The Peloponnesian Wars
Peloponnesus (also called Peloponnese) is the name of the peninsula where the city of Sparta is located. Ancient Sparta was famous for its dedication to a strong fighting force. The city led a group of city-states in an alliance known as the Peloponnesian League.
The city of Athens was famous for its strong navy. Athens had built what was known as the “Long Wall” connecting the city to its harbor at Piraeus. Athens was the head of a group of city-states known as the Delian League. Sparta was concerned that Athens had plans to go to war against them. In 431 B.C., fighting broke out between Corinth and one of its colonies. Sparta and Athens took opposite sides in the conflict. Sparta marched on the city of Athens that year. Because Athens had built the Long Wall that securely connected the two cities, they were able to keep the city supplied from their port city. However, a plague broke out in Athens that killed over one-fourth of its population. In 421 B.C., a peace treaty was signed. In 415 B.C., an Athenian politician named Alcibiades betrayed the military plans of Athens to the Spartans. His betrayal cost the Athenians 175 ships and over 40,000 men. At the same time, Athens began to lose some of its influence over the cities in the Delian League. Some of those cities started to abandon the league. Sparta joined forces with Persia to defeat the Athenian navy at Aegospotami in 405 B.C. Without a navy, Athens was not able to supply food to its city when it was besieged again. They surrendered in 404 B.C.
Although the Spartans won the war, peace did not come to Greece. Sparta’s alliance with Persia collapsed. Wars between the city-states continued until fifty years later when Macedonia took over most of the Greek city-states and made them part of the new Macedonian Empire.