{short description of image}


John Sloan


This essay is an expanded version of the article - 'Peloponnesian War' - I wrote for Brassey's International Military and Defense Encyclopedia Vol. 5, pgs., 2117 - 2119, published in 1993.


Text books on the Peloponnesian War mostly treat it separately without of the larger historical context of the prior conflicts between Athenians, Spartan, Corinthians, Thebans and the many other Greek communities. And they do not fully consider the role the Persian monarchs and their satraps in Asia Minor played especially with respect to interventions alternatively aiding Sparta or Athens. For the history of Greek actiities among themselves and their expanding conflicts with Persia during the previous century we rely on the famous account of Herodotus - Histories. For the war we read Thucydides. And for the conclusing years of the war and subsequent wars we rely on Xenophon.


Greek and Persian activities prior to the Peloponnesian War
and the Ionian Revolt


724 - First Messenian War - Messenians led by Aristodemus defeat Spartans led by Theopompus


685 - Second Messenian War - Messenians led by Aristomenes defeat Spartans


684 - Battle of Boar's Barrow - Second Messenian War - Aristomenes leads Messenians to defeat Spartans led bvy Anaxander


682 Battle of Greeat Foss - Second Messenian War - Spartans defeat Aristomenes - Messenians


669 - Battle of Husiae - Argive-Spartan War in which Argives defeat Spartans










































546 Battle of Pallene in which Pisistratus is restored at tyrant of Athens


545 Battle of Thyreatis in which Spartans defeat Argives in their feud










Persians complete subjugation of the Greek Ionian mainland cities. They impose a tribute system and establish a local tyrant at ruler. Polycrates is tyrant of Samos. He wages war against Milesians and Lesbians and practices piracy. He makes Samos the strongestful naval power in the Aegean




















Persian king Cyrus dies and is succeded by his son Cambyses










Cambyses is successful in invading and conquering Egypt.
While Cambyses is campaigning in Egypt the Spartans wage war against Polykrates tyrant of Samos. He had a large fleet and army and robbed and looted throughout the eastern Aegean. Polykrates had formed an alliance with Amasis, king of Egypt.
The Persians have some control over the Phoenician fleet but Cambyses sent to Polykrates for supporting fleet and troops. Polykrates selected individuals he most suspected of being rebels and sent them These rebels then obtained the support from Sparta. The Spartans were joined by Corinthians who also opposed Polykrates. But even this very large force failed in its siege of Samos and returned home.


Following the defeat of the Spartan siege at Samos the rebels who had sought them had to retreat as well. They sailed to the very wealthy island Siphnos (located south-east of Attica) and attacked the town. The Samians won and extracted 100 talents ransom. From there they sailed to Crete which they occupied for 6 years until captured and enslaved by the Aeginetans.








The Persian satrap at Sardis, Oroetes, who controled Lydia decides to conquer Samos. He kills Polycrates.
Death of Persian king Cambyses.
Control of Samos devolves to Maeandrius.


After various intregues and struggles Darius becomes king of Persia and assassinates Oroetes..Later Darius decides to conquer Samos.












Darius captures Samos and kills all the inhabitants


Darius begins campaign across the Bosporus and Danube against the Scythians. For this crossing he commissioned Mandrokles of Samos to build a floating bridge accross the Bosporus, where as later Xerxes had his bridge across the Hellespont. He has naval support from Greek Ionians, from both mainland and island cities and other tyrants including Miltiades of Chersonese and Ariston of Byzantium.
After retreating from the Scythians Darius establishes a Persian satrapy in Thrace with Megabazus as satrap. He expands control against the Paeones in the Strymom river valley, and at Perinthus, a town near Byzantium. He makes an alliance with the rulers of Macedon. His replacement, Oranes continues offensives on both sides of the Hellespont, capturing Byzantium, Chalecdon, Antandrus and Lamponium. Using ships from Lesbos he conquers Lemnos and Imbros.






























Aristagoras, tyrant of Miletus began the Ionian Revolt from Persia. He went toSparta which refused and then to Athens and obtained aid. .


The Persians send fleet to attack Naxos.


Ionian Revolt begins
- Near Pamphylia battle in which the Athenians and Ionians defeated the Persians
Battle at Ephesus in which Persians defeated the Athenians and Ionians


Battle of Salamis in Cyprus in which the Persians led by Artybius defeated the Ionains and Cypriots led by Onesilus
Battle at Marsyas River in which the Persians defeated the Carians.
Battle at Cyprus in which the Ionains defeated the Phoenicians


Battle at Labanda in which the Persians defeated the Carians and Milesians
Battle at Pedasus in which the Carians defeated the Persians




Battle off Lade island in which the Persians defeated the Ionians led by Dionysius
Battle of Sepeia in which the Spartns led by Cleomenes I defeated the Argives - the Argives never forgot their hatred for the Spartans over the events of this battle


Battle of Malene in which the Persians led by Harpagus defeated the Ionians and Aeolians led by Histiaeus






First Persian Invasion of Greece


490 Battle of Marathon in which the Athenians and Plataeans led by Miltiades defeated the Persians














Athenians begin to build 200 triremes using profit from their silver mines at the urging of Themistocles



Second Persian Invasion of Greece


There were conflicts, off and on, between the Spartans (Peloponnesians) actually (Lacedaemonians) and Athenians prior to and after the second Persian invasion and Greek counter- offensive (480 - 461) and the outbreak of the First Peloponnesian War in 461 which ended in a truce in 446. In Greek philosophy war was the natural condition of man and peace was an unusual interlude. War was the ultimate means for deciding conflicts between peoples


Xerxes assembles his Persian army at Sardis


The Persian army crosses the Hellispont and enters Thrace


Battle at Thermopylae in which the Persians commanded by Xerxes defeated the Spartans led by Leonidas


Naval battle off Cape Artemisiun in which the Athenians and allies led by Themistocles defeated the Persians


- Xerxes captures Athens, Athenians move to Aegina and Salamis islands


In September, naval battle at Salamis in which the Greek allies commanded by Eurybiades and Themistocles defeated the Persians


Xerxes retreats with part of his army through Thrace, finds the bridge at Hellespont destroyed by weather, crosses to Abydus using ships. He leaves Mardonius in command of remaining Persian army in winter quarters in Thessaly and Macedon. Artabazus besieges Poteidae unsuccessfuly for 3 months over the winter. Mardonius attempts diplomatically to detach the Athenians from the Hellenic League Greek cause, sending Macedonian king, Alexander, to negociate.


Sicilian Greeks Defeat Carthaginians at Himera


Critical events after the defeat of the Persians at Salamis


The Spartans want to fortify the Corinthian Isthmus and defend only the Peloponneses - The Athenians want the Spartans to advance into Boeotia to protect Attica. The Greek fleet assembles at Aegina. (Herodotus's account of 110 ships is questionable).


In the summer Mardonius advances the Persian army south into Boeotia. The Athenians again evacuate Athens sending families to Salamis. Mardonius occupies Attica and again offers Athenians an alliance. Athenians send envoys to Sparta threatening to switch sides and complaining about failure to defende Attica. The Spartans relent and under Pausanias' command send 5000 Spartiates, 5000 perioeci and 35,000 helots north. Meanwhile Mardonius sacked Athens and retired back into Boeotia using Thebes as a friendly base. By exploiting the rift between the Athenians and Spartans he caused the latter to shift from strong defense at the Isthmus into operations favorable to the Persians on the open plain of the Asopus river.


Battle of Plataia The Hellenic force totalled 38,700 hoplites, mostly from Sparta, Athens and Corinth. The Persians numbered over 40,000. Mardonius attempted to use his superiority in cavalry. Aristeides commanded the Athenian force.


Meanwhile the combined Hellenic fleet was sailing east from Aegina under command of the Spartan king Leotychides. Xanthippus commanded the Athenian contingent. They receied messengers from Chios urging the overthrow of their tyrant, Strattis, and from Samos urging overthrow of their tyrant, Theomestor, which urged the Hellenic navy to proceed further east from Delos. Leotychides was then assured that Ionian cities would all revolt, so he sailed on to Samos. Xerxes remaining fleet spent the winter at Cyme and then gathered at Samos. On the arrival of the Greek fleet the Persian commanders sent their Phoenician fleet home and retired across the strait from Samos to Mt.Mykale under protection of the Persian army garrison. Leotychides landed his force near the Persians, then urged the Ionians in the Persian force to defect. He then advanced west and attacked the Persian position. The Greeks routed the remaining Persians, the Samians and other Ionians deserted and turned against the Persians. After the great victory the Greeks retired to Samos to decide on what to do next. The decision was to admit the defensible islands, Samos, Lesbos and Chios into the Hellenic League, but to abandon the Ionians on the mainland as the league did not have sufficient forces to defend them from the Persians.


