The Peloponnesian War - World History

The Peloponnesian War - World History
Posted on 29-12-2022

The Peloponnesian War ( 430 ) War broke out between Sparta and Athens.

By the end of the fifth century, half the civilized world, from Egypt to the Ganges, was under Persian rule. King Artaxerxes I had given up imposing himself on the Greeks and had even resigned himself to enduring his continual goading on the frontiers. To the east, India was continuing a slow process of political organization. An Aryan tribe came to the island of Ceylon, whose name comes from the name of this tribe: the Sinhala, (from simha, lion). The invaders expelled the natives and introduced rice cultivation and an excellent irrigation system. Since then they have been known as Sinhalese.Farther east still, relations between the various Chinese principalities became increasingly tense.

At the other extreme, the Carthaginians were looking for trade routes across the Atlantic Ocean, since the Greeks had driven them out of the Mediterranean. Etruria declined. The Gauls harassed her from the north and Rome harassed her from the south. In particular, Rome maintained almost continuous fighting with the Etruscan city of Veii, located twenty kilometers to the north. The power vacuum left by the Etruscans in Italy was filled in part by the Samnites, Italic peoples who inhabited eastern Lazio and began to expand and gain power.

Greek art was abandoning the simplicity of classical forms and opting for increasingly ornate styles. One of the first steps in this direction was taken by the architect Callimaco, who devised the Corinthian column, more ornate than the traditional Doric column. Around this time Democritus died. Apparently he followed hygiene rules that he himself recommended, which allowed him to live for more than ninety years. Some say more than a hundred.

In 430 a powerful kingdom arose in Epirus. After the decline of the Thespots, the region had been dominated by the Chaonians, and now it was the Molossians who organized themselves under a powerful dynasty with its capital at Phoenice.

But the most dramatic events of the time were taking place further south, where a miniature world war had just broken out. Athens, supported by the islands of the confederation, faced Sparta, supported by Boeotia and all the Peloponnese except Árgos (which remained neutral). At the same time, Athens had to deal with an epidemic of plague. A young doctor was called to the city, in fact the first to practice medicine as a science, without mixing it with religion. His name was Hippocrates and he was born on the island of Cos,off the coast of Asia Minor, near the city of Halicarnassus. His father was a healer, and he lived off the many sick people who came to the island to bathe in its hot springs. Hippocrates examined them and drew up a casuistry on which he based his diagnoses. His writings were organized into a Corpus Hippocraticum,but it seems that most of the text was written by his disciples after his death. It does not seem that Hippocrates made many scientific contributions, but the important thing is that he recovered the dignity of medicine, quite discredited at the time, since until then it was in the hands of charlatans and priests. Hippocrates committed himself and his disciples to an oath that not only forced them to practice medicine as a science, without deceit, but also to observe hygiene and decorum standards that would inspire confidence in patients. He organized a guild of doctors who met regularly to exchange experiences and discoveries. We do not know what results he obtained in Athens, but it is possible that he helped fight the plague by recommending rules of hygiene. In429 the plague finished off Pericles himself.

At the death of Pericles, the most prominent figure of the democratic party was Cleon, who advocated continuing the war, while at the head of the conservatives was Nicias, a supporter of signing peace with Sparta. At first Cleon triumphed, under whose rule Athens continued to fight energetically, but without the prudence of Pericles. At this time, a comic author stood out in Athens: Aristophanes. He was from an aristocratic family and in his comedies he shamelessly mocked Cleon and the democrats, to extremes that today would be inadmissible due to his bad taste.

