War (8) – chaos

War (8) – chaos

411 BCE – an oligarchical coup in Athens and the fear and mistrust which it inspired

ἐβούλευον δὲ οὐδὲν ὅτι μὴ τοῖς συνεστῶσι δοκοίη, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ λέγοντες ἐκ τούτων ἦσαν καὶ τὰ ῥηθησόμενα πρότερον αὐτοῖς προύσκεπτο. ἀντέλεγέ τε οὐδεὶς ἔτι τῶν ἄλλων, δεδιὼς καὶ ὁρῶν πολὺ τὸ συνεστηκός: εἰ δέ τις καὶ ἀντείποι, εὐθὺς ἐκ τρόπου τινὸς ἐπιτηδείου ἐτεθνήκει, καὶ τῶν δρασάντων οὔτε ζήτησις οὔτ᾽ εἰ ὑποπτεύοιντο δικαίωσις ἐγίγνετο, ἀλλ᾽ ἡσυχίαν εἶχεν ὁ δῆμος καὶ κατάπληξιν τοιαύτην ὥστε κέρδος ὁ μὴ πάσχων τι βίαιον, εἰ καὶ σιγῴη, ἐνόμιζεν. καὶ τὸ συνεστηκὸς πολὺ πλέον ἡγούμενοι εἶναι ἢ ὅσον ἐτύγχανεν ὂν ἡσσῶντο ταῖς γνώμαις, καὶ ἐξευρεῖν αὐτὸ ἀδύνατοι ὄντες διὰ τὸ μέγεθος τῆς πόλεως καὶ διὰ τὴν ἀλλήλων ἀγνωσίαν οὐκ εἶχον [αὐτοὶ ἐξευρεῖν]. κατὰ δὲ ταὐτὸ τοῦτο καὶ προσολοφύρασθαί τινι ἀγανακτήσαντα, ὥστε ἀμύνασθαι ἐπιβουλεύσαντα, ἀδύνατον ἦν: ἢ γὰρ ἀγνῶτα ἂν ηὗρεν ᾧ ἐρεῖ ἢ γνώριμον ἄπιστον. (8.66 adapted)
τοῖς συνεστῶσι – conspirators
τὰ ῥηθησόμενα – what would be said
προύσκεπτο – see beforehand
δεδιὼς – fearing
τὸ συνεστηκός – conspiracy
τροπος – way
επιτηδειος – convenient
ζήτησις – search
ὑποπτεύοιντο – be suspected
κατάπληξις – consternation
το κέρδος – advantage
σιγῴη – be silent
ἡσσῶντο – be beaten, submit
γνωμη – opinion
ἀγνωσία – ignorance
προσολοφύρασθαί – utter one’s sorrows
ἀγανακτήσαντα – be angry
ἀμύνασθαι – defend oneself
ἀγνως – unknown
γνώριμος – well-known

Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War ends abruptly in 411 BCE, which suggests that he died before he was able to complete it. An account of the final seven years of the war can be found in Xenophon’s ‘Hellenica’.

War (7) – nemesis

War (7) – nemesis

Thucydides’ summary of the consequences of the expedition to Sicily (413 BCE) which proved disastrous for the Athenians

