The Second Peloponnesian War

After the disastrous expedition in Sicily the confidence of Athens had been severely traumatized. Having sustained heavy losses of ships and troops, as well as money financing the expedition, Athens was in no fit state to prepare for what would follow.

2nd Peloponnesian War

** The image above shows the plague of Athens
See page for author [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In 413 B.C. Sparta invaded Attica, and occupied the northern region of Decelea. A base was formed there and was used by the Spartans for pestering the farmers of the region. This resulted in Athens facing extreme shortages of grain and crops, as it had just lost it supplies from Sicily in the ill-fated expedition.

The silver-mines in Lavrio also became detached from Athens. With the desertion to the enemy of thousands of slaves and a severe shortage of food supplies getting through, Athens began to feel the full force of what the Spartans were doing. It wasn’t long before Persia entered into the picture. Having previously refused in get involved in the first Peloponesse war as there was no real reason to offer support for Sparta, Persia did become a component a little later on.

What triggered Persia’s involvement was when Athens, during the first Peloponesse war, supported an uprising in the western region of Anatolia. This uprising was to rebel against the Persian king. Even though this uprising was short-lived it provided Persia with a justification of helping Sparta.

Darius II of Persia offered finance to Sparta for the construction of the Spartan fleet. In return for this Sparta had to return the Ionian cities in Asia Minor back to Persia. What is important to understand here is that originally Sparta declared war on Athens as it wanted to free all Greeks from the stranglehold of Athens. However, the promise of returning the Ionian cities in Asia Minor was not in line with their original intentions.

The relationship between Sparta and Persia was not always a very good one. Each promising each other things though when time came to deliver on the promises, excuses and compromises were made. Without the help of Persia Sparta’s attempts at winning this new was with Athens would have been limited. It really had no choice to take the help Persia was offering, even though it was against their reasons for originally starting this war.

Persia, on the other hand, had everything to gain from the war. With Persia promising more and more as time went by, it was prolonging the war. No matter who was the victor between Sparta and Athens, after exhausting themselves in this long drawn out war and using all of their supplies and resources, Persia would be in a good position to take total control over Greece.

Years passed and the war was still raging. Sparta’s lack of naval warfare was a factor in this, as was the determination of Athens to keep fighting at all costs. The pendulum of the war was swinging from side to side, and for a short while, was swinging heavily in favour of Athens.

However, during the battle of Aegospotami in 405 B.C., the Spartans destroyed the fleet of Athens. General Lysander, who was a very important figure for Sparta in this battle, managed to take over control of the black sea. With trade and supply routes to Athens stopped and the taking over of Attica, Athens was forced into starvation.

In 404 B.C. Athens surrendered to Sparta. Corinth wanted Athens totally destroyed. It was General Lysander who was against this saying he could not accept the destruction of Athens as it was the city that had saved all of Greece from the Perisans in the wars many years before.

Instead Athens was forced to destroy its main defenses, abolish the Delian League and its fleet was handed over to the Spartans. However, more difficult was the fact that Athens now had to recognize and accept Sparta as the leader of Greece . Sparta had won the war. However, in reality, it was actually Persia who had won the war.