CLCV 205: Introduction to Ancient Greek History
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Introduction to Ancient Greek History
CLCV 205 - Lecture 22 - The Struggle for Hegemony in Fourth-Century Greece (cont.)
Chapter 1. The Greek Mercenary Army and the March of the 10,000 [00:00:00]
Professor Donald Kagan: In the year 401 the prince of Persia, Cyrus, who was a younger son and had recently succeeded the King of Persia, Artaxerxes, his older brother, was in power. Cyrus had always been ambitious for achieving the job of Shah in Persia and his mother had worked on his behalf, but it hadn’t paid off. He was not prepared to accept the verdict and so he set out in the year 401 to launch a scheme that would bring him to the throne of Persia, and his scheme was to hire a good sized army of Greek mercenaries and to trick them into becoming the army that would defeat the army of his brother Artaxerxes, and make him king. As it turned out, one of the men who joined up on that expedition was an Athenian cavalryman by the name of Xenophon, and he left an account of that experience in a work that is called in Greek, the Anabasis, which means “the march back.”
But it’s the story of how this body of roughly 10,000 Greek hoplite mercenaries, marched into the heart of the Persian Empire, defeated the army of the great king — but in the process Prince Cyrus himself was killed and since the whole point of the expedition was to make him king there wasn’t any point any longer. The great question — I’ve told you about this earlier in the semester, what should these 10,000 Greeks do? They end up, after their generals are put to death by treachery, to elect new generals and to fight their way out of the empire back to the Black Sea, which was the easiest way for them to get home, and then to do whatever it was they would do.
It was a very important event because — and I think Xenophon’s account of it was very, very important because it planted in the minds of many Greeks a new notion that the vast, powerful, wealthy empire of the Persians was remarkably vulnerable, and that it was possible, and many thought highly desirable, for the Greeks to turn the tables on the Persians, to invade Persia, and to take from it, to subdue it, and to take from it the vast wealth that the Persians had, and we shall see down through the years of the fourth century different speakers will come out and speak or write urging that the Greeks do exactly this. Isocrates, the Athenian teacher of rhetoric, was the foremost figure who kept seeking somebody who would undertake this chore.
One of the reasons that he gave for it more than once was that Greece was suffering, and, of course, had been for some time, from poverty produced by war and most particularly by civil wars between democrats and oligarchs that became more and more common in the fourth century, and his solution was if you need money, steal it. So, take it from the Persians and that would put an end to the troubles. Well, of course, none of the Greek city states was capable of establishing leadership in Greece during the period we’re studying now, so that it could carry out Isocrates’ wishes. So, he turned to a man that the rest of the Greeks regarded as, or many of the Greeks regarded as a barbarian, the King of Macedon Philip, and urged him to take on that course, and apparently whether it was Isocrates or simply the idea itself, Philip himself did intend to do exactly that, to conquer the Persian Empire, but he was killed before he could do it and the job was left to his quite young son, Alexander, who in fact accomplished it; but we’re looking down the road.
Let’s go back to 401 and there we see this expedition of 10,000 Greeks accomplishing what I mentioned to you. That there could be 10,000 Greek hoplites available for such a purpose I think is a consequence of the Peloponnesian War. It shows us how much that war had helped to uproot people and to impoverish many of them, so that the idea of becoming a mercenary soldier for a Persian prince was attractive enough to take them away from home, something that would have been less likely in the prosperous years before the Peloponnesian War.
Well, of course, that aside, that is a kind of a side show, it doesn’t very much affect what is happening to the Greek cities on the coast of Asia Minor who remain the issue as to what will happen. You remember, these were under Athenian control during the Peloponnesian War, and when the war was over they were taken over in many cases by Lysander. What was to happen to them ultimately still had to be decided, because the King of Persia claimed that territory still for his own. The Spartans had really agreed to that in the treaties they made with the great king during the Peloponnesian War, but now Lysander didn’t see any reason for carrying out those promises and so there was at the very least conflict. Of course, what the cities would have liked best of all was to achieve autonomy for themselves and they claimed that and regarded the rule either by Persian or by Spartan as improper and something to be resisted.
Well, Tissaphernes the satrap of the region of Lydia and to the west, the ones that included the Greek cities, attacked those cities, which he claimed for the great king but which cities were holding out. Those cities in turn, because the great menace to them for the moment was Persian, turned to Sparta the great victorious power, and asked the Spartans to help. In the year 400 and 399 the Spartans sent an army under a general by the name of Thibron, who recruited about 6,000 of those 10,000 men who had marched into the Persian Empire and who still sought service as mercenaries rather than go home to poverty, plus about 5,000 or so Peloponnesians. All of the overseas activities of the Spartans in these years include practically no Spartans. They are just too short of troops to be risking them in overseas ventures.
So, they use their Peloponnesian allies, they sometimes use mercenaries, and they also use some of these folks I told you about the last time who were neither this nor that. The ones that they used on these campaigns are the ones that we are calling neodamodes, people who had been helots, but who were liberated and permitted to fight for the Spartans, and the notion of sending neodamodes overseas to fight was very attractive to the Spartans, because it got them out of Laconia, for one thing, and provided them with soldiers as well. So, that kind of army is the one that Thibron is now using to fight against the Persians, who just a few years ago had been the allies of the Spartans for control of the Greek cities of Asia Minor.