καὶ ἡμέρας μὲν ἑβδομήκοντά τινας οὕτω διῃτήθησαν ἁθρόοι: ἔπειτα πλὴν Ἀθηναίων καὶ εἴ τινες Σικελιωτῶν ἢ Ἰταλιωτῶν συνεστράτευσαν, τοὺς ἄλλους ἀπέδοντο. ἐλήφθησαν δὲ οἱ σύμπαντες, ἀκριβείᾳ μὲν χαλεπὸν ἐξειπεῖν, ὅμως δὲ οὐκ ἐλάσσους ἑπτακισχιλίων. συνέβη τε ἔργον τοῦτο [Ἑλληνικὸν] τῶν κατὰ τὸν πόλεμον τόνδε μέγιστον γενέσθαι, δοκεῖν δ᾽ ἔμοιγε καὶ ὧν ἀκοῇ Ἑλληνικῶν ἴσμεν, καὶ τοῖς τε κρατήσασι λαμπρότατον καὶ τοῖς διαφθαρεῖσι δυστυχέστατον: κατὰ πάντα γὰρ πάντως νικηθέντες καὶ οὐδὲν ὀλίγον ἐς οὐδὲν κακοπαθήσαντες πανωλεθρίᾳ δὴ τὸ λεγόμενον καὶ πεζὸς καὶ νῆες καὶ οὐδὲν ὅτι οὐκ ἀπώλετο, καὶ ὀλίγοι ἀπὸ πολλῶν ἐπ᾽ οἴκου ἀπενόστησαν. ταῦτα μὲν τὰ περὶ Σικελίαν γενόμενα. (7.87 adapted)
ἑβδομήκοντά – seventy
διῃτήθησαν – live
αθροος – together
πλὴν – except
ἀπέδοντο – sell
ἐλήφθησαν – take, capture
ἀκριβεία – accuracy
ἑπτακισχιλίοι – seven thousand
συνέβη – come to pass, happen
ακοη˛ ειδεναι τι – to know a thing by hearsay
λαμπρότατος – most illustrious
διαφθαρεῖσι – be destroyed
δυστυχέστατος – most unfortunate
νικηθέντες – conquered
κακοπαθήσαντες – suffer harm
πανωλεθρία – utter destruction
πεζὸς – land army
ἀπώλετο – destroy
ἀπενόστησαν – return home

War (5) – hubris

War (5) – hubris

In the sixteenth year of the war (416 BCE, after hostilities had resumed), the Athenians made an example of the Melians

‘ἡμεῖς τοίνυν οὔτε αὐτοὶ μετ᾽ ὀνομάτων καλῶν, ὡς ἢ δικαίως τὸν Μῆδον καταλύσαντες ἄρχομεν ἢ ἀδικούμενοι νῦν ἐπεξερχόμεθα, λόγων μῆκος ἄπιστον παρέξομεν, οὔθ᾽ ὑμᾶς ἀξιοῦμεν λέγοντας ἢ ὅτι Λακεδαιμονίων ἄποικοι ὄντες οὐ συνεστρατεύσατε ἢ ὡς ἡμᾶς οὐδὲν ἠδικήκατε οἴεσθαι πείσειν, τὰ δυνατὰ δ᾽ ἐξ ὧν ἑκάτεροι ἀληθῶς φρονοῦμεν διαπράσσεσθαι, ἐπισταμένους ὅτι δίκαια μὲν ἐν τῷ ἀνθρωπείῳ λόγῳ ἀπὸ τῆς ἴσης ἀνάγκης κρίνεται, δυνατὰ δὲ οἱ προύχοντες πράσσουσι καὶ οἱ ἀσθενεῖς συγχωροῦσιν.’ (5.89 adapted)
το ονομα – pretence
δικαίως – justly
καταλύσαντες – destroy
ἄρχομεν – rule
ἐπεξερχόμεθα – attack
το μηκος – length
απιστος – not credible
παρέξομεν – present
αποικος – colonist
συνεστρατεύσατε – serve with
ἠδικήκατε – do wrong
οἴεσθαι πείσειν – think to persuade
δυνατος – possible
φρονοῦμεν – have in mind
διαπράσσεσθαι – bring about
ἐπισταμένους – knowing
ἐν τῷ ἀνθρωπείῳ λόγῳ – in human reckoning
κρίνεται – decide
προύχοντες – surpass
ασθενης – weak
συγχωροῦσιν – agree, go along with

War (3) – plague

War (3) – plague

Thucydides describes the symptoms of the plague which broke out in Athens in 430 BCE [he tells us that he himself had the disease, so could describe it at first hand]

τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἔτος, ὡς ὡμολογεῖτο, ἐκ πάντων μάλιστα δὴ ἄνοσον ἐς τὰς ἄλλας ἀσθενείας ἐτύγχανεν ὄν: εἰ δέ τις προύκαμνέ τι, ἐς τοῦτο πάντα ἀπεκρίθη. τοὺς δὲ ἄλλους ἀπ᾽ οὐδεμιᾶς προφάσεως, ἀλλ᾽ ἐξαίφνης ὑγιεῖς ὄντας πρῶτον μὲν τῆς κεφαλῆς θέρμαι ἰσχυραὶ καὶ τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν ἐρυθήματα καὶ φλόγωσις ἐλάμβανε, καὶ τὰ ἐντός, ἥ τε φάρυγξ καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα, εὐθὺς αἱματώδη ἦν καὶ πνεῦμα ἄτοπον καὶ δυσῶδες ἠφίει: ἔπειτα ἐξ αὐτῶν πταρμὸς καὶ βράγχος ἐπεγίγνετο, καὶ ἐν οὐ πολλῷ χρόνῳ κατέβαινεν ἐς τὰ στήθη ὁ πόνος μετὰ βηχὸς ἰσχυροῦ: καὶ ὁπότε ἐς τὴν καρδίαν στηρίξειεν, ἀνέστρεφέ τε αὐτὴν καὶ ἀποκαθάρσεις χολῆς πᾶσαι ὅσαι ὑπὸ ἰατρῶν ὠνομασμέναι εἰσὶν ἐπῇσαν, καὶ αὗται μετὰ ταλαιπωρίας μεγάλης. λύγξ τε τοῖς πλέοσιν ἐνέπιπτε κενή, σπασμὸν ἐνδιδοῦσα ἰσχυρόν, τοῖς μὲν μετὰ ταῦτα λωφήσαντα, τοῖς δὲ πολλῷ ὕστερον. (2. 49 adapted)
το ετος – year; ὡμολογεῖτο – agreed; ανοσος – free from sickness; ‛η ασθενεια – sickness, disease; ἐτύγχανεν ὄν – happened to be; προύκαμνέ – fell ill; ἀπεκρίθη – put down; ‛η προφασις – reason; ἐξαίφνης – suddenly; ‛υγιης – healthy;
‛η κεφαλη – head; ‛η θερμη – feverish heat; ‛ο οφθαλμος – eye; το ερυθημα – flush; ‛η φλογωσις – burning heat; ἐντός – inside; ἥ φάρυγξ – throat; ἡ γλῶσσα – tongue; ‛αιματωδης – bloody; ατοπος – unnatural; δυσωδης – foul-smelling; ἠφίει – emitted;
‛ο πταρμος – sneeze; ‛ο βραγχος – sore throat; το στηθος – chest; ὁ πόνος – pain; ‛ο βηξ – cough; ‛η καρδια – stomach; στηρίξειεν – fixed; ἀνέστρεφέ – upset; ‛η αποκαθαρσις – discharge; ‛η χολη – bile; ἐπῇσαν – attacked; ‛η ταλαιπωρια – suffering;
‛η λυγξ – cough; κενος – empty; ἐνδιδοῦσα – cause; λωφήσαντα – abate

War (2) – propaganda

War (2) – propaganda

At the end of the first year of the war (431BCE) the Athenian leader Pericles delivered a funeral oration in which he described the merits of democracy

‘χρώμεθα γὰρ πολιτείᾳ οὐ ζηλούσῃ τοὺς τῶν πέλας νόμους, μᾶλλον δὲ παράδειγμα αὐτοὶ ὄντες τισὶν ἢ μιμούμενοι ἑτέρους. καὶ ὄνομα μὲν διὰ τὸ μὴ ἐς ὀλίγους ἀλλ᾽ ἐς πλείονας οἰκεῖν κέκληται δημοκρατία: μέτεστι δὲ κατὰ μὲν τοὺς νόμους πρὸς τὰ ἴδια διάφορα πᾶσι τὸ ἴσον, κατὰ δὲ τὴν ἀξίωσιν, ὡς ἕκαστος ἔν τῳ εὐδοκιμεῖ, οὐκ ἀπὸ μέρους τὸ πλέον ἢ ἀπ᾽ ἀρετῆς ἐς τὰ κοινὰ προτιμᾶται, οὐδ᾽ αὖ κατὰ πενίαν, ἔχων γέ τι ἀγαθὸν δρᾶσαι τὴν πόλιν, ἀξιώματος ἀφανείᾳ κεκώλυται.’ (2.37 adapted)
χρώμεθα – use, follow
‛η πολιτεια – constitution
ζηλούσῃ – emulate
‛οι πελας – neighbours
το παραδειγμα – model
μιμούμενοι – imitate
το ονομα – name
οἰκεῖν – manage
μέτεστι – have a share of
ιδιος – private
το ισον – equality
‛η αξιωσις – reputation
εὐδοκιμεῖ – be distinguished (for something)
το μερος – share, heritage
τα κοινα – public affairs
‛η πενια – poverty
δρᾶσαι – to accomplish
‛η αφανεια – obscurity
το αξιωμα = ‛η αξιωσις

