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After the Persian emperor Cyrus had defeated Lydian king Croesus and taken over Sardis about 544 BC, he appointed the Persian Tabalus to govern Sardis and entrusted its treasury to the Lydian Pactyes, who raised a revolt that had to be put down. Having retaken Sardis, the Persian troops began attacking the Ionian cities, killing the men and enslaving the women and children of Priene and plundering Magnesia. On the Asian continent only Miletus maintained its independence, but the other Greek cities had to pay tribute and provide soldiers. Bias of Priene advised the Ionians to emigrate to the island of Sardinia to be free; but still having freedom of commerce, they decided to stay. The Persians tended to support local tyrants as the easiest way to control the Greek cities.
Darius made sure the tribute to Persia came in regularly and also got Ionian help in his invasion of European Scythia. About 512 BC they crossed the Bosphorus and then the Danube River, but the nomadic Scythians just kept retreating until their pursuers gave up. The northern tribes refused to fight for the Scythians, because they argued that the Persian invasion was a consequence of earlier Scythian aggression that did not concern them. The Greeks were left to guard the bridge across the Danube, and Histaeus of Miletus persuaded the other Ionian tyrants, although Miltiades disagreed, to remain loyal to Darius out of fear of democratic revolts if they did not. Thus Darius was able to return to Asia and appointed Megabazus to command 80,000 men in Europe to invade Thrace and Macedonia. In gratitude for their help and advice, Darius granted Myrcinus to Histaeus and Mytilene to Coes, but then he took Histaeus with him back to Susa in Persia.
In 500 BC when some aristocrats were expelled from Naxos, they fled to Miletus and appealed to Aristagoras, the nephew and son-in-law of Histaeus. Aristagoras suggested asking the Persians for help and went to Sardis to encourage Artaphernes to take over Naxos and the Cyclades islands, and Artaphernes offered 200 ships with Megabates as commander. However, Aristagoras and Megabates quarreled, and the latter warned the Naxians of the attack, which then turned out to be a costly failure. Fearing he would lose his position at Miletus and possibly receiving a slave messenger from his uncle Histaeus suggesting he revolt, Aristagoras called a council and urged a revolt. In spite of opposition by the historian Hecataeus, the Ionians did decide to throw off their Persian yoke.
To gain popular support Aristagoras offered the Milesians a democratic government, and he handed over the tyrants with him to their cities, which treated them with leniency except for Coes, who was stoned to death at Mytilene. Then Aristagoras went to Sparta for aid; but Cleomenes became concerned when he discovered that the Persian capital was three months away; finally his young daughter warned him that the bribe offers of Aristagoras were going to corrupt him. So Aristagoras went to Athens, which had been strengthened by democratic reforms; Herodotus wrote that he had no difficulty convincing 30,000 Athenians, who appropriated twenty warships for the Ionian independence struggle. In gratitude for Milesian help long before, the Eretrians also added five warships. Aristagoras sent a message to the Paeonians, who had been deported to Phrygia, that they should run away from their Persian masters, and they did.
The Athenian fleet landed in Ephesus, and they marched to Sardis, which they easily defeated; its thatch houses were burned along with a temple of Cybele. Hearing of this, Darius never forgot that Athenians and Eretrians burned Sardis. However, the Persians caught up with them and defeated them at Ephesus, ending Athenian involvement in the revolt. The Ionians, however, sailed to the Hellespont, gained control of Byzantium, and then went back south to take Caria; Cyprus rebelled against Persia as well but was defeated after one year of independence. In a major battle the Carians were defeated with 10,000 killed. Aristagoras fled to Myrcinus, where he was killed by Thracians when he was besieging one of their towns. Histaeus persuaded Darius to send him to Sardis to help; but suspected of treachery by Artaphernes, he fled from there to Chios, where he lied that the reason he urged the revolt was because Darius intended to transfer Ionians to Phoenicia; his messengers to friends in Sardis were intercepted, and their recipients were executed. Wounded in attempting to return to Miletus, Histaeus gained some ships at Lesbos and engaged in piracy at Byzantium until he was captured and crucified by Artaphernes.
The Ionians decided that each city must defend itself while they gathered all the ships they could at Lade which amounted to 353 triremes. The expelled tyrants sent messages to their cities encouraging them to surrender to the Persians. The Phocaean Dionysius persuaded the Ionians to put their forces under his discipline; but he trained them so ruthlessly that the seaman stopped obeying orders. When they met the Phoenician fleet of 600 ships, most of the Samians turned sail for home, causing the Lesbians and others to flee also. The Chians, who had brought a hundred ships, fought most bravely, capturing some enemy ships but also losing many of their own. Some Chians had to flee on land from Mycale to Ephesus, where they were taken for brigands during a Demeter festival for women and killed. Dionysius captured three enemy ships, sank some cargo vessels at Phoenicia, and then went to Sicily, where he raided non-Greek ships.
After their naval victory the Persians besieged Miletus and deported its people to the Persian Gulf. So profound was the grief over this Milesian defeat that at Athens when Phrynichus' tragedy The Capture of Miletus was performed, people wept, fined the author, and banned the play. A few Milesians, who had escaped, joined with people from Samos, who did not want to be under Aeaces and the Persians, to go to Sicily, where with the help of Hippocrates of Gela they took over Zancle while its men were away attacking a Sicel town. The Chersonese tyrant Miltiades did manage to seize the islands of Lemnos and Imbros for Athens.
The Persians also occupied Caria. The islands were thoroughly searched by human chains of men holding hands, and the best-looking girls and boys were sent to the Persian court for the harem or to be castrated. Artaphernes ordered all the Ionians to settle their differences by arbitration instead of war, and he established the taxes they were to pay to Persia, which were not changed for the next half century. The son-in-law of Darius, Mardonius, expelled irresponsible tyrants from Ionian cities and set up democratic institutions, which Herodotus naturally found surprising. Mardonius then crossed over to Europe and took over the remaining portion of Macedonia after a difficult battle with the Thracian Brygi. However, his fleet was so badly smashed up in a storm near Mount Athos, drowning 20,000 men, that they returned to Asia.
Darius next started demanding earth and water, the tokens of submission, and the provision of ships from the coastal towns. Aegina's compliance with this angered the Athenians, who contacted Sparta, which had recently defeated Argos while killing about 6,000 Argives. To show their resistance to Persian imperialism both Athens and Sparta killed the Persian envoys sent to ask for submission, a sacrilege to the Greeks. Both Spartan kings had to go to Aegina to arrest ten leaders, who were sent as hostages to Athens. Cleomenes, who had bribed the Delphic oracle to get the other Spartan king Demaratus replaced, went insane and killed himself.
Determined to get revenge against Athens and Eretria, Darius sent his nephew Artaphernes and the Mede Datis with a large fleet, which attacked Naxos, spared the sacred Delos, and defeated Carystus and Eretria on the island of Euboea. The Athenians had sent 4,000 men from Chalcis; but they were advised to leave when it was clear that Eretria was doomed. The city was burned, and its inhabitants were captured. Then the Persians landed at Marathon with Hippias, who had landed there more than a half century before with his father Peisistratus. This time the Athenians were not going to submit to a tyrant, especially one imposed on them by Persians. They sent an appeal to Sparta, which could not respond until after the full moon because of a religious festival.
In 490 BC about 9,000 Athenians marched to Marathon, where they were joined by a thousand Plataeans. After several days the Athenians led by Miltiades launched on attack on the run to limit the damage from archers. The heavy bronze armor of the hoplites proved superior to the Persian wicker shields, and they won an overwhelming victory against a force at least twice as large that included cavalry, which they also lacked. According to Herodotus about 6400 Persians were killed but only 192 Athenians. Someone used a shield to signal the Persians, and their ships headed for Athens; but the Athenian army was able to march there first, and the Persians decided to go home. Back in Persia, Darius ordered the Eretrians settled near Susa.
Miltiades was admired so much for this victory that he was given seventy ships to use against the islands which had supported the Persians; but when he used them to settle a personal vendetta at Paros and failed to achieve the revenue he had promised, he was charged by Xanthippus with treason for deceiving the people but was fined instead of executed, though he soon died of a wound. Afraid of powerful leaders, the Athenians changed the election of the archons to a selection by lot from a large number of those locally elected, and also in 487 BC they began to ostracize men considered friendly to tyranny, the first being the Peisistratid Hipparchus and the second an Alcmaeonid. Xanthippus was ostracized and also Aristeides, who was told by an illiterate man to write his name on the pottery fragment only because he was tired of hearing him called Aristeides the just; but in 481 BC as the Persian invasion was coming again the Athenians recalled all these men who had been ostracized for ten years, probably because it would be safer to have them in Athens.
The Aeginetans brought suit in Sparta, which decided to surrender their king Leotychides to Aegina for the hostages in Athens; but the Athenians refused to give up the Aeginetans, which caused a war between Athens and Aegina. This war also enabled Themistocles to get Athens to fortify Piraeus as a harbor and begin building up their navy, which the state was able to finance by a supply of silver recently mined.
When Darius died in 486 BC, his son Xerxes, after putting down Egypt, took up his ambition to get revenge against the Athenians and prepared for a massive invasion. Three years were spent digging a canal cutting off Mount Athos. Xerxes sent envoys to every city in Greece except for Athens and Sparta, demanding submission and cooperation with his preparations. The Persian fleet collected from its empire had 1207 triremes plus many other ships, and the number of soldiers was estimated at 1,700,000. A bridge was built over ships across the Bosphorus, and rivers were drunk dry by this huge army that was marching south toward Athens. In a meeting at the isthmus a Hellenic alliance was formed under the leadership of Sparta that included Athenians, Corinthians and their allies.
Gelon of Syracuse refused to join unless he was made commander, and also because he had not been helped in his war with Carthage. Gelon sent three ships with money to be given to Xerxes if the Persians were victorious; but when they were not, the ships brought the money back. The Corcyreans promised ships, but they never made it to the war. Crete took the advice of the Delphic oracle and did not participate. In Sicily when Terillus had been driven out of Himera by the ruler of Acragas, he asked Carthage for help. Carthage's invasion of Sicily came in the spring of 480 BC at the same time Xerxes was entering Europe and was likely coordinated by their Phoenician connections. It was reported that 300,000 Carthaginians were transported, but the Syracusan army led by Gelon defeated them, killed Hamilcar, and collected 200 talents war indemnity plus booty from Carthaginian camps.
The Delphic oracle, which had often favored the Persian interests that had contributed so much wealth, prophesied that either Sparta would be destroyed or one of its kings would be killed. The pronouncements concerning Athens were even more bleak, but Themistocles interpreted the "wooden walls" as their navy and argued that "divine Salamis" would bring death to Persians not to Greeks. Conflicts between Greek cities such as Athens and Aegina were put in abeyance in order to face the Persian threat. Thessaly would be the first to be invaded, and the Greeks sent 10,000 hoplites to defend the pass at Tempe. Alexander of Macedonia advised them to withdraw, because the Persian army would slaughter them; they did withdraw, though it was probably because the army of Xerxes took a different route. Thus Thessaly submitted and supported the Persians. Meanwhile it was reported that 400 Persian ships had been destroyed in a storm caused by a strong north wind; the gods seemed to be favoring the Greeks.
The Greeks decided to defend the narrow pass at Thermopylae with about 7,000 men, but once again because of a religious festival Sparta could only send King Leonidas, who chose to take his personal guard of 300. However, their valiant defense was able to stop the Persian army until some of the Persian "immortals" were led around behind them by a mountain path. The 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians remained in the pass and fought to the death, while 400 Thebans surrendered to the Persians and were branded on their foreheads as slaves.
The 271 Greek war ships, which had retreated from Artemisium, returned there after the storm destroyed many Persian ships; but when they saw how many enemy ships remained, they refused to defend the Euboean strait until the Euboeans bribed Themistocles and the other generals with thirty talents. Learning that the Persians were coming around to surround them, the Greeks made a surprising attack in the afternoon, taking thirty ships but also suffering considerable damage. However, that night another storm blew against the Persian ships so badly most of them could not fight the next day. Joined by 53 more Athenians ships, the Greeks were able to fight the still larger Persian fleet to a draw the next day; but they decided they needed to withdraw, especially after hearing the news from Thermopylae. Themistocles had messages carved in the rocks, where they stopped for water, urging the Ionians not to make war on their fathers but change sides or refuse to fight for the Persians. Before his army inspected the field at Thermopylae, Xerxes had most of the 20,000 Persian dead buried in trenches so that it would look like only one thousand Persians had been killed. Out of respect for bravery he also had the Greeks buried.
The Greek ships went to Salamis, and Athens had to be evacuated. The Persians marched through Boeotia, burned Thespiae, and devastated Attica, as the Persian army was now given permission to rape and pillage Greeks who were resisting. A few poor people tried to hold the Acropolis in Athens but were overcome, and it was burned. The Peloponnesian army was building a wall across the isthmus. At a strategy conference most of the allies wanted to take the navy to the isthmus to defend the Peloponnesian peninsula; but not wanting to lose Salamis, Megara, and Aegina, Themistocles argued that this would draw the Persian forces to the Peloponnesus and that they could fight more effectively in the narrow strait of Salamis. He even threatened to take their 200 Athenian ships and settle in Italy, which changed the mind of the Spartan commander Eurybiades. Themistocles then secretly sent a message to the Persian emperor that the Greeks would run away if he did not block them. Soon the general Aristeides brought the war council the news that the Persians had surrounded them. If Xerxes had listened to the advice of Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus, he would have avoided the crucial naval battle at Salamis; but he agreed with his male generals.
In this battle confined in the straits of Salamis, the fewer Greek ships could use their ability to ram to better advantage; many Persians who could not swim drowned, while Greeks swam to the islands. This Greek naval victory was the turning point in the war. Herodotus quoted the prophecy of Bacis, the truth of which he could not deny.
