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Prelude to the Peloponnesian War

Tensions rise between Athens and Sparta. This leads to the Peloponnesian War.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user gliao1
    Can someone explain the plague that Athens are suffering from during the Peloponneisan War?
    (15 votes)
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    • old spice man green style avatar for user Jonathan Ziesmer
      The Plague of Athens occurred three times: 430, 429, and 426 BC. They most likely originated from Athen's port city of Piraeus and the ships that carried good there from all over the Aegean. No one knows for sure which disease caused the plagues, but many scientists believe it could have been Typhus. The first outbreak killed as many as 2/3rds of Athen's population, severely tipping the balance of power in favor of the Spartan alliance.

      I hope this helps!
      (23 votes)
  • hopper happy style avatar for user Aculisme
    At the narrator calls the city states of Athens and Sparta powerful, but didn't we hear last video about how Athens was destroyed after all it's inhabitants had evacuated during the second Persian invasion?
    (10 votes)
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user VaeSapiens
      Very good observation.

      The source of suppoused Athenian destruction comes from Herodotus, who is often called "The Father of History". But he is sometimes called also "The father of lies" by the more cynical sort of people. Why is that?

      Well. Herodotus firstly speaks of total destruction of Athens because of Xerxes and his rage. But then he writes that Xerxes the next day deeply regreted his actions of burning such a marvelous city and had it rebuilt before the War ended.

      We can make two conclussions here:
      1) Persians were extraordinary architects on the level (or beyond) of modern enginners or
      2) It's a propaganda piece of Herodotus, who is seen very pro-Greek and Athens were never burned.
      (14 votes)
  • primosaur seedling style avatar for user liz brophy
    The constant theme of insecurity sounds a lot like Athens propaganda especially considering the apparently accepted view of Sparta as the stronger military culture.

    But why didn't Sparta just build their own wall? Wouldn't everyone be happy then? Was this a limitation of natural resources or were there other factors at play? Even if the wall was built in the location Sparta desired, was a Peloponnesian war inevitable?

    I'm guessing fighting off the Persian invasion showed the Greeks the power of a united Greece. After they finished fighting the Persians there was a power vacuum of sorts as there was no defined central power in Greece yet. Greece needed a leader and capital and the Greeks needed to fight a war to figure out who that would be?

    An unfortunate conclusion for humanity, the necessity of war for social advancement.
    (16 votes)
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    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user beeemkcl
      Athens was the cultural and scientific center of ‘Greece’ and the Greco-Persian Wars delineated that Athens was also a dominant military power.

      The Delian League delineated that Athens had the capability to be an empire.

      Athens was the most natural city state to be the ‘capital’ of ‘Greece’.

      Spartan mostly simply had its land-based military and its economy was heavily dependent on its ‘slave’ labor.

      It makes sense that Sparta would feel insecure regarding Athens.
      (3 votes)
  • spunky sam red style avatar for user drSkittles14
    Why do the Athens decide to have a strong navy instead of having a strong army?
    (6 votes)
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    • spunky sam green style avatar for user History Helper
      Athens was a maritime empire with a lot of colonies and bases scattered throughout the Aegean Sea, which required a large navy to hold those areas. The city of Athens was well-fortified, making it harder for even Spartan armies to fight. Also by having a large navy, Athens was able to harass Spartan trade and supplies, which can make the Spartan war effort more difficult.
      (16 votes)
  • piceratops sapling style avatar for user Joshua
    why did sparta not just buld it's own wall?
    (4 votes)
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    • mr pink red style avatar for user s. lagrange
      To add to that, Sparta's choice came from their culture - they thought walls were too ''feminine'' and ''weak'' - not unusual to hear from their hypermasculine culture. They also were too busy fixing and rebuilding their structures from the earthquake , building a wall would have put strain on Sparta's resources. Having a superior army clouded their judgement and made them feel invincible ,and if they were invincible why would they build a wall? There are many more answers to your question but what stephen and I have given have summed it up. I hope this has answered your question.
      (6 votes)
  • purple pi purple style avatar for user ScienceMon
    How did Sparta get its slaves?
    (3 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user chinmaybho4151
      Well, the "Greeks" that you are thinking about were not the first people living in that area, before them were the Minoans and Mycenaean. The Myceneans had lived in Laconia for 300-400 years. The Dorians invaded Greece and took over the lands, but when they reached Laconia, they took the Mycenaeans living there into their slaves. The Mycenaeans became helots, and were owned by the polis of Sparta, and since there were far more helots than Dorian Spartans, the Spartans set up a brutal military to stop internal rebellion.
      (6 votes)
  • winston baby style avatar for user AndrewTheKim
    where are the locations of the cities like Corinth and Sparta in the map based on modern cities?
    (2 votes)
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  • winston baby style avatar for user Mason Smith
    Sal mentioned that each Spartan owned approximately seven slaves. Given that the population of Sparta during the Peloponnesian War ranged from 5 to 40,000, it’s plausible that the number of slaves in Sparta at that time was between 35,000 and 280,000.