War (1) – causes

War (1) – causes

Thucydides explains what he considers to be the ‘truest reason’ for the Peloponnesian War: the growing power of Athens and Spartan fear

διότι δ᾽ ἔλυσαν [τας σπονδας], τὰς αἰτίας πρῶτον προύγραψα καὶ τὰς διαφοράς, τοῦ μή τινα ζητῆσαί ποτε ἐξ ὅτου τοσοῦτος πόλεμος τοῖς Ἕλλησι κατέστη. τὴν μὲν γὰρ ἀληθεστάτην πρόφασιν, ἀφανεστάτην δὲ λόγῳ, ἡγοῦμαι τοὺς Ἀθηναίους μεγάλους γιγνομένους καὶ φόβον παρέχοντας τοῖς Λακεδαιμονίοις ἀναγκάσαι ἐς τὸ πολεμεῖν: αἱ δ᾽ ἐς τὸ φανερὸν λεγόμεναι αἰτίαι αἵδ᾽ ἦσαν ἑκατέρων, ἀφ᾽ ὧν λύσαντες τὰς σπονδὰς ἐς τὸν πόλεμον κατέστησαν. (1. 23 adapted)
διοτι – for what reason
‛η αιτια – cause
προύγραψα – have written first
‛η διαφορα – disagreement
ζητῆσαί – to seek
ἐξ ὅτου – for what reason
κατέστη – came about
‛η προφασις – reason
αφανης – hidden
ἡγοῦμαι – consider
‛ο φοβος – fear
ἀναγκάσαι – compel, force
τὸ πολεμεῖν – war-making
ἐς τὸ φανερὸν – openly
‛εκατερος – each (side)

The wider world: Sparta

The view from Sparta

The view from Sparta

Sparta
Suppose the city of Sparta were to be deserted, and nothing left but the temples and the ground-plan, distant ages would be very unwilling to believe that the power of the Lacedaemonians was at all equal to their fame. And yet they own two-fifths of the Peloponnese, and are acknowledged leaders of the whole, as well as of numerous allies in the rest of Greece. But their city is not built continuously, and has no splendid temples or other edifices; it rather resembles a group of villages like the ancient towns of Greece… (Thucydides)

Sparta was a prominent city-state, situated on the banks of the Eurotas River in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. Around 650 BC, it rose to become the dominant military land-power in Greece. At its peak around 500 BC the size of the city would have been some 20,000 – 35,000 free residents, plus numerous helots and perioikoi (“dwellers around”). At 40,000 – 50,000 it was one of the largest Greek cities; in comparison, however, according to Thucydides, the population of Athens in 431 BC was 360,000 – 610,000.

Sparta was unique in ancient Greece for its social system and constitution, which completely focussed on military training and excellence. Its inhabitants were classified as Spartiates (Spartan citizens, who enjoyed full rights), mothakes (non-Spartan free men raised as Spartans), perioikoi, and helots (state-owned serfs, enslaved non-Spartan local population). Spartiates underwent the rigorous agoge training and education regime, and Spartan phalanges (battle lines) were widely considered to be among the best. Spartan women enjoyed considerably more rights and equality with men than elsewhere in the classical world.

Given its military pre-eminence, Sparta was recognised as the overall leader of the combined Greek forces during the Persian Wars. Between 431 and 404 BC, Sparta was the principal enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War, from which it emerged victorious, though at great cost of lives. Sparta’s defeat by Thebes in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC ended Sparta’s prominent role in Greece. However, it maintained its political independence until the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC. Thereafter it underwent a long period of decline, especially in the Middle Ages, when many Spartans moved to live in nearby Mystras.

Sparta was the subject of fascination in its own day, as well as in the west following the revival of classical learning. This love of or admiration for Sparta is known as Laconism or Laconophilia.