When they shall span the sea with ships from Cynosura
To the holy shore of Artemis of the golden sword,
Wild with hope at the ruin of shining Athens,
Then shall bright Justice quench Excess, the child of Pride,
Dreadful and furious, thinking to swallow up all things.
Bronze shall mingle with bronze, and Aries with blood
Incarnadine the sea; and all-seeing Zeus
And gracious Victory shall bring to Greece the day of freedom.1
Xerxes decided to return to Asia, leaving a force of 300,000 picked troops with Mardonius. Themistocles wisely advised the Greeks not to try to block the Persians' return, because it would prolong the war; he urged Greeks to repair their houses and sow their land, and playing both sides, sent a secret message of this to Xerxes. Themistocles also secretly extorted money from the islands of Andros, Carystus and Paros for having helped the Persians, but Carystus was destroyed by the Greeks anyway. On their long march homeward many Persians died of dysentery and disease as they struggled to find enough to eat and drink. Artabazus escorted his emperor out of Europe with 60,000 troops and then went to put down revolts already occurring in Potidaea and Olynthus, while the forces of Mardonius wintered in Thessaly and Macedonia.
Alexander of Macedonia tried to persuade the Athenians to make a separate peace with Persia, but Aristeides insisted that their love of freedom would never allow the Athenians to capitulate to Xerxes, who had wasted their land and burned their temples. Mardonius recaptured a deserted Athens a second time and burned it to the ground. Meeting at Salamis, the Athenians stoned to death Lycidas for proposing that Persian demands be presented to the people; Athenian women even stoned his wife and children. The Athenians sent a message to Sparta, requesting that they join them in the field in expectation of the enemy's next invasion, and the Lacedaemonians responded by sending 5,000 Spartans attended by 35,000 Helots.
Mardonius marched to Thebes, where his cavalry could fight to advantage. The Greek allies that gathered at Plataea amounted to about 110,000. Herodotus estimated that of the Persian force of 300,000 about 50,000 were Greeks, and these were likely to flee at a moment's notice. Some Thebans fought hard, and 300 were killed; but the rest then ran away to Thebes. Artabazus, disagreeing with Mardonius, kept his forces back and fled before even engaging the enemy. Once Mardonius himself was killed, it became a rout. According to Herodotus only 3,000 Persians survived (plus 40,000 who fled with Artabazus), while only 1360 Greeks were killed. Spartan commander Pausanias forbade looting and ordered the Helots to gather the booty. Thebes was besieged, taken, and its resisting leaders were executed. Artabazus hurried toward Byzantium while losing men to disease and Thracian attacks.
The Persian naval force at Samos retreated to Mycale near Miletus and joined the land army, making 60,000. Led by Xanthippus and Leotychides, who sent a herald to appeal to the Ionians, the Greeks, stimulated by the news of the victory at Plataea in what Herodotus called the second Ionian revolt, defeated the Persian army, which fled to Sardis, where Xerxes was preoccupied with court intrigues. Leotychides and the Spartans returned with their allies to the Peloponnese while the Athenians besieged Sestos in the Chersonese until the Persians fled from there.
The ambitions of the Persian empire had overreached their capacity to control by force of arms. With the exception of the early Athenian raid, which burned Sardis and greatly escalated the whole conflict, the Greeks led by Sparta and Athens had fought mostly in defense of their homeland and had prevailed against vast numbers by superior technology, training, and mostly by the human spirit that they were fighting for their own freedom and independence while their adversaries were serving imperial ambitions or were capitulating to its power. Thanks to the marvelous research and account by the first great historian, Herodotus, the world would never forget how the Greeks protected their independence against imperialist aggression.
Athens had been destroyed in 480 BC, but after the Persian invasion was defeated the next year, the Athenians began to rebuild their walls and to make the Piraeus a major harbor, persuaded by Themistocles, who had championed their victorious navy. A Spartan embassy, alarmed by Athenian power, suggested that they cooperate in tearing down the fortifications in Greece. Instead, Themistocles was sent to Sparta and delayed until the Athenians had built their walls. Then he proposed that the Spartans send some officials to inspect the Athenian walls and got the Athenians to hold them to trade for Themistocles and his embassy. Themistocles wanted Athens to make their own decisions based on their own strength. Themistocles wanted to set fire to the Greek arsenal so that Athens would become master of Greece; but Aristeides told the assembly that although nothing could be more advantageous to Athens, nothing would be more unjust; so Athenians, trusting Aristeides the Just, refused to follow Themistocles' plan.
Pausanias led twenty Peloponnesian ships joined by thirty Athenian triremes to win over most of Cyprus before going on to Byzantium. Seduced by power and Persian ways, Pausanias soon alienated the Greeks by his dictatorial manner and was recalled to Sparta to stand trial. However, the diplomacy and fairness of the Athenian leader Aristeides the Just won the Ionians over to the Athenian side. The contributions assessed by Aristeides to the league of allies were deposited on the sacred island of Delos; according to Thucydides the original sum was 460 talents. Acquitted on the major charges, Pausanias got a trireme on his own and returned to the Hellespont, where he continued to intrigue with Xerxes and Artabazus; he was recalled to Sparta a second time and imprisoned but released. Then he conspired with Helots by offering them freedom until a messenger, suspicious that previous messengers had been sent to their deaths, opened his letter and proved in a conversation overheard by the Spartan ephors that Pausanias was guilty. Fearing arrest, Pausanias took sanctuary in a temple of Athena, where he was walled in and starved to death.
While the Athenians were forming the Delian league, the Spartans tried to ally themselves with the Amphictionic league of Thessaly and northern Greece. Spartan king Leotychides, however, accepted bribes from Aleuad princes but saved his life by fleeing to Tegea. Spartan hostility toward the states that had capitulated to the Medes, their rivalry with Argos, and the efforts of Themistocles blocked an effective alliance. Eventually Sparta had to fight and defeat both Tegea and Argos. Meanwhile Cimon commanded the Athenians as they captured and enslaved the inhabitants of Eion and Scyros. Both Carystus in Euboea and Naxos were compelled by force of arms to rejoin the alliance and contribute money or ships. Cimon's forces won another major victory when they destroyed the entire Phoenician fleet of 200 ships at the Eurymedon River in Pamphylia.
Themistocles accused Aristeides of robbing the public when he actually had been exposing Themistocles and others for their corruption. Then the wealthy got Aristeides exempted from the fine if he would tolerate their ways, causing Aristeides to complain that he was more ashamed of these honors than of the former sentence. Themistocles, showing personal arrogance, was ostracized by the Athenians and then accused by the Spartans of conspiring with Persia. The hero of Salamis fled to Corcyra and then to Admetus, king of the Molossi, whose wife helped him plead his case. Themistocles ended up in the Persian court of Artaxerxes, where he learned Persian to defend himself; he claimed the reward of two hundred talents for bringing in Themistocles and was allowed to live in Magnesia, where later according to Plutarch he took poison rather than fight against the Greeks.
In Sicily Theron used the slaves captured in the war with Carthage to build up Acragas, while his tyrannical son Thrasydaeus oppressed the people of Himera. Gelon died in 478 BC and was succeeded in Syracuse by his brother Hieron, who pushed out his other brother Polyzalus, who turned to Theron; but the poet Simonides helped mediate a peace between the brothers. Hieron with Syracuse's fleet helped Cyme fight off an attack by the Etruscans in 474 BC, a victory praised in poetry by Pindar. This poet competed with Bacchylides in praising the victories of Sicilian tyrants in the Panhellenic games while they basked in the luxury of their courts. Hieron deported to Leontini the inhabitants of Catane, which he renamed Aetna so that he could found a city and safeguard his dynasty, installing his son Deinomenes there.
When Theron died, his son Thrasydaeus misruled Acragas as he had Himera and bungled into a losing war with Hieron, resulting in Himera's independence and a free constitution for Acragas in 470 BC. When Hieron died three years later, his brother Thrasybulus executed and banished so many citizens to get their property that he was overthrown by a revolution supported by Sicel tribes, followed by a civil war between the old and new citizens that included mercenaries established by Gelon's dynasty until the strangers were driven out and democracy was established. The tyrants had wiped out class distinctions though, and the republics of Sicily were to thrive for the next half century. A revolt of native Sicels led by Ducetius was eventually defeated by Syracuse, and he was exiled to Corinth in 450 BC.
In 476 BC the Delian league attacked Thrace. Greek ships invaded
Caria in 466 BC. The next year an Athenian fleet went to put down
a revolt in Thasos over the silver mines in Thrace, and ten thousand
Athenians colonized Nine Ways on the Strymon River and called
it Amphipolis. However, further encroachments were defeated by
a combined army of Thracians. Thasos appealed to Sparta for help,
but an earthquake there stimulated a revolt of the Helots and
the Laconians around in the third Messenian war. Besieged more
than two years, the Thiasians had to surrender their navy, demolish
their walls, give up their mines and rights in Thrace, and pay
tribute to Athens. Facing a revolution, Sparta turned to Athens
for help with the siege of the Ithome stronghold, and in 463 BC
they sent a force led by Cimon, who said that Greece should not
be allowed to be lamed, depriving Athens of her yoke fellow; but
the Spartans became suspicious and soon asked the Athenians to
leave. Offended, the Athenians renounced their treaty with the
Spartans against Persia and made an alliance with Sparta's rival
Argos and Thessaly. Finally, after ten years according to Thucydides,
the rebels agreed to leave the Peloponnesian peninsula and were
aided in settling at Naupactus by Athens.
In Athens Pericles supported the institution of democratic reforms that gave more power to the lower classes by making the council of 500 chosen by lot only, giving them powers previously held by the Areopagite council and by paying those involved in public service; farmers could now serve as archons. According to Plutarch, Pericles though aristocratic, took the side of the people in order to oppose Cimon. Cimon was accused of being too friendly with the Spartans and was ostracized in 461 BC, and Ephialtes, who had led the drive to remove power from the Areopagites, was murdered. Two years later Argos and Megara joined the Athenian alliance, and a long wall was built to protect Athens from a land invasion. This made Corinth and Epidaurus insecure, and they fought with Athens at Haliae. A battle over the island of Cecryphalea brought in Aegina, which was supported by Peloponnesians while Corinthians attacked Megara. The Athenians called upon citizens of all ages led by Myronides and claimed a victory until the Corinthians came back to defeat them. However, the Athenian siege of Aegina for two years eventually triumphed and forced this nearby island to join the Delian league and pay a substantial tribute of thirty talents a year.
Meanwhile the Athenian navy had sent 200 ships to Cyprus and then went to support the Egyptian revolt led by Inaros against Persian rule. They sailed up the Nile and took over most of Memphis, but the Persians held out in the White Castle. The Persians got Sparta to engage the Athenians at Tanagra over Boeotia in which many on both sides were killed, and the Megarid fruit trees were cut down in a victory claimed by the Lacedaemonians. However, two months later in the fall of 457 BC the Athenians won a battle at Oenophyta and took over all of Boeotia except Thebes, enabling Athens to complete the long walls. Artaxerxes sent a large army led by Megabyzus with a Phoenician fleet, drove the Greeks out of Memphis, and pinned them down on Byblos; only a few Greeks escaped Egypt by way of Cyrene. Probably these threats led to moving the league treasury from Delos to Athens, which Aristeides said was not just but expedient. Athens conquered Aegina, and the Athenian general Tolmides sailed around the Peloponnesian peninsula to capture the Corinthian colony Chalcis and secured Achaean cities into their alliance. Cimon then negotiated a truce between Athens and Sparta for five years, while Argos made peace with the Lacedaemonians for thirty years.
In 451 BC Pericles got an act passed limiting Athenian citizenship based on birth. Six years later when Egypt sent Athens a gift of 30,000 bushels of wheat, this law was used to deny some 5,000 people a share of the grain. After their victory in Egypt the Phoenician fleet regained control of Cyprus, and so Cimon was sent with 200 ships and besieged Citium, where he died. Pericles was supporting Cimon's aggressive foreign policy in exchange for having control of domestic issues. The wealthy Callias negotiated a peace treaty for Athens with Persia. Most of the Hellenic states were now independent of Persia except on Cyprus, where the Phoenicians still dominated; both sides pledged not to send warships into the Aegean Sea.
In a "sacred war" the Spartans took over Delphi before the Athenians regained it for the Phocians, who soon deserted the Athenian alliance because of an oligarchic movement that was sweeping Boeotia. For once Athens went against the advice of Pericles when Tolmides led an Athenian force to take Chaeronea, selling their prisoners as slaves; but the Athenians were defeated at Coronea, and Tolmides was killed. So many hostages were taken that Boeotia was lost to the Athenian empire. Next Euboea revolted, and Pericles led troops across to subdue the island and expel the people of Histiaea, who had put to death the crew of an Athenian ship. Athenian forces, led by Andocides and sent to Megara, were massacred by a Peloponnesian army.
Pericles sent ten talents to bribe a Spartan king to prevent war, and this "necessary expenditure" became an annual expense tolerated and joked about by the Athenians. Tribute to the alliance was declining, and in 445 BC the Athenians, while retaining Aegina and Naupactus, agreed to surrender Nisaea, Pagae, Achaea, and Troezen in a thirty-year peace treaty with Sparta that named the allies of each and left other states free to choose. Scholars have concluded that the first year after the peace treaty no tribute was paid, and Pericles was not elected a general that year. Pericles tried to convene a Panhellenic conference in Athens to restore Greek temples and clear the seas of pirates, but the Peloponnesians would not attend. In 443 BC the rival general of Pericles named Thucydides was ostracized, and the leadership of Pericles for the next fifteen years was unchallenged.
