Classical Greece

Classical Greece

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For the longer period of Greek development and influence of which this is a part see Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

.


Classical Greece was a 200 year period in Greek culture lasting from the 5th through 4th centuries BC. This classical period had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and greatly influenced the foundation of Western civilizations. Much of modern Western politics, artistic thought, such as architecture, scientific thought, literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, and philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 derives from this ancient society. In the context of the art, architecture, and culture of ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, the Classical period corresponds to most of the 5th and 4th centuries BC (the most common dates being the fall of the last Athenian tyrant in 510 BC to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC
323 BC
Year 323 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Longus and Cerretanus...

). The Classical period in this sense follows the Archaic period and is in turn succeeded by the Hellenistic period
Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia...

.

5th century BC


From the perspective of Athenian culture in Classical Greece, the period generally referred to as the 5th century BC encroaches slightly on the 4th century BC. This century is essentially studied from the Athenian outlook because Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 has left us more narratives, plays, and other written works than the other ancient Greek states
Polis
Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

. In this context, one might consider that the first significant event of this century occurs in 510 BC, with the fall of the Athenian tyrant and Cleisthenes’ reforms. However, a broader view of the whole Greek world might place its beginning at the Ionian revolt of 500 BC, the event that provoked the Persian invasion of 492 BC. The Persians (called "Medes") were finally defeated in 490 BC. A second Persian attempt failed in 481-479 BC. The Delian League
Delian League
The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

 then formed, under Athenian hegemony and as Athens' instrument. Athens' excesses caused several revolts among the allied cities, all of which were put down by force, but Athenian dynamism finally awoke Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 and brought about the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

 in 431 BC. After both forces were spent, a brief peace came about; then the war resumed to Sparta's advantage. Athens was definitively defeated in 404 BC, and internal Athenian agitations mark the end of the 5th century BC in Greece.

Since the beginning, Sparta had been ruled by a "diarchy
Diarchy
Diarchy , from the Greek δι- "twice" and αρχια, "rule", is a form of government in which two individuals, the diarchs, are the heads of state. In most diarchies, the diarchs hold their position for life and pass the responsibilities and power of the position to their children or family when they...

." This meant that Sparta had two kings serving concurrently throughout its entire history. The two kingships were both hereditary and were either from the Agiad dynasty or the Eurypontid dynasty. Allegedly, the hereditary lines of these two dynasties spring, respectively, from Eurysthenes
Eurysthenes
In Greek legend, Eurysthenes was one of the Heracleidae, a great-great-great-grandson of Heracles, and a son of Aristodemus and Argia. His twin was Procles. Together they received the land of Lacedaemon after Cresphontes, Temenus and Aristodemus defeated Tisamenus, the last Achaean king of the...

 and Procles
Procles
In Greek legend, Procles was one of the Heracleidae, a great-great-great-grandson of Heracles, and a son of Aristodemus and Argia. His twin was Eurysthenes. Together they received the land of Lacedaemon after Cresphontes, Temenus and Aristodemus defeated Tisamenus, the last Achaean king of the...

, twin descendants of Hercules
Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

. Eurysthenes and Procles were said to have conquered Sparta two generations after the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

.

Cleisthenes



In 510 BC, Spartan troops helped the Athenians overthrow their king, the tyrant Hippias
Hippias (son of Pisistratus)
Hippias of Athens was one of the sons of Peisistratus, and was tyrant of Athens in the 6th century BC.Hippias succeeded Peisistratus in 527 BC, and in 525 BC he introduced a new system of coinage in Athens. His brother Hipparchus, who may have ruled jointly with him, was murdered by Harmodius and...

, son of Peisistratos
Peisistratos (Athens)
Peisistratos was a tyrant of Athens from 546 to 527/8 BC. His legacy lies primarily in his institution of the Panathenaic Festival and the consequent first attempt at producing a definitive version for Homeric epics. Peisistratos' championing of the lower class of Athens, the Hyperakrioi, can be...

. Cleomenes I
Cleomenes I
Cleomenes or Kleomenes was an Agiad King of Sparta in the late 6th and early 5th centuries BC. During his reign, which started around 520 BC, he pursued an adventurous and at times unscrupulous foreign policy aimed at crushing Argos and extending Sparta's influence both inside and outside the...

, king of Sparta, put in place a pro-Spartan oligarchy headed by Isagoras
Isagoras
Isagoras , son of Tisander, was an Athenian aristocrat in the late 6th century BC.He had remained in Athens during the tyranny of Hippias, but after Hippias was overthrown, he became involved in a struggle for power with Cleisthenes, a fellow aristocrat. In 508 BC he was elected archon eponymous,...

. But his rival Cleisthenes
Cleisthenes
Cleisthenes was a noble Athenian of the Alcmaeonid family. He is credited with reforming the constitution of ancient Athens and setting it on a democratic footing in 508/7 BC...

, with the support of the middle class and aided by democrats, managed to take over. Cleomenes intervened in 508 and 506 BC, but could not stop Cleisthenes, now supported by the Athenians. Through his reforms, the people endowed their city with isonomic institutions (i.e. ones in which all have the same rights) and established ostracism.

The isonomic and isegoric democracy was first organized into about 130 ’’demes’’
Deme
In Ancient Greece, a deme or demos was a subdivision of Attica, the region of Greece surrounding Athens. Demes as simple subdivisions of land in the countryside seem to have existed in the 6th century BC and earlier, but did not acquire particular significance until the reforms of Cleisthenes in...

, which became the foundational civic element. The 10,000 citizens exercised their power via the assembly (the ekklesia, in Greek) of which they all were part, headed by a council of 500 citizens chosen at random.

The city's administrative geography was reworked, the goal being to have mixed political groups—not federated by local interests linked to the sea, to the city, or to farming—whose decisions (declaration of war, etc.) would depend on their geographical situation. Also, the territory of the city was divided into thirty ’’trittyes’’
Trittys
Trittyes were population divisions in ancient Attica, established by the reforms of Cleisthenes in 508 BC. The name means "thirtieth," and there were in fact thirty trittyes in Attica. Each tribe, or phyle of Athens was composed of three trittyes, one from the coast, one from the city, and one...

 as follows:
  • ten trittyes in the coastal "Paralie"
  • ten trittyes in "Asty", the urban centre
  • ten trittyes in rural "Mesogia".


A tribe consisted of 3 trittyes, taken at random, one from each of the three groups. Each tribe therefore always acted in the interest of all 3 sectors.

This is this corpus of reforms that would in the end allow the emergence of a wider democracy in the 460s and 450s BC.

The Persian Wars


In Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

 (the modern Aegean coast of Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

), the Greek cities, which included great centres such as Miletus
Miletus
Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

 and Halicarnassus
Halicarnassus
Halicarnassus was an ancient Greek city at the site of modern Bodrum in Turkey. It was located in southwest Caria on a picturesque, advantageous site on the Ceramic Gulf. The city was famous for the tomb of Mausolus, the origin of the word mausoleum, built between 353 BC and 350 BC, and...

, were unable to maintain their independence and came under the rule of the Persian Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 in the mid 6th century BC. In 499 BC that region’s Greeks rose in the Ionian Revolt
Ionian Revolt
The Ionian Revolt, and associated revolts in Aeolis, Doris, Cyprus and Caria, were military rebellions by several regions of Asia Minor against Persian rule, lasting from 499 BC to 493 BC...

, and Athens and some other Greek cities sent aid, but were quickly forced to back down after defeat in 494 BC at the battle of Lade
Battle of Lade
The Battle of Lade was a naval battle which occurred during the Ionian Revolt, in 494 BC. It was fought between an alliance of the Ionian cities and the Persian Empire of Darius the Great, and resulted in a decisive victory for the Persians which all but ended the revolt.The Ionian Revolt was...

. Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 returned to Persian control.


In 492 BC, the Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

 general, Mardonius
Mardonius
Mardonius was a leading Persian military commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the early 5th century BC.-Early years:Mardonius was the son of Gobryas, a Persian nobleman who had assisted the Achaemenid prince Darius when he claimed the throne...

 led a campaign through Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 and Macedonia and, while victorious, he was wounded and forced to retreat back into Asia Minor. In addition, the naval fleet of around 1,200 ships which accompanied Mardonius on the expedition was wrecked by a storm off the coast of Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

. Later, the generals Artaphernes
Artaphernes
Artaphernes , was the brother of the king of Persia, Darius I of Persia, and satrap of Sardis.In 497 BC, Artaphernes received an embassy from Athens, probably sent by Cleisthenes, and subsequently advised the Athenians that they should receive back the tyrant Hippias.Subsequently he took an...

 and Datis
Datis
For other uses of the word Dati, see Dati .Datis or Datus was a Median admiral who served the Persian Empire, under Darius the Great...

 submitted the Aegean islands through a naval expedition.

