The End of the War - World History

The End of the War - World History
Posted on 29-12-2022

The End of the War ( 416 ) The Peloponnesian War ends.

In the last years of the fifth century, the Greek cities of Sicily were still fighting each other. In 416 the greatest rivalry was between Selino, on the north coast, and Segesta, on the south coast. Segesta was the weakest, and she asked Athena for help. Alcibiades considered that Sicily could be a useful source of supplies during the war against Sparta, so he proposed sending ships to Sicily. This meant dealing with Syracuse, which was the greatest power on the island and hated all outside intervention. In addition, it had been a colony of Corinth, so it was in favor of the Spartan side. Nicias opposed the intervention, but Alcibiades managed to convince the Athenians that the domain of the prosperous and rich Sicily would bring great benefits to the city. The expedition set out in 415, led by Alcibiades and Nicias and other men, including Sophocles.

One night, shortly before leaving, some statues of the god Hermes were mutilated. This caused some commotion among the Athenians, who saw it as a bad omen. The supporters of Nicias blamed Alcibiades, who defended his innocence (which is difficult to doubt, it would have been absurd on his part). Finally the expedition put to sea, but soon after a messenger ordered Alcibiades to return to Athens to stand trial in the matter of the statues. Alcibiades understood that, in his absence, his enemies had taken power, and that to return to Athens would be suicide. He marched, but not to Athens, but to Sparta. There he convinced the Spartans of the importance of preventing Athens from taking control of Sicily. Nicias was winning some victories, but he did not have great military skills and Syracuse always managed to recover. In414 Sparta sent an army under the command of a general named Gilipo. Nicias was building a wall around Syracuse, but it was not finished when the Spartans arrived, allowing them to enter and join the besieged. Syracuse had been about to surrender, but with the arrival of reinforcements he rallied and drove the Athenians back. Nicias called for reinforcements, and in 413 A new Athenian expedition arrived under the command of Demosthenes, (the general who had taken Pylos). He made an attack, but was repulsed. Demosthenes was a better general than Nicias, and he understood that it was best to retire. However, Nicias was in command and he took some time to think about it (he knew that the responsibility for the defeat was his and he did not want to return to Athens in those conditions). On August 24, 413there was an eclipse of the moon. Nicias was superstitious and forbade all action until certain rituals were performed. When they finished, the Syracusan fleet had cut off the Athenians' exit to the sea. After two naval battles, the Athenians were forced to abandon their ships. On land they were soon captured. Many died, including Nicias and Demosthenes, and the prisoners were cruelly tortured and soon died as well.

Meanwhile, Alcibiades made the Spartans see that rather than send armies against Athens in the summer and withdraw in the winter, it was more sensible to seize and fortify a post in Attica where they would remain all year, so that the Athenians would be forced to remain besieged all year round behind the long walls with no chance to recover. The clumsy Spartans understood that the idea was good and sent an expedition under the command of King Agis II. Athens was cornered. She had, of course, the way out by sea, but the worst thing was that she could not access her silver mines. Fortunately, the city had a reserve of money in case of need and it seemed clear that now was the time to use it. A new fleet was built to replace the one lost in Sicily and with which it tried to quell the revolts that Sparta was promoting in the Aegean islands.

That same year Perdiccas II, the king of Macedonia, died. He was succeeded by his he son of him Archelaus. While his father had negotiated with Athens and Sparta to maintain the kingdom's independence, the new king dedicated himself to strengthening and structuring it. He had fortresses and roads built, reorganized the army and strengthened the royal power with his help. He established the capital at Pella, and in his palace he welcomed numerous musicians and poets, including Euripides.

Sparta understood that she would never defeat Athens as long as she dominated the sea. She decided to build a fleet, but for that she needed money, and she had no trouble finding someone to give it to her. In 412 she reached an agreement with Pharnabazo and Tisafernes,the satraps of the two satrapies into which Persian Asia Minor was divided. That same year Alcibiades had to hastily flee from Sparta and took refuge in the court of Tissaphernes. Apparently, King Agis II had discovered that his wife had received the foreigner with more hospitality than her honor allowed, so he sent a messenger after Alcibiades with orders to assassinate him.

In 411 the Athenian conservatives took advantage of the critical situation in which the city was seen to establish an oligarchy. It was called "of the four hundred" because it consisted of approximately this number of men. They were pro-Spartans and were expected to reach an agreement with Sparta that would end the war, but one of the Athenian generals, Tresibulus,He decided to rebel and established a democratic regime over the fleet, which was then in Samos. Since the four hundred did not have control over the fleet, Sparta did not negotiate with them. After a few months the oligarchy was replaced by a more moderate one, made up of about 5,000 men. The one who negotiated with Tresibulus was Alcibiades. He must not have felt very safe in Persia (a Spartan ally) having King Agis II against him, so he proposed to Tresibulus to lead the Athenian fleet. Tresibulus knew of the great strategic skills that Alcibiades had, and he was in no position to reckon with the double treason he had committed (and was about to become triple), so he accepted. Under his command, the Athenian ships defeated the Spartans every time they met. In410 inflicted a serious defeat on the Spartan fleet at Cyzicus, on the southern coast of the Propontis. When the news reached Athens, there was a rebellion that restored democracy.