Leotchides leads the Hellenic League fleet to the Hellespont to destroy the Persian bridge, finding it already destroyed the Spartans sail for home but the Athenians, commanded by Xanthippus remained to attempt to capture the Chersonese where they did successfuly besiege the Persian garrison in Sestos. This small event was important in shifting relations between Athenians and Spartans.


Pausanias leads Spartan troops to Thebes after the battle of Plataea to force the disbandment of of the Theban federation and surrender of its leaders. The Thebans had sided with the Persians or at least had given them lodging (under some duress.)


The Spartans demand that the Athenians not rebuild their city walls but Themistocles went to Sparta and by suberfuge delayed discussion until the Athenians quickly rebult the city walls and then the walls from Athens to Peiraeus. This also was a critical event in the changing relations between Spartans and Athenians.

The Spartans had already created a Peloponnesian League comprising the smaller towns there plus Corinth and several Boeotian cities as a defensive league.


The Spartan regent and general, Pausanias, leads the Greek naval campaign to free the Ionian cities from Persia but angers the citizens there by being so domineering and generally objectionable. The fleet consistedof 20 ships from the Peloponnese, 30 from Athens, and others from allied cities. They sailed to Cyprus although the Persians still had garrisons at Eion and Doriscus in Thrace and at Byzantium. After succeeding in collecting booty in Cyprus Pausanias led the fleet the long route to Byzantium where is beieged the Persian garrison. It was there that Pausanias became to despotic that the allies detested him. Sparta lost its popularity throughout the Aegean islands and the Asian coast, The Ionians asked the Athenians to take over command. The Spartans at home recalled Pausaniau and put him on trial. They sent Dorcis with some ships to replace him but the Ionians refused to accept him But Pausanias acquired a triream for himself, sailed to Byzantium and took command of the city in 477.


The League of Delos to defend against Persia founded by the Greek Ionian cities who were disgusted with the Spartans and asked the Athenians to lead them. The members were tasked with providing a set number of ships, or for those who could not or chose not to they were to provide money. The Athenians assigned Aristeides to establish the quotas of ships or money and appointed the 'treasurers' to collect and safeguard the money (tribute) on Delos Island. There also a congress of represenatives met to decide policy. Historians still today discuss whom were the actual members of the League.


477 Pausanias was ejected from Byzantium, recalled by the Spartan ephors, put on trial again, took refuge in a temple which was then bricked up to let him starve to death


Miltiades' son, Kimon,(Cimon) led the first Delian League campaign against the Persian garrison in Eion a port at the Strymon river on the north-west Aegean coast.


The League forces commanded by Kimon then atacked Scyros Island, enslaved its inhabitants and replaced them with new settlers. Next they attacked Carystus on Euboea Island. It surrendered on terms.




Battle of Tegea in which the Spartans attacked the Argives and Tegeates




Battle of Dipaea in which the Spartans attacked the Arcadian League and Tegea
The Elians consolidated by moving inhabitants from neighboring villages to create a larger city of Elis. Mantinea had alredy done a similar shift at an unknown date.


Having forced Carystus (Karytos) on Euboia to join the Delian league, the Athenians attacked rebellious Naxos and forced its citizens to give up their ships and pay a fine - This was example of growing Athenian imperialism.




Kimon led large Athenian and alliies' (Delian League) naval force at battle of Eurymedon River (Greek victory on both land and sea over Persians)
Battle of Syedra in which Kimon again led Delian League navy to defeat the Phoenicians






Earthquake in Lacedomia (Sparta region) and revolt of Messenians against the Spartans who asked for assistance. They besieged the Messenians on Mt. Ithome for 6 years.

Thasos island attempts to revolt from Athenian alliance but was forced to surrender after two year siege. They are forced to give tribute. Other allies continue to attempt revolts.




Historians consider that the Delian League reached its greatest extend in membership cities in this year, in which it included most of the Aegean islands, and the cities on both shores. And the Athenian hegemony reached a greater extent.


Spartans appeal to Athenians and other Greek communities for assistance against Messenians. Aegina and Mantinea and Plataea responded. The Spartans initially were most desirous of Athenian assistance in siege warfare- but only Kimon's Athenian forces were then sent back by Spartans - Athenians considered this a huge slight on their 'honor'- Athenians form alliance with Megarians, Argives and Thessalians. (Raphael Sealey considers that this caused a major shift in Athenaian attitudes toward Sparta)


First Peloponnesian War (461 - 446)


The war between Athenians and the Athenian empire versus Spartans, Thebans, Corinthians, and other members of the Peloponnesian Confederacy 431 - 404 B.C. Large scale but sporadic campaigns and heavy fighting took place from Sicily to the coast of Asia Minor and from the Hellespont and Thrace to Rhodes. It was the first war in history to be recorded by an eye witness historian of the highest caliber. It has come down through history as the archetypical war between a commercial democracy and an agricultural aristocracy and a war between a maritime superpower and a continental military machine. But some modern commentators consider that it was actually a economic trade war because the real Athenian opponent was the Corinthians who were contesting international trade with them. Others note the significant 'racial' basis of conflict between Dorian and Ionian Greeks.
Thucydides' history is itself a classic, which for generations was considered a foundation of a proper education. In his manuscript he also included a sketch of the previous history of Greek city relations. But he did not complete a history of the entire war. That was accomplished by Xenophon in his Hellenica. Much information also comes to us from Diodorus Silicus, Cornelius Nepos, and Plutarch. Scholars of ancient Greek history and literature also mine even fragments of plays and speeches and archeological findings. .


Raphael Sealy devotes much attention to the question, "Why did the First Peloponnesian War break out?" He describes the internal political rivalry of the leading families and their leading politicians, especially the conflict between Cimon and Ephialtes. "Personal ties were crucial in an Athenian political careers'; rising politicians looked primarily to his friends in the city for support. The personal ties of leading Athenians with families outside Attica might well repay study". One such rivalry was between Cimon and Ephialtes, which extended into opposition between them on pro-and anti-Spartan policy.

The war resulted largely due to the change in Athenian foreign policy after Cimon was sent home with his troops by the Spartans. They established an alliance Thessaly, Megara and with Argos, which was at war with Sparta, but did not conduct serious operations against Sparta itself during the war. It was the alliance plus Athenian fortifying and garrisoning Megara which disturbed the Corinthinas greatly. Megara (capital of the Megarid) was located on the eastern end of the Corinthian Ismuth blocking movement from the Peloponneses to both Attica and Boeotia. It had harbors at both Pegae on the gulf of Corinth and at Nisea on the Saronic Gulf. Initially the Athenian operations were directed against Corinth and Aegina, both closer rivals. The Corinthians were also concerned for their colonies atthe western end ofthe Gulf such as Leucas, Ambracia and Anactorium

The fighting outbreak of First Peloponnesian War began with conflicts between Corinth and Athens. Then a variety of raids and small campaigns between Spartan and Athenian forces or their allies. However they had been rivals for years already prior to the Persian war. Rather, in Athens there were oligarchical and democratic factions that intrigued - the oligarchs to obtain outside help to overthrow the democrats and the democrats working to overthrow oligarchs in other communities. While in the Spartan oligarchic politics there was rivalry and the Spartans depended on a large population of helot slaves. The Spartan political structure pitted the two hereditary kings versus the elected ephors and the 30 senior (over 60 years old) members of a special committee.
Internal politics also was dominated by competition between individual leaders who relied on family relations and supporters to maintain power. Both cities needed alliances with as many of the other of the hundreds of Greek communities as possible in order to maintain their leading positions. Thus decisions for war depended on assessment of both internal and external political conditions.
As Thucydides noted, the individual Greeks were motivated by concepts of security (safety), honor, and interest (wealth). This resulted in fear at the likely loss of either of these desired conditions.

