The Peloponnesian War

The Peloponnesian War lasted from 431-404 BCE. Leading up to the war, Sparta and Athens were in competition with each other for control of Greece. This tension intensified into the Peloponnesian War. Athens and Sparta were very different from each other in terms of cultural values and outlook on life. Sparta is typified by an austere, militaristic character, while Athens is remembered for being an intellectual capital with an appreciation for aesthetics. Naturally, when the two came up against each other in war, their unique advantages and disadvantages were highlighted.

Sparta’s militaristic culture was an essential part of their life and values system. Their military was much stronger than Athens’ and had better training. This was their major advantage. As far as disadvantages, it might be hard to imagine how a militaristic city-state could possibly have any in war. However, while their army was strong, their navy was not. The Athenians had the stronger navy. This meant that the Athenians could interfere with Sparta’s trade route, negatively impacting any reliance Sparta had on imported goods used in war or survival on the homefront. Sparta’s allies were the Peloponnese league. This league was an independent polis which included most of the land powers or central Greece, including Corinth. The main victories of the Spartan army were at Plataea, which they captured in 427 BCE, a battle at Amphipolis, and later, a victory at Sicily.

Athens did not have such a strong army as Sparta, but its navy was better developed.Athens did have another advantage, which was that many of their allies gave them financial support. The main disadvantage for the Athenians was that around 430 BCE, a plague struck Athens. This horrible plague killed the Athenian leader Pericles along with many other Athenians, which took a huge toll on their morale. The plague also led to social unrest and lack of unity. Due to the uncertainty of life in the plague, law and order in Athens were compromised as people panicked. As for Athens’ allies, theirs was the Delian league. The Delian league was made up of most of the island along with the coastal states around the northern and eastern coasts of the Aegean Sea. Athens did have several important victories in the Peloponnesian war. They were even able to suppress a rebellion on the island of Lesbos.

The effects of the war were different for Athens and Sparta. Sparta was victorious, but after so many years of fighting in intense battles, they were weakened. They were thus left more susceptible to outside invasion. As for Athens, their flourishing, rich culture had been wounded by defeat. Overall, the defenses of Greece were weakened.