War and Conflict

The Peloponnesian War

What Was the Peloponnesian War?

It was the war fought between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta between 431 and 404 B.C.; it left Athens ruined. The beginning of the war signaled the end of the golden age of Greece.

As the city-states (which were self-ruling regions made up of a city and the surrounding territory) developed, an intense rivalry grew between Athens and Sparta. The Spartans recruited allies into the Peloponnesian League (the Peloponnese Peninsula forms the southern part of mainland Greece), and together they attacked the Athenian Empire, which had been gaining in power.

The war consisted of three stages: The first was the Archidamian War (431–421 B.C.), named for Archidamus, the Spartan king who led the unsuccessful attacks on fortified Athens. In 421 the so-called Peace of Nicias (421 to 413 B.C.) began, which was negotiated by Athenian politician Nicias. But this truce was broken when an Athenian commander promoted counterattacks on Athens’s aggressors in 418 and 415 B.C. The attacks on the Peloponnesian League were unsuccessful, and so the Ionian War broke out (413–404 B.C.). After years of fighting, the Ionian War finally ended in victory for Sparta, after the Peloponnesian League had not only gained the support of Persia to defeat Athens but had successfully encouraged Athens’s own subjects to revolt. Athens surrendered to Sparta, ending the Peloponnesian War.


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