Pericles and Cleinias, the father of Alcibiades, passed a decree to organize the collection of tribute, and parties in Athens argued over the proper use of the tribute money; Pericles wanted the artisans to be employed in the vast projects of public building on the Acropolis and elsewhere. The liberal state expenditures also went for public gymnasia and baths. Pericles' friend Damon called it "bribing the people with public funds," outspending what Cimon could do with his private generosity. Athenians were sent to settle in various strategic areas, particularly the Chersonese, which controlled the grain imported from the Euxine (Black Sea).
In the sixth year of the truce Samos attacked Miletus over Priene. The Milesians appealed to Athens, which along with its allies Chios and Lesbos, sent ships led by Pericles to establish a democracy on Samos. However, some exiled Samians raised a force of mercenaries and were joined in the revolt by Byzantium. Athens sent Pericles back with 44 ships and defeated the Samian fleet. Samos agreed to pay 1,276 talents in war reparations, and Byzantium submitted also. Fearing the effect comedies would have on foreigners in Athens, Pericles had some restraints put on comic drama, but they did not last long. The population in and around Athens in Attica was about 315,000, but nearly half of these were slaves. The glory of Athens was depicted on the awe-inspiring Parthenon in the mythic combats of gods and heroes and celebrated in the Panathenaic procession. The Athenians decreed that their allies must use only Athenian coins, weights, and measures. Tribute assessments were usually made every four years. Resentment against Pericles attacked his friends Damon, the sculptor Pheidias, the philosopher Anaxagoras, and his lover Aspasia, but could not remove Pericles himself.
Though Athens and Sparta had fought each other before, Thucydides called the 27-year conflict between the Athenian empire and the Lacedaemonians the Peloponnesian War, which he wrote in his great history was caused by the growth of Athenian power and the fear which that caused in Sparta. This war, which spread throughout Greece, was triggered by a conflict between the Corinthian colony of Corcyra and Corcyra's colony at Epidamnus. When the Epidamnian democrats drove out the aristocrats, the latter got foreign enemies to attack the city, causing the democrats to appeal to Corcyra. Not getting help there, they followed the advice of the Delphic oracle and turned over the city to Corinth. The Corcyraeans resented this and sent forty ships to besiege Epidamnus. Neither the Corcyraeans nor the Corinthians would negotiate with the other's forces in place, and Corcyra with another eighty ships destroyed fifteen Corinthian ships in a decisive victory as Epidamnus surrendered; the foreign troops were to be sold as slaves, but they were put to death instead. The Corcyraean fleet attacked other Corinthian garrisons, and Corinth responded with a two-year ship-building program.
Concerned Corcyra sent representatives to Athens seeking alliance; they warned of the threat to Athenian naval supremacy if Corinth took over their substantial navy. Ambassadors from Corinth argued that Corcyra was in the wrong and should not be supported in their crimes, which would cause Athens to break its treaty with Corinth. The Corinthians complained that Corcyra was arguing as though war was inevitable. The Athenians agreed only to a defensive alliance in order to preserve the peace treaty and sent ten ships to reinforce Corcyra, but these were followed by twenty more, which were enough to cause the Corinthian navy of 150 ships to retreat after claiming victory over Corcyra's fleet of 110 ships in the largest battle among Greeks up to that time. On their way home the Corinthians seized Anactorium and sold 800 Corcyraean prisoners as slaves, keeping 250 as hostages.
The next conflict also involved a Corinthian colony - Potidaea, a tribute-paying ally of Athens. The Athenians told the Potidaeans to tear down their southern walls and stop using Corinthian magistrates; but when Sparta promised to invade Attica if Athens attacked Potidaea, the Potidaeans joined with the Macedonian prince Perdiccas and the Chalcidians to revolt from the Athenian empire. Thirty Athenian ships had already been sent to Thrace because of the conflict with Perdiccas; but hearing of the revolt, they made an alliance with him after a siege in order to attack Potidaea, killing 300 and establishing a blockade.
Pericles had the Athenians pass an economically devastating decree excluding Megara from trading with their empire. The Spartan assembly voted that Athens was wrong in attacking the Corinthian colony of Potidaea and called a conference of their allies. The Corinthians accused Athens of depriving states of their freedom and recommended invading Attica. Athenian ambassadors were also allowed to speak and argued that they had begun by defending Greeks against Persian imperialism; but as their power increased, things began to change.
Finally there came a time when we were surrounded by enemies, when we had already crushed some revolts, when you had lost the friendly feelings that you used to have for us and had turned against us and begun to arouse our suspicion: at this point it was clearly no longer safe for us to risk letting our empire go, especially as any allies that left us would go over to you. And when tremendous dangers are involved no one can be blamed for looking to his own interest.2
The Athenians asked for arbitration, and the Spartan king Archidamus also argued for patience and moderation. However, when Sthenelaidas, one of the ephors, posed the question as to whether Athens had broken the treaty, the majority voted for war. So the Spartans sent an ultimatum to Athens, demanding that they lift the siege of Potidaea, give Aegina her freedom, and revoke the decree boycotting Megarians.
In the Athenian assembly Pericles spoke against making any concessions, saying the Spartans were refusing their offers of arbitration. He said they would give Megara access to their markets if the Spartans would no longer expel aliens. However, he would not allow any allies to be independent unless they were so at the time of the peace treaty and only if the Spartans would give independence and free choice of government to their allies. Thus neither side would give in, and negotiations ended.
With war declared, 300 Thebans snuck into Plataea at night and attacked those who supported Athenian alliance. When the Plataeans realized how few they were, they attacked the Thebans and captured 180 of them, executing them. The thirty-year treaty was now definitely broken, and Athens and Sparta both prepared for war. Although he seemed to be writing from the Athenian point of view (being an Athenian general early in the war), Thucydides nevertheless wrote that the people's feelings were mostly on the side of the Spartans as liberators of Hellas (Greece). The Spartans' messenger sent to Athens was turned away by Pericles, because the Spartans had already started to march on Attica. Because King Archidamus was his friend, Pericles offered to give his estate to Athens if it was spared by the enemy. Without calling an assembly because of the angry feelings, Pericles initiated the strategy of withdrawing the people and their property from the countryside and refusing to engage the enemy on land except with some cavalry. The people of Aegina were replaced with Athenian colonists. The Spartan army laid waste much of Attica and then withdrew. Almost every year they would invade but with little consequence for the war. Pericles led an attack of 100 ships on Megara, laying waste that area before returning to Athens.
The Athenians by tradition held a public funeral of the first to die in war during the year. Thucydides gave his version of what Pericles might have said in 431 BC, the first year of the war. He spoke in pride of their democracy in which everyone is equal before the law, and people attain public responsibility by ability even if poor. Pericles contrasted Athenian education with the restrictions of the Spartans; yet Athenians do not lack courage in an emergency even though they have not been practicing for it all the time. Their love of beauty has not made them extravagant nor their love of the mind soft. They consider wealth useful, not something to boast about. With its arts and culture Athens has become an education for Greece. Pericles urged them to believe that happiness depends on freedom, which depends on courage.
The next year the Peloponnesians invaded Attica again, and as the Delphic oracle predicted, death followed the coming of the Dorians; but the death turned out to be from the plague, which had spread from Ethiopia to Egypt and western Asia. The extreme overcrowding in Athens made the disease devastating. The people sent ambassadors to Sparta to make peace; but when this failed, they were hopeless. Pericles tried to encourage their spirits by considering the interests of the state more than their private concerns; he argued that war is still preferable to slavery. If they wanted the privileges of empire, then they must shoulder the burdens as well; thus they were not really fighting for freedom from slavery but to maintain their empire, which like tyranny may be wrong to take but dangerous to let go. Pericles proudly proclaimed that Athens is the most powerful state, because they have never given in to adversity and have spent more effort in warfare than anyone. Convinced by him, the Athenians sent no more embassies to Sparta and devoted themselves to the war. However, not all agreed, and Pericles was charged with corruption and forced to pay a fine; nonetheless he was re-elected general and maintained his leadership until he died in 429 BC. One of his last actions was to urge repeal of the law restricting citizenship.
Both sides were executing prisoners; but when Potidaea finally surrendered, the people were allowed to leave. In 429 BC the Peloponnesians marched against Plataea, placing it under siege. Athens said they would help; but suffering the plague, they could not do much. Some Plataeans tried to escape by climbing the walls, and 212 made it to Athens; but 200 Plataeans and 25 Athenians were put to death, and the city was razed. Led by Phormio, the Athenians won a naval victory in the western sea near Naupactus.
As Archidamus was invading Attica for the third time in 428 BC, Mytilene and other cities on Lesbos revolted. Lesbos and Chios were the only allies of Athens that still had their own navies. Mytilene ambassadors made an appeal to the Spartans and their allies at the Olympic games, saying that their alliance with Athens was supposed to liberate Greeks from Persian domination, but it had become subjugation to Athens instead. Gradually all but Lesbos and Chios had become subservient to Athens. They noted the financial power of Athens, which came from the tribute, and pleaded that this would become even greater if they were conquered; but if the Peloponnesians would help them, the power of Athens could be broken, and the Lesbian navy could strengthen them. The Spartans and their allies accepted Lesbos into their alliance.
Athens blockaded the two harbors of Mytilene and tried to raise more tribute and even instituted property taxes to support the war, yielding 200 talents the first year. Fearing the people would negotiate separately because of lack of food, the Mytilene government capitulated. More than a thousand leaders of the Mytilene revolt were sent to Athens and were eventually executed, but the assembly also voted to put to death all the men in Mytilene and enslave the women and children. However, this cruel policy for maintaining empire promoted by Cleon was answered by Diodotus, who argued that this would not deter others but lead cities not to surrender and would alienate other popular parties. So the Athenians sent another ship to Mytilene to countermand the previous order, and the people of Lesbos were spared, though much of their land was given to Athenians. The Spartan general Alcidas, who had put to death many prisoners, was also persuaded that this turned potential friends into enemies and was no way to liberate Greece. So Alcidas released his prisoners from Chios and others.
Meanwhile the Corcyraean hostages taken by the Corinthians were released in order to persuade their countrymen not to support the Athenian alliance. First they charged the democratic leader Peithias with enslaving Corcyra to the Athenians, but he was acquitted. However, when Peithias brought five rich men to trial, the oligarchs broke into the council with daggers and killed Peithias and sixty others, taking over the government. A civil war erupted, but 12 Athenian ships arrived and supported the democrats. Alcidas came a few days later with 53 Peloponnesian ships but fled when he heard that 60 more Athenian ships were on the way. The democrats used their advantage to kill most of the 400 suppliants in the temple of Hera. Thucydides commented how the war made these political conflicts so much more virulent and deadly as they appealed to each side for military aid. He diagnosed the main cause as the love of power, which was exacerbated by violent fanaticism. Conscientious motives were ignored as the most extreme views prevailed, causing a deterioration of character in the Greek world. Law and order broke down and were replaced by revenge and oppression.
In the west the Athenians led by Demosthenes failed to conquer Aetolia but defended Naupactus and Amphilochian Argos, defeating and killing many Ambraciots but not taking Ambracia, because the Acarnians and Amphilochians did not want it in the Athenian alliance; instead these three made a mutual defense treaty for 100 years. In the north the Spartans, led by Brasidas, marched through Thessaly, got the Chalcidians and Acanthians to join them, and took over Amphipolis, which had supplied Athens with valuable timber and revenue. In his speech to the Acanthians, Brasidas offered them freedom without attempting to influence their form of government; he said the Spartans had no imperialistic ambitions but were attempting to end imperialism and free Greece.
On the way to subduing the Corcyraean oligarchs holding out at Mount Istone, the generals Eurymedon and Sophocles dropped Demosthenes off with five ships to fortify Pylos in Messenia. The Lacedaemonians sent a force to the island of Sphacteria but could not dislodge the Athenians, whose navy returned to surround Sphacteria. In Athens the aggressive Cleon criticized the generals so boldly that he was assigned the generalship himself and with 14,000 troops captured 290 hoplites, including 120 Spartan citizens. The Greek world was amazed that the Spartans would surrender their weapons, and these hostages made the Spartans more eager for peace. Using Messenians, who knew the local language, the Athenian allies at Pylos could make guerrilla raids into Laconia. Afraid of a Helot revolution, the Spartans went so far as to have the Helots select 2,000 outstanding soldiers and put garlands on their heads as though they would be freed, but then they put them to death. The annual Spartan invasions of Attica were halted.
With this success the Athenians, led by Cleon, were in no mood for peace. Athens greatly increased the tribute from their empire, adding a hundred new cities to the list. Cleon also got the jurors' pay raised from two to three obols to relieve the distress of the poor at home. Nicias, a more cautious Athenian general, managed to gain some Corinthian territory, garrisoned Methone, took the Peloponnesian island of Cythera, and blockaded the Megarian port of Nisaea. However, the efforts of Demosthenes and Hippocrates to invade Boeotia led to the death of Hippocrates and Athenian defeat at Delium, where they were criticized for taking over a temple. In Thrace the Spartan general Brasidas was able to win over the city of Amphipolis that was revolting from the Athenian empire, for which the Athenian general Thucydides was blamed and banished to become a great historian. The Athenians had prevented agreement between Sparta and Persia by intercepting their messengers. After Darius II came to throne in 424 BC, Athens renewed its peace with Persia.
In Sicily at the congress of Gela the Syracusan leader Hermocrates made a great speech for peace that kept the Sicilians out of the war in 424 BC. According to Thucydides, Hermocrates spoke of the great blessings of peace that has its own honors and glories, while the miseries of war could never be counted. Many seeking to punish aggression have been destroyed; attempts to redress injury are not always successful. Choosing freedom and independence, they should dismiss their enemies from their territory for as long as possible. Why injure enemies only to ruin oneself? Hermocrates was willing to make reasonable concessions, though they would unite to resist foreign invasion. He warned against calling in allies from outside. The Sicilians took his advice and made peace among themselves, inspiring the Athenians to sail away, although the Athenians later banished Pythodorus and Sophocles, the generals who did so.
