Catalogue


The Peloponnesian War /
Donald Kagan.
imprint
New York : Viking, 2003.
description
xxvii, 511 p. : maps.
ISBN
0670032115 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Viking, 2003.
isbn
0670032115 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
4848622
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Donald Kagan is Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University.
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
INTRODUCTIONFor almost three decades at the end of the fifth century b.c. the Athenian Empire fought the Spartan Alliance in a terrible war that changed the Greek world and its civilization forever. Only a half-century before its outbreak the united Greeks, led by Sparta and Athens, had fought off an assault by the mighty Persian Empire, preserving their independence by driving Persia's armies and navies out of Europe and recovering the Greek cities on the coasts of Asia Minor from its grasp. This astonishing victory opened a proud era of growth, prosperity, and confidence in Greece. The Athenians, especially, flourished, increasing in population and establishing an empire that brought them wealth and glory. Their young democracy came to maturity, bringing political participation, opportunity, and political power even to the lowest class of citizens, and their novel constitution went on to take root in other Greek cities. It was a time of extraordinary cultural achievement, as well, probably unmatched in originality and richness in all of human history. Dramatic poets like Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes raised tragedy and comedy to a level never surpassed. The architects and sculptors who created the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis in Athens, at Olympia, and all over the Greek world powerfully influenced the course of Western art and still do so today. Natural philosophers like Anaxagoras and Democritus used unaided human reason to seek an understanding of the physical world, and such pioneers of moral and political philosophy as Protagoras and Socrates did the same in the realm of human affairs. Hippocrates and his school made great advances in medical science, and Herodotus invented historiography as we understand it today. The Peloponnesian War not only brought this remarkable period to an end, but was recognized as a critical turning point even by those who fought it. The great historian Thucydides tells us that he undertook his history as the war began, in the belief that it would be great and noteworthy above all the wars that had gone before, inferring this from the fact that both powers were then at their best in preparedness for war in every way, and seeing the rest of the Hellenic people taking sides with one side or the other, some at once, others planning to do so. For this was the greatest upheaval that had ever shaken the Hellenes, extending also to some part of the barbarians, one might say even to a very large part of mankind. (1.1.2)1From the perspective of the fifth-century Greeks the Peloponnesian War was legitimately perceived as a world war, causing enormous destruction of life and property, intensifying factional and class hostility, and dividing the Greek states internally and destabilizing their relationship to one another, which ultimately weakened their capacity to resist conquest from outside. It also reversed the tendency toward the growth of democracy. When Athens was powerful and successful, its democratic constitution had a magnetic effect on other states, but its defeat was decisive in the political development of Greece, sending it in the direction of oligarchy. The Peloponnesian War was also a conflict of unprecedented brutality, violating even the harsh code that had previously governed Greek warfare and breaking through the thin line that separates civilization from savagery. Anger, frustration, and the desire for vengeance increased as the fighting dragged on, resulting in a progression of atrocities that included maiming and killing captured opponents; throwing them into pits to die of thirst, starvation, and exposure; and hurling them into the sea to drown. Bands of marauders murdered innocent children. Entire cities were destroyed, their men killed, their women and children sold as slaves. On the island of Corcyra, now called Corfu, the victorious faction in a civil war brought on by the
First Chapter

INTRODUCTION

For almost three decades at the end of the fifth century b.c. the Athenian Empire fought the Spartan Alliance in a terrible war that changed the Greek world and its civilization forever. Only a half-century before its outbreak the united Greeks, led by Sparta and Athens, had fought off an assault by the mighty Persian Empire, preserving their independence by driving Persia's armies and navies out of Europe and recovering the Greek cities on the coasts of Asia Minor from its grasp.

This astonishing victory opened a proud era of growth, prosperity, and confidence in Greece. The Athenians, especially, flourished, increasing in population and establishing an empire that brought them wealth and glory. Their young democracy came to maturity, bringing political participation, opportunity, and political power even to the lowest class of citizens, and their novel constitution went on to take root in other Greek cities. It was a time of extraordinary cultural achievement, as well, probably unmatched in originality and richness in all of human history. Dramatic poets like Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes raised tragedy and comedy to a level never surpassed. The architects and sculptors who created the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis in Athens, at Olympia, and all over the Greek world powerfully influenced the course of Western art and still do so today. Natural philosophers like Anaxagoras and Democritus used unaided human reason to seek an understanding of the physical world, and such pioneers of moral and political philosophy as Protagoras and Socrates did the same in the realm of human affairs. Hippocrates and his school made great advances in medical science, and Herodotus invented historiography as we understand it today.

The Peloponnesian War not only brought this remarkable period to an end, but was recognized as a critical turning point even by those who fought it. The great historian Thucydides tells us that he undertook his history as the war began,

in the belief that it would be great and noteworthy above all the wars that had gone before, inferring this from the fact that both powers were then at their best in preparedness for war in every way, and seeing the rest of the Hellenic people taking sides with one side or the other, some at once, others planning to do so. For this was the greatest upheaval that had ever shaken the Hellenes, extending also to some part of the barbarians, one might say even to a very large part of mankind. (1.1.2)1

From the perspective of the fifth-century Greeks the Peloponnesian War was legitimately perceived as a world war, causing enormous destruction of life and property, intensifying factional and class hostility, and dividing the Greek states internally and destabilizing their relationship to one another, which ultimately weakened their capacity to resist conquest from outside. It also reversed the tendency toward the growth of democracy. When Athens was powerful and successful, its democratic constitution had a magnetic effect on other states, but its defeat was decisive in the political development of Greece, sending it in the direction of oligarchy.