    Additionally, I read that the population of Athens was between 35,000 and 40,000. Comparatively, Athens had a larger population than Sparta. So, was it solely Sparta’s military prowess that led them to victory in the war, or did they receive assistance from Corinth? Especially considering that Sparta had been weakened by a slave revolt, it raises the question of how they managed to win the war.

    However, I should note that I’m not entirely certain about the accuracy of these population figures, so please don’t take my word as definitive. It’s always best to verify such information from reliable sources.
    (4 votes)
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user Mr. Person
      The entirety of the Peloponnese was on Sparta's side, and the Spartans were raised birth to death always fighting, and they fought a lot so they had practice. Also, the rest of Lacedemonian was similarly strong, so that brings in a lot of skilled solders. Also, Athens too had been weakened, because there were many revolts in their empire, so I think they were still even.
      (1 vote)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Tobey Shannon
    How are the Athenians able to fight off all of these nations and win most of the time?
    (2 votes)
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    • male robot donald style avatar for user Mariam
      The Athenians have a long history of military prowess, and this has been instrumental in their ability to fight off numerous nations over the years. The Athenian army was well-trained and well-equipped, and they had a number of advantages that made them particularly effective in battle.

      First, the Athenian army was organized and disciplined. They had a clear chain of command and a system of rewards and punishments that kept the troops motivated and on-task. Additionally, they had a strong sense of communal identity and loyalty to their city, which gave them an extra boost in morale.

      Second, the Athenians had access to a wide range of weapons and technology. They took advantage of the resources available to them, such as the bronze-making industry and the nearby silver mines. This allowed them to have sophisticated weapons, such as the hoplite shield and the sarissa spear.

      Third, the Athenians had a number of strategic advantages. They were able to make use of their natural terrain and the sea to their advantage in battles. They could also use their navy to disrupt enemy supply lines and support their own army on land.

      Finally, the Athenians had a strong tradition of civic responsibility and patriotism. This gave them the courage and determination needed to fight off foreign invaders and maintain their independence.

      These factors combined to make the Athenians a formidable force that was able to fight off numerous nations and win most of the time.
      (4 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Dzigbodi Christon-Quao
    At , could this be some kind of cold war where proxy wars are fought in weaker city states?
    (3 votes)
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Video transcript