Chapter 2. Further Hostilities [00:08:46]
Now, meanwhile we have to turn our attention to the sea, and especially to the island of Cyprus. It’s a Persian possession, but on that island there are some cities that have a degree of autonomy. One of them has as its king a man called Evagoras, and he is very ambitious for himself and for the Cypriotes, and so he is eager to fight against the Spartans, presumably on behalf of the great king, although his motives are not made clear by our sources. Reasonable guess is that he may have hoped by achieving something great for the great king he might receive back thanks from the great king in whatever form you can imagine. It might be allowing him to rule over Cyprus, it might mean to give him wealth, who knows, but also on the island of Cyprus where he had taken refuge was the Athenian Admiral Conon, who had been one of the admirals at the final defeat at Aegospotomi.
He had escaped from that battle and had not gone home to Athens; he felt that the air there would not be healthy for somebody who lost the entire fleet at Aegospotomi and so he went to Evagoras, who it took good care of Conon and he was a great sailor. One of the very most distinguished admirals in Greek history, and he too now continued his feeling that Sparta was the enemy. So, he joined Evagoras in urging the great king to build a navy, which would then defeat the Spartan navy, which would by itself rid Asia of the menace of Sparta and be a great thing for the Persians. Conon, I suspect, had some other hopes out of this activity, which in fact will come to fruition and I’ll tell you about them in due course. Well, the Spartans have their fleet out there and the king agrees and he starts building a fleet of his own, which will ultimately be a very large one indeed — some 300 ships, and the king puts Conon in charge of that fleet, which is smart in a way because Conon is a great admiral. Maybe not so smart if you look at what Conon is really up to.
In the face of these activities, the Spartans decided to raise the ante and they sent an expedition into Asia Minor. Thibron had not done very well and after about a year the Spartans replaced him with another general by the name of Dercyllidas, who does better, but there’s no decisive victory out there. The war is dragging on and so they choose to send the new King Agesilaus, who is the son of Aegis, whose characteristics are among other things, that he was born lame; he probably would not have been allowed to live had he not come from the royal family, but he did and he grew to be an ambitious, aggressive Spartan King, who I suspect — I mean, a cheap psychology when you have a handicap like that in a society which values physical valor and strength, and military success so highly as the Spartans did, you’re twice as aggressive, and twice as ambitious as an ordinary Spartan.
In any case, that was the way Agesilaus turned out to be. Another interesting thing about Agesilaus is that he had been the tent mate of Lysander and it’s hard to believe that Lysander could ever have achieved the eminence that he did, the command that was given to him, had he not been a friend of the young man that people looked to as the next king, or possibly the next king. But as yet, Agesilaus, being a much younger man than Lysander, he seemed to be deferential and everything was okay and so he was very keen on doing what the Spartans did, which was to send Agesilaus out with a new expedition to win the war against the Persians out there. Agesilaus, it is plain, had extremely lofty plans for himself and for this expedition. The way the expedition worked, Agesilaus chose to leave with his fleet from the town of Aulis, which is located in Boeotia. Does anybody recognize the name and think why Agesilaus should have wanted to leave from Aulis? Tell us about it.
Professor Donald Kagan: That’s right. Agamemnon took off for the Trojan War at Aulis, and you remember how the legend goes. The winds were against the Greeks, they wouldn’t let the ships get away, and they asked a holy man to tell them what the gods were up to and the gods said, well you can’t go until you sacrifice your daughter, your little daughter Iphigenia to the god for that purpose. So Agamemnon did and the winds relented, and Agamemnon would pay the price when he got back from Troy. But it is precisely that the Greek fleet against the barbarian, against the non-Greeks, the most important ones in all of their legends, namely the Trojans, it was at all Aulis that they left and Agesilaus wanted to bring that to the mind. He was the new Agamemnon and he was not leading a Spartan fleet against the Persians, he was the spokesman for the Greeks. He was the leader of the Greeks revenging that original offense, whatever that might be.
He was trying to make the case for a panhellenic motive for what was absolutely a strictly Spartan one and raising himself to a legendary level practically. Well, that turned out to be a mistake, because the Thebans happened at that moment to be, as far as we can tell, led by a faction that was very hostile to the Spartans. So, as Agesilaus’ people were setting up the altars for sacrifices before they took off, along the road came a Theban army, knocked over all of the altars, and asked them who the hell invited him into Boeotia in the first place, to get the hell out of there, grossly insulting Agesilaus and forcing him to skulk out of Aulis, not in the grand way that he had imagined. This turned out to be very significant. Agesilaus took it personally. He didn’t like that, and I suppose — well, never mind I was about to make a bad joke, let it go.
It had an enormous impact on him because for the rest of his life Agesilaus will be hostile to Thebes, and when he could he would promote a policy of attacking Thebes, of trying to defeat it, to subject it to Sparta, and a whole piece of Spartan foreign policy, which was to be very costly and damaging to Sparta was the result of Agesilaus’ attempt at vendetta against the Thebans. Well, he goes to Asia and begins to encounter the Persians. He does pretty well, as always, Greek hoplites if they can get the Persians to fight them in a nice flat field will beat them, and he did that on several occasions, but he was never able to bring a large force of Persians to battle, so that he could really destroy a good chunk of Persian power in the region so that the victories were not decisive. They could not win the war, he could win the battles, but you couldn’t win the war, at least he didn’t.
Meanwhile, things turned around against the Spartans from the side that you might expect, that is to say, from the sea. Conon, with the Persian fleet, sailed against the very important Island of Rhodes and captured it and brought it back to — took it away from the Spartans in any case. Where the Spartans went, you will remember, they establish oligarchic governments, and in this case the victorious Athenian admiral removed the oligarchic government and in its place there rose up a democracy. I’m sure the great king didn’t care what kind of regime it was for the moment, he just wanted to get rid of the Spartans, which he did. But it was, of course, on the Greek scene, it was a great defeat for the Spartans and it was a challenge to the Spartans. It was obvious that Conon, at least, and who knew what might happen on the part of other Greeks, were going to resist Spartan power and Spartan aggressiveness, and that if he wanted to come back, then he would have to have a navy.