The Spartans and Athenians agreed on an armistice for one year in 423 BC, and Cleon was not elected general, though he did manage to get the Athenians to decree the recapture of Scione and the killing of its male inhabitants. The next year Cleon was elected general and set out with 30 ships for Amphipolis; the Athenians lost the battle there, and both Cleon and Brasidas were killed, removing the greatest obstacle to peace on each side and making the Athenians more willing to accept peace.
In 421 BC the recalled Spartan king Pleistoanax and the Athenian general Nicias agreed on a peace for fifty years; both sides agreed to restore several cities that had been taken in the war, and all the captives were to be released. However, Sparta's strongest allies - Corinth, Boeotia, Megara, and Elis - all opposed the treaty but were outvoted by the smaller states; they particularly objected to the clause that allowed Sparta and Athens to modify the treaty by themselves. When these allies would not accept the treaty, Sparta made an alliance with Athens, also because their thirty-year truce with Argos had expired, and they did not want to fight both Athens and Argos. The Athenians even agreed to aid the Spartans if they had a Helot uprising. Corinth, Mantinea, Elis, and the Chalcidians, who refused to give up Amphipolis, all joined the alliance with Argos. Sparta said they would join with Athens to make these states fulfill the treaty, but Athens suspected Sparta of bad faith and refused to give up Pylos and Cythera, though now allied they did release the captives taken at Sphacteria. Boeotia, which had gained more in the war than anyone, refused to join the alliance of Argos and Corinth but sided with Sparta, causing friction between Sparta and Athens by not accepting the peace treaty.
Peace prospects dimmed when the Spartans elected two anti-Athenian ephors and the Athenians did not re-elect Nicias but did elect 30-year-old Alcibiades, who had been raised by Pericles after his father died. Holding a grudge against the Spartans because they had previously snubbed him due to his youth, Alcibiades manipulated a break with the Spartan envoys and an alliance with Argos, Mantinea, and Elis, which led to a joint attack on Epidaurus that was defended by Sparta, causing the Athenians to blame the Lacedaemonians for breaking the peace treaty. However, in 418 BC Nicias was elected general while Alcibiades was not, though the alliance with Argos remained. Spartan king Agis invaded Argive territory, but he made a four-month truce with the generals of Argos, which was very unpopular with the troops of both sides.
However, Alcibiades convinced the Athenians to ignore the truce as unratified, and the allies took Orchomenus in Arcadia but were defeated by the Spartans in Mantinea. This stimulated a political change in Argos from democracy to oligarchy, and that city along with Mantinea and Elis abandoned their alliance with Athens to join Sparta. Yet while the Spartans were celebrating the Gymnopaedic festival, the democrats overthrew the oligarchs in Argos and built long walls with the help of the Athenians. The next year, however, the Spartans came and demolished the walls and put to death all the free men they could find.
In Athens Hyperbolus tried to get rid of the conservative Nicias by proposing an ostracism vote, figuring that opposing votes would be split between himself and Alcibiades; but when Alcibiades deserted the democrats and aligned himself with Nicias, Hyperbolus himself became the last Athenian to be ostracized. The cautious Nicias and the impulsive Alcibiades failed to win back Amphipolis but gave Melos the same cruel treatment as Scione. Thucydides recorded a dramatic dialog between the Athenians and Melians in which the latter pleaded not to be enslaved, asking to be neutral friends. The Athenians wanted to increase the size and security of their empire, though the Melians pointed out this was only increasing their enemies. The Athenians claimed the law of nature to rule by power; they offered liberty as long as the Melians would pay tribute to them. The Dorian Melians wanted to be friends; but if forced to choose, they preferred their own independence with the help of the Spartans. Unable to agree, the Athenians besieged Melos, and after sending for reinforcements, killed all the men and enslaved the women and children.
In 416 BC a war broke out in western Sicily, and Egesta asked Athens for aid against Selinus and deceived the Athenians into thinking they were a wealthy city. Alcibiades promoted the intervention as empire building, but Nicias was opposed and pointed out the dangers and immense cost. So the Athenians voted for 100 triremes instead of 60 and appointed Nicias, Alcibiades, and Lamachus generals. Probably wanting to conquer Sicily, the Athenians did not seem to realize that Dorian Syracuse was a large and powerful city and as a Corinthian colony their likely enemy. The night before the expedition was to leave someone (probably enemy saboteurs) mutilated numerous statues of Hermes throughout Athens. Alcibiades was accused of profaning the Eleusinian mysteries that night, a very serious religious violation to Athenians. He wanted to answer the charges; but because Argive and Mantinean auxiliaries had joined the expedition because of Alcibiades, his trial was postponed.
The Athenians embarked for Sicily on 134 triremes with 5,100 hoplites and a total force of more than 30,000. The cautious strategy of Nicias and Alcibiades to use diplomacy and small engagements won over Naxos and Catane, which became the Athenian base. Alcibiades was recalled to stand trial for impiety and escaped enroute, going over to the Spartans. The Athenians condemned the absent Alcibiades to death, and his property was confiscated. After 300 people had been implicated in the sacrilege, the orator Andocides was given immunity and confessed to save his father and others who were not involved; the 22 he named were executed.
The Athenians won a battle at Catane against the Syracusans led by Hermocrates, but Nicias failed to press his advantage. In a debate at Camarina, Hermocrates accused the Athenians of trying to win another empire, although they were arguing that they were supporting the Leontinians, who were from Chalcis; but he pointed out that Chalcidians were subjugated to the Athenian empire in Euboea. The Athenians admitted that they held their empire by fear but claimed they were concerned about security, not enslaving anyone. Camarina decided to remain neutral but later supported Syracuse. Meanwhile Alcibiades urged the Spartans to take and fortify strategic Decelea in Attica and to reinforce Syracuse. The Spartans sent a force led by Gylippus, and the Corinthians contributed ships. The Athenians besieged Syracuse; Lamachus was killed in action, and Nicias suffered a kidney disease and wrote Athens for reinforcements, asking to be replaced.
The Athenians sent a second expedition to Syracuse led by Eurymedon and Demosthenes with 73 triremes and 5,000 hoplites; but in the narrow harbor of Syracuse the Athenians were at a disadvantage, and the Syracusans, like the Greeks against the Persians at Salamis, were fighting for their freedom against invaders. Even an Athenian attempt to retreat was blocked by superstition regarding an eclipse of the moon. Finally the Athenians had to surrender, and 7,000 were enslaved to quarry labor in a miserable dungeon for six months, though their allies got out sooner. The Spartans now decided that the Athenians had definitely broken the peace treaty, whereas they realized that in the earlier war they themselves had been at fault for not seeking arbitration and because the Thebans had attacked Plataea. King Agis led a force of Lacedaemonians into Attica to seize and fortify Decelea. According to Thucydides 20,000 slaves escaped captivity to this refuge.
To raise revenue the Athenians put a five percent tax on imports and exports by sea. The economizing Athenians dismissed some mercenaries from Thrace, who landed in Boeotia and massacred all the inhabitants of Mycalessus, including the women, children, and even the animals. Persian satraps in western Asia, Tissaphernes and Pharnabazus, saw the opportunity to regain some of the lost Persian empire by offering to support financially revolts in Chios and Lesbos; so they sent envoys to Sparta and agreed on the treaty of Miletus that acknowledged Persian sovereignty over its former territories. Facing these revolts, the Athenians voted to use the reserve of 1,000 talents set aside at the start of the war in 431 BC. In spite of numerous revolts the Athenians, using Samos as a base, won some naval victories.
Having fathered a child by the wife of King Agis, Alcibiades left Sparta and joined Tissaphernes at Miletus, where he urged the Persians to weaken both sides in the Greek conflict so that he could say he was getting Persian help for Athens and return home; his messages to Athenians encouraged them to change their form of government. So a group of oligarchs led by Peisander, Antiphon, and Theramenes plotted revolution in Athens. The democratic Androcles was murdered; anyone who spoke against the oligarchy ended up being killed. Calling an assembly outside the walls in a temple of Poseidon at Colonus, ten commissioners recommended repealing the law that prosecuted anyone who proposed changing existing laws. The Athenians voted for that and then abolished existing magistrates and appointed five men to choose one hundred men, who in turn each chose three, making a government of 400. These 400 entered the council chamber with daggers and a bodyguard and dismissed the democratic council of 500. To economize, all pay for political office was abolished.
In Samos 300 attempted an armed revolution and killed the ostracized Hyperbolus. Most of the democrats were in the navy at Samos, and they overthrew these oligarchs and their generals, executing thirty of them. Thrasybulus brought in Alcibiades as a general after Peisander persuaded the Athenians that their only hope against the strengthened Peloponnesian alliance was for Alcibiades to arrange an alliance with Persia. When ten envoys from the 400 arrived in Samos, they pleaded that the 5,000 would govern but were not believed. Alcibiades restrained the troops from sailing to Athens to overthrow the 400, but he sent a message insisting that the 400 be replaced by the traditional council of 500 and approving of the economies to ensure supplies for the troops.
In Athens this message encouraged those who wanted to desert the oligarchy. The oligarchs sent Antiphon and Phrynichus to negotiate peace with the Lacedaemonians, but refusing to give up control of the sea, the Athenians broke off negotiations; on his return Phrynichus was assassinated in the marketplace. Theramenes went to Peiraeus to quell the mutiny but decided to join it, calling for rule by 5,000 instead of the 400. When the mutineers marched to the city, a Peloponnesian fleet arrived heading for Oropus. The Athenians sent ships to Eretria, where they were defeated, causing most of Euboea to rebel. This threatened their supplies since Attica could no longer be farmed because of Decelea. So the Athenians deposed the 400 and entrusted the government to the 5,000, whose property qualified them to be hoplites. After ruling for a summer most of the 400 escaped to Decelea, but Antiphon and Archeptolemus were executed for treason. The Athenians managed to end the eventful year of 411 BC with a naval victory at Cynossema.
Alcibiades met Tissaphernes at Sardis and was arrested by him, but he escaped to Clazomenae. The Athenian generals Thrasybulus, Theramenes, and Alcibiades joined together to defeat the Peloponnesians at Cyzicus, where Pharnabazus was supporting their siege with a Persian force on land. 60 or 80 Peloponnesian ships were destroyed, and an intercepted Laconic message read, "Ships lost, Mindarus dead, men starving, in doubt what to do." Sparta sent Endius to Athens to propose a peace that would withdraw garrisons, exchange prisoners, and maintain the current balance; but the Athenians declined as the democratic leader Cleophon urged them to fight on and instituted public works projects and a daily two-obol payment to help the poor. A law was also passed stating that anyone who overthrows the democracy or holds office after the democracy is overthrown can be killed with impunity. Pharnabazus came to the aid of the despondent Spartans by providing money to build them more ships; when the Athenians led by Alcibiades besieged Calchedon, Pharnabazus paid the Athenians twenty talents for the Calchedonians and promised safe passage of Athenian envoys to the Persian king, as Alcibiades and Pharanabazus exchanged oaths.
Alcibiades also helped the Athenians win back cities in the Hellespont area, and they could now acquire revenue collecting ten percent customs at Chrysopolis. However, they lost control of Nisaea to Megara and Pylos to Sparta. Anytus was tried in Athens after he could not reach Pylos because of bad weather, and it was said that he was the first Athenian to be acquitted because of bribery. Darius II sent his son Cyrus to rule Cappadocia, Phrygia, and Lydia, and his support for Sparta ended Athenian attempts for Persian help. Some Greeks resented the interference of the Persians, and at the Olympic games in 408 BC the famous rhetorician Gorgias of Leontini suggested that the Greeks stop accepting Persian support but fight them instead. Thrasyllus captured four Syracusan triremes between Ephesus and Abydus, sending the prisoners to Athens to work in the quarries of Pireaus.
Cyrus brought 500 talents for the Peloponnesian war effort, and the new Spartan admiral Lysander talked Cyrus into paying Peloponnesian rowers four obols per day instead of three so that men would be tempted to desert the Athenians. Alcibiades got a hundred talents from Caria, while Thrasybulus attacked Thrace; the Athenians chose them and Conon as generals. Alcibiades returned to Athens in 407 BC with apprehension, but he was welcomed and successfully defended himself before the senate and assembly; his condemnations were revoked, and his property was restored. He organized the processional march to Eleusis under armed protection after it had to go by sea for seven years. Lysander craftily declined a naval battle with Alcibiades, and so the latter instructed the pilot Antiochus not to engage the navy of Lysander while he plundered Cyme even though it was part of the Athenian empire; they tried to defend their possessions and complained to Athens. Lysander lured Antiochus into a battle that lost fifteen Athenian ships. Then the Lacedaemonians took Teos and Delphinium. With these setbacks and blunders Alcibiades was not re-elected general and retired to his private fortress in the Chersonese.
Lacking pay, Conon reduced the number of triremes at Samos from 100 to 70. When Lysander's year of command expired, he returned what money he had to Cyrus. So his replacement Callicratidas had to go begging to Cyrus and impatiently left after two days when he was told Cyrus was busy drinking. However, with a fleet of mostly Boeotian and Euboean ships this noble Spartan was able to win over Phocaea, Cyme, and Methymna, where he went against the wishes of his allies and freed his Greek prisoners, saying he would never enslave a Greek. Next Callicratidas trapped Conon's ships in the harbor at Mytilene. Cyrus renewed Persian support, and the Peloponnesian navy soon had 170 ships. One Athenian ship was able to escape from Mytilene and get to Athens, and the Athenians melted down gold and silver from temples to build 110 ships in one month. A great naval battle was fought at Arginusae; 25 Athenians ships were lost, but three times as many Peloponnesian ships were destroyed. Athenian slaves that had been pressed into service were given their freedom.
