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2nd Period: The Persian Wars, and Struggles. Among the Greek States for Supremacy (500-338 B.C.). page 3

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In 449 b.c. peace with Persia was made after a battle at another Salamis, in Cyprus, where the Athenians defeated the Persians by land and sea. The Persian monarch, Artaxerxes I., was compelled to recognise the independence of the Greeks of Asia Minor, and to agree that his fleet should not navigate./Egean waters, nor his troops approach within three days' march of the Asia Minor coast. Such, within 41 years of the victory at Marathon, was the splendid result attained by the spirit which that success evoked. The work and influence of Pericles should be studied in the pages of Grote, the greatest historian of Greece, who was the first to fully reveal Ancient Athens to the modern world. We may here briefly note some facts which set forth that wonderful republic at the height of her political power. The democracy of Attica controlled 1,000 miles of the Asiatic coast, from opposite Cyprus to the Bosphorus, with nearly all the islands of the AEgean Sea, and Corcyra and Zacynthus (Corfu and Zante) in the Ionian. The empire included the colonies on the shores of Macedonia and Thrace, and the coast of the Euxine from Pontus to the Taunc Chersonesus (Crimea). The eastern coasts of the Mediterranean were commanded by the Athenian galleys, carrying in war-time between 60,000 and 70,000 rowers and marines. In 457 b.c. we find 200 galleys and a land-force, the crews and soldiers together numbering 40,000 men, helping Egypt in a revolt against Persia. At the same time Athens had squadrons on the coasts of Phoenicia and Cyprus, and yet maintained a fleet in home-waters strong enough to win a naval battle against Peloponnesian foes off AEgina, with the capture of 70 galleys. An original inscription at the Louvre in Paris, graven on a votive tablet to the memory of the dead, erected in that year by one of the ten Attic tribes, bears striking testimony to the energies of Athens at her best period, when she was at once seeking conquests abroad and repelling enemies at home. This record states, with emphatic simplicity, that of the Erechthean tribe there fell in 457 b.c. "men slain in Cyprus, Egypt, Phoenicia, at Halias (on the coast of Argolis, in Peloponnesus), in AEgina, and in Megara."

It was jealousy of Athenian power and the discontent of some of her own allies which caused the outbreak in 331 b.c. of the struggle known as the Peloponnesian war, embittered throughout by the racial differences of character between Dorians and lonians, and the political feuds of democratic and oligarchic parties, often within the same city-walls. The nobles were for Sparta and the people for Athens, and the contest was disgraced in many instances by the internecine fury with which it was waged, as Athens strove to change the form of government in other states, and Sparta strenuously upheld the aristocratic party. The resources of Athens have been just described; Sparta had with her all the Peloponnesus, except Argos and Achsea, which remained neutral, and was also supported by Bosotia, Locris, Phocis, Megara, Ambracia, and the island of Leucas (Santa Maura), The Spartans and their allies were superior in military, and the Athenians in naval strength. In the first part of this war, which lasted, with a nominal truce, for 27 years, we deal briefly with events from 431-421 b.c. During this period the Peloponnesians repeatedly invaded Attica with a force which the Athenians could not meet. The country-people took refuge in the city and Piraeus, or encamped in the wide space between the long walls which connected, as we have seen, Athens with her harbours. The overcrowding caused the outbreak of a plague which, in 429, brought an irreparable loss in the death of Pericles, and swept away large numbers of the citizens and slaves. A man named Cleon, of fluent speech and loud voice, then became the popular champion. Strongly denounced in his own day by Thucydides the great historian and by the comic poet Aristophanes, a man of thoroughly patriotic but old-fashioned views, it is very doubtful how far Cleon deserves the character usually assigned to him of being a shifty, unscrupulous demagogue. While the Lacedemonian forces ravaged the Attic cornfields, olive-grounds, and vineyards, the Athenian fleet made reprisals on the coasts of Peloponnesus. In 428 the important city of Mytilene, in Lesbos, revolted, and the Athenian assembly, after the surrender of the place to the force sent thither, caused above 1,000 of the aristocratic party to be slain, and the city to be utterly destroyed, the lands being divided among Athenian citizens. The fate of Platsea, at the hands of the Thebans, in 427, has been already mentioned. Phormio, an Athenian admiral, gained some striking naval victories over greatly superior forces, and in 425 Cleon, aided by a blockading fleet, captured nearly 300 Lacedemonians, including mo Spartiatse, in the island of Sphacteria, on the south-west coast of Peloponnesus, and brought them prisoners to Athens. The invasion and ravaging of Attica was then stopped for some years by the Athenian threat of putting to death the captives, who included many young warriors of the best Spartan families. The reputation of the great military republic was tarnished by the proof that Spartan soldiers would rather surrender than die. The Athenians then conquered and held the island of Cythera, off the south-east coast of Peloponnesus, as a vantage-point whence they could ravage the Spartan lands at pleasure. In 423 b.c. one of the best of Spartans was sent by land to Macedonia and Thrace, to assail the Athenian supremacy in that quarter. This was the noble-minded and skilful Brasidas, excellent alike m diplomacy and war, a man of eloquence rare indeed at Sparta, just, wise, liberal, probably the only Spartan who ever made himself esteemed and beloved outside his own country. His glorious career was a short one. His presence caused several towns to revolt from Athens, and the important Amphipolis was captured. Cleon was sent with an expedition, and in 422 was defeated and slain in action with the Spartan general, who received mortal wounds. We may note that in 424 the Athenians, unduly elated by the success at Sphacteria, and disregarding the previous sound advice of Pericles not to aim at power on the mainland, invaded Boeotia, and were utterly defeated at the battle of Delium. It was in the flight from this stricken field that the rising young Athenian statesman Alcibiades, a man of most brilliant talents, versatile, licentious, unscrupulous, and most charming in manner and speech, saved the life of the philosopher Socrates, who vainly strove to teach him sound morality. Alcibiades at Delium repaid a debt incurred eight years previously when Socrates saved his life in battle. The removal of Cleon, the leader of the war-party at Athens, enabled the patriotic, mild-tempered Nicias, a man fairly skilled in war, unusually timid and superstitious for an Athenian, to bring about in 421 a so-called "Fifty Years' Truce," or "Peace of Nicias," which only nominally endured for six years, and was very imperfectly observed. In 418 Alcibiades, now the head of the war-party, caused the Athenians to join the Argives and other Peloponnesian states that were jealous of Spartan ascendency, but the new Argive league was broken up by the utter defeat, in the same year, of the Athenians and allies, and the power and fame of Sparta were restored. In 416 the cruelty of the Athenian democracy was signally shown in the treatment of Melos, an AEgean island not originally subject to Athens, and therefore not liable to the penalties of revolt. The people refused to submit, and the conquest of the territory was followed by the deliberate slaughter of all the adult males, and the sale of the women and children as slaves.