The Peloponnesian War was also a conflict of unprecedented brutality, violating even the harsh code that had previously governed Greek warfare and breaking through the thin line that separates civilization from savagery. Anger, frustration, and the desire for vengeance increased as the fighting dragged on, resulting in a progression of atrocities that included maiming and killing captured opponents; throwing them into pits to die of thirst, starvation, and exposure; and hurling them into the sea to drown. Bands of marauders murdered innocent children. Entire cities were destroyed, their men killed, their women and children sold as slaves. On the island of Corcyra, now called Corfu, the victorious faction in a civil war brought on by the larger struggle butchered their fellow citizens for a full week: "Sons were killed by their father, and suppliants dragged from the altar or slain upon it" (3.81.2-5).

As the violence spread it brought a collapse in the habits, institutions, beliefs, and restraints that are the foundations of civilized life. The meanings of words changed to suit the bellicosity: "Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness." Religion lost its restraining power, "but the use of fair phrases to arrive at guilty ends was in high reputation." Truth and honor disappeared, "and society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow" (3.82.1, 8; 3.83.1). Such was the conflict that inspired Thucydides' mordant observations on the character of war as "a savage schoolmaster that brings the characters of most people down to the level of their current circumstances" (3.82.2).

Although the Peloponnesian War ended more than twenty-four hundred years ago it has continued to fascinate readers of every subsequent age. Writers have used it to illuminate the First World War, most frequently to help explain its causes, but its greatest influence as an analytical tool may have come during the Cold War, which dominated the second half of the twentieth century, and which likewise witnessed a world divided into two great power blocs, each under a powerful leader. Generals, diplomats, statesmen, and scholars alike have compared the conditions that led to the Greek war with the rivalry between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

But the story of what actually took place two and a half millennia in the past, and its deeper meaning, are ultimately not easy to grasp. By far the most important source of our knowledge is the history written by the war's contemporary and participant Thucydides. His work is justly admired as a masterpiece of historical writing and hailed for its wisdom about the nature of war, international relations, and mass psychology. It has also come to be regarded as a foundation stone of historical method and political philosophy. It is not, however, completely satisfactory as a chronicle of the war and all that the war can teach us. Its most obvious shortcoming is that it is incomplete, stopping in midsentence seven years before the war's end. For an account of the final part of the conflict we must rely on writers of much less talent and with little or no direct knowledge of events. At the very least, a modern treatment of accessible scope is needed to make sense of the conclusion of the war.

But even the period treated by Thucydides requires illumination if the modern reader is to have the fullest understanding of its military, political, and social complexities. The works of other ancient writers and contemporary inscriptions discovered and studied in the last two centuries have filled gaps and have sometimes raised questions about the story as Thucydides tells it. Finally, any satisfactory history of the war also demands a critical look at Thucydides himself. His was an extraordinary and original mind, and more than any other historian in antiquity he placed the highest value on accuracy and objectivity. We must not forget, however, that he was also a human being with human emotions and foibles. In the original Greek his style is often very compressed and difficult to understand, so that any translation is by necessity an interpretation. The very fact that he was a participant in the events, moreover, influenced his judgments in ways that must be prudently evaluated. Simply accepting his interpretations uncritically would be as limiting as accepting without question Winston Churchill's histories and his understanding of the two world wars in which he played so important a role.

In this book I attempt a new history of the Peloponnesian War designed to meet the needs of readers in the twenty-first century. It is based on the scholarship employed in my four volumes on the war aimed chiefly at a scholarly audience,2 but my goal here is a readable narrative in a single volume to be read by the general reader for pleasure and to gain the wisdom that so many have sought in studying this war. I have avoided making comparisons between events in it and those in later history, although many leap to mind, in the hope that an uninterrupted account will better allow readers to draw their own conclusions.

I undertake this project after so many years because I believe, more than ever, that the story of the Peloponnesian War is a powerful tale that may be read as an extraordinary human tragedy, recounting the rise and fall of a great empire, the clash between two very different societies and ways of life, the interplay of intelligence and chance in human affairs, and the role of brilliantly gifted individuals, as well as masses of people in determining the course of events while subject to the limitations imposed upon them by nature, by fortune, and by one another. I hope to demonstrate, also, that a study of the Peloponnesian War is a source of wisdom about the behavior of human beings under the enormous pressures imposed by war, plague, and civil strife, and about the potentialities of leadership and the limits within which it must inevitably operate.

1Adapted from the translation of Richard Crawley (Modern Library, New York, 1951). Throughout, references are to Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War unless otherwise indicated. The numbers refer to the traditional divisions by book, chapter, and section.
2These have been published by the Cornell University Press. Their titles are The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (1969), The Archidamian War (1974), The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition (1981), and The Fall of the Athenian Empire (1987).

