Peloponnesian War Essay

Submitted By rosastanley1
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Pages: 15

Peloponnesian War Prior to the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, Athens and Sparta were on good terms with one another. The Persian War served as the fundamental basis of the cooperation between the two states. In the attempt to put an end to Persian invasion of Greece, Athenian and Spartan militaries joined forces; however, relations between Athens and Sparta began to degenerate rather rapidly following the end of the Persian rule over Grecian empires. There were many disagreements from both sides and the inability to comply with one another only escalated the dilemma. The probability of war was on the high rise. To add to the complications that already existed between Athenian and Spartan powers, the fact that they had contrasting forms of government only heightened the possibility of the two states going to war. While Sparta took on the role of being an ultra conservative state, Athens was successfully implementing their democratic model of government in other states. Any knowledge obtained with respect to the causes of the Peloponnesian War and the events that occurred throughout the longevity of its existence is due to former Athenian commander Thucydides’ writings regarding this conflict. The causes of the Peloponnesian War were not only a consequence of differing political cultures but was also “centered on disputes between Athens and Sparta on whether they had a free hand in dealing with each other's allies” (Martin). The Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta had contrasting political cultures and governments. This within itself presented huge complications, one of opposing ideas and beliefs resulting in warfare and the existence of long-held hostilities between the two states. This is evident in the accumulation of problematic actions being carried out by the two over the span of the 27 years long war. The lack of communication between the differing states as well as the incapability of adhering to any peace settlements long enough to end the conflict only prolonged the war. Sparta’s insecurity of Athens growing increasingly powerful is the underlying reason for the lead up of several events to the Peloponnesian War.
“Ancient Greece in 431 BC was not a nation. It was a large collection of [autonomous] rival city-states located on the Greek mainland, on the west coast of Asia Minor, and on the many islands of the Aegean Sea. Most of the city-states had become allied with one or the other of the leading military powers, Athens and Sparta” (thinkquest). Athens was an imperialist state that had colonies in Asia Minor, along the coastlines of the Black Sea as well as in the Western Mediterranean it was also the most populated city-state within Greece. Democratization of Athens began in 507 BC, Athenian government did away with their primordial form of governance in which tyranny was prevalent, and adopted the current position of having a democratic government. Each month, 500 individual Athenian citizens were chosen to form councils in order to discuss and decide on political matters. Under the leadership of Pericles, Athens formed alliances with numerous Grecian city-states. “Author historian Donald Kagan says the members [of the Delian League] included about 20 members from the Greek islands, 36 Ionian city-states, 35 from the Hellespont, 24 from around Caria, and 33 from around Thrace, making it primarily an organization of the Aegean islands and coast” (Gill). This alliance in which Athens claimed its spot at the top, was referred to as the Delian League. Spartan’s fear of the spread of Athenian supremacy escalated when the Delian League later became known as the Athenian Empire. Unlike Sparta, Athens had the most powerful naval force throughout all of Greece and as a result was respected by those inferior to Athenian supremacy.
Sparta’s government on the other hand, was an oligarchy. During this particular point in time, Sparta was “ruled by two kings, an assembly of elders, and an assembly of