September 18, The Perceived Inevitability of the Peloponnesian War The introduction to Book One of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War has a variety of functions as it provides the reader with, 1 Historical context of this particular military conflict amid other Hellenic wars such the Trojan War and the Persian War, 2 Insight into the nature of government at the time - how it can be that a city is a colony of one power while it is allied with another3 Insight into Athens' rise by virtue of its system of government which usurps its allies' navies and demands monetary tribute whereas Sparta demanded no such tribute but instead set up oligarchic systems of governments in its satellites loyal to Sparta. Finally, the author explains that, although the remainder of Book One would be dedicated to enumerating the specific disputes that triggered the Spartan declaration of war against Athens, the Peloponnesian War was in fact inevitable because of the rise of Athenian power as well as Sparta's fear of this power. While it is likely the case that the Peloponnesian War was inevitable for these reasons, it is arguable that the region's understanding of the nature of the Athenian power developed as a result of these disputes and therefore they did in fact serve a causal function in the beginning of the war. The Dispute Over Epidamnus Within the city of Epidamnus, a democratic faction overthrew the aristocracy and drove the aristocrats into exile.
The Dangers of Questions Dealing With Historical Causality and Inevitability The question of when the Second Peloponnesian War became inevitable, like the related question of who or what was directly responsible for its outbreak, is a dangerously broad query.
It seems to demand a specific answer, yet one can imagine multiple beautifully argued, well supported theses all standing like ducks in a row in stark contradiction to each other, with no systematic way for a reader to evaluate the relative truth of any of the claims.
All of these theses and countless others like them can be supported to some degree or another by evidence from the surviving ancient sources. In trying to evaluate the truth of these sorts of theses, an historian is left with a battery of lame tropes, particularly reasoning by false analogy.
For example, one might claim that the intensity of commercial rivalry with Corinth is an inadequate yardstick for deciding when war became inevitable because at previous points on the timeline, it did not lead to war; for example, Sparta did not immediately attack Athens when the conflict over Corcyra erupted, and at an even earlier point in history, Corinth supported Athens during its suppression of the Samian revolt Thuc.
It is either the case that the question of inevitability intrinsically has an infinity of potentially correct answers that cannot be meaningfully evaluated against each other, or that the Second Peloponnesian War became inevitable once it was declared and the fighting had begun.
Of course, this seems like a singularly unsatisfactory answer akin to rhetorical sleight of hand. Our intuitions tell us that causality is usually more complex than literally proximate causes like the declaration of the war itself. For example, it is easy for us now, knowing that the Peloponnesian War took place, to claim that in the extreme long term, as Thucydides said, Spartan fear and Athenian imperial progress were to blame for the conflict.
Yet during the fifty year interval separating the Persian War from the Peloponnesian War, we neither find Athens aggressively pursuing an explicitly imperial policy at all times, nor Sparta equally willing to go to war at all times; indeed, even when Athens eventually allied with Corcyra, it was explicitly a defensive compact, and the assembly at which the Spartans at last voted to go to war was too close to call by acclamation Thuc.
If World War 3 had broken out between the USSR and the USA inone might have said that the differences between the capitalist and communist worlds made the war inevitable. Yet war did not break out between the USSR and USA, and the battery of attractive-sounding arguments suggesting it was inevitable would be demonstrably false.
For this reason, theses about when war became inevitable often say more about the tastes of the author making the claim than the meaningful answer to the question at hand. How, then, is one to approach such a challenge beyond pointing out its puzzling subtext? The Peloponnesian War as a Case Study If a man decides on January 1st to eat only the gristle of bacon for the rest of his life and has a heart attack after breakfast on June 1st, one would probably not blame the final breakfast for his demise, or say that the heart attack was inevitably going to take place on June 1st.
The best that one could say is this: Although World War 3 did not break out insuch a conflict was probably far more likely at that moment than, say, during the years of the Clinton Presidency.
The remainder of this paper seeks to present two points. First, potentially lethal patterns of behavior were well established before the conflict of BC, making war very likely by that point. Second, ideological conflict between Athens and Corinth on the difference between a subject, an ally, and a colony effectively exacerbated tensions in BC to provide a pretext for the war.