CHAPTER ONE
The Great Rivalry (479-439)

The world of the Greeks extended from scattered cities on the south coast of Spain at the far western end of the Mediterranean to the eastern shore of the Black Sea in the east. A concentration of Greek cities dominated the southern part of the Italian peninsula and most of the coastal area of Sicily, but the center of the Greek world was the Aegean Sea. Most of the Greek cities, including the most important ones, stood on the southern part of the Balkan peninsula that is modern Greece, on the eastern shore of the Aegean, in Anatolia (modern Turkey), on the islands of the Aegean, and on its northern shore.

At the outbreak of the war some of the cities in this region were neutral, but many, and the most important of them, had come under the hegemony of either Sparta or Athens, two states that were probably as different as any two in the Greek world and that looked upon each other with suspicion. Their rivalry shaped the Greek international system.

sparta and its alliance

Sparta led the older organization, which was formed in the sixth century. In their own territory of Laconia the Spartans ruled over two kinds of subordinate peoples. The helots, who stood somewhere between serfdom and slavery, farmed the land and provided the Spartans with food, while the perioikoi, personally free but subject to Spartan control, manufactured and traded for what the Spartans needed. The Spartans alone had no need to earn a living and devoted themselves exclusively to military training. This enabled them to develop the best army in the Greek world, a group of citizen-soldiers with professional training and skill, unlike any other.

But the Spartan social structure was a potentially dangerous one. The helots outnumbered their Spartan masters by some seven to one and, as an Athenian who knew Sparta well put it, "They would gladly eat the Spartans raw" (Xenophon, Hellenica 3.3.6). To meet the challenge of their occasional rebellions the Spartans created a constitution and a way of life like no other, subordinating individual and family to the needs of the state. They allowed only physically perfect infants to live; boys were taken from their homes at age seven to be trained and toughened in military school until they were twenty. From twenty to thirty they lived in barracks, helping in turn to educate the new young recruits. They were allowed to marry but could visit their wives only by stealth. At thirty the Spartan male became a full citizen, an "equal" (homoios). He took his meals at a public mess with fourteen comrades, dining simply, often on a black soup that appalled the other Greeks. Military service was required until age sixty. The entire system aimed to produce soldiers whose physical powers, training, and discipline made them the best in the world.

In spite of their military superiority, the Spartans were usually reluctant to go to war, chiefly because of their fear that the helots would take advantage of any long absence of the army to rebel. Thucydides pointed out that "most institutions among the Spartans have always been established with regard to security against the helots" (4.80.3), and Aristotle said that the helots "are like someone sitting in wait for disasters to strike the Spartans" (Politics 1269a).

In the sixth century the Spartans developed a network of perpetual alliances to safeguard their peculiar community. Modern scholars usually call the Spartan Alliance the Peloponnesian League, but it was in fact a loose organization consisting of Sparta, on the one hand, and a group of allies connected to her by separate treaties on the other. When called upon, the allies served as soldiers under Spartan command. Each state swore to follow Sparta's lead in foreign policy in return for Spartan protection and recognition of its integrity and autonomy.

Pragmatism, not theory, provided the interpretive principle within the alliance. The Spartans helped their allies when it was to their advantage or unavoidable, compelling others to join in a conflict whenever it was necessary and possible. The entire alliance met only when the Spartans chose, and we hear of few such gatherings. The rules that chiefly counted were imposed by military, political, or geographical circumstances, and they reveal three informal categories of allies. One consisted of states that were small enough and close enough to Sparta as to be easily controlled such as Phlius or Orneae. States in the second category, including Megara, Elis, and Mantinea, were stronger, or more remote, or both, but not so powerful and distant as to escape ultimate punishment if it was merited. Thebes and Corinth were the only states in the third group, states so far removed and mighty in their own right that their conduct of foreign policy was rarely subordinated to Spartan interests. (See Map 1.)

Argos, a large state to the northeast of Sparta, was an old and traditional enemy, and not a member of the Spartan Alliance. The Spartans had always feared an Argive union with other enemies, and especially its providing assistance to a helot rebellion. Anything that threatened the integrity of the Peloponnesian League or the loyalty of any of its members was considered a potentially deadly menace to the Spartans.

Theorists regarded Sparta's political order as a "mixed constitution," containing monarchic, oligarchic, and democratic elements. The monarchic constituent appeared in the form of two kings, each from a different royal family. The gerousia, a council of twenty-eight men over the age of sixty elected from a small number of privileged families, represented the oligarchic principle. The assembly, consisting of all Spartan men over thirty, was a democratic element, as were the five ephors, magistrates elected annually by the citizens.

The two kings served for life, led Sparta's armies, performed important religious and judicial functions, and enjoyed great prestige and influence. Since they often disagreed, factions formed around them on different sides of an issue. The gerousia sat with the kings as the highest court in the land, the one to which the kings themselves were brought to trial. The prestige they held because of family connections, age, and experience in a society that venerated such things, and the honor that accompanied their election, gave them great unofficial influence.

The ephors, too, had important powers, especially in foreign affairs. They received foreign envoys, negotiated treaties, and ordered expeditions once war had been declared. They also summoned and presided over the assembly, sat with the gerousia and were its executive officers, and had the right to bring charges of treason against the kings.