When it was discovered that no ships had gone back to rescue the survivors and recover the corpses, charges were made against eight of the generals by Theramenes and Thrasybulus, the two who were supposed to have been ordered to head the rescue mission. They explained they could not do so because of a storm, but somehow they still blamed the generals and convinced both the assembly and senate to condemn the eight generals to death by single votes without legal trials, probably because of an emotional religious festival in which the families of the hundreds of dead must have aroused powerful emotions of grief. Because of threats, only the philosopher Socrates refused to cooperate with the wrong procedure, and the six generals were executed by hemlock poisoning, though the Athenians later repented.
The able Lysander in charge again visited Cyrus who, leaving Sardis to go to the ill King Darius, entrusted the administration of his satrapy and all its tribute to the disciplined Spartan. With plenty of money to hire sailors, Lysander took Lampsacus. After the Athenian generals ignored Alcibiades' advice about their vulnerable position at Aegospotami, Lysander captured 160 of their galleys without losing a ship and put to death more than 3,000 Athenians. Only the general Adeimantus was spared, because he alone had opposed the new Athenian policy of cutting off the right hands (or thumbs) of prisoners, though some believed it was because he had betrayed the Athenians.
As the Athenian alliance and empire quickly fell apart, Lysander sent the Athenians home so that the city would run out of supplies even sooner. He occupied Aegina and Salamis and blockaded the Piraeus with 150 ships, while Spartan king Pausanias and Argive allies camped in the Academy west of Athens. Afraid they might be treated as cruelly as they had those in Melos and Scione, the Athenians refused to agree to tear down their walls for a peace treaty. However, the Athenians, starving to death, finally executed the resisting Cleophon on the charge he evaded his military duty, and only after Theramenes spent four months negotiating did the dying Athenians finally agree to terms.
Although Corinth and Thebes wanted their commercial rival destroyed, Sparta out of respect for past Athenian heroism against Persia was not vindictive. The long walls were to be torn down; the fortifications of the Piraeus were to be destroyed; all foreign possessions were lost, though Athens remained independent with twelve triremes; all exiles were to come home; Athens became an ally of Sparta and agreed to follow Spartan leadership. The Athenian fortifications and walls were enthusiastically demolished while women played flutes; Xenophon called that day the beginning of liberty for Greece.
How much misery Greek warlike ways had caused! The Athenians, who had defended themselves so bravely from Persian imperialism, proceeded to defend other Greeks; but seduced by their grandiose role and the tribute it garnered, they became oppressive and imperialistic themselves. Other aggressive Greeks, particularly the Spartans, resented this, and a long war resulted, which could have been stopped on several occasions. Instead the Athenians took the war to the west but were defeated in Sicily. Finally their empire's wealth was spent, and amid dissension Athens ironically lost their navy to the Peloponnesian land power that had become a sea power too by force of war. The violence of a 27-year war had almost become a way of life to the Greeks.
According to Thucydides during the Peloponnesian War in 424 BC the Spartan general Brasidas had told the Thracians that the Peloponnesians did not seek empire but were struggling to end Athenian imperialism; Brasidas offered autonomy to Thrace, and his policy was confirmed in oaths by the Spartan ephors. However, twenty years later Lysander reversed this policy by setting up oligarchies, which tended to be less just than the democracies that Athens had promoted. By the end of the Peloponnesian War both Sparta and Athens were making agreements with Persia to recognize their Greek holdings in Asia, a reversal of the original purpose of the Delian league, whose growing Athenian power had brought on the Peloponnesian War in the first place.
Encouraged by Lysander, a conspiracy of oligarchs had overthrown the government at Miletus, killing 340 and exiling a thousand. The forces at Samos resisted and then capitulated, and an oligarchy was established there. Many oligarchies of ten rulers were set up by Lysander around the Aegean Sea supported by Lacedaemonian garrisons led by a harmost. Lysander called an assembly and told the Athenians to appoint thirty men to head the government. When Theramenes objected, pointing out that the peace treaty stated that the Athenians should enjoy the government of their fathers, Lysander said the Athenians had broken the treaty by not destroying their walls in time; he threatened to put Theramenes to death if he did not stop opposing the Lacedaemonians. Thus terrorized by Lysander, the Athenians elected an oligarchy of thirty men, who selected a council of 500, ten officers to administer Piraeus and eleven for prison and executions.
Led by Critias, the Thirty began by executing those who had been informers during the democracy. Then they asked for an armed guard of Spartans, and Lysander sent a garrison of 700. Next the Thirty condemned to death many who merely opposed them, but Theramenes, who was one of the Thirty, started objecting. So they appointed 3,000 citizens; but when everyone else was deprived of their arms, Theramenes complained again. When each of the Thirty was supposed to condemn a resident alien in order to seize their property, Theramenes said it was not noble to go beyond the informers in injustice.
So Critias prosecuted Theramenes in the council for taking different sides too much and reminded Athenians that Theramenes had accused the generals when he had been ordered to pick up the ship-wrecked sailors at Arginusae. In his defense Theramenes pointed to the execution of Leon of Salamis (whom Socrates had refused to arrest) as an example of how they had executed the innocent and to Niceratus, son of Nicias, who was killed for his wealth. Theramenes was not willing to issue a death warrant arbitrarily. He criticized the importing of foreign mercenary guards. Finally Critias declared Theramenes no longer a member of the 3,000 so that the Thirty could condemn him to death, and the Eleven forcibly removed him from the council chamber and gave him the poisonous hemlock.
As many as 1500 Athenians may have been executed without real trials; as people were evicted from their estates, they fled to Megara and Thebes, which disobeyed Spartan edicts against harboring Athenians. The tyrannical Thirty even tried to prohibit teaching the art of words. Thrasybulus organized seventy fugitives in Thebes and took the fortress at Phyle. The Thirty sent a garrison against them; but they fought them off, and a sudden snowstorm prevented a siege. Soon Thrasybulus had a thousand followers and went to Piraeus; he roused their spirits with the idea that right and the gods were on their side. In the ensuing battle Critias was killed, and a herald tried to win over the 3,000 hoplites by persuasion. Finally the 3,000 deposed the Thirty and appointed a new Ten, one from each tribe. The most violent of the Thirty retreated to Eleusis, which they had previously taken over, and asked for Spartan help. Lysander brought an army, but the Spartan king Pausanias persuaded the ephors to appoint himself instead. After a defeat by the Spartans, Thrabsybulus was encouraged to ask for a truce, which led to a general amnesty except for the Thirty, the Ten, and the Eleven who had committed the judicial murders; Eleusis was made independent and open to anyone who wanted to go there.
Phormisius proposed that Athenian citizenship be restricted to those with landed property; but the rhetorician Lysias argued for a larger and more democratic citizenry, and the proposal was defeated. Lysias had been expelled a decade before with 300 prominent pro-Athenians from Thurii in Italy and became an arms manufacturer in Athens. He prosecuted Eratosthenes, one of the Thirty, for the unjustified execution of Polemarchus, the brother of Lysias. The wealthy Lysias had escaped from the Thirty and had given the revolutionaries led by Thrasybulus money and arms. Eratosthenes defended himself by saying that he had to carry out the government's commands out of fear. Yet Lysias argued that Eratosthenes, as one of the Thirty, was part of the government and one of those who went to Eleusis and imprisoned and sentenced to death 300 Athenians. A resident alien from Italy, Lysias soon lost his Athenian citizenship but wrote numerous speeches for others to use in the lawcourts and assembly, although he was not allowed to speak there himself.
Athens went back to the old laws of Solon and Dracon, while a new constitution was being devised. Two years later Athenians attacked Eleusis and put to death its generals. The new laws included a long calendar of religious sacrifices. The council of 500 was chosen by lot, and pay for attending the public assembly was re-instituted. The magistrates were not allowed to permit or act upon any law contrary to this constitution, and no hardship could be inflicted upon an individual without a secret ballot by the 6,000 citizens; all the laws and arbitrary acts under the Thirty were annulled. Athenian citizenship was restricted to the sons of citizens on both sides. The new democracy was to last eighty years until the Macedonians took control. The Spartans essentially took over the Athenian empire, collecting perhaps a thousand talents of tribute annually. Alcibiades was murdered, probably by order of both Lysander and Cyrus.
Eleians had excluded Sparta from the Olympic games of 420 BC because of their fighting Argos and Mantineia. Later they refused to allow Spartan king Agis to sacrifice at Olympia, and so the Lacedaemonians demanded they pay tribute for the long war against Athens and that they allow their townships to be independent. When the Eleians refused, Agis marched an army against them; but he turned back when an earthquake was interpreted as a bad sign. However, the next year Agis, joined by cities who threw off their subjection to Elis, sacrificed, plundered Eleian territory, and left a Spartan harmost and garrison that supported the oligarchs led by Xenias. Elis surrendered and joined the Spartan confederacy, though they were allowed to continue superintending the Olympic games. The Spartan enemies, the Messenians, were forced to leave that area and migrate to Sicily and Cyrene. Thebes and Corinth had refused to support either side in this little war.
Struggling with internal conflicts and war with the Thracians, the Byzantines asked the Spartans for a general. Clearchus was sent and given supreme authority, which he used to put to death the chief magistrates and most prominent citizens, killing and exiling the wealthy in order to appropriate their property. He used the money to hire mercenaries and was unwilling to give up his power; so the Spartans sent an army against him. Clearchus took his forces to Selymbria, where they were defeated by the Spartans; but Clearchus fled to Cyrus in Ionia. Cyrus had been given authority by his brother Artaxerxes over all the Persian satrapies on the Aegean Sea; Cyrus gave funds to Clearchus to raise a mercenary army. Cyrus also financed mercenary forces of Aristippus and Menon in Thessaly and mercenaries led by the Boeotian Proxenus, the Arcadians Agias and Sophaenetus, and an Achaean named Socrates, ostensibly for the siege against Miletus or to fight against the warlike Pisidians.
The detailed story of this army was written in the Anabasis by Xenophon, who joined as a friend of Proxenus. The philosopher Socrates had advised Xenophon to consult the Delphic oracle before undertaking this expedition and criticized him when he asked how best to undertake the journey instead of whether or not he should. With 13,000 Greeks and his own Persian army of 100,000 Cyrus, who proclaimed he envied the Greeks' liberty, led the troops east toward Pisidia; from there he said their objective was Syria. Finally Cyrus had to tell his generals and the army that his real purpose was to march on King Artaxerxes in Babylon. At the battle of Cunaxa in 401 BC the Greeks held their own against superior numbers, but after wounding his brother Artaxerxes, Cyrus was killed. With Cyrus dead all the Asiatics abandoned his cause, and about 10,000 Greeks stood alone in Mesopotamia. The satrap Tissaphernes invited the five generals and twenty captains to his tent along with a few soldiers. The captains and soldiers were all killed, and the generals were sent to the Persian court, where they were put to death. The Greek soldiers met and elected five new generals including Xenophon.
Xenophon portrayed himself making speeches, inspiring the soldiers to carry on and solve the problems they faced. The commanding general Cheirisophus explained that they would try to make their way through the hostile country homeward while inflicting the least possible damage, provided that they were given free passage; otherwise they would have to fight their way through by force. Of course without money or food they would have to steal the supplies they needed, if they were not given voluntarily under implied threat of force. Thus more often than not, they had to fight local forces as they journeyed. The only alternative was to found a city in Asia, but the Greeks wanted to get home. Harassed by the Persian army until they passed over the Carduchian mountains, they suffered the winter cold in Armenia, where they promised Tiribazus they would not pillage. In March they reached the Black Sea at Trapezus and celebrated with athletic contests.
Fearing these mercenary soldiers at the Bosphorus, Pharnabazus bribed the Spartan commander Anaxibius to offer them pay to come over to Byzantium. When the pay was not forthcoming, only another speech by Xenophon prevented a futile war against Lacedaemonian power. The remaining army of 6,000 crossed back over to Asia, won booty and ransom in a military attack on a wealthy Persian family, and then Xenophon could at last go home to Athens. Tissaphernes was trying to hang on to the Greek cities on the Asiatic coast and had attacked Cyme. The Ionian Greeks had asked for help from Sparta, and an army led by Thibron joined the Greek mercenaries that had marched more than 4,000 miles since they had first joined Cyrus.
The incompetent Thibron was soon replaced by Dercylidas who, having a grudge against Pharnabazus, made a truce with Tissaphernes so that he could attack his enemy. After her husband died, Pharnabazus had allowed Mania to rule the Aeolians until her son-in-law Meidias strangled her and killed her son. Arriving at this opportune moment, the Spartan Dercylidas used Meidias and gained control of the Troad, garnering treasures that had belonged to Pharnabazus to pay his men well. Dercylidas made truces with Pharnabazus and Tissaphernes again, sending ambassadors to the Great King at Susa, while the Spartan army went over to Bithynia for the winter. Next the Spartan ephors sent Dercylidas and his army over to Caria to establish garrisons there before returning to Ionia.
Apparently the abuses of power that had occurred under the Thirty at Athens also were allowed in other oligarchies of ten that had been set up by Lysander. At Oreus in Euboea the harmost Aristodemus killed a handsome youth who resisted his attentions, and in Boeotia two Spartans were not prosecuted for raping and killing two daughters of Scedasus.