In 490 BC, Darius the Great
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

, having suppressed the Ionian cities, sent a fleet to punish the Greeks. 100,000 Persians (historians are uncertain about the number; it varies from 18,000 to 100,000) landed in Attica
Attica
Attica is a historical region of Greece, containing Athens, the current capital of Greece. The historical region is centered on the Attic peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea...

 intending to take Athens, but were defeated at the Battle of Marathon
Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. It was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate...

 by a Greek army of 9,000 Athenian hoplites and 1,000 Plateans led by the Athenian general Miltiades
Miltiades the Younger
Miltiades the Younger or Miltiades IV was the son of one Cimon, a renowned Olympic chariot-racer. Miltiades considered himself a member of the Aeacidae, and is known mostly for his role in the Battle of Marathon; as well as his rather tragic downfall afterwards. His son Cimon was a major Athenian...

. The Persian fleet continued to Athens but, seeing it garrisoned, decided not to attempt an assault.

Ten years later, in 480 BC, Darius' successor Xerxes I
Xerxes I of Persia
Xerxes I of Persia , Ḫšayāršā, ), also known as Xerxes the Great, was the fifth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire.-Youth and rise to power:...

 sent a much more powerful force of 300,000 by land, with 1,207 ships in support, across a double pontoon bridge
Pontoon bridge
A pontoon bridge or floating bridge is a bridge that floats on water and in which barge- or boat-like pontoons support the bridge deck and its dynamic loads. While pontoon bridges are usually temporary structures, some are used for long periods of time...

 over the Hellespont. This army took Thrace, before descending on Thessaly and Boetia, whilst the Persian navy skirted the coast and resupplied the ground troops. The Greek fleet, meanwhile, dashed to block Cape Artemision. After being delayed by Leonidas I
Leonidas I
Leonidas I was a hero-king of Sparta, the 17th of the Agiad line, one of the sons of King Anaxandridas II of Sparta, who was believed in mythology to be a descendant of Heracles, possessing much of the latter's strength and bravery...

, the Spartan king of the Agiad Dynasty, at the Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August...

 (a battle made famous by the 300 Spartans who faced the entire Persian Army), Xerxes advanced into Attica, where he captured and burned Athens. But the Athenians had evacuated the city by sea, and under the command of Themistocles
Themistocles
Themistocles ; c. 524–459 BC, was an Athenian politician and a general. He was one of a new breed of politicians who rose to prominence in the early years of the Athenian democracy, along with his great rival Aristides...

 defeated the Persian fleet at the Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the straits between the mainland and Salamis, an island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens...

.

In 483 BC, during the time of peace between the two Persian invasions, a vein of silver ore had been discovered in the Laurion (a small mountain range near Athens), and the hundreds of talents mined there had paid for the construction of 200 warships to combat Aeginetan
Aegina
Aegina is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece in the Saronic Gulf, from Athens. Tradition derives the name from Aegina, the mother of Aeacus, who was born in and ruled the island. During ancient times, Aegina was a rival to Athens, the great sea power of the era.-Municipality:The municipality...

 piracy. A year later, the Greeks, under the Spartan Pausanius
Pausanias (general)
Pausanias was a Spartan general of the 5th century BC. He was the son of Cleombrotus and nephew of Leonidas I, serving as regent after the latter's death, since Leonidas' son Pleistarchus was still under-age. Pausanias was also the father of Pleistoanax, who later became king, and Cleomenes...

, defeated the Persian army at Plataea
Battle of Plataea
The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes...

. Following the
Battle of Plataea, the Persians began withdrawing from Greece and never attempted an invasion again.

The Athenian fleet then turned to chasing the Persians from the Aegean Sea, defeating their fleet decisively in the Battle of Mycale
Battle of Mycale
The Battle of Mycale was one of the two major battles that ended the second Persian invasion of Greece during the Greco-Persian Wars. It took place on or about August 27, 479 BC on the slopes of Mount Mycale, on the coast of Ionia, opposite the island of Samos...

; then in 478 BC the fleet captured Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

. In the course of doing so Athens enrolled all the island states and some mainland ones into an alliance called the Delian League
Delian League
The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

, so named because its treasury was kept on the sacred island of Delos
Delos
The island of Delos , isolated in the centre of the roughly circular ring of islands called the Cyclades, near Mykonos, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece...

. The Spartans, although they had taken part in the war, withdrew into isolation afterwards, allowing Athens to establish unchallenged naval and commercial power.

The Peloponnesian War




In 431 BC war broke out between Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 and Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 and its allies. The war was not really a struggle between two city-states as it was a struggle between two coalitions, or leagues, of city-states. These two leagues were the Delian League
Delian League
The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

 in which Athens was the leading member, and the Peloponnesian League, which was led by Sparta.

The Delian League
Delian League
The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

 grew out of the necessity of presenting a unified front of all Greek city-states against Persian aggression. In 481 BC, Greek city-states, including Sparta, met in the first of a series of "congresses" which had the goal of unifying all the Greek city-states against the danger of another Persian invasion. This coalition of city-states formed in 481 BC became known as the "Hellenic League" and included Sparta. As noted above, the expected Persian invasion of Greece under King Xerxes occurred in September of 481 BC when the Athenian navy defeated the Persian navy. The Persian land forces were delayed in 480 BC, by a much smaller force of 300 Spartans, 400 Thebans and 700 men from Boeotian Thespiae at the Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August...

. The Persians finally left Greece in 479 BC following their defeat at Plataea.

The Battle of Plataea
Battle of Plataea
The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes...

 in 479 BC was the final battle of Xerxes' invasion of Greece. After the Battle of Plataea, the Persians never again tried to invade Greece. With the disappearance of this external threat, cracks appeared in the united front of the Hellenic League. In 477 BC, Athens became the recognised leader of a coalition of city-states which did not include Sparta. This coalition met and formalized their relationship at the holy city of Delos. Thus, the League took the name "Delian League." The official purpose of this new League was to liberate Greek cities that were still under Persian control. However, it became increasingly apparent that the Delian League was really a front for Athenian imperialism throughout the Aegean.

A competing coalition of Greek city-states centered around Sparta arose and became more important as the external Persian threat subsided. This coalition became known as the Peloponnesian League. However, unlike the Hellenic League and the Delian League, the Spartan League was not a response to any external threat—Persian or otherwise. The Spartan League was unabashedly an instrument of Spartan policy aimed at the security of Lacedaemon (the prefecture on the Peloponnese Peninsula in which Sparta was located) and Spartan dominance over the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

 Peninsula. Sometimes the Spartan League is called the "Peloponnesian League." This term is ambiguous on two scores. The "Peloponnesian League" was not really a "league" at all. Nor was it really "Peloponnesian." There was no equality at all between the members as might be implied by the term "league." Furthermore, most of its members were not from the Peloponnese, but rather were located outside the Peloponnese Peninsula. Indeed, the terms "Spartan League" or "Peloponnesian League" are actually modern terms. Contemporaries actually used the term the "Lacedaemonians and their Allies" to describe the so-called league.

The Spartan League had its origins in Sparta's conflict with another city on the Peloponnese Peninsula--Argos
Argos
Argos is a city and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Argos-Mykines, of which it is a municipal unit. It is 11 kilometres from Nafplion, which was its historic harbour...

. In the 7th century BC, Argos dominated the Peloponnese Peninsula. Even in the period of time after 600 BC, the Argives attempted to control the northeastern part of the Peloponnese Peninsula. The rise of Sparta in the 6th century, naturally, brought Sparta in conflict with Argos. However, with the conquest of the Peloponnesian city-state of Tegea in 550 BC and the defeat of the Argives 546 BC, the Spartan's control began to reach well beyond the borders of Lacedaemon.

