Athens vs Sparta 4

Topics: Peloponnesian War, Sparta, Ancient Greece Pages: 6 (2338 words) Published: December 12, 2005
"I doubt seriously whether a man can think with full wisdom and deep convictions regarding certain of the basic international issues today who has not at least reviewed in his mind the period of the Peloponnesian War and the Fall of Athens." George C. Marshall. The Peloponnesian War that took place from 431 B.C. to 404 B.C., as George C. Marshall said, is one of the most important wars in the last 2,500 years of history. The war changed the expansion of democracy for the rest of history and forced the remaining Greek states to adapt a form of Oligarchy government instead of Democracy. At the end of the Peloponnesian War, Sparta's army defeated the Athenian navy due to it using its overwhelming strengths and overcoming its weaknesses. Sparta made excellent use of its three main strengths--its army, its allies, and its oligarchic system of government--in its war with Athens, and gradually overcame its most critical Achilles heel--its navy. In themselves, however, Sparta's actions would not have been sufficient for victory had the Athenians followed the strategy laid out by Pericles. First, I will look at one of the strengths of Sparta, which is its powerful military, the only professional standing army in Greece during this time. The Spartan's oligarchy system was based upon an agrarian economy that allowed the Spartans to raise their own food. This allowed them to build a military state, with the social structure of a fighting class that recruited for the military at the age of seven and learned how to fight for 13 years before entering the military. The hoplite army was a dedicated professional army that allowed the Spartans to train for war on a continuous basis. The Spartan army was known specifically throughout the entire region for their red cloaks and deliberate advance at a walk to the music of flutes, gained a reputation of military ferocity and maintained military supremacy on land. One of Sparta's centers of gravity was their army that was based upon hoplites and helots, which was a form of slavery; the citizens could not pursue any profession other than that of arms. In addition, the helots supplied all the labor needed to produce food internally needed by Sparta. With the physically dominant land-based military, Sparta's strategy was to get the Athenians to come out and fight them in a land battle. This is why after the war started, Sparta continually went to Attica, invaded the farmlands, and destroyed the crops the Athenians used. These invasions forced them to seek shelter within the walls of Athens as deterrence and wait until Spartans returned home or fight. Sparta was baiting Athens to come out and fight a land war, which they were very good at and would lead to a quick decisive victory. However, the Athenians were being patient under the direction and leadership of Pericles and they hoped to out last the Spartans. Another weakness the Spartans had to overcome was that the helots could be easily persuaded by the other side to revolt and join the other side so there had to be enough hoplites and ruling military rank structure to ensure the order was kept. In addition, a while the Spartan's army was a force to be reckoned with it certainly was not expeditionary army that could not move about the Aegean Sea at will. Another weakness the Spartans had was their navy was weak, while the Athenian navy was the strongest in the entire region—it was their backbone. The only way the Spartans could overcome this weakness was to build strong coalition partners who already had a strong navy which we discuss later or acquire a navy themselves by building up their current navy and making it stronger. Sparta's army remained consistently strong throughout the war and was the foundation upon which they built their strategy. The Spartans started with a weak navy and continued to build its navy up from the beginning of the war. In the final years, they had worked out an agreement with Persia so...
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