Formal decisions on treaties, foreign relations, and war and peace belonged to the assembly, but its real powers were limited. Its meetings occurred only when called by officials. Little debate took place at them, and the speakers were usually the kings, members of the gerousia, or ephors. Voting was typically by acclamation, the equivalent of a voice vote; division and the counting of votes were rare.

For three centuries this constitution had been unchanged by law, coup d'état, or revolution. In spite of such constitutional stability, however, Sparta's foreign policy was often unsteady. Conflicts between the kings, between ephors and kings, and among the ephors themselves, and the inevitable disruption caused by the annual rotation of boards of ephors could weaken Sparta's control of its alliance. An ally could pursue its own interests and policy by exploiting Sparta's internal divisions. Sparta's mighty army and its command of the alliance gave the Spartans enormous power, but if they used it against a strong enemy outside the Peloponnesus, they ran the risk of a helot rebellion or an Argive attack. If they did not use it when called upon by their more important allies, they risked defections and the dissolution of the alliance on which their security rested. In the crisis leading to war both these factors would shape Spartan decisions.

athens and its empire

The Athenian Empire emerged from a new alliance formed after the Greek victory in the Persian Wars. First its leader, then its master, Athens had a unique history that helped shape its character long before it became a democracy and rose to dominance. It was the chief town of the region known as Attica, a small triangular peninsula extending southeastward from central Greece. Because much of its area of about a thousand square miles is mountainous and rocky and unavailable for cultivation, early Attica was relatively poor, even by Greek standards. However, its geography proved a blessing when invaders from the north swept down and and occupied the more attractive lands of the Peloponnesus, regarding Attica as not worth the trouble of conquest. Unlike the Spartans, the Athenians claimed to have sprung from their own soil and to have lived in the same region since before the birth of the moon. As a result, they did not have to contend with the burden of an oppressed, alien, and discontented underclass.

Because Athens unified the entire region quite early in its history it was not troubled by quarrels and wars with other towns in Attica. Each of them became part of the Athenian city-state, and all their free, native-born inhabitants were Athenian citizens on an equal basis. The absence of intense pressures, internal and external, may help explain Athens' relatively untroubled nonviolent early history and its emergence in the fifth century as the first democracy in the history of the world.

The power and prosperity of the fifth-century Athenian democracy depended primarily on its command of its great maritime empire, centered on the Aegean Sea, the islands in it, and the cities along its coast. It began as an association of "the Athenians and their allies" called by modern scholars the Delian League, a voluntary alliance of Greek states that invited Athens to take the lead in continuing the war of liberation and vengeance against Persia. It gradually became an empire under Athenian command, functioning chiefly to the advantage of Athens (see Map 2). Over the years almost all its members gave up their own fleets and chose instead to make a money payment into the common treasury. The Athenians used these funds to increase the number of their own ships, and to pay the rowers to stay at their oars for eight months each year, so that eventually the Athenian navy had by far the biggest and best Greek fleet ever known. On the eve of the Peloponnesian War, of some 150 members of the league only two islands, Lesbos and Chios, had their own fleets and enjoyed relative autonomy. Even they, however, were unlikely to defy Athenian orders.

The Athenians made a large profit from their imperial holdings and used it for their own purposes, especially for the great building program that beautified and glorified their city and provided work for its people, and for the accumulation of a large reserve fund. The navy protected the ships of Athenian merchants in their prosperous trade throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. It also guaranteed the Athenians access to the wheat fields of Ukraine and the fish of the Black Sea, with which they could supplement their inadequate domestic food supply and, with the use of imperial money, even replace it totally if forced to abandon their own fields in the course of war. Once they completed the walls surrounding their city and connecting them by additional Long Walls to the fortified port at Piraeus, as they did in midcentury, the Athenians were virtually invulnerable.

In Athens the assembly made all decisions on policy, foreign and domestic, military and civil. The council of Five Hundred, chosen by lot from the Athenian citizens, prepared bills for the assembly's consideration but was totally subordinate to the larger body. The assembly met no fewer than forty times a year in the open air, on the Pnyx hill beside the Acropolis, overlooking the Agora, the marketplace and civic center. All male citizens were permitted to attend, vote, make proposals, and debate. At the start of the war about forty thousand Athenians were eligible, but attendance rarely exceeded six thousand. Strategic decisions were thus debated before thousands of people, a majority of whom had to approve the particular details of each action. The assembly voted on every expedition, the number and specific nature of ships and men, the funds to be spent, the commanders to lead the forces, and the precise instructions to be given those commanders.

The most important offices in the Athenian state, and among the few filled by election rather than by lottery, were those of the ten generals. Because they commanded divisions of the Athenian army and fleets of ships in battle, they had to be military men; because they were elected for only a one-year term, and could be reelected without limit, they also had to be politicians. These leaders could impose military discipline while on campaign, but not within the city. At least ten times a year they were required to face a formal presentation of any complaint against their behavior in office, and at the end of their term they had to make a full accounting of their conduct, military and financial. On each occasion they were subject to trial if accused and serious punishment if convicted.

The ten generals together did not constitute a cabinet or a government; the assembly fulfilled the latter role. Sometimes, however, a remarkable general would gain so much political support and influence as to become the leader of the Athenians in fact, if not in law. Such was Cimon for the seventeen years between 479 and 462, when he appears to have been elected general annually, to have led every important expedition, and to have persuaded the Athenian assembly to support his policies at home and abroad. After the departure of Cimon, Pericles achieved similar success over an even longer period.