As these two coalitions grew, their separate interests kept coming into conflict. Under the influence of King Archidamus II
Archidamus II
Archidamus II was a king of Sparta who reigned from approximately 476 BC to 427 BC. He was of the Eurypontid dynasty. His father was Zeuxidamus , who died before his father, Leotychidas, after having his son, Archidamus....

 (who ruled Sparta from 476 BC through 427 BC), Sparta, in the late summer or early autumn of 446 BC, concluded the Thirty Years Peace with Athens. This treaty took effect the next winter in 445 BC Under the terms of this treaty, Greece was formally divided into two large power zones. Sparta and Athens agreed to stay within their own power zone and not to interfere in the other's power zone. Despite the Thirty Years Peace, it was clear that eventual war was inevitable. As noted above, at all times during its history down to 221 BC, Sparta was a "diarchy" with two kings ruling the city-state concurrently. One line of hereditary kings were from the Eurypontid Dynasty while the other king was from the Agiad Dynansty. With the conclusion of the Thirty Years Peace treaty Archidamus II
Archidamus II
Archidamus II was a king of Sparta who reigned from approximately 476 BC to 427 BC. He was of the Eurypontid dynasty. His father was Zeuxidamus , who died before his father, Leotychidas, after having his son, Archidamus....

, the Eurypontid King at the time, felt he had successfully prevented Sparta from entering into a war with its neighbors. However, the strong war party in Sparta soon won out and in 431 BC Archidamus was forced into going to war with the Delian League. However, in 427 BC, Archidamus II died and his son, Agis II succeeded to the Eurypontid throne of Sparta.

The immediate causes of the Peloponnesian War vary from account to account. However three causes are fairly consistent among the ancient historians, namely Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

. Prior to the war, Corinth and one of its colonies, Corcyra (modern-day Corfu
Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

), got into a dispute, in 435 BC, over the new Corcyran colony of Epidamnus. War broke out between Corinth and Corcyra. Sparta refused to become involved in the conflict and urged an arbitrated settlement of the struggle. In 433 BC, Corcyra, sought the assistance of Athens in the war on Corinth. Corinth was known to be a traditional enemy of Athens. However, to further encourage Athens to enter the conflict, Corcyra pointed out, to Athens, how useful a friendly relationship with Corcyra would be, given the strategic locations of Corcyra itself and the colony of Epidamnus on the east shore of the Adriatic Sea. Furthermore, Corcyra promised that Athens would have the use of their (Corcyra's) navy, which was the third largest navy in Greece. This was too good of an offer for Athens to refuse. Accordingly, Athens signed a defensive alliance with Corcyra.

The next year, in 432 BC, Corinth and Athens argued over control of Potidaea
Potidaea
Potidaea was a colony founded by the Corinthians around 600 BC in the narrowest point of the peninsula of Pallene, the westernmost of three peninsulas at the southern end of Chalcidice in northern Greece....

 (near modern-day Nea Potidaia), eventually leading to an Athenian siege of Potidaea. In 434-433 BC Athens issued the "Megarian Decrees"
Megarian decree
The Megarian Decree was a set of economic sanctions levied upon Megara circa 432 BC by the Athenian Empire shortly before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. The ostensible reason for the Decree was the Megarians' supposed trespass on land sacred to Demeter and the killing of the Athenian herald...

, a series of economic decrees that placed economic sanctions on the Megarian people. Athens was accused by the Peloponnesian allies of violating the Thirty Years Peace through all of the aforementioned actions, and, accordingly, Sparta formally declared war on Athens.

Many historians consider these to be merely the immediate causes of the war. They would argue that the underlying cause was the growing resentment on the part of Sparta and its allies at the dominance of Athens over Greek affairs. The war lasted 27 years, partly because Athens (a naval power) and Sparta (a land-based military power) found it difficult to come to grips with each other.

Sparta's initial strategy was to invade Attica
Attica
Attica is a historical region of Greece, containing Athens, the current capital of Greece. The historical region is centered on the Attic peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea...

, but the Athenians were able to retreat behind their walls. An outbreak of plague
Plague of Athens
The Plague of Athens was a devastating epidemic which hit the city-state of Athens in ancient Greece during the second year of the Peloponnesian War , when an Athenian victory still seemed within reach. It is believed to have entered Athens through Piraeus, the city's port and sole source of food...

 in the city during the siege caused heavy losses, including that of Pericles
Pericles
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

. At the same time the Athenian fleet landed troops in the Peloponnese, winning battles at Naupactus
Battle of Naupactus (429 BC)
The Battle of Naupactus was a naval battle in the Peloponnesian War. The battle, which took place a week after the Athenian victory at Rhium, set an Athenian fleet of twenty ships, commanded by Phormio, against a Peloponnesian fleet of seventy-seven ships, commanded by Cnemus.In the battle, the...

 (429 BC) and Pylos
Battle of Pylos
The naval Battle of Pylos took place in 425 BC during the Peloponnesian War at the peninsula of Pylos, on the Bay of Navarino in Messenia, and was an Athenian victory over Sparta...

 (425 BC). But these tactics could bring neither side a decisive victory. After several years of inconclusive campaigning, the moderate Athenian leader Nicias
Nicias
Nicias or Nikias was an Athenian politician and general during the period of the Peloponnesian War. Nicias was a member of the Athenian aristocracy because he had inherited a large fortune from his father, which was invested into the silver mines around Attica's Mt. Laurium...

 concluded the Peace of Nicias
Peace of Nicias
The Peace of Nicias was a peace treaty signed between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta in the March of 421 BC, ending the first half of the Peloponnesian War....

 (421 BC).

In 418 BC, however, hostility between Sparta and the Athenian ally Argos
Argos
Argos is a city and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Argos-Mykines, of which it is a municipal unit. It is 11 kilometres from Nafplion, which was its historic harbour...

 led to a resumption of hostilities. Alcibiades
Alcibiades
Alcibiades, son of Clinias, from the deme of Scambonidae , was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother's aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominence after the Peloponnesian War...

 was one of the most influential voices in persuading the Athenians to ally with Argos against the Spartans. At the Mantinea
Battle of Mantinea (418 BC)
The Battle of Mantinea of 418 BC was a significant engagement in the Peloponnesian War. Sparta and its allies defeated an army led by Argos and Athens.-Prelude to the battle:...

 Sparta defeated the combined armies of Athens and her allies. Accordingly, Argos and the rest of the Peloponnesus was brought back under the control of Sparta. The return of peace allowed Athens to be diverted from meddling in the affairs of the Peloponnesus and to concentrate on building up the empire and putting their finances in order. Soon trade recovered and tribute began, once again, rolling into Athens. A strong "peace party" arose which promoted avoidance of war and continued concentration on the economic growth of the Athenian Empire. Concentration on the Athenian Empire, however, brought Athens into conflict with another Greek state.

Ever since the formation of the Delian League in 477 BC, the island of Melos had refused to join the League. By refusing to join the Delian League, however, Melos reaped all the benefits of the League without bearing any of its burdens. In 425 BC, an Athenian army under Cleon attacked Melos, in order to force the island to join the Delian League. However, Melos fought off the attack and was able to maintain its neutrality. Further conflict was inevitable and in the spring of 416 BC the mood of the people in Athens was inclined toward military adventure. The island of Melos provided an outlet for this energy and frustration for the military party. Furthermore there appeared to be no real opposition to this military expedition from the peace party. Enforcement of the economic obligations of the Delian League upon rebellious city-states and island was a means by which continuing trade and properity of Athens could be assured. Melos was alone among all the Cycladic Islands located in the southwest Aegean Sea had resisted joining the Delian League. This continued rebellion provided a bad example to the rest of the members of the Delian League.

The debate between Athens and Melos over the issue of joining the Delian League is presented by Thucydides in his Melian Dialogue
Melian dialogue
The Melian Dialogue, contained in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, is an account of the confrontation between the people of Melos, a small island in the southern Aegean Sea, and the Athenians in 416–415 BC. Melos was a neutral island, lying just east of Sparta; the Athenians wanted to...

. The debate did not in the end resolve any of the differences between Melos and Athens and Melos was invaded in 416 BC, and soon occupied by Athens. This success on the part of Athens whetted the appetite of the people of Athens for further expansion of the Athenian Empire. Accordingly, the people of Athens were ready for military action and tended to support the military party, led by Alcibiades
Alcibiades
Alcibiades, son of Clinias, from the deme of Scambonidae , was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother's aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominence after the Peloponnesian War...

