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Ancient Greece - Index

Greek Index / Timeline Aegean Sea Civilizations Trojan War Greek Dark Ages Greek Archaic Period
Greek Gods Greek Classical Period - I Persian War Greek Classical Period - II Peloponnesian War
Philosophers Tragedy - Oedipus Greek Classical Period - III Alexander the Great Greek Hellenistic Period

500 - 323 BC - Greek Classical Period - Part II (431 - 404 BC)

431-404 BC

The Peloponnesian War

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431 BC

War between Athens, Sparta, and their allies is imminent

  • Thucydides Peloponnesian War, 1.23, 49. "What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta. As for the reasons for breaking the truce and declaring war which were openly expressed by each side, they are as follows." Thucydides goes into detail regarding the disputes over Epidamnus, Corcyra, and Potidaea, in 1.24-65, pages 49-72.
  • Thucydides Peloponnesian War, 1.66, 72-3. "Both the Athenians and the Peloponnesians had already grounds of complaint against each other. The grievance of Corinth was that the Athenians were besieging her own colony of Potidaea, with Corinthians and other Peloponnesians in the place: Athens, on the other hand, had her own grievances against the Peloponnesians; they had supported the revolt of a city [Potidaea] which was in alliance with her and which paid her tribute, and they had openly joined the Potidaeans in fighting against her. In spite of this, the truce was still in force and war had not yet broken out."

The naval and military demands of the blockade against the Potidaea drain Athens. Sparta seizes this opportunity to declare war on Athens.

  • Thucydides Peloponnesian War, 1.86, 86. " After much discussion of the issues at hand, Archidamus, Sthenelaidas, and an ephor make an impassioned speech. " And let no one try to tell us that when we are being attacked we should sit down and discuss matters; these long discussions are rather for those who are meditating aggression themselves. Therefore, Spartans, cast your votes for the honour [sic] of Sparta and for war! Do not allow the Athenians to grow still stronger! Do not entirely betray their allies! Instead let us, with the help of heaven, go forward to meet the aggressor!"

The first Peloponnesian War begins

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Pericles," 33, p. 199-200. "The Spartans and their allies then proceeded to invade Attica with an immense army commanded by Archidamus. They advanced, devastating the land as they went, as far as Acharnae, which is very close to Athens, and there they pitched camp, for they imagined that the Athenians would never tolerate this, but would march out and fight them from sheer pride and anger." Instead of fighting, however, Pericles "behaved like the helmsman of a ship who, when a storm sweeps down upon it in the open sea, makes everything fast, takes in sail and relies on his own skill and takes no notice of the tears and entreaties of the sea-sick and terrified passengers."
  • Thucydides 4.85

Pericles delivers his funeral oration / defense of democracy

  • Thucydides 2.35-46

430-426 BC

An epidemic, similar to typhus, sweeps through Athens, killing tens of thousands

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Pericles," 34, p. 201. "For now a plague fell upon the Athenians and devoured the flower of their manhood and their strength. It afflicted them not only in body but also in spirit, so that they raved against Pericles and tried to ruin him, just as a man in a fit of delirium will attack his physician or his father."
  • Thucydides 1.144

429 BC

Pericles dies during this epidemic

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Pericles," 38, p. 204. Plutarch writes, "In his case it was not a violent or acute attach such as others had suffered, but a kind of dull, lingering fever, which persisted through a number of different symptoms and gradually wasted his bodily strength and undermined his noble spirit."

Nicias succeeds Pericles.

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Nicias," 2, p. 209. "When Pericles died, Nicias quickly rose to the position of leader. He owed his advancement mainly to the backing of the richest and most prominent Athenians," who sought to use the leadership of Nicias to their political advantage.

428/7 BC

Plato, pupil of Socrates and writer of many "Socratic" dialogs, including the Republic, is born

421 BC

First Peloponnesian War ends in a stalemate under the leadership of Nicias

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Nicias," 9, p. 218. "Gradually they came to long for the return of a life that was unspoiled by the miseries of war...They heaped abuse on those who said that the war was destined to last thrice nine years [a prophecy], and, finally, having discussed in this spirit every point at issue, they concluded the peace."

