The fall of Sparta - World History

The fall of Sparta - World History
Posted on 29-12-2022

The fall of Sparta ( 390) Sparta is defeated by Thebes.

In 389 King Amyntas III seized the Macedonian throne. He entered into an alliance with Sparta, which protected him against Olynthus.

By this time, Syracuse had established itself as the greatest power in the West, thanks to the authoritarian government of the tyrant Dionysius, who, after securing control of Sicily, had sent armies to southern Italy and in 387 almost completely dominated the region. He established colonies and trading posts on the Adriatic coast, one of which was far to the north, near modern Venice. He also imposed his rule on Epirus, on the other side of the sea.

The legend of Damocles, a courtier who openly envied Dionysus' fortune, is well known, and one day he offered to be tyrant for one night. Damocles accepted and that night he sat in the place of honor during a banquet, however he soon discovered that Dionysus had had a sword hung by a thread over his head. The tyrant explained that his life was always threatened, so if Damocles wanted to enjoy the advantages of his position throughout the night, he must also suffer its disadvantages.

Indeed, it seems that Dionisio took many security measures. It is said that he had built a bell-shaped chamber over the prison that connected to his room, so that he could hear the prisoners' conversations. Leaving the legends, one of the many Greeks who flocked to Dionysus' luxurious court was, of course, Aristippus, who managed to enjoy life according to his custom, for which he had to constantly endure the contempt shown him by the tyrant. They say that Dionysus once spat in his face, and that later Aristippus said to his friends: "A fisherman has to get wetter to catch a smaller fish than a king."

Dionysius had a son of the same name, as well as a sister, who had married a Syracusan youth named Dion. The tyrant put him in command of his fleet and while in Taranto he met Plato, for whom he felt great admiration and whom he decided to invite to Syracuse, to be in charge of the education of his nephew Dionysus. Plato accepted, but his meeting with the tyrant was not very successful. The tyrant thought that he could treat Plato as he did with Aristippus, and at one point he told him "you speak like a fool", but Plato replied: "and you like arrogant", whereupon Dionysus seized the philosopher and sold him as a slave.

Fortunately, Plato had many admirers, and was soon rescued by one Anyceres of Cyrene, who paid the required three thousand drachmas and then refused to accept them from Plato's friends. Plato returned to Athens, where he founded a philosophical school. Apparently, the previous owner of the land where it was installed was called Academo, so the school was known as "the Academy",and it achieved such fame that this name would later be applied to name any educational center. In effect, the Academy was a kind of elitist university. His students wore luxurious capes and were distinguished by their careful way of speaking and behaving. They did not pay tuition, but because they came from the wealthiest families in Athens, the Academy often received substantial donations. There they learned mathematics, astronomy, music, law and ethics, among other things. The teaching system included classes, dialogues, lectures and public debates. Women were also admitted. Plato proved to be a convinced feminist.

With Plato, Greek philosophy reached one of its highest levels. He exposed his theories in the form of dialogues, since he considered that dialogue was the natural way of capturing human reasoning (undoubtedly an inheritance from Socrates). The most genuine Platonic creation is his theory of his ideas. Plato argued that the existence of a material object presupposes the existence of its idea, that is, tables could not exist if the idea of ​​a table did not previously exist, not as a mental content of men, but as something objective and immutable. Real objects are imperfect reflections of ideas and the knowledge we obtain from their observation is imprecise and incomplete, like that of someone who observes shadows instead of the objects that produce them. Only reason provides true knowledge. To explain how this is possible, Plato concludes that souls live in the world of ideas until they are united with bodies, at which point they forget everything they have learned, but they gradually remember it. For Plato, the most excellent of all ideas is the idea of ​​the Good, in a broad sense that contains the moral aspect, but does not end there. To know the idea of ​​Good is also to understand what a well-constructed argument is, to understand what a well-made work of art is, and, in short, to fully understand all the other ideas. Platonic ideas are eternal and could not be otherwise than as they are, so it is absurd to claim that they are the work of a more or less capricious god. However, Plato admits the need for the chaotic sensible world to be the work of a creator, but even here he introduces a novelty, and it is that he does not present said creator as an omnipotent, wise and just god, but rather a minor god. Plato calls it thedemiurge (the craftsman), a god whose limited abilities have only allowed him to create an imperfect world, in which ideas are palely reflected and often distorted.