.

Thus, in 415 BC, Alcibiades found support within the Athenian Assembly for his position when he urged that Athens launch a major expedition against Syracuse
Syracuse, Italy
Syracuse is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in...

, a Peloponnesian ally in Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

. Segesta, a town in Sicily, had requested Athenian assistance in their war with the another Sicilian town—the town of Selinus. Although Nicias was a skeptic about the Sicilian Expedition
Sicilian Expedition
The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian expedition to Sicily from 415 BC to 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. The expedition was hampered from the outset by uncertainty in its purpose and command structure—political maneuvering in Athens swelled a lightweight force of twenty ships into a...

, he was appointed along with Alcibiades to lead the expedition.

However, unlike the expedition against Melos, the citizens of Athens were deeply divided over the Alcibiades' proposal for an expedition to far off Sicily. The peace party was desperate to foil Alcibiades. Thus, in June of 415 BC, on the very eve of the departure of the Athenian fleet for Sicily, a band of vandals in Athens defaced the many statues of the god Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

, that were scattered throughout the city of Athens. This action was blamed on Alcibiades and was seen as a bad omen for the coming campaign. In all likelihood, the coordinated action against the statues of Hermes was the action of the peace party. Having lost the debate on the issue, the peace party was desperate to weaken Alcibiades' hold on the people of Athens. Successfully blaming Alcibiades for the action of the vandals would have weakened Alcibiades and the war party in Athens. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Alcibiades would have deliberately defaced the statues of Hermes on the very eve of his departure with the fleet. Such defacement could only have been interpreted as a bad omen for the expedition that he had long advocated.

Even before the fleet reached Sicily, word arrived to the fleet that Alcibiades was to be arrested and charged with sacrilege of the statues of Hermes. Due to these accusations against him, Alcibiades fled to Sparta before the expedition actually landed in Sicily. When the fleet landed in Sicily and the battle was joined, the expedition was a complete disaster. The entire expeditionary force was lost and Nicias was captured and executed. This was one of the most crushing defeats in the history of Athens.

Meanwhile, Alcibiades betrayed Athens and became a chief advisor to the Spartans and began to counsel them on the best way to defeat his native land. Alcibiades persuaded the Spartans to begin building a real navy for the first time—large enough to challenge the Athenian superiority at sea. Additionally, Alcibiades persuaded the Spartans to ally themselves with their traditional foes—the Persians. As noted below, Alcibiades soon found himself in controversy in Sparta when he was accused of having seduced Timaea, the wife of Agis II, the Eurypontid king of Sparta. Accordingly, Alcibiades was required to flee from Sparta and seek the protection of the Persian Court.

Sparta had now built a fleet (with the financial help of the Persians) to challenge Athenian naval supremacy, and had found a new military leader in Lysander
Lysander
Lysander was a Spartan general who commanded the Spartan fleet in the Hellespont which defeated the Athenians at Aegospotami in 405 BC...

, who attacked Abydos and seized the strategic initiative by occupying the Hellespont, the source of Athens' grain imports. Threatened with starvation, Athens sent its last remaining fleet to confront Lysander, who decisively defeated them at Aegospotami
Battle of Aegospotami
The naval Battle of Aegospotami took place in 405 BC and was the last major battle of the Peloponnesian War. In the battle, a Spartan fleet under Lysander completely destroyed the Athenian navy...

 (405 BC). The loss of her fleet threatened Athens with bankruptcy. In 404 BC Athens sued for peace, and Sparta dictated a predictably stern settlement: Athens lost her city walls, her fleet, and all of her overseas possessions. Lysander abolished the democracy and appointed in its place an oligarchy called the "Thirty Tyrants
Thirty Tyrants
The Thirty Tyrants were a pro-Spartan oligarchy installed in Athens after its defeat in the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. Contemporary Athenians referred to them simply as "the oligarchy" or "the Thirty" ; the expression "Thirty Tyrants" is due to later historians...

" to govern Athens.

Meanwhile, in Sparta, Timaea gave birth to a child. The child was given the name Leotychidas, son of Agis II, after the great grandfather of Agis II—King Leotychidas
Leotychidas
Leotychidas [Leotychides, Latychidas] was a ruler of Sparta 491 BC-476 BC. He led Spartan forces during the Persian Wars from 490 BC to 478 BC...

 of Sparta. However, because of her alleged dalliance with Alcibiades, it was widely rumoured that the young Leotychidas was actually fathered by Alcibiades. Indeed, Agis II, himself, refused to acknowledge Leotychidas as his son until he relented in front of witnesses, on his death bed in 400 BC.

Upon the death of Agis II, Leotychidas attempted to claim the Eurypontid throne for himself. However, there was an outcry against this attempted succession. The outcry was led by the victorious navarch (admiral) Lysander, who was at the height of his influence in Sparta. Lysander argued that Leotychidas was a bastard and could not inherit the Eurypontid throne. Accordingly, Lysander backed the hereditory claim of Agesilaus, son of Agis by another wife, other than Timaea. Based on the support of Lysander, Agesilaus became the Eurypontid king as Agesilaus II
Agesilaus II
Agesilaus II, or Agesilaos II was a king of Sparta, of the Eurypontid dynasty, ruling from approximately 400 BC to 360 BC, during most of which time he was, in Plutarch's words, "as good as thought commander and king of all Greece," and was for the whole of it greatly identified with his...

, expelled Leotychidas from the country, and took over all of Agis' estates and property.

4th century BC

Related articles: Spartan hegemony
Spartan hegemony
The city-state of Sparta was the greatest military land power of classical Greek antiquity. During the classical period, Sparta owned, dominated or influenced the entire Peloponnese. Additionally, the defeat of the Athenians and the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War in 431-404 BCE resulted in...

 and Theban hegemony
Theban hegemony
The Theban Hegemony lasted from the Theban victory over the Spartans at Leuctra in 371 BC to their defeat of a coalition of Peloponnesian armies at Mantinea in 362 BC, though Thebes sought to maintain its position until finally eclipsed by the rising power of Macedon in 346 BC.Externally, the way...


The end of the Peloponnesian War left Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 the master of Greece, but the narrow outlook of the Spartan warrior elite did not suit them to this role. Within a few years the democratic party regained power in Athens and in other cities. In 395 BC the Spartan rulers removed Lysander from office, and Sparta lost her naval supremacy. Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, Argos
Argos
Argos is a city and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Argos-Mykines, of which it is a municipal unit. It is 11 kilometres from Nafplion, which was its historic harbour...

, Thebes
Thebes, Greece
Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

, and Corinth, the latter two former Spartan allies, challenged Sparta’s dominance in the Corinthian War
Corinthian War
The Corinthian War was an ancient Greek conflict lasting from 395 BC until 387 BC, pitting Sparta against a coalition of four allied states; Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos; which were initially backed by Persia. The immediate cause of the war was a local conflict in northwest Greece in which...

, which ended inconclusively in 387 BC. That same year Sparta shocked the Greeks by concluding the Treaty of Antalcidas with Persia. The agreement turned over the Greek cities of Ionia and Cyprus, reversing a hundred years of Greek victories against Persia. Sparta then tried to further weaken the power of Thebes, which led to a war in which Thebes formed an alliance with its old enemy Athens.

Then the Theban generals Epaminondas
Epaminondas
Epaminondas , or Epameinondas, was a Theban general and statesman of the 4th century BC who transformed the Ancient Greek city-state of Thebes, leading it out of Spartan subjugation into a preeminent position in Greek politics...

 and Pelopidas
Pelopidas
Pelopidas was an important Theban statesman and general in Greece.-Athlete and warrior:He was a member of a distinguished family, and possessed great wealth which he expended on his friends, while content to lead the life of an athlete...

 won a decisive victory at Leuctra
Battle of Leuctra
The Battle of Leuctra was a battle fought on July 6, 371 BC, between the Boeotians led by Thebans and the Spartans along with their allies amidst the post-Corinthian War conflict. The battle took place in the neighbourhood of Leuctra, a village in Boeotia in the territory of Thespiae...