About this time a singular man had acquired fame in Athens. His name was Socrates. He had studied with Anaxagoras (or perhaps with a disciple of Anaxagoras, Archelaus of Miletus).) and had fought for Athens at Potidaea. It seems that the Peloponnesian War led him to the conclusion that the enemy of man is not nature, but man, so it was more important to study man than the world. In other words, from the scientific interests that Anaxagoras could have instilled in him, he became interested in ethics. Instead of developing and preaching a theory like all the philosophers before and after, Socrates would walk around the city asking people questions like what is good, or justice, or virtue, etc. Faced with the easy answer of "everyone knows that", Socrates claimed ignorance. His most characteristic phrase became the famous "I only know that I know nothing." Thus, Socrates forced his fellow citizens to explain the apparently obvious and, with this, made them fall into contradictions and forced them to recognize that their questions were not as simple as they might seem at first glance. Although other thinkers had already denounced the trust in "common sense" or "general opinion" in scientific matters, Socrates was the first to question them regarding ethics, and the first to point out how harmful it is for society. that certain common opinions about what is good or fair are thoughtlessly accepted. He must have had a great personality, as he soon found numerous disciples among the young Athenians.

In 428 the Samnites seized Capua, the largest non-Greek city in Campania, thereby dominating the region.

In 427 the Spartan king Archidamus II died and was succeeded by his son Agis II. Meanwhile Sparta managed to take the city of Plataea, after a two-year siege. Athens, for its part, carried out fruitful naval raids. It is also the year of the death of Anaxagoras. Moreover, the banished king Plistoanacte was reinstated, and his son Pausanias was dismissed.

In 425 the Athenian admiral Demosthenes took and fortified the promontory of Pylos, on the western coast of Messenia. Sparta sent a contingent that took up positions on the island of Sfacteria, located opposite the port of Pylos, and laid siege to the Athenians, but the Athenian fleet, which had withdrawn, returned and laid siege to the besiegers. There were too large a number of Spartans there for Sparta to afford to lose them (supremacy over the dominated classes could be in jeopardy). That is why Sparta sued for peace. Had Pericles been around, Athens would undoubtedly have made the most of the situation, but Cleon decided to impose exaggerated conditions: the return of the lost regions twenty years before. The war continued and the Spartans held out at Sfacteria. Cleon made energetic speeches in which he claimed that the Athenian generals at Pylos were cowards and that if he were there he would know how to act. Then Nicias had a clever idea: he quickly called for a vote and it was agreed that Cleon would be sent to Pylos. Against all odds, Cleon was incredibly lucky: there was a fire in the forests of Sfacteria, where the Spartans were sheltering. The smoke forced them out and they were definitively captured by the Athenians. Cleon took them as hostages to Athens and thus the city was safe from Spartan raids for several years. Cleon was incredibly lucky: there was a fire in the forests of Sfacteria, where the Spartans were sheltering. The smoke forced them out and they were definitively captured by the Athenians. Cleon took them as hostages to Athens and thus the city was safe from Spartan raids for several years. Cleon was incredibly lucky: there was a fire in the forests of Sfacteria, where the Spartans were sheltering. The smoke forced them out and they were definitively captured by the Athenians. Cleon took them as hostages to Athens and thus the city was safe from Spartan raids for several years.

In 424 the historian Herodotus died. Aristophanes premiered his comedy De él Las Nubes, where he made fun of Socrates. Probably, behind the caricature is the image that the Athenians had of the wise man, incapable of understanding the subtleties of the Socratic method: he was a ragged man who walked barefoot through the streets of the city pestering honest men with stupid questions and followed by a retinue. of young people who ran the risk of becoming a new generation of Socrates that would torment the city in a few years. Perhaps deeper down lay the rancor and humiliation of those who understood that a ragged man with bare feet had an intellectual advantage over them.

The Persian king Artaxerxes I also died that year. Two of his sons were assassinated soon after, but the third managed to seize the throne, under the name of Darius II. Persia viewed the Peloponnesian War with satisfaction and was confident that after it Greece would be sufficiently weakened to cease to be a threat. For this reason, the new king did everything he could to fuel the conflict, financing the Greek cities without directly intervening. Since it had been Athens that after the medical wars continued to seize cities from Persia, Persian support was always in favor of Sparta.