Apart from all the folklore with which Plato adorned his theories, the truth is that he was the first to raise in a sufficiently argued and rational way the principle according to which ideas are something objective beyond the mental contents of each particular individual, principle on which philosophers have debated for centuries up to the present and constitutes the basis of the different idealist currents of Western philosophy.

Back in 387, Sparta, troubled by the defeat Iphicrates had inflicted on it three years earlier, had been negotiating peace with Persia and the Peace of Antalcidas, named after the chief Spartan negotiator, was eventually signed. Sparta had to return to Persia all the Greek cities in Asia Minor, while Persia recognized the freedom of the other Greek cities. Persia didn't want any trouble anyway, and the cities of Asia Minor were ruled very gently, to the point that they retained their own rulers.

Once free of Persia, Sparta tried to reassert its position in mainland Greece. He argued that the freedom of the Greek cities that he had agreed with Persia meant that all the Greek cities should be free, that is, independent of each other, for which he urged Corinth and Argos to dissolve their recent union and the city of Mantinea. it was also forced to dissolve into five villages. (Naturally Sparta did not think of liberating the cities that she had under her yoke). In this way Sparta managed to partially weaken her enemies.

In 386 Aristophanes died. Before he died his kind. Apparently, the public must have had enough of his satirical comedies full of slander and infamy. The fact is that his last works were frivolous comedies about husbands who cheat on their wives, wives who cheat on their husbands, servants who cheat on their masters, etc.

Rome was recovering from the Gallic invasion. These were difficult times where the most affected were, of course, the poor. Many commoners were enslaved for debt. A patrician named Marcus Manlius Capitolinus(because he had apparently saved the Capitol from a Gallic attack) he saw a soldier who had served valiantly under him meet this fate, so he decided to pay the soldier's debt. Then he began to sell his property and announced that as long as he had money no man would be enslaved. Naturally, the other patricians disapproved of this conduct, claiming that Manlius was trying to gain popularity in order to proclaim himself king (and the Roman people could not conceive of more horrendous treason), whereupon he was tried and executed in 384.

In 383 Dionysius of Syracuse tried to take Segesta, one of the few Carthaginian strongholds on the island. With this a new war broke out against Carthage.

Sparta continued to assert its position against the other Greek cities. King Agesilaus II was especially interested in Thebes, because of the humiliation he had put him through before his campaign against Persia. Thebes was the head of the Boeotian confederation and demanded that he dissolve it. Thebes refused, but some Theban aristocrats, supporters of Sparta, seized Cadmea (the Theban fortified citadel) and handed it over to Sparta, who took it in 382. With Spartan troops in Cadmea, Thebes became Spartan territory. in 380King Agesipolis of Sparta died (his father Pausanias also died that same year) and was succeeded by his brother Cleombrotus I.

Around this time, one of its most famous orators began to make himself heard in Athens: Isocrates. He didn't really have much of a voice and he wasn't good at making speeches, but he wrote a lot, and he was the teacher of a whole generation of orators. Isocrates insisted that the Greeks should stop fighting among themselves, that they should unite in a Panhellenic league. He even proposed a war against Persia if it would unite the Greeks. However, he was fighting against the essence of the character of his countrymen and did not have any success.