 (371 BC). The result of this battle was the end of Spartan supremacy and the establishment of Theban dominance, but Athens herself recovered much of her former power because the supremacy of Thebes was short-lived. With the death of Epaminondas at Mantinea
Battle of Mantinea (362 BC)
The Battle of Mantinea was fought on July 4 362 BC between the Thebans, led by Epaminondas and supported by the Arcadians and the Boeotian league against the Spartans, led by King Agesilaus II and supported by the Eleans, Athenians, and Mantineans...

 (362 BC) the city lost its greatest leader and his successors blundered into an ineffectual ten-year war with Phocis
Phocis
Phocis is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Central Greece. It stretches from the western mountainsides of Parnassus on the east to the mountain range of Vardousia on the west, upon the Gulf of Corinth...

. In 346 BC the Thebans appealed to Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

 to help them against the Phocians, thus drawing Macedon into Greek affairs for the first time.

The Peloponnesian War was a radical turning point for the Greek world. Before 403 BC, the situation was more defined, with Athens and its allies (a zone of domination and stability, with a number of island cities benefiting from Athens’ maritime protection), and other states outside this Athenian Empire. The sources denounce this Athenian supremacy (or hegemony) as smothering and disadvantageous.

After 403 BC, things became more complicated, with a number of cities trying to create similar empires over others, all of which proved short-lived. The first of these turnarounds was managed by Athens as early as 390 BC, allowing it to re-establish itself as a major power without regaining its former glory.

The Fall of Sparta


This empire was powerful but short-lived. In 405 BC, the Spartans were masters of all - of Athens’ allies and of Athens itself - and their power was undivided. By the end of the century, they could not even defend their own city. As noted above, in 400 BC, Agesilaus became king of Sparta.

Foundation of a Spartan empire


The subject of how to reorganize the Athenian Empire as part of the Spartan Empire provoked much heated debate among Sparta's full citizens. The admiral Lysander
Lysander
Lysander was a Spartan general who commanded the Spartan fleet in the Hellespont which defeated the Athenians at Aegospotami in 405 BC...

 felt that the Spartans should rebuild the Athenian empire in such a way that Sparta profited from it. Lysander tended to be too proud to take advice from others. Prior to this, Spartan law forbade the use of all precious metals by private citizens, with transactions being carried out with cumbersome iron ingots (which generally discouraged their accumulation) and all precious metals obtained by the city becoming state property. Without the Spartans' support, Lysander's innovations came into effect and brought a great deal of profit for him - on Samos, for example, festivals known as Lysandreia were organized in his honor. He was recalled to Sparta, and once there did not attend to any important matters.

Sparta refused to see Lysander or his successors dominate. Not wanting to establish a hegemony, they decided after 403 BC not to support the directives that he had made.

Agesilaus came to power by accident at the start of the 4th century BC. This accidental accession meant that, unlike the other Spartan kings, he had the advantage of a Spartan education. The Spartans at this date discovered a conspiracy against the laws of the city conducted by Cinadon and as a result concluded there were too many dangerous worldly elements at work in the Spartan state.

In the Persian Court, Alcibiades now betrayed both: helping Sparta build a navy commensurate with the Athenian navy. Alcibiades advised that a victory of Sparta over Athens was not in the best interest of the Persian Empire. Rather, long and continuous warfare between Sparta and Athens would weaken both city-states and allow the Persians to easily dominate the Helles (Greek) peninsula.

Among the war party in Athens, a belief arose that the catastrophic defeat of the military expedition to Sicily in 415 BC through 413 BC could have been avoided if Alcibiades had been allowed to lead the expedition. Thus, despite his treacherous flight to Sparta and collaboration with Sparta and, later, with the Persian Court, there arose a demand among the war party that Alcibiades be allowed to return to Athens without being arrested. Alcibiades negotiated with his supporters on the Athenian controlled island of Samos
Samoš
Samoš is a village in Serbia. It is situated in the Kovačica municipality, in the South Banat District, Vojvodina province. The village has a Serb ethnic majority and its population numbering 1,247 people .-See also:...

. Alcibiades felt that "radical democracy" was his worst enemy. Accordingly, he asked his supporters to initiate a coup to establish an oligarchy in Athens. If the coup were successful Alcibiades promised to return to Athens. In 411 BC, a successful oligarchic coup was mounted in Athens which became known as "the 400." However, a parallel attempt by the 400 to overthrow democracy in Samos failed. Alcibiades was immediately made an admiral (navarch) in the Athenian navy. Later, due to democratic pressures, the 400 was replaced by a broader oligarchy called "the 5000." Alcibiades did not immediately return to Athens. In early 410 BC, Alcibiades led an Atheneian fleet of eighteen triremes (ships) against the Persian-financed Spartan fleet at Abydos near the Hellespont. The Battle of Abydos had actually begun before the arrival of Alcibiades and had been inclining slightly toward the Athenians. However, with the arrival of Alcibiades, the Athenian victory over the Spartans became a rout. Only the approach of nightfall and the movement of Persian troops to the coast where the Spartans had beached their ships, saved the Spartan navy from total destruction.

Following the advice that Alcibiades had provided the Persian Court, the Persian Empire had been playing Sparta and Athens off against each other. However, as weak as the Spartan navy was after the Battle of Abydos, the Persian navy sought to prove direct assistance to the Spartans. Thus following the Battle of Abydos, Alcibiades pursued and met the combined Spartan and Persian fleets at the Battle of Cyzicus later in the spring of 410 BC. Alcibiades and the Athenian navy won a significant victory against the combined navies.

Agesilaus, the Eurypontid King of Sparta, employed a political dynamic that played on a feeling of pan-Hellenic sentiment and launched a successful campaign against the Persian empire. Once again, the Persian empire played both sides against each other. With access to Persian gold, the Persian Court supported Sparta in the rebuilding of their navy and supported the Athenians, who used Persian subsidies to rebuild their long walls (destroyed in 404 BC) as well as to reconstruct their fleet and win a number of victories.

For most of the first years of his reign, Agesilaus had been engaged in a war against Persia in the Aegean Sea and in Asia Minor. In 394 BC, the Spartan authorities decided to force Agesilaus to return to mainland Greece. Sparta had been attacked by Thebes and other allied Greek city-states. While Agesilaus had a large part of the Spartan Army was in Asia Minor, the Spartan forces protecting the homeland had been attacked by a coalition of forces from Thebes, Corinth, Athens and Argos. At the Battle of Haliartus the Spartans had been defeated by the Thebean forces. Worse yet, Lysander, Sparta's chief military leader had been killed at Haliartus. This was the start of what became known as the "Corinthian War." Upon hearing of the Spartan loss at Haliartus and of the death of Lysander, Agesilaus headed out of Asia Minor, back across the Hellspont, across Thrace and back towards Greece. At the Battle of Coronea
Battle of Coronea (394 BC)
The Battle of Coronea in 394 BC was a battle in the Corinthian War, in which the Spartans and their allies under King Agesilaus II defeated a force of Thebans and Argives that was attempting to block their march back into the Peloponnese.-Prelude:...

, Agesilaus and his Spartan Army were defeated by Thebes. For six more years, Sparta fought the allied city-states of Thebes, Corinth, Athens and Argos in the Corinthian War (395 BC to 387 BC). During the war, Corinth drew support from a coalition of traditional Spartan enemies—Argos, Athens and Thebes. However, the war descended into guerrilla tactics and Sparta decided that it could not fight on two fronts and so chose to ally with Persia. The long Corinthian War finally ended with the Peace of Antalcidas
Peace of Antalcidas
The Peace of Antalcidas , also known as the King's Peace, was a peace treaty guaranteed by the Persian King Artaxerxes II that ended the Corinthian War in ancient Greece. The treaty's alternate name comes from Antalcidas, the Spartan diplomat who traveled to Susa to negotiate the terms of the...

 or the King's Peace
King's peace
King's peace may refer to:*a term in Anglo-Saxon law*the Queen's peace in contemporary English law*Peace of Antalcidas, between Ancient Greek city-states and Persia*The King's Peace, a fantasy novel by Jo Walton...

, in which the "Great King" of Persia, Artaxerxes II, pronounced a "treaty" of peace between the various city-states of Greece which broke up all "leagues" of city-states on Greek mainland and in the islands of the Aegean Sea. Although this was looked upon as "independence" for some city-states, the effect of the unilateral "treaty" was highly favorable to the interests of the Persian Empire.

The Corinthian War revealed a significant dynamic that was occurring in Greece. While Athens and Sparta fought each other to exhaustion, Thebes was rising to a position of dominance among the various Greek city-states.