The Spartans set out to increase their navy to meet this challenge and just to look ahead a few years, as I think we need to at this moment, it was that Spartan fleet that Conon defeated thoroughly and decisively a few years later in 394 at the Battle of Cnidus, which really puts an end for considerable time the whole idea of Sparta fighting at sea entirely. It really means that that approach — remember we were talking last time about the three different possibilities that the Spartans had to choose among, and they chose for a while this thoroughly aggressive one overseas, that’s out now. If you had been defeated at sea, you don’t have a navy that can challenge your opponents, you can’t do it. As a matter of fact it will not be very much longer when events in Greece compel them to withdraw their army under Agesilaus and bring him back home and no Spartan army ever goes back to Asia again. We’re looking ahead but the action that caused that was the victory at Cnidus.
Now, of course, with the Spartans being defeated in that part of the world, the Greek cities that have been under Spartan rule now typically rebel against the Spartan rule, and we must imagine that for a few years there are really quite confused conditions in Asiatic Greece. Some places may have continued to be under Spartan rule, some may have continued to be under Persian rule, no doubt about it, some of them became autonomous. We just don’t know what the numbers were and there could have been mixtures of things going on too. I make that point because when, later on, a final settlement is produced there, it is imposed upon a condition of confusion rather than simply overthrowing a single thing that was characteristic across the board. Still, many of those towns as I say did return to Persian rule as well. That’s the situation which leads us to the next great event in Hellenic history across the board.
Chapter 3. The Corinthian War [00:21:32]
The Corinthian War, as it is called, which breaks out in 395 and runs down to 387-386, so called because the bulk of the fighting on land was around the city of Corinth. But it was a war that engaged all of the major cities of Greece right around its core and its center. I think a fair way to see it is the cause of that war was, in its most fundamental sense, Sparta’s tyrannical behavior towards the other Greek cities which produces a variety of reactions. Let me remind you of some and tell you about some others that we haven’t talked about. Remember there were these grievances that lingered from the end of the Peloponnesian War when Spartan allies like Corinth and Thebes had been very dissatisfied with the way the booty had been shared that came from the defeat of the Athenians, and you remember those two cities were aggrieved also because the Spartans ignored their wishes as to what should happen to Athens and went their own way there too.
I think I mentioned as well that in all contacts with non-Spartans in this period, the Spartans seemed to be very arrogant, very hard to get along with, and they certainly inspire considerable unhappiness and discontent. Those things you know about. Now in 402, the Spartans launched a war against the polis of Elis located up in the northwestern corner of the Peloponnesus. Olympia is included in that area, just to help you fix it in your mind. Now, the Spartans called upon their allies to join them in this expedition, as is their right, according to the traditional rules of the game in the Peloponnesian League. Thebes and Corinth refuse to send their contingents. That is practically an act of rebellion against the Spartans. It’s a violation of their treaty agreements and it shows you how much irritation there existed between them. The whole campaign seemed to these states very annoying because why were the Spartans attacking Elis, partly because they had a continuing debate, a conflict with them about a border town, the old stuff.
But also I think as an act of revenge, because the Elians had been disloyal during the Peloponnesian War, during the Peace of Nicias after 421, Aulis was one of the four democracies that joined up in this new separate league that ended up fighting against the Spartans for a period of time. At the great Battle of Mantinea, in which the very existence of Sparta was at issue, Elis was on the side of the enemies of Sparta. So, that was why the Spartans suddenly decided to attack them and the allies didn’t think that was right, the ones who were discontented in any case.
So, that’s in the background, and all these other irritations that I have mentioned, but it wasn’t enough because even if you were as mad as you could be at the Spartans and determined to try to undo their effort at hegemony over the Greeks, there was no easy way to think of fighting them successfully. All of these states that were discontented Thebes, Corinth, and as we will quickly see, Athens as well, were isolated from each other. They didn’t belong to any common activity and they all were not strong enough, individually, to take on the Spartans. Moreover, there was the problem if you wanted to fight these people, it would require money, and all of them were short of funds for that purpose. So the critical element necessary to create a coalition that could undertake a war against Sparta — that decision was made by the Persians.
The King of Persia presumably, although it very much looks like the new satrap in that region — there were two satrapsin the western part of the Persian Empire remember; the one whose capital is at Sardis in Lydia, and the one whose capital, or whose territory is along the Hellespont and the straits in general, Pharnabazus, our old friend Pharnabazus from the Peloponnesian War, and a new sIatrap in Sardis, both want this to happen and so they find a Rhodian Greek and give him a batch of money and send him to the Greek cities seeking out those factional leaders who were known to be hostile to Sparta and offering to give them some of the money that he was carrying, which was not in itself a vast amount and certainly not enough to fight in any war, but was obviously a sign of good faith saying the King of Persia and his satraps in this region are against the Spartans and would like for you to put an end to the things you don’t like that are happening in the Greek world and he will support you with his money. That, I think, turned out to be an absolutely critical act.
