He also knew that a delay in the start of the war
would benefit Sparta. He attempted to negotiate to avoid war in order
to buy time to better prepare for it. He used this time to strengthen
the Spartan Navy and court new allies.
An assessment of Pericles? strategy by Thucydides is offered on the
website of the University of Alberta:
?Thucydides blamed Pericles' demagogic successors for losing the war,
but this took a long time. In any case, while Thucydides may not have
liked the men who provided the leadership in the assembly after
Pericles and blamed them for the eventual defeat, the fact remains
that the ultimate Athenian defeat resulted from the policy that
Pericles had instituted. The idea that the Spartans would give up
without being defeated in battle was flawed and thus the Athenians
were eventually forced to find some stratagem to make the Spartans
agree to peace. Pericles himself would have had to reassess his plan,
though his death prevented him from having to confront the difficulty
inherent to his policy. The only thing that can be said for him is
that perhaps he would not have met with such misfortune in trying to
implement a plan to force the Spartans to come to terms.?
University of Alberta
What I have presented here is, necessarily, simplified. It should
enable you to complete your work, but should you have any questions on
any of the above, please do not hesitate to ask.
As I said before, I have really enjoyed this research, as it is a
subject about which I had some knowledge and interest. I now have a
little more knowledge, and a much greater interest.
Good luck, syracuse!
"peloponnesian wars" OR "peloponnesian war"
"peloponnesian wars" OR "peloponnesian war" ~allies Athens
"peloponnesian wars" OR "peloponnesian war" ~allies Sparta
cleon ~athens ~sparta
Sparta allies Peloponnesian war
Athens allies Peloponnesian war
cleon strategy "Peloponnesian War"
"peloponnesian war" strategy