In 462 the Spartans asked for assistance from other Greek cities in suppressing a revolt by their subject Messenians. The Athenians sent a small force along with troops from other cities. But the Spartans sent them, and only them, back thus 'dishonoring' them. In retaliation for their 'dishonor' in 462 in 460 the Athenians made an alliance with the Argives. Argos was major enemy of Sparta in the Peloponnesus. The Athenians also detached Megara from the Peloponnesian League thus angering the Corinthians. This was even more dangerous for Corinth than Sparta. And the Corinthians were continually and aggressively urging the Spartans to wage war to reduce Athenian power. Corinth was at the eastern end of a gulf that opened to the west and enabled it to conduct wealthy economic trade with all the Greek cities throughout the Mediterranian as far as Sicily and Italy. Corinthians were always fearful of Athenian efforts to take some of that lucrative trade, which, indeed, the Athenians were greatly desiring to do. In support of the alliance with Argos the Athenians sailed across to the Port of Halieis between Argos and Athens. There they were defeated by a combined force of Corinthians and Epidaurians. But soon after the Athenians won a naval victory over a Corinthian and Aeginetan fleet off Cecryphaleia, an island between Aegina and the Peloponneses. The Athenians defeated the Aeginetans again at Aegina, capturing 70 ships, and then landing on the island to besiege the city. The Athenians were always enemies of the Aeginetans who occupied the island right opposite Athens. In retaliation the Corinthians invaded the Megarid, but Myronides led Athenian reserve troops to engage the Corinthians in two battles of which he soundly won the second, sending the Corinthians home.

In 458 the Spartans bypassed Megara by crossing Corinthian gulf to invade Boiotia and defeated the Athenians and their Delian League and Argive troops at Tanagra in 457. But after the Spartans returned home the Athenians won a battles of Oinophyta and then proceeded to conquer Boeotia. In 458 the Spartans finally defeated the Messenians at Mt. Ihome - That year the Athenian general Tolmides' lead an Athenian naval expedition around the Peloponnesus to burn Spartan dockyards and raid areas in Lakonia. He then continued north and captured the Corinthian town, Chalkis, and also Naupaktos on the north shore of Gulf of Corinth. He populated it with displaced Messenians. Thus the Athenians were already at war with the Corinthians without direct contacts. In 454 the Athenians conducted another naval campaign in the Corinthian Gulf to raid Spartan and Corinthian allies. In 451 the Athenians and Spartans signed a Five Year Truce -And the Spartans signed a 50 year Truce with the Argives who then did remain mostly neutral during the next war.


Democratic revolution in Athens - Ostracism of Kimon, who returned from exile in 451 but died on Cyprus in 449.

Outbreak of First Peloponnesian War with variety of raids and small campaigns between Spartan and Athenian forces.


The Athenians and Argives form an alliance. The Athenians support Argive interests by fighting the Corinthians and Epidaureans in the Saronic Gulf and at Aegina.


Athenian expedition with Delian League allies to Egypt- to secure a source for grain and to Cyprus. They sent several hundred Triremes from Cyprus in support of Inarus, who had taken advantage of the assasination of the "King of Kings', Xerxes, in 465 to sieze Egypt from Achaemenes, the Persian satrap there. The Athenians considered their grain supply from Crimea and north coast of Black Sea vulnerable due to Persian ability to block the Bosporus and capture Byzantium.

Athenians begin construction of their "long walls' from Athens to port at Peiraieus.

Athenians make alliance with Thessalians who occupy the large plain north of Boeotia. This is Athenian expansion of power from Aegean Islands onto mainland Greece which generates general consternation, especially from Thebans and the rest of the Boetians. The Athenians want to obtain support from Thessalian cavalry.
Battle of Halieis in which the Corinthians and Epidaurians defeated the Athenians
Naval battle off Cecryphalea in which the Athenians defeated the Peloponnesians
Naval battle off Aegina in which Leocrates led the Athenians to victory over the Aeginetans


The Spartans defeat the Messenians at Mt. Ihome
General Tolmides leads an Athenian naval campaign around the Peloponnesus and burns Spartan dockyards. He captures Chalkis and Naupaktos from which the Athenians can control the western end of the Gulf of Corinth.
The Spartans cross the Gulf of Corinth to bypass Megara to operate against Boeotians. . The Athenian fleet in the Gulf of Corinth prevents the Spartans from crossing by ship on their way home. The Spartans remain in southern Boeotia.
Battle of Megara in which the Athenians led by Myronides defeated the Corinthians.


The Athenains assemble the largest force they can including contingent of 1000 men from Argos and Thessalian cavalry, in total about 14,000. .They join battle at Tanagra in 457. Nicomedes led the Spartans . Kimon commanded the Athenians at battle of Tanagra, which they lost when the Thessalian cavalry deserted. The Spartans then continued home through the Megarid. The battle at Tanagra reestablished the general Greek belief in the superiority of the Spartan hoplite phalanx.
However 62 days later Myronides brought Athenian troops into Boeotia and won the battle of Oenophyta, which gave them control over Boeotia and Phocis. They destroyed the fortifications at Tanagra. Athenian influence in Central Greece remained strong for 10 years but the cities there did not become members of the Delian League. .


456 The Aeginetans surrender.




|Athenians conduct another naval expedition in the Corinthian Gulf to raid Spartans and their Corinthian allies.

In Egypt Inarus is defeated by the Persians and crucified when Persian king Artaxerxes sent Megabyzus with a large army into Egypt,. After a siege of a year and a half, the Athenian's expedition is destroyed at Prosopitis in the Nile Delta with loss of 250 - 300 triremes. Even an Athenian reinforcement fleet of 50 ships sailed unexpectingly into a further disaster and was lost. This was the largest single disaster the Delian League ever had. They lose access to Egyptian wheat. Meanwhile the Athenians had been trying to restore their influence in Thessaly by conducting an expedition against Pharsalus to restore the Thessalian leader Orestes - they failed. And they failed again in a different expedition led by Pericles to Oeniadae in Acarnania on the Corinthian gulf but could not capture the town.

After the defeat in Egypt and Persian reconquest there the Athenians move the Delian League treasury to Athens claiming necessity for its safety. They must gain secure access to Black Sea wheat by controling Byzantium and the Hellispont.
The Athenians decided that their goddess Athena should receive a share of the annual tribute (1/60th of it).


Apparently, these defeats in 454 resulted in Athenian remaining relatively quiet and perhaps regaining some strength for the following years. and they were contesting much unrest from members of their Delian league, including revolts such as by the Milesians and by Erythraens. The Athenians had to station squadrons at Caria and places along the Ionian coast.
Battle of Sicyon in which the Athenians led by Pericles defeated the Sicyonians
Battle at Sicyon in whichTolmides led the Athenians to victory over the Sicyonians




Return of Kimon who then led the expedition on 200 ships of the Delian (Athenian) League to Cyprus. Six of these went on to support Amyrtaeus at Egypt while the remainder besieged Citium- Kimon died during the siege. Running short of supplies the fleet withdrew. Then near the Cyprus Salamis they met a fleet of Phoenicians, Cypriotes and Cilicians commanded by Artabazus and Megabyzus and defeated them. Both fleets returned home. , .

The Spartans and Athenians sign a 5 year truce. The Spartans and Argives sign a 50 year truce

Perikles law on Athenian citizenship




Peace of Kallias between Athenians and Persians




Battle of Coronea - Athenian exiles sieze Orchomenus, Chaerona and other places in Boeotia. Athenian general Tolmides commands Athenian response and captures Coronea.



Athenians commanded by Tolmides defeated at Koroneia by forces including Boeotians, Locians and Euboeans and driven out of Boeotia except for Plataia.
Thebes becomes leader of Boeotian alliance.
Euboea revolts from Athens. Pericles leads Athenian troops to Euboea.
Revolt of Megarians, killing the Athenian garrison, forces Pericles to be recalled.
Megarians admit troops from Corinth, Sicyon and Epidaurus. Peloponesians prepare to invade Attica, king Pleistranix commands Spartan troops at Eleusis to raid western Attica. Pleistranix and Pericles make agrement enabling Pericles to retun to Euboea and capture the cities. He forces Histiaea citizens out and replaces them with Athenians.

Thirty years peace treaty between Athenians (Delian League) and Spartans (Peloponnesian Confederation) The Athenians are forced to give up the Megarian harbors at Nisaea, and Pegae plus Troezen, and Achaea. This forces the Athenians to give up their expansion and control of central mainland Greece.






Athenians make treaties with Greek colonists on Sicily and Italy in Leontini and Rhegion. This is part of the Athenian effort to secure grain from Sicily and expand trade with western Greeks.