Stalemate is a product of Athenian naval superiority versus Spartan land superiority

415 BC

Alcibiades makes himself head of the Athenian army and convinces Athens to wage war against rival Syracuse

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Alcibiades," 17, p. 260. "Even in Pericles' lifetime the Athenians had already cast longing eyes upon Sicily, and after his death they went further and tried to lay their hands on it. From time to time they sent aid or auxiliary forces on a small scale, on the pretext of rescuing their allies there from being oppressed by the Syracusans."

This leads to utter defeat for Athens because of the alliance between Syracuse and Sparta. Alcibiades is blamed for his mistake.

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Alcibiades," 22, p. 266. "Alcibiades was condemned by default, his estate was confiscated, and it was further decreed that his name should be publicly cursed by all priests and priestesses."

Because Athens condemns him, Alcibiades turns to assist Sparta

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Alcibiades," 23, p. 266. "The Spartans had been hesitating over sending help to the Syracusans and putting off any definite action, but Alcibiades so stirred them up and encouraged them that they dispatched Gylippus to Sicily with orders to take command and destroy the Athenian army. Another stroke of his was to persuade them to renew operations against the Athenians in Attica, and thirdly, and most important of all, to fortify Decelea. It was this more than any other single action, which wore down the resources of Athens and finally ruined her."
  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Alcibiades," 23, p. 267. "...Alcibiades was able to associate with good and bad alike, and never found a characteristic which he could not imitate or practise [sic]."

413 BC

Second Peloponnesian War begins

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412 BC

Persians, in retaliation against Athens for defeat during the Persian War, fund the Spartan cause

406 BC

Lysander leads the Spartan navy to victory over Athens near Ephesus in Asia Minor

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Lysander," 5, p. 290. Alcibiades "put into the harbour [sic] of Ephesus with two triremes and ostentatiously rowed past the Peloponnesian fleet as it lay drawn up on the shore, making a great commotion and uttering shouts of laughter. Lysander was enraged and gave chase...a major battle developed. Lysander defeated the Athenians...whereupon there was an outburst of fury against Alcibiades at Athens and the people relieved him of his command." By this time, Alcibiades had switched back to the Athenian cause.

405 BC

Lysander, as admiral of the navy for an unprecedented second time, defeats the Athenians at the Hellespont at the battle of Aegospotami

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Lysander," 9, p. 294. "The Athenians were commanded by a number of generals, among whom was Philocles, who had recently persuaded the people to pass a decree that all prisoners of war should have their right thumbs cut off to prevent their holding a spear, although they could still handle an oar."
  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Lysander," 11, p. 296-7. "Lysander took 3,000 prisoners, including the generals, and captured the entire [Athenian] fleet... After plundering the Athenian camp and taking their ships in tow, [Lysander] sailed back to Lampsacus, accompanied by the triumphal music and flutes and hymns of victory. He had performed a prodigious exploit with the minimum of effort. In the space of a single hour he had put an end to a war which, for its length and for the variety of its incidents and the uncertainty of its fortunes, eclipsed any that had gone before."

Lysander declares a state of martial law in Athens

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Lysander," 13, p. 298-9. Lysander "ordered all the Athenians he found to return to Athens, and he proclaimed that anybody caught outside the city would be put to death without exception. This step, which drove all the Athenians into the capital at once, was deliberately taken so as to produce intense scarcity and famine in Athens as soon as possible, and to forestall the necessity for a siege, against which the Athenians might otherwise have been well provided."

404 BC

Athens surrenders

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Lysander," 14, p. 300. Lysander "learned that the people of Athens were suffering terribly from famine, and so he sailed into the Piraeus and reduced the city, which was forced to accept the terms he laid down." The terms are as follows, "The Spartans have come to these decisions. Demolish the Piraeus and the Long Walls: withdraw from all other cities and keep to your own territory: if you comply with these conditions and recall your exiles, you may have peace, if you want it. As regards the number of your ships, whatever is decided by those on the spot, comply with it."

Second Peloponnesian War ends

  • Causes instability in Greece
  • A possible turning point from progress to decline of ancient civilization

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