Lysander argued against Leotychides succeeding his father King Agis in Sparta, because it was believed that the prince was the son of Alcibiades not Agis. This enabled Agesilaus to become king, although Lysander had hoped to broaden Spartan leadership beyond the two royal families. Spartan military victories had led to greater inequalities of wealth in Laconia. After finding bad omens in the sacrifices, Agesilaus discovered, probably with the help of the secret police, a conspiracy led by Cinadon, who was persuading those called "inferiors" that the number of Spartan citizens was so small that the rest could join with Helots and take power; but he was captured, tortured to reveal the conspirators, and executed for not wanting to be inferior to anyone in Lacedaemon.
In 396 BC Lysander persuaded Spartan king Agesilaus to lead 2,000 enfranchised Helots and 6,000 allies to Asia to support Greek autonomy from Persian domination. Imitating Agamemnon's great Trojan expedition, Agesilaus wanted to sacrifice at Aulis, but the Thebans would not allow this. The Persian satrap Tissaphernes took an oath to observe peace but quickly went back on his word, making Agesilaus believe the gods were on his side; so Agesilaus invaded Sardis. Influenced by the queen mother, who hated Tissaphernes for opposing her son Cyrus, the Persian king Artaxerxes II sent Tithraustes, who beheaded Tissaphernes. Tithraustes proposed to allow the Ionians autonomy if they would pay their original tribute to Persia, and if the Spartan army of Agesilaus would leave. Though king, Agesilaus had to consult with Sparta; but he agreed to a truce for six months, and supported with thirty talents from Tithraustes, moved on to the Phrygian territory of Pharnabazus, where his army ravaged the land up to the walls of Dascylion. However, after Pharnabazus reminded Agesilaus how the Persians had helped the Spartans win their war against Athens, Agesilaus agreed to leave his territory and respect it in the future, as long as he had other enemies to make war upon.
Tithraustes sent Timocrates of Rhodes to Greece with fifty talents to raise allies against the Lacedaemonians in Thebes, Corinth, Argos, and Athens. The Athenians took no gold, according to Xenophon, but were persuaded by the Thebans to join them. Meanwhile the Athenian admiral Conon, who had fled from the final battle at Aegospotami to Cyprus where he was received by Euagoras, by the advice of Pharnabazus was given command of a fleet of 300 Phoenician ships and took Rhodes away from the Spartans. In 394 BC the fleet of Conon and Pharnabazus met and defeated the Spartan fleet of mercenaries at Cnidus, capturing or destroying more than half their ships and killing Peisander. They followed up this victory by expelling Spartan harmosts from the coastal cities of Asia Minor, Pharnabazus agreeing with the persuasive Conon in promising not to fortify their citadels but granting them autonomy.
A border dispute between Phocis and Locris led the Phocians to appeal to Sparta and the Locrians to Thebes. The Thebans invaded Phocis and refused to negotiate an arbitration. Spartan king Pausanias marched an army into Boeotia but arrived after Lysander and many others had been killed. Pausanias, who agreed to a truce with Thebes, went into exile and was removed from his kingship by the Spartans. The Boeotians helped Medius, the tyrant of Larissa, to capture Pharsalus, and Larissa, Crannon, and Scotusa joined the Theban alliance. Led by Ismenias, Thebes took Heracleia and defeated the Spartan-dominated Phocians. The alliance of Thebes and Athens was joined by Corinth, Argos, Euboeans, Acarnians, Thracians, and others; in a major battle at the Corinthian isthmus they were defeated, losing 2800 men; but the Spartan side, supported by Elis, Sicyon, Epidaurus, Tegea, and Pellene, lost 1100. Agesilaus marched his Lacedaemonian forces down from the north, and deceiving his troops about the Cnidian naval defeat, won a victory for the Spartans against the allies at Coronea, but nonetheless had to evacuate Boeotia.
Pharnabazus and Conon now brought their fleet to the Peloponnesian coast taking Cythera, and Conon with financial support from Pharnabazus helped the Athenians rebuild their long walls and fortify their harbor at Piraeus. During a festival 120 prominent Sparta supporters, plotting a revolt in Corinth, were massacred in the marketplace, and the Corinthian government united itself with Argos. Younger philo-Laconians led by Pasimelus escaped to join with Praxitas of Sicyon and defeated the Corinthians, taking their town of Lechaeon but not its harbor. Corinthian walls were torn down, but the Athenians helped rebuild them. Guerrilla wars continued in the Corinthian area, as the Athenian Iphicrates used the quickness of light-armed peltasts he had equipped with better footwear to inflict casualties on the slower hoplites. However, Teleutias, the brother of Agesilaus, led a naval attack that captured the harbor at Lechaeon and the Corinthian walls. An attack by Iphicrates destroyed most of a Lacedaemonian division, causing Agesilaus to leave a garrison at Lechaeon and return home. Iphicrates took back Sidus, Crommyon, Peiraeum, and Oenoe; but arrogantly executing some pro-Argos leaders, he was recalled by Athens and replaced by Chabrias.
The Lacedaemonians sent Antalcidas to negotiate a peace with Tiribazus that would recognize Persian sovereignty over the Hellenic cities of Asia but declare all other Greek cities independent. Athens sent Andocides to Sparta, which accepted Athenian walls and control over Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros; but Andocides was not able to persuade the Athenian assembly to accept these terms even though Thebes was willing to give up Orchomenus. Andocides argued that it was in the Athenians' best interest to stop fighting, because their allies were not willing to help them retake their colonies and former empire; the desire of Argos to annex Corinth was holding them back. Andocides reviewed how Athens had made the mistake of choosing war instead of peace several times in the past. Whereas generals used secrecy and deception, Andocides was offering the Athenian people the opportunity to make a public and open peace. However, the Athenian Assembly rejected the peace treaty and banished Andocides and the other two envoys in 391 BC.
Agesilaus gained control of the isthmus for Sparta by taking Piraeon, and Spartans led by Teleutias used Aegina as a base to attack Piraeus. While secretly supporting Euagoras in Cyprus against their Persian allies, the Athenians also sent Thrasybulus with 40 ships to the Hellespont, where he won over Thasos, Samothrace, the Chersonese, Byzantium, Chalcedon, Clazomenae, and most of Lesbos. Needing revenue, the Athenians began taxing their allies' commerce at five percent. Thrasybulus raised money in Pamphylia; but when his soldiers also pillaged there, he was attacked and murdered by the people of Aspendus. Conon, who had been imprisoned by pro-Spartan Tiribazus, died on Cyprus. The Spartans sent out Anaxibius to contend for the Hellespont commercial traffic, but he was ambushed and defeated by the forces of Iphicrates.
Imperialist corruption may have been creeping back, as Ergocles, who had been on the expedition of Thrasybulus, was prosecuted for embezzlement in a speech written by Lysias. Though he was poor before the expedition, the property of Ergocles now valued at thirty talents was confiscated by the state, and he was executed. Lysias had given a patriotic funeral oration in 392 BC in which he praised Athenians fighting for justice, liberty, and democracy. He justified Athenian involvement in the Corinthian war as an effort to gain freedom and equal rights for cities controlled by Sparta. However, at the Olympic games in 388 BC, probably perturbed by the lavish display of wealth by Dionysius of Syracuse, Lysias made a speech in which he criticized the Greeks for their shameful plight in which many were subject to Persia, cities were ruled by tyrants, and they were torn apart by factions, rivalries, and wars. The Persian king Artaxerxes II controlled many with money and ships, as did the tyrant Dionysius of Sicily. They ought to cease their wars with each other and join to expel the tyrants and win their freedom for all in common. Lysias praised the valor, skill, and leadership of Sparta, but the mutual warfare of the Greeks had only strengthened their oppressors and prevented them from righting the wrongs.
Because of Athenian support for the revolt of Euagoras at Cyprus, Tiribazus was able to persuade Artaxerxes II to make peace with the Spartan diplomatic mission of Antalcidas, who was also able to extricate the Spartan fleet blockaded by Iphicrates at Abydus. With the help of Persian ships and twenty Syracusan ships contributed by their tyrant Dionysius, the Spartans turned the blockade at the Hellespont against the Athenians, and in 386 BC Athens agreed to accept the following peace:
The king, Artaxerxes, thinks it just that the cities in Asia, with the islands of Clazomenae and Cyprus, should belong to him; the rest of the Hellenic cities he thinks it just to have independent, both small and great, with the exception of Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros, which are to belong to Athens as of old. Should any parties concerned not accept this peace, I will make war upon them, along with those who share my views, by land and by sea, with ships and money.3
Eventually even the Thebans agreed to give up their confederacy. Spartan king Agesilaus threatened to make war against both Argos and Corinth if the Argive garrison was not removed from Corinth; it was removed, and the union of Argos and Corinth was dissolved.
Xenophon reported that this led to a general disarmament and the first real peace since the walls of Athens had been demolished. However, it was not long before the Spartans, believing the Mantineans were disloyal, demanded that Mantinea tear down their walls; but they refused. So King Agesipolis marched against them and undermined the walls by damming the river; he forced them to live as five separate villages instead of as a city. Pausanias, living in exile at Tegea, persuaded his son Agesipolis to spare the lives of sixty Mantinean leaders and allow them to go into exile. Xenophon considered the village life an improvement from demagoguery to an aristocracy, but the citizenship valued by most Greeks was restored later when Mantinea became independent. With the Boeotian federation dissolved, Sparta also placed harmosts in Plataea and Thespiae. Persia turned its forces on Euagoras of Cyprus, who was allied to their enemies in Egypt. Euagoras was besieged at Salamis and agreed to pay tribute, not as a slave but as a king, and was allowed this concession when Tiribazus was removed.
In the north a confederacy of Chalcidian cities that protected them from Illyrian attacks caused Macedonian king Amyntas to flee his own country. This growing alliance threatened to take over Acanthus and Apollonia, which appealed to Sparta for defense. The Spartan assembly voted for a small force led by Eudamidas which could not take on the Olynthians but prevented further encroachments and encouraged Potidaea to revolt. Phoebidas, the brother of Eudamidas, was sent with a larger force but was persuaded by the Theban polemarch Leontiadas to support a coup at Thebes that overthrew the other anti-Spartan polemarch Ismenias. This violated the peace but furthered Spartan interests; so Phoebidas was fined, but the Cadmean citadel was retained. Hypocritically the Spartans condemned and executed Ismenias for Medism even though they had agreed to Persian domination of Asian Greek cities in the Peace of Antalcidas.
Sparta also consolidated its power in the Peloponnese by taking Phlius by blockade. After both Teleutias and Agesipolis died in the struggle against Olynthus, the Spartans led by Polybiadas forced them to dissolve their league and with the other cities in the area join the Lacedaemonian alliance, while the Macedonian cities were restored to Amyntas, already Sparta's ally. Allied with the Syracusan Dionysius I in the west and Persian king Artaxerxes II in Asia, Sparta dominated the Greek world in between.
In 380 BC Isocrates wrote his Panegyric oration calling for the Greeks to stop fighting among themselves and unite against Persia. He suggested that the two great powers of Sparta and Athens share the leadership of Greece between them; they should use their power to take advantage of the Persians, not other Greeks. Although he acknowledged that Sparta had held the hegemony since the Peloponnesian War, he argued that now the Athenians could justly claim the leadership again. He reviewed the glorious history and culture of Athens, suggesting that Hellenic had come to mean more than a race but an intelligence available to all who share that culture. Athens had become a refuge and a champion of the oppressed, standing by the weaker even against her own interests rather than uniting with the stronger for her advantage. Isocrates rationalized Athenian imperialistic violations of Melos and Scione as severe discipline in time of war. He criticized the Lacedaemonians for invading Athens and for courting the favor of the Persians to enslave other Greeks, which was ratified in the Peace of Antalcidas. He resented the king of Persia dictating that the Greeks must fight against men asserting their right to freedom.
The Lacedaemonians had seized Thebes, laid siege to Olynthus and Phlius, and assisted Macedonian king Amyntas and Sicilian tyrant Dionysius. Instead of fighting other Greeks, Isocrates believed they should subjugate the Persians to the whole of Hellas and enjoy the wealth of their possessions. Greek mercenaries were selling themselves to fight other Greeks as in Cyprus. Isocrates argued that an enduring peace would come to them if they joined together to make war against Persia, annulling the treaty that was a disgrace and humiliation to Greece. I agree it would have been wise for the Greeks to stop fighting among themselves, but Isocrates failed to apply the same logic in regard to the Persians. If peace among the Greeks is better for all, why is not peace between the Greeks and Persians not also better? Isocrates was able to see beyond Greeks' rivalry of city states to Panhellenism, but he did not grasp the larger unity of humanity.
Even the generally pro-Spartan Xenophon noted the irony of how Sparta's violation of the peace in taking the acropolis at Thebes led to her downfall by that growing power. The despotic and cruel Theban government headed by Leontiadas was now supported by 1500 Lacedaemonians in the citadel. Theban fugitives went to Athens, just as the Athenians had fled to Thebes a quarter of a century before. Pelopidas and six others in disguise murdered the polemarchs, Leontiadas, and the other leaders, freed 150 political prisoners, and set up a democracy with Pelopidas as chief captain of Boeotia. As the people prepared to storm the Cadmea, the Spartan harmosts capitulated; two of them were executed when they returned to Sparta. With their army led by King Cleombrotus nearby, Lacedaemonian envoys demanded the Athenians punish two of their generals who had supported this revolution; one was executed and the other who had fled was banished.