Nicias took the Spartan city of Cithera. Then the Athenians captured Nisea, the port of Megara. Megara herself was about to fall if it had not been for the fact that that same year Sparta entrusted the leadership of the war to what turned out to be a brilliant general: Brásidas. In the first year of the war he had repulsed a raid on Messenia, and then had fought at Sfacteria, but a wound sidelined him from the fight. Now, with the Spartan army under his command, he drove the Athenians away from Megara and charged north through Thessaly and Macedonia to the Chalcidian peninsula, which was an Athenian stronghold.

The Athenians tried to invade Boeotia, but were defeated by the Thebans at Delium, on the coast facing Euboea. There he bravely fought Socrates, where he saved the life of one of his disciples, Alcibiades. Then the news reached Athens of what Brásidas was doing in the north. Despite being a Spartan, Brásidas turned out to have great diplomatic skills. He had convinced King Perdiccas II of Macedonia - until then an ally of Athens - to change sides, and the same happened with most of the cities through which he passed. He finally advanced to Amphipolis. The defense of the city was in charge of Thucydides,but when Brásidas arrived he was not there. He got there as soon as he could, but it was too late. Amphipolis had surrendered to the good conditions offered by Brásidas.

In 423 the Athenians exiled Thucydides, who took advantage of his exile to write a book on the Peloponnesian War (it was he who gave it this name). He started it where Herodotus had finished it, but the difference between the two is abysmal. Herodotus' story is full of myths and fantasies, while Thucydides' is an example of rationality as well as impartiality. In his work, the influence of the sophists is noticeable, with whom he had been educated and from whom he had absorbed his skepticism. He does not make judgments, he highlights the good and the bad of all events, there are no sympathies or antipathies. His only weakness was putting grandiloquent speeches invented by him into the mouths of his characters.

This same year a group of Athenians who lived in the Chalcidic peninsula decided to leave their cities and moved to the city of Olinto, with the consent of Perdiccas II. The city did not take long to dominate its neighbors and took the lead in a Chalcidian League that achieved the independence of Athens.

Athens tried to negotiate peace with Sparta, but now it was Brásidas who refused to do so. In 422 Cleon marched north with an army, but was killed in battle at Amphipolis. Now, in the battle, Brásidas also died. Once the main defenders of the war on both sides had disappeared, the possibility of reaching a peace agreement opened up. Sparta wanted her hostages back, and Athens was practically ruined. She had had to appropriate the treasures of the temples and double the tribute to the cities of the Athenian confederation. In 421 King Plistoanacte signed the Peace of Nicias,so named because Nicias was the main Athenian negotiator. Sparta recovered its hostages and the situation was more or less as at the beginning of the war, except that Amphipolis became an independent city. This upset Athens, which refused to return Sparta to Pylos and the island of Kythera.

The Roman commoners agreed to the quaesture. At that time the quaestors not only acted as judges, but were also in charge of state finances and tax collection.

About this time the construction of the temple of Artemis was completed in Ephesus, a monumental construction that had been begun in the time of Croesus and that impressed those who saw it for almost a century.

Corinth and Thebes did not consider themselves bound by the Peace of Nicias. They wanted the destruction of Athens. At the same time, Alcibíades was in favor of continuing the war. His mother was a cousin of Pericles, so she belonged to the Alcmaeonid family. He was rich, handsome, smart, charming, and unscrupulous. He wanted to accomplish great deeds, and for that he needed war. He organized an alliance against Sparta between Argos, Elis and the Arcadian city of Mantinea. He promised Athenian help, but Nicias opposed it and Alcibiades went with a small army.

In 418 King Agis II had no difficulty in defeating the coalition and thus Sparta regained full control of the Peloponnese, but was now again at war against Athens.

Since the death of Cleon, the democrats were led by Hyperbolus, who showed his fury towards Nicias, since, in his opinion, it was his fault that Athens had not been able to intervene adequately in the coalition against Sparta. In 417 he called for a vote of ostracism, confident that Alcibiades's followers (moderate democrats) would join his (radical democrats) and prevail over the conservatives who supported Nicias. However, the supporters of Nicias and those of Alcibiades agreed and the exile was Hyperbolus himself, thus the system of ostracism became ridiculous and was not used again.

Thank You