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Discuss the causes and origins of the Peloponnesian War.

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Introduction

Discuss the causes and origins of the Peloponnesian War. The Peloponnesian War was a long and brutal affair involving Sparta and its allies and the Athenian empire. The war was fought over supremacy in Greece but was also a struggle of opposing political systems and outlooks. There was division, within city states themselves, particularly Athens, over whether to go to war and then how to fight it. Sparta was eventually the victor of the conflict but at a terrible price to Greece. The Peloponnesian War began in 431BC and ended in 404BC. The Peloponnesian War is broken up into three phases. Phase one (431BC-421BC) is known as The Archidamian War which ended in a stalemate. Phase two (421BC-415BC) erupted from a 6 year truce which was broken by military skirmishes. Phase three (415BC-404BC) is known as the Sicilian expedition and Decelean War. This phase resulted in the intervention of Persia and the end of the Athenian empire. However, the true beginning of the war can be argued. There had been a 10 year conflict from 457BC to 447BC between Athens and Sparta. This period has been given title of The First Peloponnesian War. ...read more.

Middle

In response, Athens made demands that Potidaea pull down its city walls and refuse any more Corinthian magistrates. Potidaea would not accept these conditions and Athens besieged the city which lasted until 430BC. The Athenian Empire also levied economic sanctions against Megara, an ally of Sparta. These sanctions are known as the Megarian decree. The Athenians had forbidden the Megarians from trading in all the harbours of the Athenian empire, a severe blow for Megara, which derived much income from trade. The Athenians had imposed the sanctions in retaliation for alleged Megarian encroachment on sacred land along the border between the territory of Megara and Athens. Evidence suggests that The Megarian Decree of 432BC was probably a strategy to bring Megara and its colonies into an Athenian alliance. The Megarian decree was largely ignored by Thucydides, but modern economic historians have noted that forbidding Megara to trade with the prosperous Athenian empire would have been disastrous for the Megarans so Megara would have had to consider an Athenian alliance as an option. The outbreak of the war came when the Spartans issued ultimatums to Athens. The Spartan ultimatums promised attack unless Athens lifted its economic sanctions against the city-state of Megara, stopped its military blockage of Potidaea and that Pericles (leader of Athens) ...read more.

Conclusion

Pericles saw that war was inevitable and decided for war while he was still available to direct it. This view is a strong argument as there is evidence to support this. Athens had recovered from war (457BC to 447BC) and was ready to meet hostilities if necessary so it was possible for Athens to go to war and Pericles was still able to lead Athens. Greece probably would not be able to remain divided between Athens and Sparta, a democracy and an oligarchy (a political system governed by a few people) respectively. The breaking point, like Pericles suggests, was bound to come sooner or later. It is also suggested that the war was generated by conflicts between different races and cultures, Ionians versus Dorians, and commercial and economic rivalry between Athens and particularly Corinth. It is argued that these are merely rivalries and not really causes of the war. In conclusion, there are many views of the origins of the Peloponnesian War from different sources. There is probably more than one cause for the war but it is generally accepted by historians that the main cause for the war was the fear of the growth of the Athenian empire which was recorded by Thucydides, who is our most reliable source of the events of that period in time. ...read more.

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