With Persian assistance, Samos revolts from Delian League


Spartans advocate war against Athens but their allies in Peloponnesian League vote NO.
Samian Revolt
Sea battle off Tragis Islands in which Pericles leads the Athenians to victory over the Samians.


Samian Revolt
Naval battle off Samos in which the Samians led by Melissus defeated the Athenians but then Samos surrenders to Athenians




Foundation of Amphipolis




War between Corinthians and Corcyraeans over Epidamnos
Naval battle off Leucimme in which the Corcyraens defeat the Corinthians-.




Naval battle of Sybota Islands in which Corinthians led by Xenoclides defeated the Corcyraeans.
The war between Corinthians and Corcyraeans continues in which Athenian navy became involved in the naval battle of Sybota. The Athenians have developed a new type of trireme that uses ram and develops new naval tactics to employ it rather than hoplites to board enemy ships.
War between Corinthians and Corcyreans concludes. But this battle is one of the leads up to the Second Peloponnesian war
Athenians renew treaty with Leontini and Rhegion.


Poteidaians revolt against Athenians - Potidaea was founded as a Corinthian colony but was a member of the Athenian league.
Battle at Potidaea in which Callias leads the Athenians agaisnt the Corinthians led by Aristeus.
Perikles issues Megarian Decrees designed to force Megrians to renounce friendship with Corinthians. These are two more immediated causes of the Second Peloponnesian war.



Second Peloponnesian War (431 - 404)


The much more famous Second Peloponnesian War began on 4 April 431 B.C. with a Theban attempt to surprise Plataea, Athens' ally and outpost on the northern base of Cithaeron. It ended on 25 April 404 B.C., when Athens capitulated.
The cities of the Boiotian Confederacy under Theban leadership were Sparta's allies from the first. Syracuse and other Sicilian cities gave active help in the last part of the war. Argos, her hands tied by a treaty with Sparta, remained neutral during the first ten years, but as a democracy, was benevolently inclined towards Athens. Persia at first held aloof, waiting for an opportunity to regain her dominion over the Greek cities on the Asiatic seaboard, which Athens had liberated, but finally provided the crucial financial and logistic support required by Sparta to conduct a maritime offensive. Athens, was unpopular with many members of her own empire, but held most under control by her maritime supremacy. The war may be divided into three major periods or five phases:


The Archidamian war; phase 1 431-427; phase 2 426-421:


The Sicilian war: phase 3: 421-413:


The Ionian or Decelean War; phase 4 412-404; phase 5 407-404:


Cause of the war


According to Thucydides, the underlying cause of the war, was the Spartan's fear of the growth of the power of Athens. The And many subsequent writers have taken Thucydides as the authority. But why did Spartans 'fear' Athenian power and why did Thucydides consider that was the 'underlying or basic cause'? The Athenians had no potential for conquering Sparta nor did they express a desire to do so. Might it have been because the Athenian democrat faction was encouraging overthrow of oligarchies and Sparta was one of these, and moreover always was in fear of a revolt of its helot slave laborers. There was no likelihood that the Athenians could ever invade the Peloponnesus and attack Sparta directly.
Another possible cause was the nature of the internal political structure in each Greek community - namely, a struggle between an oligarchic and a democratic faction reflected also in the personal struggles for leadership and power between individuals who were part of or relied on one of those factions. Another potential cause was economic - a trade war - in this case between Korinthian and Athenian merchants, not between Athenian and Spartan merchants. It was the Korinthians who argued so strongly to entice reluctant Spartans to declare war. But Thucydides does not dwell much on economic issues directly.

However, many contemporary Greeks considered the Athenians the instigators because of its attitude of imperial domination over other independent Greek communities rather than Sparta itself. At any rate, both communities did have a long history of conflicts, which Thucydides lists, and were well prepared for war. The whole history of the rise and power of Athens in the 50 years preceding may justify this view, though the immediate occasion of the war concerned Korinth, Sparta's chief naval ally. Since the peace of 445 B.C. Perikles had consolidated Athenian resources, made Athens' navy incomparable, concluded in 433 B.C. a defensive alliance with the strong naval power, Korcyra, (Korinth's most bitter enemy), and renewed alliances with Rhegium and Leontini in the west. The very food supply and wealth from trading of the Korinthians from Sicily was endangered. Also, immediately after the defeat of the Persians Themistocles, over the strong objections of the Spartans, refortified Athens and extended the fortifications to include its harbors, thus making the city defensible against the siege capabilities of the times.

In the Aegean Athens could always enforce a monopoly of seaborne trade. But to the west - to important food supplies and trade coming from Greek cities in Italy and on Sicily the conflict was between the Korinthians and Athenians. To this extent the Peloponnesian War was a trade war and on this ground chiefly that the Corinthians appealed to Sparta to take up arms. Korinth was located on the western (Peloponnesian end of the Isthmus) and had its port on the Gulf of Korinth which was open toward Sicily and much nearer than a sea route around the Peloponnesus. Korinth had a powerful navy and was a major trading and wealthy city well before Athens. Megara was located on the eastern (Athenian) end of the same Isthmus. When Megara built a port on the Gulf of Korinth in addition to its port on the Aegean side, the Korinthians recognized a coming foreign trade rivalry - economic rivalry. Worse, the Athenians helped fortify Megara and its ports and even occupied the city. Then the Megarians switched friends and sent the Athenians home. Athenians then retaliated by issuing the "Megarian Decree' which excluded the Megarians from ALL ports on the Aegean side. This was a threat of starvation, an example of economic warfare. The Megarians appealed to the Korinthians who appealed to the Spartans. The appeal was backed by Megarians, nearly ruined by Perikles' economic boycott, and by Aegina a reluctant member of the Athenian empire.

But if the Spartans had not also been willing for war then peace would have lasted. According to the 30 years peace treaty there should have been negations and compromise. The Spartans were then waiting for an opportunity that came when Athens was temporarily embarrassed by the revolt of her subject-ally Potidaea in Khalcidice 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. As was common in all Greek towns, there were political parties in Sparta, one urging war and the other urging peace. The pro-war Spartans seized the opportunity. Confident of speedy victory they refused an offer of arbitration made by Pericles. Instead, they sent an ultimatum, focused on Megara, but acceptance of which would have practically destroyed Athenian power - partly economic but largely psychological with respect to its relationship with its own subject 'allies'. Perikles urged the people to refuse and Sparta declared war. We have also to consider Perikles' own position and motivations with respect to his political situation.


Phase 1: 431-427


In a war between the main military and main naval powers in Greece a decisive result was unlikely to occur quickly. The Spartans relied on the traditional strategy of Greek warfare. They hoped that by invading Attica and destroying the crops they would force the Athenians either to sue for peace or come out to fight the standard set piece battle in which typical Greek wars were decided. In numbers as well as discipline and combat effectiveness of troops Athens was decidedly inferior to the Spartan-Theban forces. The defect in this strategy was that Athens unlike other Greek cities could not be starved into surrender, nor be made to fight a pitched battle by occasional occupation of its individual citizen's farm lands. For one thing already Athenian agriculture already had largely shifted from growing wheat to grapes and olives for commercial export. Her food supply came principally from Egypt and Crimea, and potentially also from Sicily. The the old king of Sparta, Archidamus, knew this and warned his people about it. But the Spartan war party were still confident in a quick victory in pursuing their strategy of annihilation.
Perikles based his own confidence on his opposite strategy. He wanted only the status quo ante and not conquest, which was quite beyond the means available. Therefore, knowing his city walls were impregnable and connected Athens to the sea port at Piraeus and his navy would be able to insure the food supply, he opted for a defensive strategy of attrition.

When the Spartans invaded, the rural population of Attica moved into the city. Athens became an island impregnable to attack. Its great fleet would secure the empire against revolts from within and attacks from without and take the offensive to raid the Peloponnesian coast. Meanwhile, every spring and autumn the Athenian land army would devastate the lands of Sparta's allies (especially Megara) at the Korinthian Isthmus, while the Spartans were home tending to their own crops. If Megara could be recovered, then Spartan land access to Attica would be blocked and her Theban allies would not dare come down from the north unaided.
The Periklean strategy also had weaknesses. He was too fearful of the effect that high casualties would have on public sentiment in a democracy, if he had conducted more aggressive offensive military actions. He had not seen the opportunities for combined land and naval actions to bring a higher intensity of war to Spartan territory with little risk in order to hasten the effect of the attrition on Sparta. Such a strategy could have been employed with relatively little danger to Athenian hoplites despite they being weaker than Spartans. The defect essentially was that the Athenian people's morale proved unequal to the strain, and, after his death, rushed into rash attempts to over-reach their means. Their morale was already weakened due to crowded, cramped, living conditions inside Athens and forced observation of some destruction of their agriculture. But it was practically destroyed by the unpredictable onset of plague level disease that killed a third or so of the population. Meanwhile, the Spartans were stoic and persistent in the face of failure, until they found foreign resources sufficient to turn the tables on Athens.