Thucydides introduces him into his history as "Pericles son of Xanthippus, the leading man in Athens at that time and the ablest in speech and in action" (1.139.4). Thucydides' readers knew far more than that about the most famous and brilliant individual ever to have led the Athenian democracy. He was an aristocrat of the bluest blood, son of a victorious general and hero of the Persian War. An ancestor on his mother's side was a niece of Cleisthenes, the founder of Athenian democracy. The family tradition was populist, however, and Pericles emerged as a notable figure on the democratic side early in his career. At about the age of thirty-five he became the leader of that political group, an informal but powerful position that he held for the rest of his life.

To that position he brought extraordinary powers of communication and thought. He was the foremost orator of his time, whose speeches persuaded majorities to support his policies and whose phrases rang in Athenian memories for decades, to be preserved for millennia afterward. Rarely has a political leader had the benefit of such serious intellectual training, associations, and tastes. From his youth Pericles identified with the enlightenment that was transforming Athens, earning him admiration from some and suspicion from many more.

His teacher, Anaxagoras, was said to have influenced Pericles' manner and style of speaking. Pericles' studies had given him:

a lofty spirit and an elevated mode of speech, free from the vulgar and knavish tricks of mob-orators, but also a composed countenance that never gave way to laughter, a dignity of carriage and restraint in the arrangement of his clothing which no emotion was allowed to disturb while he was speaking, a voice that was evenly controlled, and all the other characteristics of this sort which so impressed his hearers. (Plutarch, Pericles 5)

Such qualities made him appealing to the upper classes, while his democratic policies and other rhetorical skills won him the support of the masses. His extraordinary character helped him to win election after election over three decades and made him by far the most powerful political leader in Athens on the brink of the war.

During this period he seems to have been elected general each year. It is important to note, however, that he never had any greater formal powers than the other generals and never tried to alter the democratic constitution. He was still subject to the scrutiny provided in the constitution and required a vote in the open and uncontrolled assembly to take any action. Pericles was not always successful in obtaining support for his causes and, on some occasions, his enemies persuaded the assembly to act against his wishes. Nevertheless, it would be accurate to describe the Athenian government on the eve of the war as a democracy led by its first citizen. It would be wrong, however, to go as far as Thucydides in arguing that Athens in Pericles' time, though a democracy in name, was becoming the rule of the first citizen, for it always remained a thoroughgoing democracy in every respect. But in the crisis leading to war, in the formulation of a strategy to fight it, and into the second year of its conduct, the Athenians invariably followed the advice of their great leader.

athens against sparta

In the early years of the Delian League the Athenians appeared to be continuing the good fight against the Persians for the liberty of all Greeks, while the Spartans were often embroiled in wars within the Peloponnesus. The rivalry between the two cities arose in the decades after the Persian War as the league grew in success, wealth, and power and gradually manifested its imperial ambitions. Immediately following the war a Spartan faction revealed its suspicion and resentment of the Athenians when it opposed the rebuilding of Athens' walls after the Persians had fled. The Athenians boldly rejected their recommendation, and the Spartans made no formal complaint, "but they were secretly embittered" (1.92.1). In 475 a proposal to go to war to destroy the new Athenian alliance and gain control of the sea was rejected after heated debate, but an anti-Athenian faction in Sparta never disappeared and it rose to power when events favored its cause.

In 465 the Athenians besieged the island of Thasos in the northern Aegean (see Map 3) where they met fierce resistance. The Spartans had secretly made a promise to the Thasians to aid them by invading Attica and, Thucydides tells us, "they meant to keep it" (1.101.1-2). They were only prevented from doing so by a terrible earthquake in the Peloponnesus, which led to a major revolution of the helots. The Athenians, still formally tied to the Spartans by the Greek alliance against Persia sworn in 481, came to their assistance. Before they had a chance to accomplish anything, however, the Athenians were asked to leave, alone among Sparta's allies, on the specious grounds that they were no longer needed. Thucydides reports the true motive: "The Spartans were afraid of the boldness and the revolutionary spirit of the Athenians, thinking that...if they remained they [the Athenians] might be persuaded...to change sides....It was because of this expedition that the Spartans and Athenians first came to an open quarrel" (1.102.1-3).

The incident, which offered clear evidence of the suspicion and hostility felt by many Spartans, caused a political revolution in Athens and ultimately a diplomatic revolution in Greece. The Spartans' insulting dismissal of the Athenian army brought down Cimon's pro-Spartan regime. The anti-Spartan group, which had opposed sending help to the Peloponnesus, now drove Cimon from Athens, withdrew from the old alliance with Sparta, and made a new alliance with Sparta's old and bitter enemy, Argos.

When the besieged helots could hold out no longer, the Spartans allowed them to leave the Peloponnesus under a truce, provided they never return. The Athenians settled them as a group at a strategic site on the north shore of the Corinthian Gulf, in the city of Naupactus, which Athens had recently acquired, "because of the hatred they already felt toward the Spartans" (1.103.3).