A turning-point in the struggle came with the famous Sicilian Expedition of 415-413 b.c., one of the great events of history, the details of which should be sought in Grote's immortal work, or in Creasy's Fifteen Decisive Battles. Syracuse, a city of great importance, which we have already seen in conflict with Carthage, was founded by Corinthians and other Dorians, and was on that ground alone obnoxious to the Athenians. Inspired by Alcibiades, and disregarding the warnings of the sober and cautious Nicias, the enterprising and reckless democracy now really aimed at the conquest of the western world in the extension of her empire over Sicily. Such a conquest might be followed by the subjugation of Italy and Carthage, and then, with large armies of mercenary troops the Peloponnesus and the Greek mainland could be overwhelmed and the decaying Persian empire would then be an easy prey. Dr. Arnold the sagacious historian of Rome, has pointed out that Athenian success at Syracuse might thus have greatly influenced modern nations in making Greek instead of Latin the chief element of the languages of southern Europe and of France, and the laws of Athens, rather than of Rome, the foundation of law for the civilised world. In the summer of 415 b.c. a magnificent armament left the Greek shores for Sicily, composed of 134 triremes, or war-galleys with three banks of oars, carrying 36,000 men including the crews. The soldiers had among them the large number of 5,100 hoplites, or heavy-armed infantry. The commanders were Nicias, Alcibiades, and Lamachus, the last a brave honest soldier. The enterprise was doomed from the first to failure. Syracuse, promptly attacked, as Lamachus advised, must have fallen. The generals wasted time in going about seeking for allies among the Sicilian towns. Then Alcibiades, the one man who might have brought success to the enterprise, was recalled to stand his trial on a trumped-up charge which he had offered to meet before he started. Too wise to trust himself to the tender mercies of factious political foes, he escaped to Sparta, and, in a selfish desire for revenge, not only urged her to renew the war, but induced her, with fatal effect for his country, to send out a competent general to assume the direction of affairs at Syracuse. Meanwhile Lamachus fell in a skirmish. The vacillating Nicias, alternately over-cautious and careless, had nearly effected the complete investment of the place by sea and land, when, in 414, Gylippus the Spartan arrived in Sicily, gathered a force of heavy-armed infantry and irregulars, and made his way into the city of Syracuse through an unfortified gap left by Nicias. The besieged were at once filled with new hope, and Gylippus soon drove the Athenians from their chief positions on the high ground. The eyes of Greece were now fixed on events in Sicily, and large reinforcements arrived from Corinth, Thebes, and other states, both of men and galleys. A fleet was soon ready in the great harbour of the Syracusans, while the Athenian ships were rotting from want of repair, and the slaves and sailors from subject-states were deserting. Nicias, in September, wrote home begging to be relieved of his command, as he was suffering from illness, but he was foolishly retained. In the spring of 413 Gylippus attacked the Athenians by sea, and, after a repulse in one action, gained a complete victory, while his land-army seized the naval camp and stores of the Athenians on the beach. The Syracusans now looked forward to the speedy and utter destruction of the besiegers, but they did not yet know the spirit and resources of Athens. In spite of distress at home, caused by the renewal of war by the Spartans, who had erected, by the advice of Alcibiades, a permanent fortress at Decelea in Attica, the Athenians sent out a new and powerful armament of 75 triremes, and a fresh body of soldiers, under the command of their most daring and resolute general, Demosthenes (To be carefully distinguished from the great orator of later times). This admirable man had done excellent previous service in the war, in Acarnania and other parts of western Greece, and it was he probably, and not Cleon, who really deserved the credit of the success at Sphacteria. He was a true patriot, unknown in the war of party-politics, zealous to serve his country in the field. The new force, as efficient and powerful as the former, entered the harbour soon after the Syracusan successes, and struck the besieged almost with terror as Demosthenes caused the galleys to row round with loud cheers and martial music. A change soon came over the scene of bright promise for Athenian success. A well-planned attack of Demosthenes, made by night on the high ground held by the, Syracusans, was defeated, in the moment of victory, through the firmness of a Boeotian brigade, which rendered the same kind of service as that of the 7th and 23rd Fusiliers at Albuera, immortalised by Napier in his Peninsular War. The Athenians were finally driven, with heavy slaughter, over the cliffs which they had mounted an hour before in well-grounded hope of success. This disaster was followed by the utter loss of the Athenian galleys, by sinking or capture, in a series of sea-fights. The disorganised body of many thousands of men, soldiers, sailors, marines, and camp-followers, was hotly pursued for six days in its retreat for the interior of Sicily, and all who did not die fighting or of fatigue, or desert, became prisoners. Nicias and Demosthenes were put to death, and all the survivors of the calamity worked or were sold as slaves. Nothing more pitiable of the kind, save Napoleon's catastrophe in 1812, is recorded in history, presented to us as it is with matchless power in the pages of Thucydides.