Chance too entered the lists, when in June 430 plague brought with the vital grain from Egypt or Libya swept the city, overcrowded with the rural refugees. Athenian troops sent north to reinforce the army besieging Potidaea merely brought the plague along. But no other Greek city suffered, thanks to the lack of contact during the war. Perikles himself died in 429. Megara held out, although starving. The Athenian naval raids on Sparta's coastal allies were too feeble to bother Sparta. Therefore it was Athens which suffered the attrition meant for Sparta. Athens' vast financial resources were strained and she began exacting even more onerous taxation from her empire, which only engendered more unrest and rebellion. In particular a strong force sent to operate from Kythera would have at least kept Sparta's armies out of Attica. Thus the admiral, Perikles, threw away the strategic opportunities available by the proper use of his navy.

Athenians began to offer peace in 430, but Spartans refused. In 430-29 Potidaea finally surrendered, boosting the Athenian position. Then in the fall of 429 Athens won two great naval battles at Khalcis and Naupaktus. The later won by Phormio taking advantage of superior Athenian seamanship. In June 428 Mitylene on Lesbos revolted. In 427 the Spartan fleet under command of Alkidas retreated without even offering battle, instead of helping Mitylene, forcing the city to surrender in July. But this was countered by the surrender in August of Athens' ally, Plataea, to a Theban army which destroyed both population and city itself. In 426 Athens gained the upper hand in Korcyra, but only after a ghastly slaughter. This brought the war to a near stalemate.


Outbreak of Second Peloponnesian War - Thebans conduct unsuccessful night attack on Plataea. Plataea is located in Boeitia strategically guarding many rote between Thebes and Atticia.
Peloponnesians, commanded by king Archidamus, invade Attika to destroy crops and dwellings in expectations they can force Athenians to come out of their fortified city to fight an open battle. Athenians refuse.


Plague at Athens - not elsewhere
Perikies expedition around Peloponnesus to raid and destroy resources in hopes of keeping Spartans on defensive - He is deposed and fined.
Poteidaians surrender to Athenians
Athenian general, Phormio, conducts naval expedition around Peloponnesus to Naupaktos at entrance to the Corinthian Gulf. He defeats Corinthians at naval battle of Patras, and again at Naupaktos.


Death of Perikles as plague continues
Battle of Spartolus in which the Chalcidians defeat the Athenians
Battle of Stratus in which the Stratians (Acarnanians) defeat the Spartans led by Cnemus
Siege of Plataia to 427
Naval battle off Chaleis in which Phormio led the Athenians to victory over Corinthians
Naval battle off Naupatus in which Phormo defeated the Peloponnesians led by Cnemus


Battle of Mytilene
Mytilenians on Lesbos Island revolt against Athenians continuing into 427
Peloponnesians send 40 ships to aid but arrive too late
Athenians pass emergency eisphora tax

Second naval battle of Sybota Islands - Leucaians and Ambraciots attack Corcyra,
Peloponnesians (Corinthians) send 53 ships
Athenians have 12 ships at Naupakltos
Corinthians defeat Corcyraeans but not Athenians and retreat when 60 more Athenian ships arrive





Phase 2: 426-421


In 426 the Athenians began more active operations under direction of new political leaders of the democratic party, Kleon and Demosthenes. Despite continued resistance by the upper classes led by Nikias, they initiated a vigorous offensive strategy. Athenian forces attempted to carry the war to Boeotia (Thebes), Sparta, and even Sicily. In 426 two Athenian armies moved toward Thebes, one under Demosthenes via Acarnania under cover of an attack on Sparta's ally, Ambracia; and the other under Nikias via Tanagra. The plan failed. Demosthenes' force of mostly local allies was trapped and routed, although he managed to escape to Naupactus. Nicias, ever the reluctant warrior, won a small victory at Tanagra and then withdrew. To cover expenses Kleon in 425 raised the tribute from the empire. The Spartans began reprisals. A large army under Eurylochus marched from Delphi, threatened Naupactus, and laid siege to Amphilochian Argos. Demosthenes won two great victories at Olpae and Idomene by clever tactical techniques. This destroyed Spartan hegemony, pushed Arcania and Abracia out of the war, and opened the way for the Athenian navy to Sicily. In 426 they sent Memosthened with a fleet to capture Messena to cut off grain imports to the Peloponnesus. On the way the fleet was forced by a storm into the bay at Spactaria Island.

In 425 Athens won its greatest victory at Spacteria. Its fleet en route to Sicily put in at Navarino Bay and Demosthenes built and garrisoned a fort there on Pylos promontory. The Spartans attacked by land and sea. He drove off the assault on the fort, and the Athenian fleet, returning at his request, blocked the Spartan navy in the bay and cut off the Spartan force of 420 men on Spacteria island. Athens secured the surrender of the enemy fleet, leaving Sparta without one for many years. Kleon brought reinforcements, which enabled the Athenians finally to overwhelm the Spartan resistance and capture 292 prisoners including 120 Spartiates, who were taken to Athens. This was an unprecedented disgrace for Sparta. The "hostage" issue (that is the personal and group honor of Spartans) of these prisoners-of-war not only secured all Attica from Spartan attacks, but was played upon by Athens until Sparta sued for peace, which, foolishly, Kleon refused.

In 424 all Athenian offensive plans failed. Their admirals were forced to return from Sicily, due to Syracusan policies, but were nevertheless severely punished by the democratic led assembly. In November their three- pronged offensive against Thebes was defeated at Delium, thanks to a new tactical deployment of Pagondas using a deep infantry wing and skillful use of cavalry. The Athenian attempt to capture Megara by treachery was blocked by the Spartan relief force under Brasidas. Brasidas then marched full speed through Boeotia and Thessaly to Chalcidice stirring up revolt and offering freedom. Amphipolis surrendered.
In 422 Brasidas continued his victorious campaign despite Athenian reinforcements. Brasidas sallied from Amphipolis and defeated the Athenian force, killing Kleon, but dying in the process as well. Thus in one battle two of the greatest advocates and practitioners of offensive warfare died. Then, by April 11, 421 Nicias concluded a peace treaty between Athens and Sparta that he hoped would end the war.


Battle of Tanagra in which Hipponicus and Eurymedon led the Athenians to victory over the Boeotians
Battle of Aegitium in which the Aetolians defeat Demonsthenes commanding an Athenian and allied force.
Battle of Mylae in which Laches leds the Athenians to victory over the Messanians
Battle of Inessa in which the Syracusians defeat the Athenians
Battle of Olpae in which Demosthenes leds the Acarnanians to victory over the Peloponnesians led by Eurylochus
Battle of Idomene in which Demoshenes leds the Acarnanians to victory over the Ambraciots


Eurymedon and Sophocles (with Demosthenes along) sail from Athens with 40 ships headed for Sicily, They are forced to stop (briefly they think) on the Laconia west coast at Pylos and then at Corcyra. Demosthenes recognizes the windfall and builds a small fort at Pylos. He remains there with 5 ships as Eurymedon and Sophocles continue. The Spartans react. Demosthenes sends to Eurymedon to return which he does. After some fighting in the bay and on land the Athenians capture some Spartan prisoners on Sphakteria Island- next to Pylos.
Spartans urgently seek to ransom their men. They send peace offer to Athenians in exchange for prisoners but Cleon, ever the agressive advocate for war, refuses the opportunity. Cleon takes reinforcements to Pylos.
Battle at straits of Messina in which theAthenians and Rhegians defeat the Syracusians
Battle of Sollygia in which Nicias leds the Athenians to victory over Lycophron leading the Corinthians


Athenians led by Nicias capture Cythera island and continue raids on Lakonian (Spartan) coast. They recapture Nisaea.
The Athenians commanded by Hippocrates fortifies Delium but the Boeotians led by Pagondas defeat him at Tanagra and then retake Delium.
Spartan general Brasidas captures Amphipolis in Chalcidice, with mostly non-Spartan mercenary troops, It is an Athenian colony far from Peloponnesus but most of the population are locals who side with Brasidas and let him rule. - - Thucydides is exiled on charge of failure to defend Amphipolis, but he was prevented from reaching the city in time, but did retain Eion.


