Who should have won The Peloponnesian War?

Who should have won the Peloponnesian War?

  • Athens

    Votes: 6 42.9%
  • Sparta

    Votes: 2 14.3%
  • It wasn't preordained/obvious who was going to win

    Votes: 5 35.7%
  • other

    Votes: 1 7.1%

  • Total voters
    14
  • This poll will close: .

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
8,967
here
#1
I was listening to a podcast recently and the guest on the show claimed that Athens had all the advantages. He claimed that it was Athens' war to lose and that they should have won but they screwed it all up.

Did one side have an immediate and obvious advantage over the other?
 
Mar 2016
725
Australia
#2
At first I thought the question meant morally who should win, in which case the answer would be an easy "Athens", but going by what the question actually is, I don't think there's an obvious pick. Both sides had some important advantages: Athens had a greater navy and more territory, but it was very dispersed over the Greek isles and relied on maintaining naval supremacy. Sparta, on the other hand, while they didn't have a great navy and had slightly less territory, had their territories more contiguous with each other, and their army was superior. In a way it's vaguely reminiscent of the situation between Britain and France/Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries. But let's not forget the Spartans spitting on the legacy of their ancestors by allying with the Persians. That gave them a pretty massive advantage, all things considered.
 
Apr 2018
690
Upland, Sweden
#3
At first I thought the question meant morally who should win, in which case the answer would be an easy "Athens", but going by what the question actually is, I don't think there's an obvious pick. Both sides had some important advantages: Athens had a greater navy and more territory, but it was very dispersed over the Greek isles and relied on maintaining naval supremacy. Sparta, on the other hand, while they didn't have a great navy and had slightly less territory, had their territories more contiguous with each other, and their army was superior. In a way it's vaguely reminiscent of the situation between Britain and France/Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries. But let's not forget the Spartans spitting on the legacy of their ancestors by allying with the Persians. That gave them a pretty massive advantage, all things considered.
The Spartans only allied with the persians rather late in the war - but you have a point. It was hardly in the spirit of panhellenism, at first glance. Although it could be said that Athens was a worse threat to Greek freedom than Persia (in Green eyes anyway): in the early years of the war and the years leading up to it Athens was percieved as very domineering, arrogant so much so that the Spartans could claim (I think Thucydides relays this when the Spartan delegation speaks infront of the corinthians) that they were "fighting for the freedom of all the greeks".

Say what you will about the domestic political systems of Sparta and Athens but the Athenians seemed to look upon their Delian league members as tributary underlings more than Sparta did in regards to its allies. Sparta was a local hegemon in the peloponesse, but Athens behaved in a more thorougly imperial manner.

Also, if one includes Sparta's various (Greek) allies then the Spartans were close to parity with the Athenians in resources, if not more so.

There's also the case of the plague the Athenians suffered in 432/31 (I believe it was) that much depleted the Athenians.

So who should have won? The Athenians were much more uneven in leadership, and repeatedly screwed up for themselves. I think they could well have won, if they had better leaders. Pity is their democracy - while great in many other aspects (hence my name) seems to have not done them any favours here. My take (hardly original) is that had the Athenians merely refrained from the Sicilian expedition they could have won. I also think there is a case to be made that had they won at Aegospotami in 405 they might have avoided being humiliated by the Spartans and secured a white peace.

It was a close call in other words.
 
Likes: Corbulo
Apr 2019
20
Ireland
#5
The Athenians we're very much the architects of their own downfall. The Sicilian expedition opened up an unnecessary front in the west, it proved to be a slow but mortal wound, in the previous Peloponnesian war an expedition was sent to Egypt with similar consequences, no lessons were learned. Arginusae proved to be a Pyrrhic victory with the admirals persecution, continued revolt in the Aegean and Persian aid to Sparta also contributed enormously to defeat. The fickle nature of extreme democracy didn't help either. Athens could have won, but made a catalogue of bad decisions
 
Jul 2015
4,735
Netherlands
#7
Athens should have heeded the ancient warning from the Oracle and purely have used the wooden walls. The military expeditions were as stupidly conceived as they were executed. Had they just focused on naval war and raids, they might not have won, but at the very least annoy Sparta (and mainly its allies) so much as to hammer out an agreement.
 
Apr 2018
690
Upland, Sweden
#8
Athens should have heeded the ancient warning from the Oracle and purely have used the wooden walls. The military expeditions were as stupidly conceived as they were executed. Had they just focused on naval war and raids, they might not have won, but at the very least annoy Sparta (and mainly its allies) so much as to hammer out an agreement.
So Pericles' strategy in other words. I'm not sure. I think it's really in Athens interest to have a decisive victory more than Sparta, as unorthodox as it might seem. What do the Athenians do when their subjects start rebelling (as happened in the real war) after a couple of decades? What do they do should they loose their naval supremacy because their raids don't really hurt the Spartan's (or primarily their allies) capacity to construct ships? Swift victories are not unimportant, especially to a people as obsessed with honour as the classical Greeks.

I don't think the ante-bellum situation - of an Athenian Empire in the aegean and a Spartan powerblock (although much more loosely defined) was sustainable without another war simply occuring somewhere down the line in the future.
 

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