For its part, Persia, having made peace with the Greeks, was preparing to recapture Egypt. In 379 the first king of the 30th dynasty ascended the throne of Egypt . It was Nectanebo I, who hired the services as a mercenary of Cabrias, an Athenian general with numerous victories on his "service record" from him.Cabrias reorganized the Egyptian army and instructed it in the most modern combat techniques. He turned the Delta into a heavily defended camp. Artaxerxes II did not dare to attack, but instead pressured Athens to recall Cabrias. The general complied, but he had done a good job. Artaxerxes II attacked but the Egyptians knew how to defend themselves and the Persians had to withdraw.

Meanwhile the Carthaginians managed to inflict a heavy defeat on Dionysius of Syracuse near Panormo, who was forced to sue for peace, pay a heavy indemnity, and allow the Carthaginians to extend their rule of the island some 50 kilometers to the east.

In 378 a man named Pelopidas returned to Thebes .that he had been in exile in Athens since Sparta occupied his city, but was now returning to lead a conspiracy. One day when the Spartan occupiers were celebrating a party, Pelopidas and a small group of men joined the banquet disguised as women. It is said that at the last moment a Theban traitor sent a message to the Spartan general to warn him of the conspiracy, but he dismissed the messenger saying "business, for tomorrow". The infiltrators drew their knives and went on a killing spree. Amongst the prevailing confusion, the Thebans seized Cadmea. The Spartan commanders were returned to Sparta,

In 377 the satrap Mausolus, governor of Caria, in the interior of Asia Minor, came to power. Before the Dorian invasions the Carians also dominated the coasts, but they withdrew inland when the Greeks arrived, they were dominated by the Lydians and, when Cyrus II conquered Caria, its princes retained power as satraps with great independence. Mausolus expanded his domain at the expense of the Greek cities. He moved his capital to the coastal city of Halicarnassus and began building a fleet. That same year Hippocrates died.

Thebes allied with Athens against Sparta. Athens was remaking the old confederation with the islands, only now in a more diplomatic way, not trying to assert itself as in the days of Pericles. Sparta could not consent to this alliance and a new war began. In it stood out Epaminondas, lover of Pelopidas, who led a special group of soldiers committed to fighting to the death. It was the Sacred Host, with which he was able to keep the Spartans at bay. Meanwhile Athens was achieving naval victories. Sparta tried to organize a fleet, but in 376 it was intercepted in Naxos by the Athenian fleet and was practically destroyed. Syracuse sent ships to help Sparta, bringing the forces back into balance.

A new leader unified Thessaly through political maneuvering and the use of mercenary troops. His name was Jason, and he was born in the city of Feres, in the center of Thessaly. in 371he was elected general-in-chief of the Thessalian clans. Since Sparta was opposed to any confederation in Greece, Jason allied himself with Thebes. At this time the war between Sparta and the Thebes-Athens coalition had reached a dead end and both sides were in favor of making peace. However, King Agesilaus II was carried away by his hatred towards Thebes, and demanded that each city of Boeotia should sign the peace separately, so that he would not accept that Thebes signed for all. With this he managed to make Athens sign peace with Sparta, while it was still at war with Thebes. King Cleombrotus I led the Spartan army against it.

The Greek custom in combat was to deploy the soldiers in a maximum of eight ranks, so that all could fight simultaneously. Under these conditions, Thebes would have had nothing to do against Sparta, since the Spartans were the best soldiers. However, Epaminondas employed another strategy. He divided his army into three parts. He arranged the center and the right according to the usual arrangement, but the left part (which would face the best Spartan soldiers, according to their custom) he arranged in a column fifty ranks deep. This structure received the name of the Theban phalanx,from a Greek word meaning "log", as Epaminondas's plan was for him to act as a battering ram penetrating the Spartan ranks, plunging them into confusion.

The armies met at the village of Leuctra, 15 kilometers from Thebes. The Spartans saw the strange Theban formation and reinforced their lines until they formed twelve ranks, but it was not enough. Everything happened according to Epaminondas's plans, the Spartan lines were broken and thousands of his men died, including Cleombrotus I. It was the end of Spartan rule.

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