- [Narrator] In the last few videos we talked about the Greco Persian wars or we could say the Persian invasion of Greece. And in the first wave, the first Persian invasion, the Athenians were able to stop them at Marathon. And then in the second Persian invasion led by Xerxes they were able to route the Persian navy at Salamis and eventually get rid of the Persians all together at Plataea in 479 BCE. So at that point the Greeks, especially the city-states, the powerful city-states of Sparta and Athens, they're fighting on the same side. But as we'll see in this video this all starts to break down and they will eventually be at war with each other and a very ugly war. You know a lot of times when we think about these things thousands of years later it might seem somewhat romantic, the stuff of stories and adventures, but these things are ugly, people are getting killed, people are getting tortured, civilians are dying, whole cities are being destroyed. Now whenever we talk about history it's very important to think about where your story is coming from and you should always have a nice dose of doubt on what were the motivations of the person who wrote it or how much can they really know about things. And when we talked about the Persian invasions of Greece, or the Greco-Persian wars, that was coming to us from someone who is often known as the father of history, I guess that's a very Greco-centric perspective, but that is Herodutus. And now we're going to start getting our accounts from someone who wrote the famous history of the Peloponnesian War and that is Thucydides. And they're so closely linked, especially because they're giving history of essentially this fifth century BCE that this is actually a double bust of the two, Herodutus and Thucydides. So once again a lot of the story that I'm about to tell, is coming via Thucydides. So as soon as the Persians are, they've been defeated, they leave. You might remember that the Athenians had to escape to Salamis, that's where you also had the naval route of the Persian navy, and so the Athenians decide hey let's move back to Athens. And in deciding to move back to Athens, right over there, they say okay well we want to build a wall around Athens in case anyone else wants to invade us. And you might say okay maybe they are somewhat concerned about the Persians, but you could also argue that they are somewhat concerned about the Spartans who are famous for having this very powerful army. And so they start the construction on what's often called the long wall and it's a way for them to have access to the sea and to protect their city in the event of a siege. Now if you take the other side, if you think about what's going on in the minds of the Spartans, they are thinking okay you know for a long time we were really the dominant military power but what we've just seen with the Greco-Persian wars is this Athenian navy is actually quite strong and in some ways, in fact in a lot of ways you can argue that they are the ones that were able to beat off the Persians at Salamis. That the navy was essential there. So Sparta's feeling a little bit threatened. And in particular they don't like the idea of this wall because here you have the city-state Athens with this very strong navy, now they're building a wall. Sparta says hey if they have a wall it's going to be very hard for us if they don't do what, you know, if they start exerting too much influence, it's going to be hard for us to take down Athens. They instead suggest hey Athens why don't you build a wall at the Isthmus of Corinth, right over here. You might notice the geography of Greece. You have this little, I guess you could call it this little strip of land that connects the mainland I guess you could say, to this peninsula, this very large peninsula which is called Peloponnese, which is where Sparta is. And you could imagine that this is a very strategic location. Anyone who wants to conquer the Peloponnese by land is going to have to go through there. The Athenians are of course no, we care about protecting ourselves and so they start to build this wall to protect themselves which the Spartans already are not so happy about. Now the other thing that the Athenians do, they continue to build up their naval power. They see hey this is a very useful thing. They start connecting with a bunch of allies around the Aegean, some on islands, some on the coast of Anatolia over here. And they meet on this island of Delos which you can't see here. It's a very small island. And they all agree to contribute their shared navies and to contribute money in order to continue to fight off the Persians wherever they are. You know these Persians did this injustice to us. Now let's go on the offensive. And they form what is called the Delian League. Now once again Sparta is not so happy about this because more and more it becomes clear that this Delian League, Athens isn't just a participant in the Delian League, Athens is starting to run the Delian League. And when people try to drop out of the Delian League over time Athens starts to exert itself. So the Delian League is really starting more and more and more into an Athenian empire. So once again Athens proved itself, its navy proved itself to be very powerful in this war. Sparta's getting insecure. Athens doesn't listen to Sparta about this wall and decides to start building it. Sparta's feeling even more insecure. Athens is starting to create this Delian League which is really an Athenian empire, even more insecure. And it kind of gets a little bit more intense in 464. So there are some accounts that Sparta around this time was already planning to invade Athens. To say hey these folks are getting too powerful, let's just put them in their place. But at around that time, in 464, you have a major earthquake in Sparta. And so it demolishes large parts of the city. And when that earthquake happens, the Spartan Helots who I guess the best way you can view them, they are slaves and I encourage you to read more about them. They were treated horribly. And in Sparta the accounts are that there were seven of these Helots, of these slaves, for every Spartan. And so the Helots start a revolt and Sparta goes to the other city-states of Greece and says help us put down this revolt that happened right after our earthquake. And so Athens agrees. They send 4,000 citizen soldiers to Sparta. The citizen soldiers are famous Hoplites to help put down the revolt. But once again Sparta is feeling insecure. They say hey why did they send these soldiers. Maybe they say they want to put down this rebellion, but we Sparta we're at kind of a fairly vulnerable state right here, what if they Athenians took the side of the Helots. Well then they might be able to take over Sparta. So they send the Athenian Hoplites back. They said you know we don't need your help. And so you can imagine the Athenians now are starting to take significant offense to how the Spartans are treating them. And then you fast forward a little bit more to 459 BCE and you have two allies of Sparta, Megara and Corinth and they're right in this very strategic location, that little land, that land connection that land bridge between the mainland and the Peloponnese and there is a dispute between these two allies of Sparta, between Corinth and Megara. And Athens decides to intervene and form an alliance with Megara. Well you can imagine you know this insecurity has been building up in Sparta for at this point over a decade and so it all comes to head and they start having skirmishes and they start essentially going to war with each other. They have these sporadic skirmishes over the next 15 years. And this period right over here from roughly 460 or 459, for the next 15 years, this is often referred to as the First Peloponnesian War because once again you have Sparta and its allies starting to get into all of these skirmishes with Athens and its allies. But this isn't the Peloponnesian War. The Peloponnesian War is going to come a little bit about 15 years later. The first Peloponnesian War that we were just talking about, that eventually ends what's called a 30 years peace, peace treaty which only lasts for 15 years. But the whole time the Athenians, their navy is growing more powerful, they keep getting in each others way and annoying each other and so the Peloponnesian War which we'll talk about in more detail will occur at the end of the fifth century BCE and it will conclude with Sparta being victorious. But in the process most of Greece is significantly hurt. And all of the city-states or the significant city-states of Greece are significantly weakened. And so that sets things up for the fourth century BCE where it leaves the city-states of Greece vulnerable to attack from the north, in particular Macedonia. And we'll see that actually several videos in the future.