In 409 the Sicilian city of Segesta was still at war with Selinus and, after his unsuccessful appeal to Athens for help, was also at war with Syracuse. He now decided to call in the aid of him to Carthage. One of the most prominent figures in Cartago was Hannibal, Hamilcar's grandson, who urged the Senate to approve an intervention. He landed on the island of Motya, that it was a Carthaginian fortified port, one of the few possessions that Carthage had retained on the island. From there he advanced on Selino and took her by surprise. After a few days of hand-to-hand combat through the streets, the city was destroyed and the survivors enslaved. From there Hannibal marched with his men against Himera, where his grandfather had been killed. The Syracuse fleet was in Greece, supporting Sparta, but was ordered back to help Himera. When he was close, Hannibal pretended to abandon the siege of Himera to go to Syracuse. The fleet changed course to protect the city from him, but Hannibal returned to Himera and took it before help could arrive from Syracuse. Greek historians claim that Hannibal had 3,000 prisoners sacrificed at the place where Hamilcar had died. He then returned to Carthage.

In 408 the Spartan king Plistoanacte died, and his son Pausanias, who had occupied the throne during his father's exile, resumed it. Meanwhile Alcibiades had achieved complete control of the Black Sea route, the supply base for Athens. In 407 his fame in the city was so great that he judged that he could return to it without anyone reminding him of his betrayal. So it was, the Athenians received him with all honors. The city even allowed itself the luxury of rejecting a peace offer from the Spartans.

That year Sparta managed to rebuild its fleet, destroyed in Cízico. In command of the new boats he put a general named Lisandro. He formed an alliance with Cyrus the son of the Persian king Darius II, known as Cyrus the Younger,to distinguish him from the founder of the empire. Lysander's military ability combined with Cyrus's money proved lethal to Athens. Lysander avoided directly confronting Alcibiades, and waited for an opportunity. Alcibiades had to temporarily leave the fleet to get funding. He ordered his subordinates not to take any action in his absence, but they disobeyed the order and attacked Lysander off the Ionian coast, where the Athenian fleet was defeated. When Alcibiades returned there was nothing to do. The Athenians remembered his past and accused him of having agreed to the defeat with Lysander. Once more Alcibiades fled, now to the Thracian Chersonese,

In 407 Hannibal was sent back to Sicily together with his cousin Himilcón, as Carthage saw that the opportunity to dominate the island was opening up for him. In 406 he laid siege to the westernmost Greek city, Agrigento, but was killed trying to take it. That year Rome in turn began the siege of the Etruscan city of Veii, which would last for ten years. Meanwhile Carthage continued with the siege of Agrigento, which became a matter of supplies: the Syracusan fleet supplied Agrigento and the Carthaginian fleet supplied the besiegers. After nine months Carthage triumphed and the city was taken.

That same year Euripides died in Macedonia and Sophocles in Athens. It is said that a few years before the son of Sophocles tried to get the courts to declare his father incompetent to manage his fortune. The playwright read in his defense some passages from Oedipus at Colona, ​​the play he was working on at the time, and had no difficulty winning the case.

Meanwhile Athens had built a new fleet. For this she had to melt down all the gold and silver statues on the acropolis. The Spartan fleet was defeated thanks to the fact that the ephors, suspicious of Lysander's successes, had taken away his command. The battle took place in the middle of a storm, and this caused the Athenians to lose many men. This was a great frustration. The admirals were tried. In court was Socrates, who voted for acquittal, but the majority decided to behead them. Shortly after the supporters of the execution were executed, but the fact is that Athens was left without good admirals. The fleet was left in command of Conon.

Cyrus the Younger demanded from the Spartans that Lisandro be reinstated in his position as admiral, and they listened to him. The fleets of Lysander and Conon were maneuvering until they met in 405 near Aegospotami, in the Thracian Querconnese. That was where Alcibiades lived, who knew the region well and had not lost his skills as a strategist. The Athenian fleet had docked in a dangerous place, from where it could easily be attacked. Alcibiades rode ashore to warn the Athenians that his position was dangerous, but was told that the fleet needed no treasonous advice. A few days later, Lysander attacked, and almost the entire Athenian fleet was captured without a fight. Conon managed to flee to Cyprus with a few ships, but Athens was left without a fleet, without money, without good generals, and hardly any young men to send into battle.

