The Peloponnesian Wars

Origins of War

After the Persian Wars, the Delian League was formed by 150 Greek states. Athens was the strongest city-state in the alliance, and the Athenians spent some of the Delian League's treasury to build temples in their own city. This upset the city-states, namely Sparta and Corinth (recorded lecture) (Backman 142).


At the beginning of the Peloponnesian Wars, Athens was ruled by Pericles and was at the height of its power. Pericles had the Acropolis rebuilt with the Parthenon, which is pictured above. Athens also had the most powerful navy. (recorded lecture) (Backman 143)

War begins

In 431 BCE, Sparta attacked Athens. (Backman 143)

Though Athens's wall kept the Spartans out of the city, they were able to do considerable damage to the countryside. In 429 BCE, a typhus epidemic struck Athens and around a third to a fourth of its population was killed. Among those killed was the Athenian leader Pericles. The loss Athens suffered greatly weakened it. (recorded lecture) (Backman 143)


Neither Sparta nor Athens could gain the upper hand. Sparta's army was not strong enough when compared to Athens's, and Athens could not use its navy against Sparta, as it was a city-state in the interior. Therefore, the first of the Peloponnesian Wars ended in a stalemate. (recorded lecture)

In 421 BCE, the Spartans and the Athenians signed a peace treaty. But the peace would not last for long. (recorded lecture)

The sicilian civil war

In 413 BCE, a civil war broke out on the island of Sicily and the peace enacted by the treaty ended. (recorded lecture)

Athens joined the warfare by making attempts to destroy Syracuse in order to help an ally. However, Syracuse was an ally of Sparta, and thus the Spartans joined the fight. (recorded lecture)

During the conflict, Athens lost 50,000 men, 200 ships, and some of its allies. (recorded lecture)

athenian Defeat

The allies that Athens lost flocked to Sparta. Persia joined Sparta as well, and provided the Spartans with a fleet, money, men, and ships. (Backman 143)

Therefore, Sparta's new naval force was then able to challenge Athens's, and Athens lost its upper hand. (Backman 143)

In 404 BCE, Sparta emerged victorious and Athens was defeated. (recorded lecture)

after the war

After Athens was defeated, the Spartans forced the city to destroy its defensible walls, scuttled the Athenian fleet, and gave the governing of the defeated city over to a committee of thirty antidemocratic Athenians. The Spartans then returned home. (recorded lecture) (Backman 144)

The antidemocratic Athenians that Sparta installed were called the Thirty Tyrants. While they ruled, they killed over fifteen hundred Athenians based on the excuse that they were political enemies. Eventually, in 395 BCE, the Thirty Tyrants were defeated by democratic rebels. (Backman 144)

athenian consequences

After the Peloponnesian Wars, Athens never recovered. Though its democracy was restored, it also started to become attacked. Many Athenian aristocrats blamed Athens's defeat on its democracy, and this led to a power struggle because the aristocrats because they then tried to regain power. (recorded lecture)

Also, Athens's economy was destroyed due to the loss of its imperial revenues and its destroyed territories. (Backman 144)

Greek consequences

The civil war between the Greek city-states destroyed them internally. Therefore, Greece became a vulnerable target for outside powers. (recorded lecture)

The Peloponnesian Wars also led to Greeks analytically inquiring into the "nature of politics, the weakness of human will, the causes of greed, the quest for justice, and the desire to believe that the world makes sense." Thus, after the Peloponnesian Wars, the intellectual life of Greece took on a more scientific quality. (Backman 144)

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