Next, two allies of Sparta, Corinth and Megara, went to war over the boundary between them. In 459 Megara soon found itself losing, and when the Spartans chose to not become involved, the Megarians proposed to secede from the Spartan Alliance and join instead with Athens in exchange for help against Corinth. In this manner the breach between Athens and Sparta began to create a new instability in the Greek world. So long as the two hegemonal powers were on good terms, each was free to deal with its allies as it wished; dissatisfied members of each alliance had no recourse for their grievances. Now, however, dissident states could seek support from their leader's rival.

Megara, on Athens' western border, had great strategic value (see Map 4). Its western port, Pegae, gave access to the Corinthian Gulf, which the Athenians could otherwise reach only by a long and dangerous route around the entire Peloponnesus. Nisaea, its eastern port, lay on the Saronic Gulf, from which an enemy could launch an attack on the port of Athens. Even more important, Athenian control of the mountain passes of the Megarid, a situation possible only with the cooperation of a friendly Megara, would make it difficult if not impossible for a Peloponnesian army to invade Attica. An alliance with Megara would, therefore, promise Athens enormous advantages, but it would also bring war against Corinth and probably with Sparta and the entire Peloponnesian League as well. Nonetheless the Athenians accepted Megara, "and it was chiefly because of this action that Corinth's powerful hatred of the Athenians first arose" (1.103.4).

Although the Spartans did not become directly involved in the conflict for several years, this event represented the beginning of what modern historians call the "First Peloponnesian War." It lasted for more than fifteen years, including periods of truce and lapses of action, and, at one time or another, involved the Athenians in a military arena that extended from Egypt to Sicily. It ended when the Megarians defected from the Athenian alliance and returned to the Peloponnesian League, opening the way for the Spartan king Pleistoanax to lead a Peloponnesian army into Attica. A decisive battle seemed certain, but at the last moment the Spartans returned home without a fight. Ancient writers claim that Pericles had bribed the king and his advisor to abort the battle, and initially the Spartans were angry with the force's commanders, punishing both severely. A more likely explanation is that Pericles offered them acceptable peace terms, making hostilities unnecessary. In fact, a few months later the Spartans and Athenians did conclude a treaty.