The Carthaginians took the cities of Gela and Camarina, in Syracuse, located to the east of Agrigento. The Carthaginian advance caused internal commotions in Syracuse. The discontent was channeled by a man with great oratory skills, who managed to convince the generals to go into retirement and seized all power. His name was Dionysus.The new tyrant hastened to sign a peace treaty with Carthage, by which Syracuse recognized his domain over the western third of the island. Carthage accepted with satisfaction and Dionysus took advantage of the peace to strengthen his city. He fortified an island in the harbor, formed a strong retinue around it, put down all opposition in the city, and seized neighboring cities. He hired mercenaries, organized an army, and increased his fleet, both in number and quality. With this Syracuse became the most powerful city in the Greek world.

In 404 Lysander ruled the Aegean, and when he appeared against Athens, the city had no choice but to surrender. Thebes suggested that Athens be razed to the ground, but Sparta remembered what Athens had done for Greece and allowed her to survive. The "long walls" were torn down and an oligarchy was established in the city. It was known as the Tyranny of the Thirty. The most famous of the thirty tyrants was Critias.He expelled some democrats from Athens and had others executed. He even had aristocrats killed whose conduct he found too soft. Among a thousand other prohibitions, he forbade Socrates to teach (despite the fact that he had been his teacher), an order that the philosopher refused to comply with and was therefore imprisoned.

Among the exiled Athenians was Thrasybulus, who gathered other exiles and succeeded in taking the fortress of Philae, about 18 kilometers north of Athens. The oligarchs tried to reconquer the city on two occasions, on the second of which Critias died. Thrasybulus managed to take Piraeus. The oligarchs asked Sparta for help. Until then, Lysander was the most powerful man in all of Greece, and had dedicated himself to establishing oligarchies, but he had grown arrogant and the ephors were more suspicious of him than ever. King Pausanias, in agreement with the ephors, withdrew all authority from Lysander just as he was about to respond to the call of the Athenian oligarchs and, to humiliate him, allowed democracy to be reinstated in Athens.

That year the historian Thucydides returned to Athens from his long exile. It was also the year in which the Persian king Darius II died, succeeded by his son Artaxerxes II.As had happened after the death of every Persian king, Egypt revolted again, this time successfully, and the throne was seized by a native dynasty, the XXVIII. Artaxerxes II was unable to deal with Egypt because his brother Cyrus the Younger felt that the time had come to ask Sparta to return the many favors he had done her during the Peloponnesian War. He asked for an army of Spartans to help usurp the throne. Sparta did not want to get involved openly, but the end of the war had left many soldiers willing to offer their services as mercenaries. A Spartan exile named Clearchushe gathered nearly 13,000 Greek soldiers under his command and in 401 made himself available to Cyrus.

The army crossed Asia Minor and reached the Upper Euphrates. It then proceeded downstream for 560 kilometers. Artaxerxes II hastily assembled an army, which even included some Greek mercenaries, and prepared to face his brother. The armies met at Cunaxa, a village on the Euphrates, about 159 kilometers northwest of Babylon.

The Greeks extended their line with the right flank touching the river. Facing them was the imperial army, commanded by Artaxerxes II himself. Cyrus immediately understood the situation: the only important thing was to kill Artaxerxes II. If he died, Cyrus became the rightful king, and all the Persian soldiers would serve under him. For this reason, he suggested to Clearco that he concentrate the attack on the center of the imperial army, which due to the inequality of numbers was in front of the left flank of the Greek army. But Clearchus was just a rough Spartan and he was not willing to accept innovations. Tradition said that the place of honor was the right side,

He did so, but, naturally, he did not find himself before him with the best men of the enemy army, but with his left flank, on which the Greeks were dwindling without difficulty, while Artaxerxes II concentrated his attack on the center and the Greek left flank was not. less effectively. Cyrus, irritated by Clearco's ineptitude, gathered as many horsemen as he could and directed a direct attack towards where his brother was, but he was very well protected, so the horsemen were repelled and Cyrus died. Thus ended the battle. Clearchus found himself alone 1,700 kilometers from his homeland without knowing what to do.

Artaxerxes II, preferring to avoid combat, sent an embassy proposing to escort the Greeks to the sea. Clearchus did not trust him, so the Persian king told him that he would gladly receive him and his officers to give him all kinds of details about possible routes and help to return to Greece. Clearco accepted and as soon as the Greek generals entered the monarch's tent they were killed. The Persians expected that the Greek army, without officers, would surrender and be easily overpowered, but this was not the case. They chose as their leader a common soldier, an Athenian named Xenophon,that led them united towards the north, without the Persians daring to attack them. At one point they passed a huge mound and had to ask what it was. It was impossible to recognize Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire. Up to that point it had been razed. They then left the river and entered the region that had been Urartu, where the Persians expected to be torn apart by the fierce local tribes. However, the disoriented Greeks knew how to face all contingencies and in 400 they reached the Greek city of Trapezonte, on the shores of the Black Sea.

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