The fact remains, however, that it might have been avoided at any time just as the hypothetical World War 3 was avoided, or at least delayed. A diet of gristle does not guarantee a heart attack; it only makes it very likely.
In the same way, we can say that the Peloponnesian War was caused by dangerous patterns of behavior established over time that made disaster more and more probabilistic at every moment though, emphatically, never inevitable. Indeed, confidence in the age-old superiority of hoplite warfare to all other forms of military organization was an inextricable aspect of the Spartan mindset, and the Athenian defeat at Tanagra in and the Egyptian disaster later that decade likely lived on in the collective consciousness of the Greek world for a long time afterward.
Thus, Athens simultaneously seemed infuriating and vulnerable to many conservative Spartans. Considering the fifty year interval separating the Persian from the Peloponnesian War as a whole, Thucydides was certainly correct when he wrote: It takes no Thucydides to realize that this was a potential recipe for disaster, with warfare between Athenian and Spartan interests the rule rather than the exception throughout the period.
In such a climate, the Peloponnesian War might have broken out at many points in history. After decades of hostility and memories of many unavenged loved ones dead on the battlefield, war probably seemed very likely indeed by the time of the crisis over Epidamnus in the late s.
Was there perhaps a point along the timeline in which the probability for long-term peace was at its maximum, or at least significantly greater than by the time of Sybota? My intuition is that the Spartan rebuffing of Athenian aid at Mt. Ithome in BC significantly worsened the climate—perhaps beforehand the conciliatory policies of a man like Cimon might have found some workable middle ground with the Spartan oligarchy.
Indeed, Athens and Sparta were by some standards still in a theoretical state of war even after the conflict nominally ended: It was within this volatile atmosphere that two conflicting ideologies concerning the very nature of spheres of influence would prove sufficient to spark a second explosion.
The First Peloponnesian War was an indecisive affair, and Corinthian interests and commercial rivalry with Athens continued to cause great travail. The Peloponnesian League was a loose defensive network led by a hegemon; the Delian League was a network of subjugated states.
Corinth, a member of the Peloponnesian League armed with an ancient name and great pretensions, was neither a real hegemon nor the leader of an empire. Desirous of sway in her own right, she seems to have perceived her colonies as more than simply sister cities sharing quaint historical and religious associations, which was otherwise the rule for Greek colonial relations.
Athens saw Corcyra as a neutral state free to make its own choices; Corinth did not concur. However, the trouble over Potidaea, an Athenian ally but also a Corinthian colony, suggests that fundamentally, the Corinthians were sincere in their belief that colonial ties implied the existence of sacred spheres of influence, and that defending these rights was worth dying for.
However, one should not underestimate an independent Spartan willingness to fight. Ithome; the First Peloponnesian War was fought!The Peloponnesian War fought between ancient Athens and Sparta (who won) and their respective allies came in two stages, the first from c.
to The Peloponnesian War provides an excellent example to be evaluated. The following gives a brief history of the war, causes of the war, and the importance of its study. In the case of the Peloponnesian War, we have two equal but different powers in control of Greece and the surrounding area.
The Peloponnesian War Is war inevitable? It appears that the answer to this question is yes. However, war is unpredictable and must be studied based on individual circumstances, actions taken, and reactions.
States disagree with each other on many subjects and conflicts arise often. In the case of the Peloponnesian War, we have two equal. Thucydides also states in his History of the Peloponnesian War, “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and fear it caused to Sparta” (Thucydides, 49).
Thucydides goes further to say, “That the truest cause (of the war) I consider to be one which was formally most kept out of sight. It is either the case that the question of inevitability intrinsically has an infinity of potentially correct answers that cannot be meaningfully evaluated against each other, or that the Second Peloponnesian War became inevitable once it was declared and the fighting had begun.
The Risks and Rewards of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. S.N. Jaffe. July 6, made war inevitable or necessary or compulsory” — and is supplemented by Allison’s Thucydides his account of causes of war is an artfully constructed case study, one revelatory of certain essential dynamics at play in the outbreak.