--from The Peloponnesian Warby Donald Kagan, Copyright © 2003 by Donald Kagan, Published by Viking Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2003-05-15:
Kagan spent decades crafting his four-volume History of the Peloponnesian War, and while it is imbued with scholarship, it is nevertheless a daunting work. With that in mind, he has written a much shorter version that nevertheless hardly suffers from comparison. In a style at once readable and pithy, Kagan (classics & history, Yale) makes fifth-century B.C.E. Greece comprehensible to all readers. Focusing on the leaders of Athens and Sparta, which contributes mightily to the flow of the text, he composes a noteworthy history of these two cities and their 30-year struggle. The division of the work's seven parts into 37 chapters and further into nearly 200 subheadings gives it a chronological and subject orientation that makes it eminently usable. Further, Kagan's sumptuous style will enthrall readers who had not imagined that they would find the topic so absorbing. This work will surely be welcomed by any library where the four-volume set seemed to be more than users demanded. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Clay Williams, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2003-03-24:
Beginning in 1978, Kagan's publication of the four-volume History of the Peloponnesian War established him as the leading authority on that seminal period in Greek history. Despite its accessible writing style, however, the work's formidable length tended to restrict its audience to the academic community. This single volume, based on the original's scholarship but incorporating significant new dimensions, is intended for the educated general reader. Kagan, a chaired professor of classics and history at Yale, describes his intention to offer both intellectual pleasure and a source of the wisdom so many have sought by studying this war. On both aims he succeeds admirably. The war between the Athenian Empire and the Spartan Alliance, fought in the last half of the 5th century B.C., was tragedy. Fifty years earlier, the united Greek states had defeated the Persian Empire and inaugurated an era of growth and achievement seldom matched and never surpassed. The Peloponnesian War, however, inaugurated a period of brutality and destruction unprecedented in the Greek world. Like the Great War in 1914-1918, participants recognized even while the fighting went on that things were changing utterly. The contemporary history written by Thucydides is the best source for this complex story, but not the only one, and much of the value of this work lies in Kagan's brilliant contextualization of his ancient predecessor's work. The volume's ultimate worth, however, lies in the perceptive, magisterial judgment Kagan brings to his account of the war that ended the glory that was ancient Greece. Kagan gives us neither heroes and villains nor victors and victims. What infuses his pages is above all a sense of agency: men making and implementing decisions that seemed right at the time however they ended. Such lessons will not be lost on contemporary readers, who can discuss them with the author on his six-city tour. (On sale May 12) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Library Journal, January 2003
Publishers Weekly, March 2003
Booklist, April 2003
Library Journal, May 2003
New York Times Book Review, August 2003
Reference & Research Book News, November 2003
New York Times Book Review, June 2004
Books in Canada, September 2004
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
One of the world's foremost historians presents a fresh look at the greatest war of ancient Greece and a pivotal moment in Western civilization that still resonates today PRAISE FOR DONALD KAGAN AND On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace: "Lucid, erudite ... ambitious ... by ONE OF THE MOST RENOWNED CLASSICAL SCHOLARS OF THIS CENTURY ... Mr. Kagan's undertaking is valuable and compelling because it distills so much history into so clear and transparent a liquid." -- RICHARD BERNSTEIN, The New York Times "A PARTICULARLY TIMELY MASTERPIECE ... brilliantly examines the origins of four major conflicts." --Los Angeles Times Book Review
Main Description
For almost three decades at the end of the fifth century B.C., Athens and Sparta fought a war that changed the Greek world and its civilization forever. A conflict unprecedented in its brutality, the Peloponnesian War brought a collapse in the institutions, beliefs, and customs that were the foundations of society. Today, scholars in fields ranging from international relations and political and military history to political philosophy continue to study the war for its timeless relevance to the history of our own time. Now Donald Kagan, classical scholar and historian of international relations, ancient and modern, presents a sweeping new narrative of this epic contest that captures all its drama, action, and tragedy. In describing the rise and fall of a great empire he examines the clash between two disparate societies, the interplay of intelligence and chance in human affairs, the role of great human beings in determining the course of events, and the challenge of leadership and the limits in which it must operate. The result is an engrossing, fresh perspective on a key historical event that will be welcomed by general readers and history buffs alike-and anyone seeking a better understanding of the pivotal events that shaped the world as we know it.
Table of Contents
Introductionp. xxiii
The Road to Warp. 1
The Great Rivalry (479-439)p. 3
Sparta and its Alliancep. 3
Athens and its Empirep. 7
Athens Against Spartap. 13
The Thirty Years' Peacep. 18
Threats to Peace: Thuriip. 20
The Samian Rebellionp. 22
"A Quarrel in a Far-away Country" (436-433)p. 25
Epidamnusp. 25
Corinthp. 28
Enter Athens (433-432)p. 30
The Battle of Sybotap. 34
Potidaeap. 36
The Megarian Decreep. 39
The Decisions for War (432)p. 41
Sparta Chooses Warp. 41
The Athenian Decision for Warp. 47
Pericles' Warp. 55
War Aims and Resources (432-431)p. 57
Spartap. 57
Athensp. 60
The Theban Attack on Plataea (431)p. 64
The Spartan Invasion of Atticap. 66
Attacks on Periclesp. 68
The Athenian Responsep. 70
Pericles' Funeral Orationp. 73
The War's First Year: An Accountingp. 74
The Plague (430-429)p. 76
Epidaurusp. 76