He went to a town I have not mentioned that belongs in the company of the anti-Spartan people at this point, of course is Argos, the traditional enemy of Sparta running back at least into the eighth century and perhaps further than that, who seem to find themselves in a war with the Spartans at least once a century and it looks like this is the time in the fourth century for them. Argos is a democracy too, and as you know that is a relevant fact. Corinth is not a democracy, but they are so angry they want to play too and they join up. Thebes, again, it’s hard to tell what the government is. It looks throughout this entire period as oligarchy and democracy may well have been very close to one another, so that at any time one faction or the other may have the upper hand. And, of course, Athens, which is a democracy again. Now, the Athenians have been very, very reluctant to do anything to annoy the Spartans for very good reasons. They have no navy, they have no walls, and they have no money so to buck the Spartans would be an act almost of suicide, because all the Spartans needed to do was coming marching into Attica and they have no defense.
Up to now therefore they’ve been very, very careful not to annoy. In fact in 402 when the Thebans and Corinthians refused to go to Elis with the Spartans, the Athenians sent their force, as they were required to do by their treaty with the Spartans. But the new situation changed things in Athens just as it did, perhaps even more than it did in other cities. Now the great king — the Persians were not the enemy, the Persians were going to support the war, if they were ready to launch it against the Spartans. There was no war yet I should point out when this money is being handed out. This is an effort to stir up that kind of activity. Of course, the enemies of the policy refer to these transfers of money as bribes and there’s nothing in Greek practice or Greek tradition to reject the idea that some of these Persian coins ended up in the pockets of the men that they were given to, but I don’t think we really should think of them as bribes. Most of the money was used for the purpose for which it was intended, to help these leaders stir up support for a war against Sparta. It was something they believed in anyway, it was a source of their ability to carry out their wishes. But as I say, the Greeks didn’t think there was anything wrong with picking up a few bucks along the way.
Now, a war breaks out on the frontier between Phocis and Locris, two towns in central Greece, both of which are quite close to Boeotia, the land ruled by the Thebes. The Spartans, and I think this was probably — well, I’m pretty confident that it was what — motivated by the Spartan unhappiness about Thebes, the Spartans assist Phocis against Locris, knowing that Thebes is allied to Locris, and that this would be, they believed and hoped, a pretext for war. This was their chance to get even with the Thebans for all the things that the Thebans had done that irritated them since the war. So, Sparta invaded Boeotia; their strategy to win this war was that they would invade Boeotia from two sides. One army coming from central Greece, from the region of Phocis and Locris, where they were assisting the Phocians, and another army being sent up from the Peloponnesus itself; they do finally meet in 395 at a town in western Boeotia called Haliartus where there is a battle, and where by the way, Lysander is killed in the fighting and removed from the scene.
But even before that happened, as it was clear that the Spartans meant to fight the Thebans, the Thebans went to Athens and asked the Athenians for help and of course they had a case that was very attractive. First of all, they certainly reminded the Athenians of the roll Thebes had played in liberating Athens by giving a home to Thrasybulus and his free Athenians when they were in the position of defeating the Thirty Tyrants and driving them out. I have a feeling they didn’t remind the Athenians about that little congress they had after the war in which they suggested that they destroy all the Athenians and take away their land and turn the whole place into a great big cattle farm. I think they probably didn’t remember to mention that. But they had that reason, but more important than that, was what they were saying, you have a chance now to escape from your bondage to the Spartans, where the Athenians certainly were and to re-establish yourself as an autonomous polis along with us and all the others who want to take away power from the Spartans, which they are abusing so terribly.
Now, the remarkable thing to me is that Xenophon, who very likely was there, reports that the Athenian assembly voted unanimously in favor. Well, it’s worth pointing out, of course, that the number one advocate of doing that, of joining the rebellion against Sparta, was Thrasybulus the great hero of the time that certainly made a big difference. Thrasybulus had been one of the cautious leaders before who had been against getting the Spartans mad, because he knew Athens was incompetent to fight them now, but with the Persian support and with the prospect of forming a coalition against Sparta, the strategic situation had changed and Thrasybulus now came out a hundred percent for the war. But unanimous vote in favor of the war, I can’t imagine the Athenian assembly giving unanimous vote in favor of getting a drink of water. It’s just so incredible to me. So, how do I explain it?
Well, I got to make it up. I think if there was an overwhelming sentiment in favor obviously the attractions were great but there were reasons to fear. If you lose the price could be very, very high. But I think what happened was that the emotion was so strong at the moment that once it was evident that there was a large majority in favor of the motion, nobody wanted to be seen as being against it. It would had the look of cowardice, of a lack of patriotism, and people in these circumstances, it has been my experience, hate to seem not to be going along when everybody is enthusiastically going in a particular direction. So that’s how I interpret Xenophon’s remarkable testimony, but whatever the truth of it, what is clear is the great enthusiasm, overwhelming majority, they are prepared to fight for their true autonomy in the war to come.
So, the coalition is finally formed. Athens, Thebes, Corinth, Argos, those are the main states on the mainland and they’ll do most of the fighting, but it’s worth pointing out that there are other places that join too. Euboea, the island to the east of Attica, not surprising; they’re so thoroughly influenced by the Athenians. That’s not a great surprise but it’s interesting that many a town up in the north of the Aegean, on the Chalcidice also joined in this anti-Spartan coalition, and likewise, the region in the west on the Ionian Sea of Acarnania also join, which I think suggests that there was quite a lot of anti-Spartan sentiment in the Greek world at this time, which very often comes about if any state seems to be too strong, too powerful, too much of a threat to what everybody else wants, people tend to cut it down.