One year truce agreed between Spartans and Athenians
Revolts against Athenians at Scione and Mende. Nicias and Nicostratus defeat the revolts.


Athenian general Cleon and Spartan general Brasidas killed in battle at Amphipolis. They are both leaders of the pro-war party in their communities. The Spartans retain control.


Athenian general Nikias (a leader of the peace party) negotiates a 50 year alliance between Athenians and Spartans (Peace of Nikias)


Phase Three: 421-417


All the animosities and policy conflicts which divided the Greek cities remained during this period as all sides strove to regain their strength. Corinth and Thebes refused to adhere to the peace treaty. Neither the Spartans nor the Athenians actually fulfilled their obligations, except that the Athenians did give up their Spartan prisoners. In 420 a new alliance of Athens, Argos, Mantinea, and Elis faced the Spartan - Boeotian Alliance. Athens now had Alcibiades back as leader.

The reminder of the war was marked by the bitter internal political struggle between the democratic war party led by Alcibiades and the aristocratic (oligarchical) elements led by Nicias and others. This struggle led to outright treason, vicious internal partisan purges, and the final destruction of Athens' empire, hegemony, and very independence.

The Athenian's third offensive strategy was the most ambitious conception so far, but it was ultimately negated by the internal opposition of Alcibiades' political opponents. Thanks to the new allies in the Peloponnesus, they threatened the Spartans at home and forced them into a pitched battle on home territory. The Spartans responded to the crisis by bringing forth another great military leader in King Agis II. Taking the initiative, Agis assembled a powerful army at Phlius by masterly night marching and descended from the north on Argos, but was forced to make a treaty and withdraw due to the failure of his Boeotian allies. However, a few months later Alcibiades was able to pressure the Argives into denouncing the treaty and threatening Tegea. Athens then sent only an inadequate force in support and Elis sent none at all. Agis brought up the full Spartan army and in August 418 won the largest land battle of the war at Mantinea. This not only restored Spartan self-confidence and prestige but also knocked out Athens' allies. The Spartans installed an oligarchy in Argos.

Athenian hopes now rested on taking up an even more bold offensive to cut Spartan and Corinthian supplies from Sicily. In 416 B.C. Alcibiades promoted an ambitions strategic plan for conquering Syracuse, controlling all of Sicily, defeating Carthage, and then returning with greatly strengthened forces to the final defeat of a surrounded Peloponnesus. The conception was brilliant, but required the undivided support of the entire Athenian polity. The democrats embraced it with enthusiasm, but as usual Nicias opposed and recommended continued traditional operations in Chalcidice. The expedition was voted and launched in June of 415, but with a fatally divided command of Alcibiades, Nicias, and the professional soldier, Lamachus. The campaign was barely begun when Alcibiades was recalled to stand trial on charges brought by his opponents, (desecrating the hermes) leaving the hopes of Athens in the hands of the chief opponent of the strategic plan. Rather than face certain execution, Alcibiades fled to Sparta!

At first the campaign gained successes. Syracuse was duly invested by land and sea, but Athenian attempts to build a wall of circumvallation were blocked by a Syracusian counter wall. At Sparta Alcibiades recommended that they send Gylippos to aid the Syracusians and that they capture and build a fortress in Attica at Decelea. Lamachus was killed, the fleet was defeated, then supplies ran out, a Spartan general, Gylippos, arrived to aid the defense, and Nicias was procrastinating as usual. A second fleet was sent commanded by Demosthenes. But his assault in July 413 was also defeated. Demosthenes then urged a general withdrawal to Athens, but Nicias would neither advance nor retire. The Athenian fleet was blocked in the harbor and then defeated in battle. Nicias attempted to move the army inland, but it was pursued, surrounded, and finally massacred. Both generals were executed and the few "survivors" were enslaved.








Battle of Mantinea in which Spartan kingAgis II defeats the Argives.






First battle at Syracuse at Olympieium during the Athenian campaign in which Nicias defeated the defending Syracusians


Battle at the Syracuse Epipodae in which the Athenians defeat Diomilus the Syracusian defender
Battle at Syracusian Syce that the Athenians again win
Battle at Syracusian Lysimeleia - another Athenian victory led by Lamachus
Another battle at Epipodae in which the Spartan general, Gylippus defeated the Athenian Nicias.


Battle at Syracusian Plemmyrium in which the Athenains defeat Gylippus
Four battles in the Syracusian harbor in which Gylippus defeats Demosthenes or Eurymedon and or Nicias.


Phase Four: 412-408


The Spartans resumed the war officially in August 414 and all Greece expected Athens to loose. Sparta now had a strong fleet with additional reinforcements from the west. Athens had lost its best sailors and had nearly exhausted its treasury. In March 413 King Agis occupied Decelea to keep Athens in a constant blockade on the land side and cut off the Athenian silver mines. The Athenian empire soon started to fall apart with one city revolt after another in 412 and 411. Finally Persia entered the contest by authorizing its satrap in Sardis, Tissaphernes, to support Sparta. An oligarchic party seized power in Athens and started to offer surrender until blocked by a resurgence of the democratic party. Alcibiades now fled from Sparta to Sardis where he persuaded Tissaphernes to withhold his support from Sparta. The Athenian navy now recalled Alcibiades to command and resumed operations.

With the grain supply from Sicily in complete Spartan control and that from Egypt blocked by the same forces, (and Persia), Athens now was totally dependent on food from Crimea through the Hellespont. There the Athenian commanders Thrasybulus and Thrasylus defeated the Spartan, Mindarus, in the Hellespont at Cynossema in September of 411. In Athens an oligarchic party seized power but was overthrown in 410. In March of 410 Alcibiades won a great victory over the opposing navy and supporting Persian army at Cyzicus on the Sea of Marmora, giving Athens again maritime supremacy. Sparta again suggested peace, but the democrat demagogues as usual refused to listen.

In 409 The Spartans drove the Messenians out of Pylos thus securing their western front. In 409 Alcibiades recaptured Byzantium, cleared the Bosporus and secured the grain supply. He made a triumphant return to Athens on 16 June 408, but his enemies remained unreconciled.



412 The Spartans decided to send a fleet to Chios so they hauled 39 ships across the Corinthian Isthmusfrom the Gulf to sail there, but the Athenains saw them and forced them into the harbor at Spiraeum.
Battle of Spiraeum in which the Athenians defeat the Peloponnesians led Alcamenes who was killed in battle. But later the remaiming Spartan ships broke out and defeated the blockading Athenians.
The Chians had revolted from Athens which sent a fleet commanded by Leon and Diomedon who landed troops on the island and a series of battles ensued.
Battle of Bolissus in which Leon and Diomedon led the Athenians to victory over Chians
Battle of Cardamyle in which Leon and Diomedon also led the Athenians to victory over Chians
Naval battle off Pharnae in which the Athenians defeat the Chians
Battle of Leconium , another victory of the Athenians over the Chians
Battle of Miletus in which the Athenians defeat the Milesians.


Naval battle off Syme Island in which Astyochus led the Spartans to victory over Charminus leading the Athenians
The Spartans encouraged the Rhodians to revolt against Athens.
Battle at Rhodes in which Leon and Diomedon led the Athenians to victory over the Rhodians and Spartan fleet beached there.
Naval Battle off Chios island in which the Spartans defeated the Athenians
Battle at Lampsacus in which Strombichides led the Athenians to victory over the Lamsaceni
Battle off Eretria in which the Spartans led by Agesandridas defeated the Athenians led by Thymochares
Naval battle off Cynossema point in the Hellespont in which Thrasybulus and Thrasyllus defeated the Spartans and Syracusians commanded by Mindarus
Naval battle of Abydos in the Hellespont in which the Athenians again defeated Mindarus.


Naval battle of Cyzicus in the Sea of Mamora in which Alcibiades and Thrsybulus and Thrasyllus defeated Mindarus.


Battle of Ephesus in which the Ephesians defeated the Athenians led by Thrasyllus
Battle at Cerata Mountain in which the Athenians led by Leotrophides and Timarchus defeated the Megarians


Battle of Chalcedon acrosss the Bosphorus from Byzantium in which Theremenes, Alcibiades and Thrasyllus defeated Hippocrates leading the Spartans.
Battle of Byzantium in which Alcibiades captured the city from the Peloponnesian garrison.