However, when Sphodrias, the Spartan harmost of Thespiae, threatened the Piraeus and attacked Thria, the Spartans refused to condemn him because his son was the lover of the son of Agesilaus; Agesilaus said he believed in justice, but he made exceptions for his friends. So Athens allied itself with Thebes against Sparta, and in 378 BC the Athenians formed another league for defensive purposes but still acknowledged Persian rule over the Asian Greeks. The allies, which met separately in Athens, had a collective power equal to that of Athens itself and could propose measures and veto any Athenian measure. Their defense payments were called contributions instead of tribute, and Athenians were not to settle in their lands. The purpose of this league was inscribed on stone and read, "To force the Lacedaemonians to allow the Greeks to enjoy peace in freedom and independence, with their lands unviolated."4 The league was joined by 70 cities including Chios, Byzantium, Mytilene, Methymna, Rhodes, most of Euboea, Thebes, Thracian cities, the Chalcidic league, Corcyra, the powerful despot Jason of Pherae in Thessaly, and Alcetas a prince of Epirus. To raise money Athens had to reinstitute a property tax of about one percent.
For the next few years the Spartans invaded Boeotia and Thebes, while the Athenian navy attacked the Lacedaemonian confederacy. After four years the Thebans drove the Spartan garrisons out of Boeotia. Threatened with famine by a Spartan navy off Euboea, the Athenian Chabrias won a victory over the Lacedaemonians at Naxos, gained 17 more Aegean cities, and collected considerable money. The Athenian commander Timotheus, son of Conon, won over Corcyra without enslaving its people or changing its laws, but he ran out of money to pay his men. Theban successes and Athenian financial difficulties led to a peace between Athens and Sparta in 374 BC, but this was spoiled when Timotheus took over Zacynthus. Sparta reacted by sending a fleet under Mnasippus to Corcyra, which managed to kill Mnasippus and hold out until the Athenian fleet arrived to find the Lacedaemonians gone. Dionysius I sent ten ships from Sicily to Corcyra to support his Spartan allies; but an Athenian force led by Iphicrates defeated them, and Iphicrates set his men working on Corcyraean farms. The testimony of Jason and Alcetas prevented Timotheus from being condemned by the Athenians, but Timotheus went on to serve the Persian king in Egypt.
Battles over Phocis and Plataea alienated Thebes from Athens, though the plea of Isocrates to fight Thebes on behalf of Plataea was declined in Athens. In 371 BC Athenian envoys Callistratus and Callias made a peace with Sparta annulling their confederacies, withdrawing their governors from the cities, disbanding their armies and navies, and guaranteeing the cities independence. States were allowed to aid cities that were transgressed against, but no city was to be compelled to offer aid. However, when Epaminondas claimed the same status for the Boeotian towns as Laconian towns had with Sparta, Thebes was excluded from the treaty. The Boeotians had recently made a treaty with the powerful Jason, who had become tagus of a united Thessaly and commanded a large force of mercenaries. Since previously Sparta had failed to withdraw its garrisons, this time non-Spartan commissioners were appointed. Although Athens recalled Iphicrates' forces from Corcyra, the Spartans maintained their forces in Phocis and ordered King Cleombrotus to march against Thebes. In the Spartan assembly Prothous had argued that they should disband their army in accordance with their oaths, but his advice was ignored.
The army of Thebes met the larger Spartan forces at Leuctra, but the tactics of Epaminondas and Theban valor won a major victory, killing 400 Spartans including King Cleombrotus in an unprecedented Spartan military defeat that astounded the Greek world. The Spartans sent older soldiers under the command of Archidamus, son of Agesilaus; but before they arrived, Jason with his mercenaries from the north came and persuaded the Thebans to grant a truce to the Lacedaemoneans, who disbanded their forces and left Boeotia. Orchomenus submitted and was pardoned by Thebes; but the Thespians, who had chosen not to stand with the Boeotians, were expelled, and their territory was annexed by Thebes.
Jason went on to dismantle the Spartan fortifications of Heraclea that guarded the pass at Thermopylae and further indicated his ambitions by planning to control the upcoming Pythian games at Delphi. However, while he was reviewing his cavalry one day, seven young men assassinated him, setting off a struggle for power in which his brother Polyphron murdered his brother Polydorus and was murdered in turn by Alexander, the son of Polydorus. Some Thessalian cities turned to Alexander of Macedonia; but other Thessalians requested the aid of Thebes against both Alexanders, and Pelopidas helped Thessaly to form a federal union protected by Thebes.
Pelopidas also tried to resolve Macedonian domestic conflicts, but Ptolemy murdered Alexander and married his victim's mother Eurydice. Faced with another pretender to the throne, she turned to Iphicrates, who was commanding the nearby Athenian fleet and, as the adopted son of Amyntas, was the brother of Perdiccas and Philip. So Iphicrates helped Eurydice to expel the pretender and secure Perdiccas in the succession under the regency of Ptolemy. However, Pelopidas compelled Ptolemy into an alliance with Thebes and took young Philip to be trained in the military academy supervised by Epaminondas.
After the major Spartan defeat at Leuctra in 371 BC, the harmosts, which were to be voluntarily withdrawn from cities according to the treaty, were expelled, as cities reacted against their oligarchies with democratic revolutions. In Argos, which was independent, political violence put 1200 people to death - first the wealthy oligarchs and finally even popular leaders. Thebans in the Amphictyonic assembly at Delphi accused Sparta of having unlawfully captured their citadel by Phoebidas during the peace. The Amphictyons found the Spartans guilty and fined them 500 talents; when it was not paid, the fine was doubled, though enforcement was lacking.
Sparta soon lost control of its long-time supporters on the Peloponnesian peninsula, as the Mantinean Lycomedes persuaded Arcadian cities to form a federal union; Mantinea with support from Elis and Arcadians rebuilt its walls and city. A large new capital for this Arcadian union was built called Megalopolis, and forty Arcadian townships joined. The assembly of the 10,000 was made up of all the citizens; a council was elected; and a force of 5,000 was maintained. At Tegea political opponents fought in the assembly, killing the Pan-Arcadian Proxenus and others. When a Mantinean force arrived, the leaders opposing the union were caught, condemned, and put to death; 800 Tegeans from the defeated party went into exile at Sparta. This stimulated the Spartans to send an army led by Agesilaus into Arcadia to ravage the fields of Mantinea.
The Boeotians, supported by ten talents from Elis and led by Epaminondas, invaded and raided Lacedaemonian territory; but Sparta itself was saved by rivers swollen from winter rains. Sparta, whose number of citizens had decreased to about 1500, promised freedom to 6,000 Helots who would serve in the army and called upon their allies - Corinth, Sicyon, Phlius, and Pellene. During the winter Epaminondas took advantage of the weakened Sparta to liberate Messenia so that its ancient peoples could return from their long exile; their city was restored, and the Messenians were able to preserve their independence from Sparta.
The Athenians, responding to appeals from Sparta, Corinth, and Phlius, sent a force under Iphicrates to aid Sparta; but they did not bar the Theban army's passage back across the Corinthian isthmus. The next year Epaminondas, re-elected Boeotarch, returned with an army and fought his way through the Spartan-Athenian line to take Sicyon and Pellene but not Phlius. Dionysius I of Syracuse sent twenty ships with 2,000 Celtic and Iberian mercenaries to help Sparta, and Epaminondas decided to go home, where he was accused of treason and not re-elected. Now it was some of the Peloponnesian cities such as Sicyon that had to suffer Boeotian garrisons, while the Arcadians expanded their league to include Heraea, Orchomenus, and others. Spartans led by Archidamus caught the Arcadians pursuing a departing Syracusan force and killed many Arcadians without a single Spartan dying in what was called the "tearless battle."
Attempts to make peace at Delphi were blocked by Sparta's demand for Messenia and Athens' for Amphipolis, neither of which Thebes was willing to grant. All sides sent envoys to the Persian court, and in 367 BC Pelopidas was able to get Artaxerxes II to support Theban positions, recognizing the independence of Messenia and calling for Athens to lay up their warships. The Athenians accused their envoy Timagoras of accepting forty talents from the Persians, and he was executed. Thebes, however, was unable to get other Greek cities to accept the treaty. Meeting Alexander of Pherae at Pharsalus, Pelopidas was taken hostage. The cruel Alexander was said to have massacred the people of Meliboea and Scotussa, and it took two Theban invasions and the leadership of his friend Epaminondas to free Pelopidas. Two years later Perdiccas had his regent Ptolemy assassinated to revenge his brother Alexander, and by the diplomatic skill of Timotheus Macedonia shifted from Thebes to ally themselves with Athens.
Thebes sent Epaminondas, whose forces won over Achaean cities; but when he left them alone, the Arcadians complained that with constitutions unchanged they would likely return to Spartan loyalty. However, Theban attempts to dismantle oligarchies by banishing their leaders eventually resulted in these exiles overthrowing the democracies set up and expelling the Theban harmosts. In Sicyon Euphron established a democracy; but elected general, he soon became despotic. Arcadians, who had supported Euphron, drove him out when he became a tyrant. Euphron surrendered the harbor to the Lacedaemonians, but he was restored by Athenian mercenaries. Euphron then went to Thebes to persuade them to expel the aristocrats, but he was assassinated in the Cadmea by a Sicyonian, who convinced the Theban senate not to punish him for the tyrannicide. Nonetheless Euphron had been popular in Sicyon, and his son succeeded him there. Thebes was also finding hegemony problematic in Arcadia.
In 366 BC the Eritrean tyrant Themison helped pro-Theban exiles to seize Oropus, and Athens, which had retaken Oropus from Thebes a few years before, recalled Chares from Thyamia and marched forces there but got no support from their allies. When a Theban army arrived, the Athenians agreed to entrust Oropus to them pending arbitration; but the Thebans just kept it. Megalopolis had rejected the treaty presented by Pelopidas, and Lycomedes also persuaded the assembly of the 10,000 to negotiate an alliance with Athens, whom he then convinced to ally themselves with the Arcadians even though Athens' ally Sparta was at war with the Arcadians. However, on his way home from Athens Lycomedes happened to land among Mantinean exiles and was killed.
Disappointed by Corinth's failure to help them at Oropus, the Athenians voted to seize and occupy Corinth. Hearing of this, the Corinthians asked the Athenians to remove their garrisons, which they did, and the forces of Chares were politely refused admittance to the Corinthian port of Cenchreae. The Corinthians sent envoys to Thebes, saying they wanted peace and asking permission to send the same message to their Lacedaemonian allies, who insisted they were going to continue fighting as long as they were deprived of the Messenian territory. The Corinthians then went back to Thebes to make a peace, but the Thebans wanted an alliance, which the Corinthians believed would bring them into the war. Corinth was ready to make a just and equitable peace while recognizing Messenian independence, and the Thebans respecting that, oaths were taken by them, the Phliasians, Epidaurians, and others. In Athens the orator Isocrates defended Sparta's right to Messenia, but Alcidamus disagreed, proclaiming, "God has left all men free; nature has made no man a slave."5
Athens' desire to win back Amphipolis, though acknowledged by Persia, was impeded as cities in the Chalcidic league renounced their alliance with Athens and made a treaty with Amphipolis. When Ariobarzanes, the satrap of Phrygia, revolted from the Persian king, Athens supported him by sending thirty galleys under Timotheus, who besieged Samos for ten months before it capitulated. Athenian aid to Ariobarzanes was rewarded with the cession of Sestos and Crithote in the Chersonese. Athens sent settlers to Samos as its territory in a sign of renewed imperialism. Timotheus with Macedonia friendly compelled towns on the Chalcidic peninsula to join the Athenian alliance, and Athenian settlers were also sent to Potidaea. Yet in three years Iphicrates had failed to conquer Amphipolis; when he was recalled, Iphicrates, supported by the mercenary Charidemus who gave Amphipolis back their hostages, joined his Thracian father-in-law Cotys in his war against Athens.
Timotheus, taking on this war against Cotys, discovered a Theban navy in the Aegean. With the threat of losing Euboea to Athenian sea power, Epaminondas had persuaded the Thebans to build a hundred triremes, though Menecleidas had argued against this dangerous escalation of warfare. Resentment over Athenian imperialistic settlements led Byzantium and Ceos to rebel and Rhodes and Chios to negotiate with Epaminondas. Pelopidas led a Theban attack on Alexander at Pherae and was killed, but the next year the Thebans came back and forced Alexander to give over to Theban hegemony all his possessions except Pherae. When Thebes discovered a conspiracy in Orchomenus to overthrow their constitution, the Boeotian assembly voted to kill all the men and enslave the Orchomenian women and children.
When Elis tried to reclaim Triphylia, the Arcadians invaded twice; but Sparta supported Elis by fortifying Cromnon. The Olympic games of 364 BC supervised by the local Pisatans were disrupted by this fighting, and the retreating Eleians declared the festival nullified. When the Arcadians used the sacred treasures of Olympia to pay their federal troops, Mantinea seceded and joined its traditional foe Sparta against Tegea, Sparta's traditional ally. The federal administrators sent envoys to Thebes requesting their intervention; but the Pan-Arcadian assembly told Thebes not to come, and they made a peace treaty with Elis, restoring their authority over Olympia. When representatives were swearing to the peace at Tegea, the Boeotian commander arrested the anti-Theban leaders, though he released them when Mantinea protested. Epaminondas, resenting the release and the peace with Elis, promised to march into Arcadia.
Sparta and Athens both supported Mantinea, Elis, Achaea, and Phlius. These forces met the Theban army at Mantinea in 362 BC, and the strategy of Epaminondas triumphed once more; but he was killed pursuing the retreating enemy. As Epaminondas lay dying, he suggested two successors; but as both were dead, he told them to make peace. Peace was made, although Sparta did not accept it because the independence of Messenia was recognized. The treaty required people to return to their towns, but some people wanted to secede from Megalopolis. These Arcadians asked the Mantineans, Eleians and others to help them, while the Megalopolitans called on Thebes, which sent 3,000 hoplites and 300 cavalry under Pammenes to sack towns and compel these people to live in Megalopolis.