The great failure at Syracuse caused many of the subject-allies to revolt from Athens, including Miletus, Chios, and Lesbos. Alcibiades persuaded his new friends the Spartans to build a fleet, and to form an alliance with Tissaphernes, the Persian satrap of central Asia Minor, the Peloponnesian power basely consenting to give up to Persia the Greek cities on the coast which had formerly been under Oriental sway. In this state of affairs, the indomitable Athenians did not despair. They sent a powerful fleet to sea, and transferred the seat of war to the Hellespont and the eastern side of the AEgean. The fickle Alcibiades, quarrelling with the Spartans, intrigued for his return to Athens, and he was recalled there early in 411, after a change of constitution which limited the franchise to men possessing a certain amount of property, and also abolished the payments for attending the Ecclesia, or public assembly, and the law-courts. The revolt of Euboea at this time caused severe loss to the Athenians in depriving them of one of their chief sources of corn-supply, and nothing could now be grown in Attica, dominated by the enemy from Decelea. Alcibiades now made some amends for the grievous harm done by him to his country. He won two great sea-fights (411 and 410 b.c.) over the Peloponnesians, in the last of which their fleet was almost destroyed. The coasts of the Hellespont and Propontis (Sea of Marmara) were subdued for Athens, and in 408 the restless man returned in triumph to Athens, where he was appointed commander-in-chief by land and sea. The end of the war was, however, near at hand. The able and ambitious Spartan Lysander received the naval command, and in 407 defeated the Athenian fleet at Notium, in the Gulf of Ephesus, during the absence of Alcibiades, the commander, on a foraging raid. The Athenians at once dismissed him from their service. Three years later he ended his remarkable career in Phrygia, murdered by a band of assassins employed for an unknown reason. In 406 the Athenian fleet won a great naval victory at Arginusse, east of Lesbos, but in the following year their naval armament was surprised and overpowered at AEgospotami, in the Hellespont, by Lysander. The tidings of this terrible blow, which destroyed Athenian power on the coasts and islands, and set up the oligarchical constitutions so hateful to the democracy, was received at Athens, now the sole possession of the republic, with cries of grief, first arising in Piraeus, and transmitted by the guards on the long walls up to the city. 3,000 Athenian prisoners had been slaughtered by the brutal victor, and the centre of Greek culture was soon invested by land and sea. In March 404 Athens was forced by famine to surrender to Lysander and to king Agis, commanding the army. The Peloponnesian war ended with the downfall of the Athenian empire, the destruction of the long walls and the fortifications of Piraeus, the surrender of all war-galleys except 12, the overthrow of democracy, and the establishment of an oligarchical rule known as that of the "Thirty Tyrants,"

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