Phase Five: 407-404


In autumn of 408 a new Spartan admiral, Lysander, arrived at the chief naval base at Ephesus and began building a new fleet with the aid of the new Persian satrap, Cyrus the Younger (son of Persian king). With unlimited Persian resources, he soon had a formidable force, but continued throughout 407 to refuse Alcibiades' enticements to come out for battle. Finally Alcibiades was forced to divide his own fleet due to supply shortages. Leaving one force at Notium under Antiochus to observe but with strict orders to refuse battle, Alcibiades sailed north to re-provision by plundering enemy towns. Lysander promptly sailed out and routed Antiochus. Alcibiades returned to renew the blockade but the damage was already done. His personal enemies at home were now able to force his recall. Instead, Alcibiades again fled, this time to a castle next to the Hellespont.
For the next year Lysander was superseded by Callicratidas, according to the Spartan legal requirement for single year appointments. Callicratidas blockaded the Athenian fleet of Konon in Mitylene harbor. Another fleet sailed from Athens and in the battle of Arginusae in August 406 the largest fleets so far seen in the war entered battle. Callicratidas was drowned while loosing and Sparta again offered peace. Again the Athenian democrats led by Cleophon refused. Even more incredible, during the course of their victory bad weather had prevented the Athenian admirals from rescuing some of their own sailors from sinking ships. The democrat party had them recalled and six were executed. The new generals for 405 were Alcibiades' opponents.

They now moved the entire fleet up to the open beach at Aegospotami on the northern (European) side of the Hellespont. Lysander lay opposite in a good harbor at Abydos. (the accounts of the battle by Xenophon and Diodorus differ considerably) Vainly Alcibiades went to warn the Athenians of their danger, but the commanders would not listen, In September 405 Lysander captured practically the whole Athenian fleet either without a blow or after a fight, and thus brought the entire war to an end in one stroke. With the grain supply now cut Lysander could proceed to Athens itself to blockade it from the sea while the Spartan army under King Pausanius held the land side. After six months of starvation and no prospect for relief, Athens surrendered in 404 on generous terms offered by Sparta. Corinth and Thebes protested, demanding total destruction, but Sparta did not want to create too great a power vacuum. The city walls and those connecting Athens to Peiraieus were torn down and the empire dissolved.


Battle of Gaurium in which Alcibiades led the Athenians to victory over Andrians and Peloponnesians


Naval battle off Notium in which Lysander led the Spartans to victory over Antiochus leading the Athenians
Battle of Mytilene in which Callicratidas led the Spartas to victory over Conon leading the Athenians
Naval battle off Arginusae Islands in which Thrasyllus led the Athenians to victory over Callicratidas who died leading the Spartans


Battle of Aegospotami in which Lysander led the Spartans to decisive victory over Athenians led by


Lysander takes Aegian islands and cities from Athens then blockades Athens resulting in Athenian surrender and end of the Peloponnesian war


Battle of Acharnae in which Thrasybulus leading Athenian democrats defeated the Thirty Tyrants installed to rule Athens
Battle of Munychia in which Thrasybulus completed the overthrow of the Thirty Tyrants


Summary Chronology:






Delian League to defend against Persia founded by the Greek Ionian cities who were disgusted with the Spartans and asked the Athenians to lead them - Greek expedition to Cyprus and Byzantium



Miltiades' son, Kimon, led the first Delian League campaign against Eion on the north Aegean coast.



Kimon leads Delian League force against Skros which was then made an Athenian colony



Having forced Karytos on Euboia to join the Delian league, the Athenians attacked rebellious Naxos and forced its citizens to give up their ships and pay a fine - This was example of growing Athenian imperialism.



Kimon led large Athenian and allies at battle of Eurymedon River (Greek victory over Persians)



Collapse of Tyranny in Syracuse



Earthquake in Lacedomia (Spartan) and revolt of Messenians against Spartans



Thasos island attempts to revolt from Athenian alliance but was forced to surrender after two year siege. They are forced to give tribute. Other allies continue to attempt revolts.



Spartans appeal to Athenians and other Greek communities for assistance against Messenians - but only Kimon's Athenian forces were then sent back by Spartans - Athenians form alliance with Megarians, Argives and Thessalians.



Democratic revolution in Athens - Ostracism of Kimon, who returned from exile in 451 but died on Cyprus in 449.



Outbreak of First Peloponnesian War with variety of raids and small campaigns between Spartan and Athenian forces.



In retaliation for their 'dishonor' in 462 the Athenians make an alliance with the Argives. Argos was major opponent of Sparta in the Peloponnesus.



Athenians detach Megara from the Peloponnesian League thus angering the Corinthians - Athenians fortify Megara linking it to port at Nisaia and establish an Athenian garrison in the city.



Athenian expedition with Delian League allies to Egypt- to secure source for grain and to Cyprus



Athenians begin construction of their "long walls' from Athens to port at Peiraieus.



Athenians make alliance with Thessalians who occupy large plain north of Boeotia.



Spartans bypass Megara by crossing Corinthian gulf to invade Athens and at Tanagra defeat Athenians, Argives and some Delian league troops. But after the Spartans return home the Athenians win at Battles of Oinophyta - Athenian conquest of Boeotia



Spartans finally defeat Messenians at Mt. Ihome - Tolmides' leads Athenian naval expedition around the Peloponnesus to burn Spartan dockyards and raid areas in Lakonia. He continues north and captures Corinthian town, Chalkis, and also Naupaktos on north shore of Gulf of Corinth populated by displaced Messenians.



Birth of Thucydides



Athenians conduct another naval expedition in Corinthian Gulf to raid Spartan and Corinthian allies



Delian League treasury moved to Athens



Disaster of Athenian expedition in Egypt at great cost



Expedition of Athenian League to Cyprus - Death of Kimon



Five Year Truce between Athenians and Spartans -50 year Truce between Sparta and Argos - Perikles law on Athenian citizenship



Birth of Alkibiades



Peace of Kallias between Athenians and Persians



Begining of construction of Parthenon in Athens



Thirty years peace treaty between Athenians (Delian League) and Spartans (Peloponnesian Confederation)



Athenians commanded by Tolmides defeated at Koroneia and driven out of Boiotia except for Plataia. Thebes becomes leader of Boeotian alliance. Euboia revolts from Athens.



Athenians make treaties with Sicilians in Leontini and Rhegion


441 -339

With Persian assistance, Samos revolts from Delian League in 441, surrenders in 439



Spartans advocate war against Athens but their allies in Peloponnesian League vote NO.



Dedication of the Parthenon



Foundation of Amphipolis



War between Corinthians and Corcyraeans over Epidamnos - in which Athenian navy became involved in the naval battle of Sybota



Athenians renew treaty with Leontini and Rhegion



Poteidaians revolt - Perikles issues Megarian Decrees



Outbreak of Second Peloponnesian War - unsuccessful attack of Thebans on Plataea



Peloponnesians invade Attica



Plague at Athens - not elsewhere



Perikies expedition around Peloponnesus



Perikies deposed as general and fined



Poteidaians surrender to Athenians



Phormio conducts expedition to Naupaktos, He defeats Corinthians at naval battle of Patras, and again at Naupaktos.



Death of Perikles as plague continues


429 -427

Siege of Plataia



Revolt of Mytilenians on Lesbos Island against Athenians - Peloponnesians send 40 ships to aid but arrive too late - Athenians pass eisphora tax



Second naval battle of Sybota Islands - Leucaians and Ambraciots attack Corcyra, Peloponnesians (Corinthians) send 53 ships, Athenians have 12 ships at Napakltos, Corinthians defeat Corcyraeans but not Athenians and retreat when 60 more Athenian ships arrive


427 - 424



Athenians capture some Spartan prisoners at Pylos on Sphakteria Island- Athenians fortify Pylos



Spartans send peace offer to Athenians in exchange for prisoners but Athenian advocates of war refuse



Athenians capture Kyther and begin raids on Lakonian (Spartan) coast



Boetians defeat Athenians at Deliion



Spartan general Brasidas captures Amphipolis - Thucydides exiled on charge of failure to defend Amphipolis



One year truce between Spartans and Athenians



Revolts against Athenians at Skione and Mende



Athenian general Kleon and Spartan general Brasidas killed at Amphipolis



Athenian general Nikias negotiates a 50 year alliance between Athenians and Spartans (Peace of Nikias)



Battle of Mantinea - Peloponnesian army of Spartans, Skiritai, Arkadians, Tegeans and Lakonians commanded by Agis decisively defeated the Mantineas and allies of Athenians, Arkadians, and Argives - next year the oligarchs in Argos with Spartan help overthrow the democratic faction.