Political scientists tend to formulize this into the notion of — if you join up with the most powerful state that’s called bandwagoning, what do they call it if you’re against the — balancing, that’s the word. Sorry, I am weak in my political science technology. Balancing is what’s supposed to happen; the truth of the matter is that you never can tell which way states will go in these situations and there you are. But in this case I’m simply making the point that there was a lot of hostility to Sparta out there and some people you wouldn’t think of joined in this, but it’s the big four that really matter and they do most of the fighting in the war. Well, there’s no point in going through the war in great detail; just a few highlights, I think, need to be mentioned. The largest highlight of all being how in the world are you supposed to win this war, what is the strategy on each side? It’s remarkable how similar they are.
The Spartans want to gain control of the isthmus of Corinth, it’s Corinth and Megara especially, so that they can get out into central Greece and defeat their opponents individually in Boeotia for the Thebans and Attica for the Athenians and Corinth, of course, right there in the isthmus. The other folks, the big four, want to push into the Peloponnesus where they can raise up rebellion of the helots and the perioikoi and defeat the Spartans right there and strip away their allies in the Peloponnesus. So, each side basically has to gain control of the isthmus and then move forward to carry out the conclusion of the war in their favor, and the bottom line is neither side is able to do it. The bulk of the fighting throughout the years of that war surround the city of Corinth, walls are put up by the Corinthians meant to keep the Spartans out, they do so for a great chunk of time, Spartans can take part of the walls but they can’t manage to take everything and to punch through, and so for all these years that’s what happens.
There are some big battles that are fought. There’s one in 394, soon after the beginning of the war at Nemea, which is located to the south of Corinth. It’s a very big tough standard hoplite battle, both sides having strong armies, both sides fighting well and determinedly. The Spartans technically winning — it’s one of those victories where you know who won because they put up the trophy and they were able to collect their dead, and the other guys had to ask permission to collect their debt. But it was another one of these victories that did not have strategic consequences, neither side had been able to destroy the other, neither side could now advance into the region that they had to get to in order to make a difference, so that I think is the major story of that war. There’s another event in there that has interesting consequences for future Greek warfare that deserves mentioning.
Chapter 4. Iphicrates’s Light-Armed Troops; Conon’s Fleet [00:40:12]
At a certain point in that war the Athenians, under an extraordinary general by the name of Iphicrates, had put together a force of light-armed troops, not hoplites, people without hoplite armor and shields who threw missiles at the other side, probably mainly slingers, but they also would have been spear throwers, throwers not thrusters, and bowmen, and these guys could never confront the phalanx in the normal way and they would normally not even be able to do much harm in an extraordinary way, but what was new was that Iphicrates had trained them as a professional force, so that they could move swiftly and together as a body in such a way as to be as effective as it was possible for light-armed troops to be against a phalanx. It happened that Iphicrates was able to maneuver a whole division of Spartan soldiers in such a way that they got stuck in a dead end, in a cal du sac, and were absolutely victimized by Iphicrates light-armed forces and about 600 men making up this division of the Spartan army called a mora, were wiped out and the Greek world was astonished by this, because no such thing had ever happened before, and it led to the increased use of well trained, light-armed infantry who play a larger role.
They never replace the phalanx as the major form of land warfare but things become more complicated in the fourth century as they have already begun to be in the Peloponnesian War, as you have different branches that are able to perform more usefully than they were typically expected to do in the past. Perhaps as big an event as any that occurred in that war was the event I mentioned earlier. Conon, using the Persian fleet, defeating the Spartan fleet at the Battle of Cnidus in 394. But what does he do? Conon takes his victorious fleet, sails back to Athens, the Athenians have already begun the process of rebuilding their walls, but now with the help of Conon’s men and the money that he carries and gives to them, they are building those walls at a much faster clip and before the war is over the Athenians will once again be a walled city, with a walled port, and with long walls connecting them. In other words, the basis for having an independent naval policy will be in place thanks to Conon’s victory.
On top of which, he takes the Persian fleet and goes to the Athenians and says, this is now your fleet and suddenly the Athenians have again probably the biggest fleet in the Greek world, just like that. Similarly, or rather as a consequence of all this, because for a while at least they are able to dominate the Aegean Sea with these forces and with Conon around they regain those famous islands that are so crucial to them, the stepping stones to the Hellespont: Lemnos, Imbros, Skyros — become Athenian owned again. They also gain control of the scared Island of Apollo at Delos. They also make an alliance with the important Island of Chios and suddenly you have what are the bare beginnings of the reconstruction of the old Athenian naval alliance; you might want to call it an empire. Let me make it very clear that even when they become far more powerful in years to come, they are never able to recreate the old Athenian Empire. They never reach the point which was so decisive for their power where it is truly an empire where almost every state in the league is contributing money, which allows the Athenians to not only build but to sustain in peace time and war time the biggest navy and the best navy around. They never get there.
They do become very important as a naval power again, they are going to be a very significant state again, but even though they are turning in that other direction they never get there. But I think we need to remember that probably there’s a very good chunk of the Athenians, who regard those days as the good old days and as the natural state of things, and is the place to which they ought to be going towards that empire. Certainly a lot of their behavior in the Corinthian war and afterwards suggests that that was a widespread opinion. There was, undoubtedly, also hostility to that opinion as people look back on the experience of what happened last time, look at the consequences. There were important socioeconomic political significance of pursuing such a policy; it meant democracy, it meant a naval democracy, it meant the most extreme democracy, and a lot of people’s memories, especially those of the rich were of the mistakes and defeats that that democracy had brought about.
When you read Plato, particularly about the Athenian democracy, or even Aristotle, I think you have to remember that these people were very, very critical of what the Athenian democracy had done in the fifth century, blamed the democracy for that defeat, and then that was tied up with their political views in general that democracy was a very bad wicked thing, and that should help you understand this very strong bias against democratic government on the part of such people. Another special event in the course of the Corinthian War, which would have some consequence for Greek life later on, during that war there was a union between the cities of Corinth and Argos. It was brought about by a special emergency situation created by the war in which all the fighting was around Corinth in which there was terrible destruction of Corinthian property, in which poverty came to be a problem with Corinth in a way that it had never been.
There was a topsy-turvy situation. It had been throughout the whole fifth century back into the sixth century — an oligarchic government, a broad oligarchic government, one that was widely thought to be a good government, and that so far as we know was never touched until sometime here in the Corinthian War when these extreme conditions produced what looks like a democratic faction, which seized power, which murdered the leaders of the opposition in a brutal way. By the way, on a holy day, it was a memorable and horrible event. So, it was after that event had taken place that you see this union between Argos, which is a democracy, and this democratic government in Corinth, which is under siege for the reasons that I have suggested, and what they do is they arrange for a new situation where citizens of one state will be citizens of the other as well. So, theoretically, if you lived in Corinth and you wanted to go to Argos to sit in on the Argive Assembly you could do it and vice versa. This is something absolutely new.
The idea of anything but a polis being by itself or being on top of other poleis, but the notion of their being a sharing of a regime interpoleis sharing of governmental responsibilities is really new, and it becomes more usual in the course of the next century and the century after that. This one hardly lasts at all; it’s just a few years as a consequence of the war, and it’s undone at the end of the war. But it’s an indication of what people might be thinking about and we shall see that in the course of this century there will grow up federations — that’s something different, but still it’s the same thing in a way. A federation is a political union that allows for the maintenance of local powers on the part of the original members, but also takes some powers for a central body, which is made up of more than one.
We Americans of course have some idea about that, but there was the Arcadian League that came into being, and the Achaean League that came into being, and the Aetolian League which came into being, and as a matter of fact our founding fathers read very carefully about these experiments in federal government as they were writing the American Constitution, we have hard evidence about that. The best evidence for those confederations does not occur in our period, it occurs later, typically in the third and the second centuries B.C., and the accounts of them are in the works of Polybius, if you’re ever interested. So, Polybius was a very important figure for the American founding fathers who wrote the Constitution. But the first seed of this kind of interstate cooperation on a basis that was not merely alliance, but was co-citizenship is in the case of Corinth and Argos in the course of this war.
Chapter 5. The War Comes to an End [00:51:06]
Well, as the war dragged on, it became clearer and clearer that neither side had any way of prevailing. But another thing that happened that was to play a very important part in how the war came to an end was that the Athenian control of the sea was rapidly making Athens stronger and stronger, and more like that scary thing which Athens had been to its neighbors and its opponents in the fifth century B.C., such that the Persians, who after all, had started the war by virtue of encouraging the anti-Spartan factions to get together and had been supporting it to some degree during the war in general, began to feel that maybe Athens was becoming more frightening from the Persian point of view than Sparta was. After all, Sparta was out of the navy business now and they were not likely to be able to get back into it, and if you don’t have a navy you really can’t threaten Persia very much, at least until Alexander came along and figured out a way to do it. So, all of that gives the Spartans, who really want to get out of this war, because it isn’t going anywhere, the hope that they can bring about a peace and so the Spartans try to make peace with the aid of Persia.
There’s a Spartan political figure by the name of Antalcidas who emerges on this scene, and we shall see in his life, the few times we hear about him he’s always engaged in attempting to contain Sparta’s ambitions, to certainly exclude the possibility of overseas commitments and I would argue, I think most scholars would agree, even not to be engaged outside of the Peloponnesus very far. He seems to represent a traditionalist point of view, which obviously comes to the fore as this war, which the Spartans have started really as part of Agesilaus’ aggressive policy, isn’t working. The Spartans are having to constantly fight, they are suffering casualties, their allies are becoming more and more restive, and look what’s happened, suddenly Sparta which was absolutely in charge of everything is practically on the defensive. So, for all these reasons there’s opposition to the bold policy and Antalcidas represents that. He gets the Spartan assembly or the Spartan gerousia in efforts to support a mission to the King of Persia in which he tries to negotiate a peace.
It doesn’t work in large part, because the enemies, that is Athens and Thebes particularly, and perhaps the others — sorry Corinth and Argos also, and I’ll tell you why in a moment, are not ready to do what is necessary from the Spartan point of view. What the Spartans really want is to break up this coalition and all anti-Spartan coalitions. That’s really the bottom line for Sparta. There’s no sense making peace, if you leave these people in tact. What’s to stop the whole thing from happening again in the future? That’s the bottom line and they are unable to persuade the Greeks to make the concessions that are necessary. So, the war continues and nothing really changes except things get worse. This time Antalcidas again negotiates a peace and he really negotiates it with the great King of Persia.
The King of Persia has changed his mind about where the great threat comes from. Thrasybulus in the 390s, in the latter part of the 390s, engages in a series of naval campaigns all around the Aegean Sea in which he recovers one city after another that used to be under Athenian rule and once again puts it under Athenian rule. He even once again starts collecting money from them. He did something also that the Athenians had done late in the Peloponnesian War; he establishes a customs house in the Hellespont in the Bosporus and every ship that goes through pays a tax to the Athenians. So, there’s a real feeling in Persia obviously that the Athenians are coming back to rebuild their empire, and we better stop them and the Spartans are safer from our point of view having been chasing by events, and so I think that’s probably the single most important reason why the great king comes out and backs, and as we shall see, insists on a peace in Greece which meets Sparta’s needs and the needs are that all these international organizations should be broken up.
Obviously, the league of four states that have conducted the war must stop, but on top of that, the union between Argos and Corinth must be broken up; that’s especially critical to the Spartans. That’s right next door. Argos would be strengthened by its association with Corinth and if it were allowed to continue, it would be a problem in the future. So, it had to be broken up. Thebes, of course, was a great problem for the Spartans and they insisted that before peace was to come, the Thebans had to give up their control of Boeotia. They had used the war as an opportunity to reconstruct the old Boeotian League, which left Thebes at the head and in control of the bulk of Boeotia that was to be broken up in order to reduce Theban power.
Originally, the Spartans had wanted the Athenians to give up the things that they had acquired in the course of the war but they couldn’t do that. Athens was still too strong in the one field that they couldn’t be challenged in easily — their control of the sea and so a compromise had to be made if a peace was to be made. Athens would not join unless it was allowed to keep Lemnos, Skyros, Imbros. So, that was permitted. So the peace came and the critical part — Xenophon reports the exact language of a message that King Artaxerxes sent to the Greeks that was in effect the instrument that made the peace. Here’s what it said, “King Artaxerxes thinks it just that the cities in Asia, and the islands of Klazomenai and Cyprus shall belong to him. Further, that all the other Greek cities, small and great, shall be autonomous.” Listen to that word, that’s critical. This peace is associated with the principle of autonomy, there shall be no breach of autonomy except, says the king, “Lemnos, Imbros and Skyros which shall belong to Athens as in the past. If any refuse to accept this peace, I shall make war on them, along with those who are of the same purpose, both by land and sea and with both ships and money.” Ancient writers and modern writers have disagreed as to what is the name of this peace, some of them speak of the Peace of Antalcidas, more of them I think speak, and I think they’re right in this decision, as the King’s Peace.
This is not the product of a negotiation and the king is very careful even though it really is, but he’s very careful to make it clear that that’s not the way he sees it. This is a command leveled by the king at the Greek states saying, this is how you will be, I say so, and if you don’t like it I will beat the hell out of you. That’s the message that comes. But, of course, the reason he can say that, with as much confidence as he does, is that his partner in the peace is Sparta. This is a peace that will benefit Persia and benefit Sparta at the expense of everybody else. The Spartans take it as a license to run Greece in the way that they see fit. Notice nobody says that the Spartans have to break up the Peloponnesian League, that doesn’t count as any kind of a violation of autonomy and so that’s the nature of the peace, whether among the results are that the Asiatic Greeks are abandoned by the Greek states once and for all, and of course that means Sparta mainly, until finally Alexander will impose his rule when he conquers the Persian Empire.
The Boeotian League is dissolved, Argos and Corinth are split, and Athens loses all that has been gained except for those three islands that are mentioned. Sparta regains, and in a certain sense, gets greater control of the mainland Greek situation. It is the hegemon of Greece now as a kind of a partner of the great king, and the great king leaves Greece essentially to the Spartans without any interference. How did he do that? In the same way that they did it to win the Peloponnesian War. An enemy of the Spartans would say because they were Medizers, they had done the work of the Persians; they had collaborated with the Persians against the Greeks. That’s now how the Spartans saw it of course; they would have something like — I guess there’s a crack in Plutarch somewhere, it says, we have not Medized; it’s the Persians who have Spartanized, but that’s a very kind way of looking at it. It is without question, if you look back on it, we’re talking just about 100 years after the Persian war and it’s a reversal of the Persian Wars.
The Greeks won the Persian Wars and the proof of it was they chased the great king out of Europe, eager to stay alive and completely unable to do anything about what the Greeks were to do with the coastal regions of the Persian Empire. Now the King of Persia is telling the Greeks what they must do. It was widely seen as a cause for great shame and by those people who were not friendly to Sparta a great cause of anger against the Spartans, who were responsible for this condition of things. But the Spartans didn’t care much, because they were now in a position to exercise the power that the dominant force in Sparta, who is Agesilaus and his supporters, wanted to do. So, in 385 we see the Spartans attacking the city of Mantinea. Once again, the story is very much like the story of Aulis in 402. This time Mantinea had been again, one of those states in the Peloponnesus that had joined in a quadruple alliance against Sparta in 421, the great battle that so much threatened Spartan existence in 418 had been fought on the territory of Mantinea. It had a democratic history and democratic tendencies.
So, with no pretext really at all, the Spartans invaded their territory, besieged the city, managed finally to defeat Mantinea by diverting the waters of a river that ran through Mantinea to the point where it undermined the walls and they had to surrender. Xenophon learns an important lesson about warfare from this event and he concludes his account of this by saying, well, that shows you that you should not build your city around the river. So, if any of you are planning, keep that in mind. Then soon afterwards, the Spartans turn on another city in the Peloponnesus, the city of Phlyus, which is to the southwest of Corinth, not a very big city but not a small tiny one either, and what it turns out here is that the thing that the Phylasians have done that the Spartans don’t like is that they have been a democracy for part of the time. King Agesilaus basically removes the government after fighting a war and besieging the city. It was not an easy task, it was expensive and time consuming, but they do gain a victory and Agesilaus puts in a new government made up not just of oligarchs, which of course they were, but they were the personal friends of Agesilaus.
If you look at it, historically it resembles the stuff that Lysander was doing at the end of the Peloponnesian War and afterwards in placing these decarchies of his friends in the cities, so that they would not be only pro-Spartan but pro-Lysander, and here Agesilaus did the same thing in Phylus and it’s not the only place that he did. Then enormity followed enormity as the Spartan power was unchecked in this period of time. Up in the north the city of Olynthus, in the Chalcidic peninsula was gaining control of that peninsula, basically establishing itself as the hegemonal power over cities in that region. In 383, a couple of cities up in that region came to Sparta complaining of what the Olynthians were doing and urging the Spartans to defend them and to undo these things, using as the basis for their appeal the King’s Peace. This was a violation of their autonomy; the Spartans were to be the upholders of Greek autonomy according to the King’s Peace, and so they ought to send a force up.
The Spartans did so and in the course of that war which lasted from 382 to 379, they defeated Olynthos, dissolved the confederacy, and destroyed again any notion of a league other than the Spartan League. There was an event that was connected with that movement up towards the northeast, up to the Chalcidice, which was the most famous, I think — there’s a small competition for a couple of events, but one of the most famous anyway in this period illustrating the arrogance and power of the Spartan hegemony, a Spartan force was sent off ostensibly to reinforce their Spartan army up there in the Chalcidice. It was led by a general named Phoebidas. As he was moving north on a route that would not have been the normal route to take, a route that took him right past the city of Thebes, he camped out at night and on his way there he was contacted by an important official in the government of Thebes, an oligarch, a friend of Sparta. The next day the Spartan army seized the Acropolis of Thebes, which is called the Cadmea. They did so on a sacred day, a holiday was being celebrated, everybody was in the same shape people are on a holiday. Nobody was ready, they took the city; the enemies of the dominant party that had invited the Spartans in were put to death, if they could not flee successfully.
The Spartans left a garrison on the Cadmea and took control of the city and had their stooges run the city thereafter. Now, this had not been determined by the Spartan assembly, this was not the consequence of a policy decision that the Spartan officials or people had made. When Phoebidas came back to Sparta he was put on trial and there was great anger against him and there was great anger against Sparta of course throughout the Greek world. There was no real case for him, but surprisingly enough, even though he was not a member of Agesilaus’ faction. Agesilaus got up at the trial and simply said, you guys are all talking about the wrong thing. There’s only one question that should be asked about the behavior of Phoebidas. Was what he did good or bad for Sparta? Well, it was obviously good. Why in the world do you want to punish him? He was not punished with any severity; a mild fine or at least a fine was imposed. We don’t know if he ever paid it. In any case, the critical thing was what would Sparta do about the action itself? The fact that it had a garrison up there on the Cadmea. If they thought it had been the wrong thing to do, if it had been the idea that Phoebidas and what didn’t represent Spartan policy, then they should have withdrawn the garrison. The garrison stayed, so that Sparta now — this was something that rang all around the Greek world. This was the worst thing anybody could remember in peace time with no allegation of cause, they had simply seized another city, an ancient city, a great city, and they refused to back off.
Finally there’s one other example of this same kind of behavior. The government in Thebes was tyrannical, imposed upon an unwilling people; some of the people who had fled did a reverse of what happened in the time of the Thirty Tyrants in Athens. They fled to Athens, and, of course, the Athenians gave them support, and protected them and then in 379 a small number of these exiles launched a clever plot that allowed them to sneak into Thebes and to make their way to the Cadmea and to kill the oligarchic leaders of the city in the dark when nobody could really do anything about it, and to drive away a number of the Spartans and to free the city.
Thebes became free, it became democratic too, because these people now belonged to a democratic faction and more and more, if you’re a democrat, you’re anti-Spartan, if you’re an oligarch, you’re a pro-Spartan, and so all of this is the beginning of what we will get to next time, which is the flowering of Theban power. It’s going to happen as they get stronger and stronger, but the event I wanted to mention as the twin of the Phoebidas thing is that in 379, a Spartanharmost of the one of the garrisons in Boeotia by the name of Sphodrias took a force by night, marched into Attica, ostensibly his plan was to reach the Piraeus and then that would allow them to take control of Athens, because they could cut them off from their port at the sea. He didn’t get it quite right. By the time morning broke and they were visible he was still miles and miles, and miles away from the Piraeus and so all he could do was to do some harm to the Athenian territory and then to go home.
Well, when he got home again he hadn’t gotten any vote from the Spartan assembly or from the gerousia or from theephors to do anything, another thing that he had apparently done on his own. So, there was another trial and this time the only thing he had going for him apparently — well, he still had Agesilaus’ general approach, but he was the lover of the son of Agesilaus, and so Agesilaus who ostensibly was hostile to what had happened was made to speak in his defense and this time his argument was simply, Sparta has too few men of quality to be able to execute any for whatever reason whatsoever and so we shouldn’t do anything to Sphodrias. So, they didn’t. That was yet another signal and it had fantastic consequences.
In Athens they had been holding some Spartan ambassadors when the Sphodrias’ raid had taken place and they were holding them in effect as hostages, but the Spartans said, look we had nothing to do with it, this was — Sphodrias did it all on his own, and he’ll certainly be condemned when he gets back to Sparta. So, the Athenians said okay, you can go home, and then he wasn’t and so the Athenians now were determined that they would have to fight Sparta. In the process, they set about organizing an alliance, a general alliance, meant against Sparta, which they were able to do in considerable part, because of all of the irritation that had been felt all around Greece by these terrible actions of the Spartans, and as I think I’ll tell you next time, they put together what we call the Second Athenian Confederation, and they made an alliance with the newly liberated Thebes. Thebes, which is going to get stronger and stronger, and stronger and so we have now a threat once again to the Spartan hegemony which will be very serious, but of a different kind from the one we had before. I’ll tell you about it next time.
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