The Plague in Athensp. 78
Pericles Under Firep. 79
Peace Negotiationsp. 80
Pericles Condemnedp. 83
The Spartans go to Seap. 84
Potidaea Recapturedp. 85
Pericles' Last Days (429)p. 87
Sparta Attacks Plataeap. 87
Spartan Action in the Northwestp. 90
Enter Phormiop. 91
The Spartans Attack Piraeusp. 96
The Death of Periclesp. 97
Rebellion in the Empire (428-427)p. 99
The "New Politicians" in Athensp. 99
Conspiracy on Lesbosp. 100
Athens Reactsp. 101
Mytilene Appeals to the Peloponnesiansp. 102
The Siege of Mytilenep. 104
Sparta Acts on Land and Seap. 105
The Fate of Mytilenep. 107
The Mytilene Debate: Cleon Versus Diodotusp. 109
Terror and Adventure (427)p. 113
The Fate of Plataeap. 113
Civil War at Corcyrap. 114
First Athenian Expedition to Sicilyp. 118
New Strategiesp. 123
Demosthenes and the New Strategy (426)p. 125
The Spartans in Central Greecep. 125
Athenian Initiativesp. 128
Demosthenes' Aetolian Campaignp. 129
The Spartans Attack the Northwestp. 132
Pylos and Sphacteria (425)p. 137
Athens' Western Commitmentsp. 137
Demosthenes' Plan: The Fort at Pylosp. 138
The Spartans on Sphacteriap. 140
The Athenian Naval Victoryp. 142
Sparta's Peace Offerp. 144
Cleon Against Niciasp. 147
The Spartan Surrender on Sphacteriap. 150
Athens on the Offensive: Megara and Delium (424)p. 157
Cythera and Thyreap. 157
Disappointment in Sicilyp. 159
The Assault on Megarap. 162
Athens' Boeotian Invasionp. 165
Deliump. 167
Brasidas' Thracian Campaign (424-423)p. 171
The Capture of Amphipolisp. 173
Thucydides at Amphipolisp. 176
Trucep. 178
Nicias' Expedition to Thracep. 180
The Coming of Peace (422-421)p. 182
Cleon in Commandp. 182
The Battle of Amphipolisp. 185
The Death of Brasidas and Cleonp. 187
The Coming of Peacep. 187
The Peace of Niciasp. 191
The False Peacep. 195
The Peace Unravels (421-420)p. 197
A Troubled Peacep. 197
The Spartan-Athenian Alliancep. 198
The Argive Leaguep. 200
Sparta's Problemsp. 203
The Corinthians' Mysterious Policyp. 206
The Boeotiansp. 207
The Alliance of Athens and Argos (420-418)p. 210
The Athenian Breach with Spartap. 210
Spartan Humiliationsp. 215
Alcibiades in the Peloponnesusp. 217
The Spartans Against Argosp. 218
Confrontation in the Argive Plainp. 221
The Battle of Mantinea (418)p. 228
Agis' March to Tegeap. 228
To Force a Battlep. 230
The Allied Army Movesp. 234
The Battlep. 235
Politics Intervenep. 239
The Meaning of Mantineap. 241
After Mantinea: Politics and Policy at Sparta and Athens (418-416)p. 244
Democracy Restored to Argosp. 244
Politics at Athensp. 245
Ostracism of Hyperbolusp. 245
The Athenian Conquest of Melosp. 247
Nicias Against Alcibiadesp. 249
The Disaster in Sicilyp. 251
The Decision (416-415)p. 253
Athens' Sicilian Connectionsp. 253
The Debate in Athensp. 254
The Debate to Reconsiderp. 256
The Home Front and the First Campaigns (415)p. 262
Sacrilegep. 262
Witch Huntp. 264
Athenian Strategyp. 267
The Summer Campaign of 415p. 270
The Flight of Alcibiadesp. 273
The First Attack on Syracuse (415)p. 275
The Athenians at Syracusep. 275
Syracusan Resistancep. 279
Alcibiades at Spartap. 280
The Siege of Syracuse (414)p. 284
The Illness of Nicias and the Death of Lamachusp. 286
Athens Breaks the Treatyp. 289
Help Arrives at Syracusep. 289
Nicias Moves to Plemmyriump. 291
Nicias' Letter to Athensp. 293
The Athenian Responsep. 295
The Besiegers Besieged (414-413)p. 298
Sparta Takes the Offensivep. 298
The Fort at Deceleap. 299
Reinforcements for Both Sidesp. 300
The Capture of Plemmyriump. 301
The Battle in the Great Harborp. 303
The Second Athenian Armada: Demosthenes' Planp. 306
The Night Attack on Epipolaep. 307
Retreat or Remain?p. 308
Eclipsep. 310
Defeat and Destruction (413)p. 313
The Final Naval Battlep. 313
The Final Retreatp. 316
The Fate of the Atheniansp. 319
A Judgment on Niciasp. 321
Revolutions in the Empire and in Athensp. 325
After the Disaster (413-412)p. 327
The Probouloip. 328
Spartan Ambitionsp. 330
Agis in Commandp. 333
Persian Initiativesp. 333
The Spartans Choose Chiosp. 335
Alcibiades Intervenesp. 337
Tissaphernes' Draft Treatyp. 339
War in the Aegean (412-411)p. 341
Athens Fights Backp. 341
Decision at Miletusp. 344
Alcibiades Joins the Persiansp. 346
A New Spartan Agreement with Persiap. 349
A New Spartan Strategyp. 351
Rebellion at Rhodesp. 354
The Importance of Euboeap. 356
A New Treaty with Persiap. 357
The Spartans in the Hellespontp. 358
The Revolutionary Movement (411)p. 361
The Aristocratic Traditionp. 362
Democracy and the Warp. 364
Thrasybulus and the Moderatesp. 365
The Real Oligarchsp. 367
Phrynichus Against Alcibiadesp. 368
The Coup (411)p. 371
Peisander's Mission to Athensp. 371
The Oligarchs' Breach with Alcibiadesp. 373
Divisions Among the Plottersp. 375
The Democracy Overthrownp. 376
The Oligarchic Leadersp. 379
The Four Hundred in Power (411)p. 381
The Democracy at Samosp. 384
Pharnabazus and the Hellespontp. 387
Alcibiades Recalledp. 388
The Five Thousand (411)p. 392
Dissent Within the Four Hundredp. 392
The Oligarchic Plot to Betray Athensp. 393
The Threat to Euboeap. 396
The Fall of the Four Hundredp. 398
The Constitution of the Five Thousandp. 398
The Five Thousand in Actionp. 400
War in the Hellespont (411-410)p. 402
The Phantom Phoenician Fleetp. 402
The Battle of Cynossemap. 403
The Battle of Abydosp. 408
The Battle of Cyzicusp. 410
The Fall of Athensp. 415
The Restoration (410-409)p. 417
Sparta's Peace Offerp. 417
Democracy Restoredp. 420
The War Resumedp. 424
The Return of Alcibiades (409-408)p. 427
Athens Attempts to Clear the Straitsp. 427
Athenian Negotiations with Persiap. 431
Alcibiades Returnsp. 432
Cyrus, Lysander, and the Fall of Alcibiades (408-406)p. 437
Prince Cyrus Replaces Tissaphernesp. 437
The Emergence of Lysanderp. 438
The Collaboration of Cyrus and Lysanderp. 441
The Battle of Notiump. 442
The Fall of Alcibiadesp. 446
Arginusae (406)p. 448
The New Navarchp. 448
Conon Trapped at Mytilenep. 451
Athens Rebuilds a Navyp. 452
The Battle of Arginusaep. 454
Rescue and Recoveryp. 459
The Trial of the Generalsp. 461
The Fall of Athens (405-404)p. 467
Another Spartan Peace Offerp. 467
The Return of Lysanderp. 469
The Battle of Aegospotamip. 471
The Results of the Battlep. 476
The Fate of Athensp. 478
Theramenes Negotiates a Peacep. 480
Conclusionp. 485
Sources for the History of the Peloponnesian Warp. 491
Indexp. 495
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem