Who was Athens most implacable foe in the Peloponnesian War?

Apr 2019
109
Ireland
#1
Which member of the alliance pitted against Athens do you believe was the most committed to it's downfall?
Were they all equally committed or did the commitment of it's members wax and wane?
 
Nov 2011
1,046
The Bluff
#4
Do you think if the Peloponnesians had Athens on the ropes very early in the war that Persian attitudes would have been somewhat different (especially if they were in control of the Hellespont and Ionia)?
If that were the case, the war was over. This was precisely the situation in 405 and why the war was over by early 404.

There has always been scholarly debate over what is referred to as the "Peace of Kallias" of the very early 440s (449/8). Whichever side of the fence you sit on (there was such or there was not; for the record I'm in the "was such" camp), there is one clear and unarguable fact: all evidence demonstrates a detente (at minimum) existed between Athens and Persia from that time until around 413/12. The peace was renewed with Dareios II soon after his accession (late 420s the "Peace of Epilykos", see Andoc . 3.29). Persian attitudes revolved around this arrangement: Athens had ruled the Aegean since 449/8 as well as the coastal Greek littoral of Asia Minor. Despite Spartan embassies to the King during the Archidamian war (see Thuc. 2.7.1-2; Diod. 12.41.1 for example), the King refused to involve himself. This may be because the Spartans refused to pay his price; either way, Persia stayed aloof. Then, in 413 just as the Sicilian adventure was collapsing in complete destruction, Athens, in a fit of imperial hubris, involved herself in the revolt of Pissuthes from Persia. The peace was dead letter and it is now that the King, via instructions to his seaboard satraps Phanabazos and Tissaphernes, involves himself against Athens. With the disastrous losses in Sicily and large areas of her empire in revolt, Athens last redoubts of men, ships and money were the Aegean islands and Ionia and these, from now on, were subject to the extortions of the nautical mafia known as the Athenian navy.

To defeat Athens Sparta needed a full-time naval presence in Ionian waters. The only way to achieve that was through money and very un-Spartan amounts of it - no matter what more traditional Spartans thought. Persian money employed trained crews (and paid them above Athenian rates) and built Spartan fleets. Without such Sparta was doomed to stalemate. By 406, the King had seen enough and authorised his son (Kyros) to fully supply Sparta and end Athens' thalassocracy.

So, while Persia might well be the instrument of Athens' defeat, it was, to my mind, Athenian overreach and misjudgement that proved her downfall. Athens most implacable enemy was herself. More importantly, either the demos or the hubristic politician(s) who led those men to decide to throw over the peace between herself and Persia.
 
Likes: Gisco
Apr 2019
109
Ireland
#5
If that were the case, the war was over. This was precisely the situation in 405 and why the war was over by early 404.
Of course that's correct, what I meant to say was 'especially if they were 'threatening control of the Hellespont and Ionia'.


Athens, in a fit of imperial hubris, involved herself in the revolt of Pissuthes from Persia.
Yes another instance of bad decision making at Athens to be put alongside the Sicilian expedition and the aftermath of Arginusae.
It seems to me that the Persians should be happy to see both sides exhaust each other and the war continue as long as possible, but the revolt certainly crossed a line.


So, while Persia might well be the instrument of Athens' defeat, it was, to my mind, Athenian overreach and misjudgement that proved her downfall. Athens most implacable enemy was herself.
I agree with this but am looking for a 'member of the alliance pitted against Athens'. For example a major theme in the build up to hostilities seems to involve the Corinthians pushing the case for war....
 
Nov 2011
1,046
The Bluff
#6
I agree with this but am looking for a 'member of the alliance pitted against Athens'. For example a major theme in the build up to hostilities seems to involve the Corinthians pushing the case for war....
That's more difficult. Corinth was certainly the major urger for war. In fact, that city was the belligerent in the lead up to and start of the war. A close reading of the sources shows her to be far less interested once the war shifted from Peloponnesian and Ionian waters to the east (the Aegean). The expense of supplying ships and skilled crews to operate in areas not in her direct interest will have been the reason. By war's end, she is a small player and in the aftermath of the war she is decidedly cool to her former senior partner, Sparta, with whom she would soon be at war.

Others offer themselves. Syracuse sent a flotilla of 20 ships to the Ionian War and was clearly and understandably hostile to Athens. Those would be recalled, though, when instability threatened at home. Persia we've discussed as the instrument of Athens' downfall if not major direct participant. The most "implacable" by the Ionian War - certainly by war's close - was Thebes. Her participation in the Aegean during the Ionian War is well attested and it was she who commanded (and supplied a good part of) the left "fleet" at Arginusai. In the levying of terms upon Athens after her unconditional surrender, it was Thebes which called for Athens destruction and the selling of her citizens into slavery. That is implacable.

On an individual level, the most implacable individual Athens faced would have been Brasidas to my mind.
 
Likes: Gisco

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,811
Sydney
#7
Sparta always claimed they were defending themselves against Athene hubris ,
on the whole they were right
Athene just could'nt stop
 
Apr 2019
109
Ireland
#8
That's more difficult. Corinth was certainly the major urger for war. In fact, that city was the belligerent in the lead up to and start of the war. A close reading of the sources shows her to be far less interested once the war shifted from Peloponnesian and Ionian waters to the east (the Aegean). The expense of supplying ships and skilled crews to operate in areas not in her direct interest will have been the reason. By war's end, she is a small player and in the aftermath of the war she is decidedly cool to her former senior partner, Sparta, with whom she would soon be at war.

Others offer themselves. Syracuse sent a flotilla of 20 ships to the Ionian War and was clearly and understandably hostile to Athens. Those would be recalled, though, when instability threatened at home. Persia we've discussed as the instrument of Athens' downfall if not major direct participant. The most "implacable" by the Ionian War - certainly by war's close - was Thebes. Her participation in the Aegean during the Ionian War is well attested and it was she who commanded (and supplied a good part of) the left "fleet" at Arginusai. In the levying of terms upon Athens after her unconditional surrender, it was Thebes which called for Athens destruction and the selling of her citizens into slavery. That is implacable.

On an individual level, the most implacable individual Athens faced would have been Brasidas to my mind.

The Corinthians certainly seemed to be the most vociferous party for war, the affairs at Epidamnus and Corcyra were indeed in the Corinthian sphere of influence and seemed to be major factors contributing to Corinth's position. Megara's recent past also would have incurred the enmity of Corinth.

The Theban's had suffered humiliation at the hands of the Athenians in the past and also had great enmity. She moved quickly to attack Plataea, one of the symbols of her enmity at the start of the war.

Brasidas was a thorn in the side to the Athenians, his operations around Amphipolis were a key moment in the war, Athens was unable to recover this outpost which she deemed vital. It would have been interesting to see what path the war would have taken if he was not killed....
 
Apr 2019
109
Ireland
#9
Sparta always claimed they were defending themselves against Athene hubris ,
on the whole they were right
Athene just could'nt stop
I certainly think that this was very true of Sparta at the start and early parts of the war. Partly, Sparta to me seemed to be trapped by her allies into fighting to begin with, the price of turning a blind eye was too great, however when it was weighed up she decided for war. By wars end Sparta was not the same as it was in 431 BCE, events had overtaken her and the Aegean was now influencing her more than ever before.
 

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