After Timotheus fought Cotys in the Chersonese, he was replaced by a series of six Athenian commanders one after another to protect the grain supplies from the Black Sea. Alexander of Pherae seized the island of Peparethus, defeated the Athenian forces under Leosthenes, and even plundered Piraeus, causing Athenians to condemn their commander and the able politician Callistratus, both of whom fled into exile. Years later when Callistratus returned from Macedonia to Athens and took sanctuary at the altar of the twelve gods, he was executed by the state. Corcyra got oligarchs back in power and left the Athenian league in 361 BC. Athens allied itself with the federation of Thessalians, and both sides agreed not to make a separate peace with Alexander of Pherae. Thracian king Cotys attacked and took Sestos by surprise in 360 BC, but he was assassinated the next year by two former students of Plato who were gratefully welcomed back to Athens.
Agesilaus, who for gold had supported Ariobarzanes' revolt in Asia Minor, now led a force of a thousand men to Egypt to support the Egyptian rebel Tachos, whom he served in Phoenicia. However, he considered it in Sparta's interest for his mercenaries to change sides to fight for Nektanebos in Egypt against Persia, for which he collected 230 talents for Sparta. King Agesilaus, who had once tried to conquer Persia and was much admired and praised by Xenophon in one of the first biographies ever, finally died in Africa at the age of 84 about 360 BC.
In the west with Spartan military help Syracuse had been able to defeat the Athenian invasion in 413 BC. Their leader Hermocrates was appointed to command their fleet that was sent to aid the Spartans in the Aegean, but the democratic movement led by Diocles in Syracuse banished Hermocrates. Magistrates were selected by lot and presided over the assembly, restricting the power of the generals, who had been able to dismiss the assembly. In 410 BC Segesta requested aid from Carthage in a quarrel with Selinus, and the latter was besieged by the western Phoenicians led by the elderly Hannibal who, avenging previous Carthaginian defeats in Sicily, destroyed the city and massacred 16,000, enslaving 5,000 while 2,600 escaped to Acragas. Hannibal then besieged Himera. Diocles led a force of 5,000 to relieve it; but afraid that Syracuse was going to be attacked, he took half Himera's people and departed. Hannibal's army broke into Himera, slaughtered 3,000 men, violated the women, and destroyed the city.
With money from Pharnabazus, Hermocrates came home with five triremes and a thousand mercenaries. Joined by a thousand Himeran refugees, he rebuilt Selinus. Soon his forces grew to 6,000 and raided the lands of Motya, Panormus, Solus, and Carthaginian Segesta. Diocles had neglected to have the dead buried at Himera; so when Hermocrates sent the bones to Syracuse in wagons, Diocles was banished. However, when Hermocrates tried to return to Syracuse, his band was attacked, and he was killed. A young follower of his named Dionysius was wounded.
Carthaginians returned to Sicily in 406 BC to besiege Acragas. Hannibal died in a pestilence, and the Phoenicians sacrificed a boy to their god Moloch. A large army from Syracuse, Gela, and Camarina attacked the eastern camp of the Carthaginians and routed them; but after the Acragantine generals refused to attack the fleeing enemy, the people stoned four of them to death. The Carthaginians rounded up 40 triremes and intercepted the supplies for Acragas, causing the Campanian mercenaries to mutiny and the Sicilian allies to desert Acragas. Many believed that the Spartan commander Dexippus had been bribed with 15 talents by Himilco. Finally the people of Acragas departed at night, and Acragas became a Carthaginian city.
In the Syracusan assembly Dionysius accused the generals of treachery and urged the people to destroy them without a trial. Such conduct drew a fine, but the wealthy historian Philistus paid it and told him to go on; the generals were deposed, and Dionysius was appointed to the new board. The exiled followers of Hermocrates were recalled, while Dionysius criticized the other members of the board and the rich. Dionysius marched to Gela, where he took the side of the democrats against the rich oligarchs, got the assembly to execute them, confiscated their wealth, and used it to pay the Spartan garrison's back wages and to double the pay of his Syracusan soldiers. Returning to Syracuse, Dionysius accused the other generals of plotting treachery with Himilco, claiming he had refused a bribe himself. The assembly elected Dionysius sole general with unlimited power to meet the crisis he had aroused.
Dionysius marched his army to Leontini, which now belonged to Syracuse, and claiming that his life was in danger, he got the Syracusan assembly meeting in Leontini to vote him a bodyguard of 600 that he soon increased. With his army of mercenaries organized, Dionysius returned to Syracuse and established himself in the island fortress. His supporters in the assembly condemned and executed the wealthy opposition leaders, Daphnaeus and Demarchus. Dionysius then married the daughter of Hermocrates, while his sister wed Polyxenus, brother of the late Hermocrates. The Spartan Dexippus and his mercenaries having been called away, Gela, defending itself against the siege of Himilco, asked for aid. Dionysius brought a large army; but the attack on the Carthaginian forces was bungled, and the people of Gela were evacuated instead. On the way back to Syracuse, Dionysius also ordered the people of Camarina to leave their home. The Italian allies deserted, and some Syracusan horseman rode ahead to his island fortress, plundered the tyrant's valuables, and killed his bride. However, Dionysius leading 700 mercenaries into Syracuse by another gate was able to quell the revolt.
Also in 405 BC Dionysius made a treaty with Himilco that recognized Carthaginian possessions on the southern shore of Sicily including Selinus, Himera, and Acragas, while Gela and Camarina had to destroy their fortifications and pay tribute to Carthage. The independence of the Sicels, Messana, and Leontini was recognized, but the Carthaginians guaranteed that "the Syracusans shall be subject to Dionysius."6 Dionysius had established himself as the tyrant of the most powerful city in Europe, which lasted 38 years protected by mercenary bodyguards and an island fortress at Syracuse. He used the confiscated estates of his enemies to supply the new citizens he created from enfranchised slaves. Dionysius was attempting to conquer Sicel tribes in the interior with his army at Herbessus in 403 BC when Syracusan troops killed their commander Doricus, and the mutiny spread among the army and the exiles at Aetna. Dionysius returned to his island fortress with his mercenaries and was besieged by 80 triremes from Messana and Rhegion. Dionysius deceptively agreed to leave Syracuse if they would give him five triremes, but he used Carthage's Campanian mercenaries to defeat the rebels instead. Rebels who returned were forgiven. The Campanians found a new home in Entella, where in one night they killed all the men and married their women.
The army of Dionysius overthrew the tyrant of Henna and took Aetna. Dionysius gained Catane and Naxos with gold and betrayal by bribing their generals; their people, who had opposed Syracuse in the Peloponnesian War, were sold as slaves; Naxos was destroyed, and its territory was given to the native Sicels. This treatment persuaded the Leontinians to migrate to Syracuse. However, the Rhegians sent 6,000 soldiers and 600 cavalry across the strait in 50 triremes and got Messana to join the war with 4,000 soldiers and 400 cavalry; but at the border the Messenian Laomedon persuaded the Messenians to give up the war because the people had not approved it, which caused the Rhegians to turn back also. Dionysius took his army back to Syracuse, and a peace treaty was made. However, when Dionysius asked to marry a Rhegian, and they offered only the executioner's daughter, animosity grew. When Aristeides of Locri said that he would rather see his daughter dead than married to a tyrant, Dionysius had his sons put to death, though the Locrians eventually sent him Doris, whom he married on the same day as he wed Aristomacha, the sister of Dion.
Syracuse was fortified, and its walls were built by 60,000 freemen. Using coordinated attacks of army and navy, heavy and light infantry along with cavalry, Dionysius demonstrated the warfare later emulated by the Macedonians; Syracuse was the first to use the catapult to enhance a siege and larger warships with four and even five banks of oars. 140,000 shields were manufactured along with 14,000 breast-plates and great numbers of helmets, spears, and daggers. 110 warships were refitted, and 200 more were built. In 398 BC the Syracusans marched west as the Greeks of Camarina, Gela, Acragas, Selinus, and Himera revolted against the Carthaginians and put them to death. Supplied with weapons by Dionysius, 80,000 men besieged Motya and built a mole to that island while besieging Segesta and Entella. Catapults caused Carthage's navy to retreat from Syracuse. Motya was the first Phoenician city to be sacked by the Greeks. All the prisoners were enslaved except the traitorous Greek mercenaries, who were crucified.
However, the next year Himilco gained Eryx by betrayal and re-captured Motya, causing Dionysius to give up the siege of Segesta and return to Syracuse. In place of Motya the city of Lilybaeum was built as a Carthaginian stronghold. Himilco took and razed Messana and had the town of Tauromenion built. After defeating the outnumbered Syracusan navy near Catane, destroying and taking 100 ships and 20,000 men, the Carthaginians besieged Syracuse itself, causing Dionysius to ask for help from Italy, Corinth, and Sparta. Having desecrated Greek temples, the Carthaginians were visited once more with a plague.
The Lacedaemonians sent 30 ships led by Pharacidas, who helped Syracuse take a food shipment from Carthage. Dionysius called an assembly to praise and encourage his men, but the Syracusan cavalry officer Theodorus in a long and powerful speech, as recorded in the history of Diodorus, criticized Dionysius for having been a worse master than the Carthaginians by plundering temples and the property of citizens, paying former slaves to enslave their masters, losing battles and allies, enslaving the people of Naxos and Catane, killing critics, banishing the wealthy, and giving their wives to slaves; the tyrant, who lords it over them but cowers before the enemy, should be overthrown with the help of their Spartan allies. However, Pharacidas declared that the Peloponnesians were sent to aid Dionysius against the Carthaginians, not the Syracusans against Dionysius.
Weakened by pestilence that was said to have killed 150,000 Carthaginian soldiers, they were defeated by Syracuse; but Dionysius seeming to want an enemy to justify his tyranny allowed Himilco to escape at night and received 300 talents from him. The Carthaginians went home, as did their Sicel allies, and the remaining mercenaries were killed or enslaved except for some Iberians, who were incorporated into the Syracusan army. Himilco returned to Carthage and tried to atone for his impiety by public penitence and then starved himself to death. The subjugated Libyans collected an army of 200,000 freemen and slaves. The Carthaginians, believing their troubles were caused by offending the temple of the Greek goddesses Demeter and her daughter, instituted their worship and, organizing themselves for war, dispersed the disorganized Libyans.
Dionysius extended the territory of Syracuse to Morgantina, Cephaloedion, and Henna while making treaties with the tyrants of Agyrion, Centuripa, and others. With the help of the tyrant Agyris, Dionysius defeated the Carthaginian forces led by Mago in 392 BC and made a treaty acknowledging Syracusan influence over all the Greeks in Sicily. Dionysius besieged Rhegion but was defeated at sea by the Italians. Dionysius formed an alliance with the Lucanians, who then invaded Thurii; but when Leptines, the brother of Dionysius, rescued more than a thousand Italians at sea and ransomed them for a mina each and made an acclaimed armistice between the Lucanians and the Italians, Dionysius, whose interest gained by that war, removed him from his naval command and appointed his other brother. The army of Dionysius defeated an Italian coalition mostly from Croton but let men captured go without a ransom so that he could make treaties with the grateful Italian cities. Only Rhegion, Caulonia, and Hipponion resisted, but Rhegion surrendered its fleet, and the others were easily destroyed. Eight years later Croton was captured, and the forefoot of Italy was controlled by Syracuse.
Dionysius also extended Syracusan power across the Adriatic Sea to Apulia, Issa, Pharos, Ancona, Hadria, and in an alliance with Alcetas of Molossia. Burdensome taxes were imposed on the people of Syracuse and its dominions for war and shipbuilding. 1500 talents were even pirated from an Etrurian temple at Agylla. A Carthaginian force was defeated by Syracuse in 379 BC at Cabala, and Mago was killed; but the next year Syracuse was defeated at Cronion when Leptines and 14,000 Sicilian Greeks were killed; Syracuse lost control of western Sicily to the Halycus River and had to pay Carthage one thousand talents. Ten years later Dionysius tried to regain Punic Sicily, but his siege of Lilybaeum failed when much of his fleet was captured by the Carthaginian navy. So paranoid that someone would kill him that he did not even use a razor, Dionysius had his officer Marsyas put to death because he had a dream in which he assassinated Dionysius. The tyrant also had the mother of his wife Doris killed, because he suspected her of using magic to prevent his other wife from having a child.
When the poet Philoxenus criticized Dionysius' pretensions to poetry, he was sent to the quarries; but persuaded to let him return the next night, the tyrant once again asked the poet's opinion of his verses; Philoxenus told the servant to take him to the quarries. Dionysius laughed and got him to give his response, but Philoxenus replied with double meaning, "Pitiful," which Dionysius could interpret as his poetry being full of feeling. The philosopher Plato was persuaded to come to his court, but his freedom of speech was rewarded by being sold as a slave for twenty minae, though some philosophers purchased his freedom. Although his verses had been laughed at and scorned at the Olympic games, Dionysius after many attempts finally won first prize with his Ransom of Hector at the Lenaean festival in Athens; but his drunken celebration led to fever and death in 367 BC. An oracle had predicted that Dionysius would die after he had conquered his betters. Thus the tyrant had always avoided completely defeating the Carthaginians, but it was after he had won against better poets that he died.
Dionysius was succeeded by his son Dionysius II, who was advised by the sagacious Dion and instructed by Plato. However, the recall of the historian Philistus from exile resulted in rivalry that caused Dion to be banished, and Plato, failing to produce a philosopher king, returned to Athens.
1. Herodotus, The Histories 8:77 tr. Aubrey de Sélincourt.
2. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 1:75 tr. Rex Warner.
3. Xenophon, Hellenica, tr. Henry G. Dakyns, 5:1:31.
4. Bury, J. B. and Russell Meiggs, A History of Greece, p. 351.
5. Ibid., p. 375.
6. Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, tr. C. H. Oldfather, 13:114.
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