The peace of Antalcidas


In 387 BC, an edict was promulgated by the Persian king, preserving the Greek cities of Asia Minor and Cyprus as well as the independence of the Greek Aegean cities, except for Lymnos, Imbros and Skyros, which were given over to Athens. It dissolved existing alliances and federations and forbade the formation of new ones. This is an ultimatum that benefited Athens only to the extent that Athens held onto three islands. While the "Great King," Artaxerxes, was the guarantor of the peace, Sparta was to act as Persia's agent in enforcing the Peace. To the Persians this document is known as the "King's Peace
King's peace
King's peace may refer to:*a term in Anglo-Saxon law*the Queen's peace in contemporary English law*Peace of Antalcidas, between Ancient Greek city-states and Persia*The King's Peace, a fantasy novel by Jo Walton...

." To the Greeks, this document is known as the Peace of Antalcidas
Peace of Antalcidas
The Peace of Antalcidas , also known as the King's Peace, was a peace treaty guaranteed by the Persian King Artaxerxes II that ended the Corinthian War in ancient Greece. The treaty's alternate name comes from Antalcidas, the Spartan diplomat who traveled to Susa to negotiate the terms of the...

, after the Spartan diplomat, Antalcidas
Antalcidas
Antalcidas was a Spartan soldier and diplomat, the son of Leon.In 393 BC he was sent to Tiribazus, Persian satrap of Sardis, to undermine the friendly relations then existing between Athens and Persia, offering to recognize Persian claims to the whole of Asia Minor and supremacy over Greek cities...

, who was sent to Persia to negotiate a treaty for Sparta. Sparta had been worried about the developing closer ties between Athens and Persia. Accordingly, Altalcidas was sent to Persia to get whatever agreement he could from the "Great King". Accordingly, the "Peace of Antalcidas is not a negotiated peace at all. Rather it is a surrender to the interests of Persia, drafted entirely along its interests.

Spartan interventionism


On the other hand, this peace had unexpected consequences. In accordance with it, the Boeotian League or Boeotian confederacy was dissolved in 386 BC. This confederacy was dominated by Thebes, a city hostile to the Spartan hegemony. Sparta carried out large-scale operations and peripheral interventions in Epirus and in the north of Greece, resulting in the capture of the fortress of Thebes, the Cadmea, after an expedition in the Chalcidice and the capture of Olynthos. It was a Theban politician who suggested to the Spartan general Phoibidas that Sparta should seize Thebes itself. This act was sharply condemned, though Sparta eagerly ratified this unilateral move by Phoibidas. The Spartan attack was successful and Thebes was placed under Spartan control.

Clash with Thebes


In 378 BC, the reaction to Spartan control over Thebes was broken by a popular uprising within Thebes. Elsewhere in Greece, the reaction against Spartan hegemony began when, Sphodrias, another Spartan general, tried to carry out a surprise attack on the Piraeus
Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....

. Although the gates of Piraeus were no longer fortified, Sphodrias was driven off before the Piraeus. Back in Sparta, Sphodrias was put on trial for the failed attack, but was acquitted by the Spartan court. Nonetheless, the attempted attack triggered an alliance between Athens and Thebes. Sparta would now have to fight them both together. Athens was trying to recover from their defeat in the Peloponnesian War at the hands of Sparta's "navarch" (admiral), Lysander in the disaster of 404 BC. The rising spirit of rebellion against Sparta also fueled Thebes' attempt to restore the former Boeotian confederacy. In Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

, Thebian leaders, Pelopidas and Epaminondas
Epaminondas
Epaminondas , or Epameinondas, was a Theban general and statesman of the 4th century BC who transformed the Ancient Greek city-state of Thebes, leading it out of Spartan subjugation into a preeminent position in Greek politics...

, reorganized the Thebian army and began to free the towns of Boeotia from their Spartan garrisons, one by one, and incorporated these towns into the revived Boeotian League. Pelopidas won a great victory for Thebes over a much larger Spartan force in the Battle of Tegyra
Battle of Tegyra
The Battle of Tegyra was an ancient Greek battle between Theban and Spartan hoplite forces. In the battle, a Theban army under Pelopidas was challenged by a substantially larger Spartan force while retreating from an abortive attack on Orchomenus, but successfully attacked and routed the Spartans...

 in 375 BC.

Thebian authority grew so spectacularly in such a short time that Athens came to mistrust the growing Theban power. Athens began to consolidate its position again through the formation of a second Athenian League. Attention was drawn to growing power of Thebes, when it began interfering in the political affairs of its neighbor, Phocis
Phocis
Phocis is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Central Greece. It stretches from the western mountainsides of Parnassus on the east to the mountain range of Vardousia on the west, upon the Gulf of Corinth...

 and, particularly, after Thebes razed the city of Platea in 375 BC Platea had been a long-term ally of Athens. The destruction of Platea caused Athens to negotiate an alliance with Sparta against Thebes, in that same year of 375 BC. In 371, the Thebian army, led by Epaminondas, inflicted a bloody defeat on Spartan forces at Battle of Leuctra
Battle of Leuctra
The Battle of Leuctra was a battle fought on July 6, 371 BC, between the Boeotians led by Thebans and the Spartans along with their allies amidst the post-Corinthian War conflict. The battle took place in the neighbourhood of Leuctra, a village in Boeotia in the territory of Thespiae...

. Sparta lost a large part of its army and 400 of its 2,000 citizen-troops. The Battle of Leuctra was a watershed in Greek history. Epaminondas' victory over the Sparta forces at Leuctra ended a long history of Spartan military prestige and dominance over Greece and the period of Spartan hegemony was over. However, Spartan hegemony was not replaced by Thebian, but rather Athenian hegemony.
Return to the 5th century BC

The Athenians forbade themselves any return to the situation in the 5th century. In Aristotle's decree, Athens claimed its goal was to prevent Spartan hegemony, with the Spartans clearly denounced as "warmongers". Athens’ hegemony was no longer a centralized system but an alliance in which the allies had a voice. The Athenians did not sit on the council of the allies, nor was this council headed by an Athenian. It met regularly and served as a political and military counterweight to Athens. This new league was a quite moderate and much looser organization.
Financing the league

It was important to erase the bad memories of the former league. Its financial system was not adopted, with no tribute
Tribute
A tribute is wealth, often in kind, that one party gives to another as a sign of respect or, as was often the case in historical contexts, of submission or allegiance. Various ancient states, which could be called suzerains, exacted tribute from areas they had conquered or threatened to conquer...

 being paid. Instead, syntaxeis were used, irregular contributions as and when Athens and its allies needed troops, collected for a precise reason and spent as quickly as possible. These contributions were not taken to Athens—unlike the 5th century BC system, there was no central exchequer
Exchequer
The Exchequer is a government department of the United Kingdom responsible for the management and collection of taxation and other government revenues. The historical Exchequer developed judicial roles...

 for the league—but to the Athenian generals themselves.

The Athenians had to make their own contribution to the alliance, the eisphora. They reformed how this tax was paid, creating a system in advance, the Proseiphora, in which the richest individuals had to pay the whole sum of the tax then be reimbursed by other contributors. This system was quickly assimilated into a liturgy.
Athenian hegemony halted

This league responded to a real and present need. On the ground, however, the situation within the league proved to have changed little from that of the 5th century BC, with Athenian generals doing what they wanted and able to extort funds from the league. Alliance with Athens again looked unattractive and the allies complained.

The main reasons for the eventual failure were structural. This alliance was only valued out of fear of Sparta, which evaporated after Sparta's fall in 371 BC, losing the alliance its sole raison d'etre. The Athenians no longer had the means to fulfil their ambitions, and found it difficult merely to finance their own navy, let alone that of an entire alliance, and so could not properly defend their allies. Thus, the tyrant of Pherae was able to destroy a number of cities with impunity. From 360, Athens lost its reputation for invincibility and a number of allies (such as Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

 and Naxos in 364) decided to secede.

In 357 BC the revolt against the league spread, and between 357 and 355, Athens had to face war against its allies, a war whose issue was marked by a decisive intervention by the king of Persia in the form of an ultimatum to Athens, demanding that Athens recognise its allies' independence under penalty of Persia's sending 200 trireme
Trireme
A trireme was a type of galley, a Hellenistic-era warship that was used by the ancient maritime civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans.The trireme derives its name from its three rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar...

s against Athens. Athens had to renounce the war and leave the confederacy to weaken itself more and more. The Athenians had failed in all their plans and were unable to propose a durable alliance.
5th century BC Boeotian confederacy (447 – 386)

This was not Thebes’ first attempt at hegemony. It had been the most important city of Boeotia and the centre of the previous Boeotian confederacy of 447, resurrected since 386.

That confederacy is well known to us from a papyrus found at Oxyrhyncus and known as "The Anonyme of Thebes". Thebes headed it and set up a system under which charges were divided up between the different cities of the confederacy. Citizenship was defined according to wealth, and Thebes counted 11,000 active citizens.

It was divided up into 11 districts, each providing a federal magistrate called a "Boeotarch", a certain number of council members, 1,000 hoplites and 100 horsemen. From the 5th century BC the alliance could field an infantry force of 11,000 men, in addition to an elite corps and a light infantry numbering 10,000; but its real power derived from its cavalry force of 1,100, commanded by a federal magistrate independent of local commanders. It also had a small fleet which played a part in the Peloponnesian War by providing 25 triremes for the Spartans. At the end of the conflict, the fleet consisted of 50 triremes and was commanded by a "navarch".

All this constituted a significant enough force that the Spartans were happy to see the Boeotian confederacy dissolved by the king's peace. This dissolution, however, did not last, and in the 370s there was nothing to stop the Thebans (who had lost the Cadmea to Sparta in 382 BC) from reforming this confederacy.
Theban reconstruction

Pelopidas and Epaminondas endowed Thebes with democratic institutions similar to those of Athens, the Thebans revived the title of "Boetarch" lost in the Persian king's peace and - with victory at Leuctra and the destruction of Spartan power - the pair achieved their stated objective of renewing the confederacy. Epaminondas rid the Peloponnesus of pro-Spartan oligarchies, replacing them with pro-Theban democracies, constructed cities, and rebuilt a number of those destroyed by Sparta. He equally supported the reconstruction of the city of Messene
Messene
Messene , officially Ancient Messene, is a Local Community of the Municipal Unit , Ithomi, of the municipality of Messini within the Regional Unit of Messenia in the Region of Peloponnēsos, one of 7 Regions into which the Hellenic Republic has been divided by the Kallikratis...

 thanks to an invasion of Laconia that also allowed him to liberate the helots and give them Messene as a capital.

He decided in the end to constitute small confederacies all round the Peloponnessus, forming an Arcadian confederacy (The king's peace had destroyed a previous Arcadian confederacy and put Messene under Spartan control.)
Confrontation between Athens and Thebes

The strength of the Boeotian League explains Athens’ problems with her allies in the second Athenian League. Epaminondas succeeded in convincing his countrymen to build a fleet of 100 triremes to pressure cities into leaving the Athenian league and joining a Boeotian maritime league. Epaminondas and Pelopidas also reformed the army of Thebes to introduce new and more effective means of fighting. Thus, the Thebian army was able to carry the day against the coalition of other Greek states at the battle of Leuctra
Battle of Leuctra
The Battle of Leuctra was a battle fought on July 6, 371 BC, between the Boeotians led by Thebans and the Spartans along with their allies amidst the post-Corinthian War conflict. The battle took place in the neighbourhood of Leuctra, a village in Boeotia in the territory of Thespiae...

 in 371 BC and the battle of Mantinea
Battle of Mantinea (362 BC)
The Battle of Mantinea was fought on July 4 362 BC between the Thebans, led by Epaminondas and supported by the Arcadians and the Boeotian league against the Spartans, led by King Agesilaus II and supported by the Eleans, Athenians, and Mantineans...

 in 362 BC.

Sparta also remained an important power in the face of Thebian strength. However, some of the cities allied with Sparta turned against her, because of Thebes. In 367 BC, both Sparta and Athens sent delegates to Artaxerxes II, the Great King of Persia. These delegates sought to have the Artaxerxes, once again, declare Greek independence and a unilateral common peace, just as he had done in twenty years earlier in 387 BC. That unilateral peace treaty, commonly called the "King's Peace
King's peace
King's peace may refer to:*a term in Anglo-Saxon law*the Queen's peace in contemporary English law*Peace of Antalcidas, between Ancient Greek city-states and Persia*The King's Peace, a fantasy novel by Jo Walton...

", or the "Peace of Antalcidas
Peace of Antalcidas
The Peace of Antalcidas , also known as the King's Peace, was a peace treaty guaranteed by the Persian King Artaxerxes II that ended the Corinthian War in ancient Greece. The treaty's alternate name comes from Antalcidas, the Spartan diplomat who traveled to Susa to negotiate the terms of the...

", breaking all bonds between the various city-states of Greece. As noted above, this had meant the destruction of the Boeotian League in 387 BC. Sparta and Athens now hoped the same thing would happen with a new declaration of a similar "Kings Peace" by the Great King of the Persian Empire. Thebes sent Pelopidas to argue against this attempt at a new unilateral "peace treaty" guaranteed by the Persian Empire. Now however, twenty years later in 367 BC, the Great King was convinced by Pelopidas and the Thebian diplomats that Thebes, and the Boeotian League, would be the best agent of Persian interests in Greece. Accordingly, the Great King did not issue a new "King's Peace." Thus, in order to deal with Thebes, Athens and Sparta were thrown back on their own resources. Thebes, meanwhile, expanded their influence beyond the bounds of Boeotia. In 364 BC, the Thebeans defeated the army of Alexander of Pherae in the Battle of Cynoscephalae
Battle of Cynoscephalae
The Battle of Cynoscephalae was an encounter battle fought in Thessaly in 197 BC between the Roman army, led by Titus Quinctius Flamininus, and the Antigonid dynasty of Macedon, led by Philip V.- Prelude :...

, located in southeastern Thessaly in northern Greece. Pelopidas led this Thebian Army to Cynoscephalae. However, during the battle, Pelopides was killed.

The confederal framework of Sparta's relationship with her allies was really an artificial one, since it attempted to bring together cities that had never been able to agree on much at all in the past. Such was the case with the cities of Tegea
Tegea
Tegea was a settlement in ancient Greece, and it is also a former municipality in Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Tripoli, of which it is a municipal unit. Its seat was the village Stadio....

 and Mantinea, which re-allied in the Arcardian confederacy. The Mantineans received the support of the Athenians and the Tegeans that of the Thebans. In 362 BC Thebian general, Epaminondas, led a Thebian army against a coalition of Athenian, Spartan, Elisian, Mantinean and Achean forces. Battle was joined at Mantinea. The Thebans prevailed, but this triumph was short-lived, for Epaminondas died in the battle, stating that "I bequeath to Thebes two daughters, the victory of Leuctra and the victory at Mantinea".

Despite the victory at Mantinea, in the end, the Thebans abandoned their policy of intervention in the Peloponnesus. This event is looked upon as a watershed in Greek history. Thus, Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

 concludes his history of the Greek world at this point, in 362 BC. The end of this period was even more confused than its beginning. Greece had failed and, according to Xenophon, the history of the Greek world was no longer intelligible.

The idea of hegemony disappeared. From 362 BC onward, there was no longer a single city that could exert hegemonic power in Greece. The Spartans were greatly weakened; the Athenians were in no condition to operate their navy, and after 365 no longer had any allies; Thebes could only exert an ephemeral dominance, and had the means to defeat Sparta and Athens but not to be a major power in Asia Minor.

Other forces also intervened, such as the Persian king, who was appointed himself as arbitrator between the Greek cities, with the tacit agreement of the cities themselves. This situation reinforced the conflicts and there was a proliferation of civil wars, with the confederal framework a repeated trigger for wars. One war led to another, each longer and more bloody, and the cycle could not be broken. Hostilities even took place during winter for the first time, with the 370 invasion of Laconia.

Rise of Macedon


Thebes sought to maintain its position until finally eclipsed by the rising power of Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

 in 346 BC. The energetic leadership within Macedon began in 359 BC when Phillip of Macedonia was made regent for his nephew, Amyntas
Amyntas IV of Macedon
Amyntas IV was a titular king of Macedonia in 359 BC and member of the Argead dynasty.- Biography :Amyntas was a son of King Perdiccas III of Macedon. He was born in about 365 BC. After his father's death in 359 BC he became king, but he was only an infant. Philip II of Macedon, Perdiccas'...

. Within a short time, Phillip was acclaimed king as, Phillip II of Macedonia, in his own right with succession of the throne established on his own heirs.

Under Philip II
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

, (359–336 BC), Macedon expanded into the territory of the Paeonians, Thracians
Thracians
The ancient Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting areas including Thrace in Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family...

, and Illyrians
Illyrians
The Illyrians were a group of tribes who inhabited part of the western Balkans in antiquity and the south-eastern coasts of the Italian peninsula...

. In 357 BC, Phillip conquered the Thracian port city of Amphipolis
Amphipolis
Amphipolis was an ancient Greek city in the region once inhabited by the Edoni people in the present-day region of Central Macedonia. It was built on a raised plateau overlooking the east bank of the river Strymon where it emerged from Lake Cercinitis, about 3 m. from the Aegean Sea. Founded in...

. Conquering this city allowed Phillip to subjugate all of Thrace. Athens fought to prevent the Macedonians from conquering Thrace. A year later in 356 BC, the Macedonians attacked and conquered the Athenian controlled port city of Pydna
Pydna
Pydna was a Greek city in ancient Macedon, the most important in Pieria. Modern Pydna is a small town and a former municipality in the northeastern part of Pieria regional unit, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pydna-Kolindros, of which it is a...

. This brought the Macedonian threat to Athens closer to home to the Athenians. Demosthenes became a leading Athenian statesman, during this time by his opposition to the Macedonians. With the start of the Phocian War in 356 BC, Demosthenes became increasingly active in encouraging Athens to fight vigorously against Phillip's expansionistic aims. The Macedonians became more politically involved with the south-central city-states of Greece, but also retained more archaic aspects harking back to the palace culture, first at Aegae (modern Vergina) then at Pella
Pella
Pella , an ancient Greek city located in Pella Prefecture of Macedonia in Greece, was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia.-Etymology:...

, resembling Mycenaean
Mycenaean Greece
Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites...

 culture more than that of the Classical city-states. Militarily, Phillip recognized the new phalanx style of fighting that had been employed by Epaminondas and Phielopidas in Thebes. Accordingly, he incorporated this new system into the Macedonian army. Phillip II also brought a Thebian military tutor to Macedon to instruct the future Alexander the Great in the Thebian method of fighting.

Philip's son Alexander the Great born in Pella
Pella
Pella , an ancient Greek city located in Pella Prefecture of Macedonia in Greece, was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia.-Etymology:...

, Macedonia (356
356 BC
Year 356 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Ambustus and Laenas...

323 BC
323 BC
Year 323 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Longus and Cerretanus...

). Phillip II brought Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 to Pella to teach the young Alexander. Aristotle looked to the east. He felt that all that was important in the world was in the east. Aristotle had little interest in anything that lay to the west of Greece. Aristotle's view of the world became Alexander's view. During his lifetime, Phillip II consolidated his rule over Macedonia. This, was done by 359 BC and Phillip began to look toward expanding Macedonia's influence abroad. The dream of restoring Greece to its grandeur by liberating all Greek lands from Persian dominion, was alive even in this early stage. This dream even included conquering Persia itself.

In 358 BC, Phillip allied with Epirus in their campaign against Illyria. In 357 BC Phillip II turned his attention on the Strymon River valley, and came into direct conflict with Athens. Amphipolis
Amphipolis
Amphipolis was an ancient Greek city in the region once inhabited by the Edoni people in the present-day region of Central Macedonia. It was built on a raised plateau overlooking the east bank of the river Strymon where it emerged from Lake Cercinitis, about 3 m. from the Aegean Sea. Founded in...

, a city located at the mouth of the Strymon River to the east of Macedonia was a major Athenian trading port. Thus, when Phillip attacked and captured Amphipolis
Amphipolis
Amphipolis was an ancient Greek city in the region once inhabited by the Edoni people in the present-day region of Central Macedonia. It was built on a raised plateau overlooking the east bank of the river Strymon where it emerged from Lake Cercinitis, about 3 m. from the Aegean Sea. Founded in...

 in 357 BC, Athens declared war on Macedonia. The next year, in 356 BC, Phillip conquered Pydna
Pydna
Pydna was a Greek city in ancient Macedon, the most important in Pieria. Modern Pydna is a small town and a former municipality in the northeastern part of Pieria regional unit, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pydna-Kolindros, of which it is a...

. In 352 BC, the great Athenian orator and political leader of the "war party", Demosthenes
Demosthenes
Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by...

 gave many speeches against the Macedonian threat, declaring Phillip II as Athen's greatest enemy. Leader of the Athenian "peace party," was Phocion
Phocion
Phocion was an Athenian statesman and strategos, and the subject of one of Plutarch's Parallel Lives....

, who wished to avoid a confrotation that, Phocion felt, would be catastrophic for Athens. Despite Phocion's attempts to retrain the war party, Athens remained at war with Macedonia for years following the original declaration of war. Negotiations between Athens and Phillip II started only in 346 BC. The Athenians successfully halted Phillip's invasion of Attica at Thermopylae that same year in 352 BC. However, Phillip defeated the Phocians at the Battle of the Crocus Field. The conflict between Macedonia and all the city-states of Greece came to a head in 338 BC, at the Battle of Chaeronea
Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC)
The Battle of Chaeronea was fought in 338 BC, near the city of Chaeronea in Boeotia, between the forces of Philip II of Macedon and an alliance of Greek city-states...

.

Besides Alexander's mother, Phillip took another wife by the name of Cleopatra Eurydice. Cleopatra had a daughter, Europa, and a son, Caranus. Caranus posed a threat to the succession of Alexander. Cleopatra Eurydice was a Macedonian and, thus, Caranus, was all Macedonian in blood. Olympias, Alexander's mother on the other hand was from Epirus and, thus, Alexander was regarded as being only half-Macedonian. (Cleopatra Eurydice should not be confused with Cleopatra of Macedon who was Alexander's full-sister and thus daughter of Phillip and Olympias.)

Phillip II was assassinated at the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra of Macedon with King Alexander I of Epirus
Alexander I of Epirus
Alexander I of Epirus , also known as Alexander Molossus , was a king of Epirus of the Aeacid dynasty. As the son of Neoptolemus I and brother of Olympias, he was an uncle of Alexander the Great...

 in 336 BC Alexander, immediately, claimed the throne of Macedonia by eliminating all the other claimant's to the throne, including his cousin Amytas and Caranus, Cleopatra Eurydice's son. Alexander was only twenty (20) years of age when he assumed the throne.

Upon assumption of the throne, Alexander continued to carry out the plans of his father to conquer all of Greece. He did this by both military might and persuasion. After his victory over Thebes, Alexander traveled to Athens to meet the public itself. Despite Demosthenes
Demosthenes
Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by...

' speeches against the Macedonian threat on behalf of the war party of Athens, the public in Athens was still very much divided between a "peace party" and Demosthene's "war party." However the arrival of Alexander charmed the Athenian public. The peace party was strengthened and then a peace between Athens and Macedonia was agreed. This allowed Alexander to move on his and Greeks long-held dream of conquest in the east, with a unified and secure Greek state at his back.

In 334 BC, Alexander with about 30,000 infantry soldiers and 5,000 cavalry crossed the Hellspont into Asia. He never returned. Alexander managed to briefly extend Macedonian power not only over the central Greek city-states, but also to the Persian empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

, including Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and lands as far east as the fringes of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. He managed to spread Greek culture throughout the known world. Alexander the Great died in 323 BC in Babylon during his Asian campaign of conquest.

The Classical period conventionally ends at the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the fragmentation of his empire, divided among the Diadochi
Diadochi
The Diadochi were the rival generals, family and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for the control of Alexander's empire after his death in 323 BC...

, which, in the minds of most scholars, marks the beginning of the Hellenistic period
Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia...

.

Legacy of Classical Greece


Though somewhat eclipsed by technology today, the sense of a legacy was strongly felt by post-Renaissance European elite, who saw themselves as the spiritual heirs of Greece. As late as 1939 Will Durant
Will Durant
William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975...

could write "excepting machinery, there is hardly anything secular in our culture that does not come from Greece," and conversely "there is nothing in Greek civilization that doesn't illuminate our own".