Athenians invade Melos - kill all the males and send females and children into slavery



Egestaians appeal to Athenian for aid against Selinous - Athenians launch their greatest war fleet with hoplites in second campaign in Sicily - recall Alkibiades to command along with Nikias and Lamachos



Lamachos killed during siege of Syracuse - Spartans send Gylippos to advise Syracusians



Athenians send reinforcements to Sicily



Spartans capture Athenian border outpost at Dekeleia and fortify it as base for constant raids in Attica



Greatest disaster for Athenians as their fleet is destroyed and whole army massacred or captured at Syracuse



Spartans seek and obtain financial help and treaty with Persian king Darios II - enables them to construct and man a fleet



Athenian allies revolt throughout Aegean



Athenian oligarchic party succeeds in revolution and installs pro Spartan government



Athenian army and fleet at Samos with Alkibiades in command remains loyal to democratic government party



Spartans defeated at Kyzikos - full democracy restored in Athens



Spartans drive Messenians out of Pylos - Spartans capture and control Chios island



Darios II sends Kyros the younger to command Persian forces in western Anatolia



Lysander takes command of Spartan navy in Aegean



Athenians defeated at Notion - Alkibiades sent into exile again



Spartans defeated at Arginousai - but Athenian generals (admirals) are tried and convicted of failure to rescue sailors during the battle



Athenians defeated at Aegospotami - they foolishly left their fleet beached and Spartans simply captured it - Aegospotami is on coast of Hellespont - result Athenian food supply from Crimea and Black sea coast cut off.


405 - 404

Spartans besiege Athens which now lacks food



Athenians surrender - Spartans give relatively reasonable peace treaty but destroy the 'long walls' and install an oligarchy - the Thirty Tyrants.



Athenian democratic faction overthrows the oligarchy of the Thirty Tyrants



Battle of Cunaxa
Xenophon accompanies Greek mercenary force employed by Kyros the Younger to Cunaxa where Kyros is killed and the Greeks then march north to the Black Sea coast. Greek leaders are assisinated and Xenophon is voted ato be new commander











Battle of Dascylium in which Agesilaus leds Spartan nmercenaries to defeat Tisaphernes leading Persians

























Ancient sources:

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 2 vols. trans by Thomas Hobbes, ed. David Grene, 1959. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. and also the edition trans by Crawley and ed. by Sir Richard Livingstone, 1960. Oxford University Press, New York. And now the new Landmark edition here.
Thucydides - Landmark edition of Peloponnesian War
Xenophon, Hellenica, I. II
Xenophon - Landmark edition of Hellenica
Diodorus Siculus, two volumes, Books XII
Julius Frontinus, Stratagems Loeb edition
Cornelius Nepos - Great Generals of Foreign Nations Loeb edition: and new translation edited by Quintius Curtius, Lives of the Great Commanders, Fortgress oftrhe Mind Publications.
Plutarch, Especially the lives of Pericles, Nicias, Alcibiades, and Lysander in Plutarch's Lives, Dryden Translation, The Modern Library, New York. Polyaenus, Strategms of War, trans, R Shepherd

Secondary sources

Adcock, F. E. 1962. The Greek and Macedonian Art of War, University of California Press, Berkeley.
Allison, June W., 1989. Power and Preparedness in Thucydides, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore
Anderson, J. K. 1970. Military Theory and Practice in the Age of Xenophon, University of California Press, Berkeley.
Andrewes, A. 1956, The Greek Tyrants, Harper Torchbooks
Baragwanath, Emily "A Noble Alliance: Herodotus, Thcydides, and Xenophon's Procles "- E.Foster &D. Lateiner ed. Thucydides and Herodotus, Oxford, pp. 316 - 342 and reviewed by Pavel Nyvlin in Listy Filologicke
Baragwanth, Emily, "Knowing Future Time in Xenophon's Anabasis"
Baragwanth, Emily "The Character and Function of Speeches in Xenophon"
Baragwanth, Emily "Emotions, Preceptions, Visual Images: Conceptualizing the Past in Xenophon's Hellenica"
Bluhm, William T. "Casual Theory in Thucydides' Peloponnesian War", Political Studies, vol. X. Feb. 1962,
Christesen, Paul "Xenophon's Cyropaedia' and Military Reform in Sparta", in The Jouranal of Hellenic Studies, Vol 126 (2006) ppg 40 - 65
Connolly, Peter, 1977. The Greek Armies, Macdonald Educational, London, England.
Connolly, Peter, 1998, Greece and Rome at War, Greenhill Books, London.
Davies, J. K. 1993, Democracy and Classical Greece, Harvard Univ Press, Cambridge.
Delbruck, Hans, 1975 Geschichte der Kriegskunst in Rahmen der Politischen Geschichte, Warfare in Antiquity - History of the Art of War vol I, trans by Walter Renfroe, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
de Souza, Philip et al. 2004, The Greeks at War, Osprey, London
Diodorus Silicus
Ferrill, Arther, 1985, The Origins of War, Thames and Hudson, London..
Fine, John V. A. 1983, The Ancient Greeks: A Critical history, Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge,
Edith Foster, 2018, "Military Defeat in Fifth Century Athens: Thucydides and His Audience", Brills' Companion to Military Defeat in Ancient Mediterranean Society, pgs. 99 -122
Garlan, Yvon, 1975, War in the Ancient World: A Social History, Chatto and Windus, London
Green, Peter, 1970. Armada from Athens, Hodder and Stoughton, London, England. The main subject is the Athenian expedition to Syracuse but much background information is included
Grundy, G. B. 1961 Thucydides and the History of his Age, 2nd ed. 2 Vols. Basil Blackwell, Oxford, England. The author includes very much information about the economic aspects of Greek life and its relation to the objectives and decisions of the waring leaders.
Griffith, G. T. 1935The Mercenaries of the Hellenistic World, Ares Pub., Chicago
Hackett, General Sir John, 1989, Warfare in the Ancient World, Facts on File, New York
Hanson, Victor Davis, 1989. The Western Way of War, Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Hanson, Victor Davis 1999, The Wars of the Ancient Greeks Cassell, London
Hicks, John, 1969,A Theory of Economic History He considers the war to be about economic rivalry between Corinth and Athens
Kagan Donald, 1969 and later, in four separate volumes -The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, The Archidamian War, The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition, The Fall of the Athenian Empire. Cornell University, Paperback.
Nelson. R. B
. 1973. Warfleets of Antiquity, Wargames Research Group, Sussex, England. Extensive detail on the technology and battle tactics of galley warfare.
Nelson, Richard, 1975. Armies of the Greek and Persian Wars, Wargames Research Group, Sussex, England.
Ober, Josiah 2015, The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece, Princton Univ. Press
Jose Pascual, 2009, "Xenophon and the Chronology of the War on Land from 395 to 386 B.C."; Classical Quarterly 59.1 pgs. 75-90
Peitro Perazzi, "Unconventional Warfare in the Peloponnesian War"
Powall, Frances "Violence and Civil Strife in Xenophon's Hellenica"
Rogers, William Ledyard, 1937. Greek and Roman Naval Warfare, (reprint 1977) Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. More detail on the technology and battle tactics of galley warfare
David Prichard,. "Sparta Becomes Athens: The Peloponnesian War's Last 10 Years", AGORA, pgs, 12 -23
Sealey, Raphael, 1976. A History of the Greek City States 700-338 B.C., University of California Press, Berkeley.
Oliver L. Spaulding, 1933, The Ancient Military Writers, The Classical Journal, vol. 28, No 9 pgs. 657 - 669
Ste. Croix, G. E. M. de, 1972. The Origins of the Peloponnesian War, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.
Strassler, Robert B., 1996, The Landmark Thucydides, The Free Press, New York. This is both a secondary source with extensive commentary and the best maps and a primary source, being an excellent translation of the original work.
Christopher Tuplin, 2016, "Fragmented Historiography: Sniffing out Literature in a Sharp-nosed Historian", The Ancient History Bulletin, Vol. 30: No. 3-4, pgs. 122 -130
Warry, John, 1995, Warfare in the Classical World, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman He considers this to be a naval - trade war between Corinth and Athens - His approach is focused on the broad aspects of military/ political policy, methods, and actions

Return to Xenophon main page.