Following the Peloponnesian War, Athens underwent a period
of harsh oligarchic governance and Sparta enjoyed a brief hegemonic period.
Understand the effects of the Peloponnesian War on the Greek city-states
The Peloponnesian War ended in victory for
Sparta and its allies, but signaled the demise of Athenian naval and political
hegemony throughout the Mediterranean.
Democracy in Athens was briefly overthrown in
411 BCE as a result of its poor handling of the Peloponnesian War. Lysander,
the Spartan admiral who commanded the Spartan fleet at Aegospotami in 405 BCE, helped
to organize the Thirty Tyrants as Athens’ government for the 13 months they
Lysander established many pro-Spartan
governments throughout the Aegean, where the ruling classes were more loyal to
him than to Sparta as a whole. Eventually Spartan kings, Agis and Pausanias, abolished
these Aegean decarchies, curbing Lysander’s political influence.
Agesilaus II was one of two Spartan kings during
the period of Spartan hegemony, and is remembered for his multiple campaigns in
the eastern Aegean and Persian territories.
Agesilaus’s loss at the Battle of Leuctra
effectively ended Spartan hegemony throughout the region.
of power structure in which a small group of people hold all power and
influence in a state.
The Peloponnesian War ended in victory for Sparta and its
allies, and led directly to the rising naval power of Sparta. However, it
marked the demise of Athenian naval and political hegemony throughout the Mediterranean.
The destruction from the Peloponnesian War weakened and divided the Greeks for
years to come, eventually allowing the Macedonians an opportunity to conquer
them in the mid-4th century BCE.
Democracy in Athens was briefly overthrown in 411 BCE as a
result of its poor handling of the Peloponnesian War. Citizens reacted against
Athens’ defeat, blaming democratic politicians, such as Cleon and Cleophon. The
Spartan army encouraged revolt, installing a pro-Spartan oligarchy within
Athens, called the Thirty Tyrants, in 404 BCE. Lysander, the Spartan admiral who
commanded the Spartan fleet at Aegospotami in 405 BCE, helped to organize the
Thirty Tyrants as a government for the 13 months they maintained power.
During the Thirty Tyrants’ rule, five percent of the
Athenian population was killed, private property was confiscated, and
democratic supporters were exiled. The Thirty appointed a council of 500 to
serve the judicial functions that had formerly belonged to all citizens. Despite
all this, not all Athenian men had their rights removed. In fact, 3,000 such men
were chosen by the Thirty to share in the government of Athens. These men were
permitted to carry weapons, entitled to jury trial, and allowed to reside with
the city limits. This list of men was constantly being revised, and selection
was most likely a reflection of loyalty to the regime, with the majority of
Athenians not supporting the Thirty Tyrants’ rule.
Nonetheless, the Thirty’s regime was not met with much overt
opposition for the majority of their rule, as a result of the harsh penalties
placed on dissenters. Eventually, the level of violence and brutality carried
out by the Thirty in Athens led to increased opposition, stemming primarily
from a rebel group of exiles led by Thrasybulus, a former trierarch in the
Athenian navy. The increased opposition culminated in a revolution that
ultimately overthrew the Thirty’s regime. In the aftermath, Athens gave amnesty
to the 3,000 men who were given special treatment under the regime, with the
exception of those who comprised the governing Thirty and their associated
governmental officials. Athens struggled to recover from the upheaval caused by
the Thirty Tyrants in the years that followed.
As a result of the Peloponnesian War, Sparta, which had
primarily been a continental culture, became a naval power. At its peak, Sparta
overpowered many key Greek states, including the elite Athenian navy. By the
end of the 5th century BCE, Sparta’s successes against the Athenian Empire
and ability to invade Persian provinces in Anatolia ushered in a period of
Spartan hegemony. This hegemonic period was to be short-lived, however.
After the end of the Peloponnesian War, Lysander established
many pro-Spartan governments throughout the Aegean. Most of the ruling systems
set up by Lysander were ten-man oligarchies, called decarchies, in which
harmosts, Spartan military governors, were the heads of the government. Because
Lysander appointed from within the ruling classes of these governments, the
men were more loyal to Lysander than Sparta, making these Aegean outposts
similar to a private empire.
Lysander and Spartan king Agis were in agreement with Corinth
and Thebes that Athens should be totally destroyed in the aftermath of the
Peloponnesian War, but they were opposed by a more moderate faction, headed by
Pausanias. Eventually, Pausanias’ moderate faction gained the upper hand and
Athens was spared, though its defensive walls and port fortifications at Piraeus
were demolished. Lysander also managed to require Athens to recall its exiles,
causing political instability within the city-state, of which Lysander took
advantage to establish the oligarchy that came to be known as the Thirty
Tyrants. Because Lysander was also directly involved in the selection of the Thirty,
these men were loyal to him over Sparta, causing King Agis and King Pausanias
to agree to the abolishment of his Aegean decarchies, and eventually the
restoration of democracy in Athens, which quickly curbed Lysander’s political
Agesilaus II was one of two Spartan kings during the period
of Spartan hegemony. Lysander was one of Agesilaus’s biggest supporters, and was even a mentor. During his kingship, Agesilaus embarked on a number of military
campaigns in the eastern Aegean and Persian territories. During these
campaigns, the Spartans under Agesilaus’s command met with numerous rebelling
Greek poleis, including the Thebans. The Thebans, Argives, Corinthians, and Athenians
had rebelled during the Corinthian War from 395-386 BCE, and the Persians
aided the Thebans, Corinthians, and Athenians against the Spartans.
During the winter of 379/378 BCE, a group of
Theban exiles snuck into Thebes and succeeded in liberating it, despite
resistance from a 1,500-strong Spartan garrison. This led to a number of Spartan
expeditions against Thebes, known as The Boeotian War. The Greek city-states
eventually attempted to broker peace, but Theban diplomat Epaminondas angered
Agesilaus by arguing for the freedom of non-Spartan citizens within Laconia. As
a result, Agesilaus excluded the Thebans from the treaty, and the Battle of
Leuctra broke out in 371 BCE; the Spartans eventually lost. Sparta’s
international political influence precipitated quickly after their defeat.