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Research Paperww - Athenian Leadership and its Downfall...

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Athenian Leadership and its Downfall Kunaal Bajwa HIST 111 Professor Probst
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Bajwa November 16, 2011 In 405 BCE, the Athenians were defeated by the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War (c. 431-405 BCE), primarily because of weak Athenian leadership. The main culprits were Pericles, Demosthenes and Alcibiades all was vain and overconfident. In order to understand this Greek tragedy, some pertinent background information becomes useful. The event that brought Athens into war was when Corinth attacked Corcyra, an Athenian ally. The current leader of Athens at the time was Pericles who proposed two courses of actions. The first was to of course send aid to Corcyra against the Corinthians but he only allowed ten ships when hundreds were ready to set sail in 433 BCE. 1 Strategically this was an important location for the Athenians because it was a direct route through Italy and onto Sicily, which meant more trade and commerce for the Athenians. 2 Of course Pericles did not want to provoke Sparta; however he did exactly that. The Corinthians, who were allies of the Spartans, came and defeated the Corcyrans. Thus the ten ships sent to prevent a war were futile not to mention the additional twenty that were sent after the battle had already been lost. However his second proposal to embargo the city of Megara in 432 BC and prevent them from using the harbors of the Athenian Empire was quite successful since Megara was a member of the Peloponnesian League who was an ally to Sparta. 3 By preventing them from using the harbor they could not trade or buy any supplies, which would cause them to starve, this would make them leave Sparta and join Athens. By doing this they would gain an eastern border on Attica and stop a land route to Athens by the Peloponnesian 1 Donald Kagan, Thucydides , (New York: Penguin Group, 2009), 35. 2 Steven Lattimore, Thucydides The Peloponnesian War , (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc., 1998); 24 3 Kagan, Thucydides , 35. 2
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Bajwa Army. 4 This did lead the Spartans to offer a chance for peace and end this dispute as told by the historian Thucydides: “In their first embassy the Lacedaemonians [Spartans] made their demands…to drive out people under curse; in many later encounters they told the Athenians to lift the siege…and with unmistakable clarity counseled them that there would not be war if they revoked the decree against the Megarians.” 5 One would think that the Athenians could have ended the war here and moved on to peace but they had the complete opposite plans. After hearing this proposal from the Spartans the Athenians quickly spoke to each other and discussed the proper action to take. The majority agreed that the decree against the Megarans should not stop peace. However Pericles believed otherwise: “Athenians I am of the same opinion as ever [peace], but well aware that it is not with the same spirit that men persuaded into war proceed with its execution since their minds are swayed according to their encounters.” 6
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Research Paperww - Athenian Leadership and its Downfall...

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