Peloponnesian War Timeline I (First Peloponnesian War)
Peloponnesian War Timeline II (Archidamian War)
420 The Spartans are humiliated at the Olympic games when Elis vetoes official Spartan participation.
418 The Argive alliance, consisting of Argos, Achaea, Elis, Athens, and others, attempts to take the strategically located town of Tegea; taking and holding the town would have effectively confined the Spartans to Sparta. The Spartans send troops to Tegea. Rather than maintaining a defensive stance, they invade nearby Mantinea, an Argive ally. As the Argives held a good position, the Spartans diverted the river Sarandapotamus to flood the Argives out. The Argives, however, impatient to fight, surprised them by pressing the fight more quickly than they had expected. The Argives manage to rout and pursue a considerable part of the Spartan army, but the Spartans devastatingly rout the part of the Argive army that is left. Argos is forced to give up all gained territory and cut off its alliance with Elis and Athens. The elite members of the Argive army overthrow the democratic government in Argos and establish an oligarchy.
417 The Argive oligarchy is overthrown. Fearing Spartan retribution, the Argives increase the fortifications of their city, but they are insufficient and Sparta destroys them.
416 Alcibiades arrives with an Athenian army in Argos and seizes people suspected of being anti-Athenian.
Athens blockades the island of Melos. Melos will eventually be not only defeated but destroyed, to the shock of many of the Greek cities.
415 An Athenian ally in Sicily, Segesta, goes to war against Selinus; being defeated, they appeal to the Athenians for help, lying about their ability to fund the expedition. The Athenians are divided between a peace faction, under Nicias, and a war faction, under Alcibiades; the latter prevails. The Athenians name three generals: Alcibiades, Nicias, and a veteran named Lamachus; each of the three generals attempts to insist on a completely different strategy, but Alcibiades's plan, to begin by building up an alliance in Sicily, wins out. Thus begins the Sicilian Expedition. Just before the expedition sets out, someone defaces a number of statues of Hermes in the city.
The expedition arrives in Sicily, but almost immediately an Athenian ship arrives informing Alcibiades that he is recalled under arrest for the desecration of the statues. He complies, but on the way back escapes and defects to Sparta.
414 Alcibiades negotiates Spartan assistance against the Athenians for Syracuse, the most powerful city in Sicily, and also convinces the Spartans to prepare to occupy Decelea, near Athens; he is able to persuade them that Athens will invade the Peloponnesus if the Sicilian expedition succeeds.
Athens blockades Syracuse by land and by sea. The Spartans arrive. The Spartan navy is defeated by Athens, but the Spartans defeat Athens on land and are able to bring the neutral states of Sicily to the Spartan/Syracusan side. After several skirmishes in which they are defeated, the Syracusans are finally able to defeat the Athenians and force their ships ashore. Now the Athenians are blockaded. The Athenians are eventually forced to surrender.
413 The Spartans occupy Decelea, thus disrupting trade and Athenian access to its silver mines; the Athenian treasury, already dangerously low, looks in danger of bankruptcy. As news of the Sicilian defeat spreads, neutral cities join Sparta and members of the Delian League begin to revolt.
412 The Persian satrap Tissaphernes begins to support Sparta with money and ships. At about the same time, Alcibiades falls out of favor with Sparta because of an affair with the Spartan king's wife; worried that they might try to kill him, he defects to Persia, attempting to sabotage the alliance between Persia and Sparta, and also to negotiate his return to Athens.
411 An oligarchic coup succeeds in Athens, putting the city in the hands of the Four Hundred. At around the same time, an oligarchic coup in Samos fails due to Athenian help; the Athenians there, including the generals Thrasybulus and Theramenes, form a sort of democratic government in exile. The Four Hundred will be very unstable, and will soon be replaced by the Five Thousand.
The Athenian navy under Thrasybulus defeats the Spartans at Abydos, thus establishing Athenian control of the Hellespont. The Athenians are unable to press their full advantage, however, largely due to lack of funds.
410 The Athenian navy, under the leadership of Alcibiades, Thrasybulus, and Theramenes, resoundingly defeat the Spartans and Persian troops sent by the satrap Pharnabazus at the Battle of Cyzicus.
The oligarchic government in control of Athens collapses.
Sparta petitions Athens for peace; Athens refuses.
409 Alcibiades and Thrasybulus lay siege to Chalcedon; the siege itself is inconclusive, but leads to an agreement with Chalcedon, and the generals are able to leverage this to gain a temporary alliance with Pharnabazus, which makes it possible to pay the soldiers.
407 Alcibiades returns to Athens and the charges against him are canceled.
Lysander becomes navarch of the Spartan fleet and establishes a base at Ephesus.
406 Alcibiades brings the Athenian fleet to Notium in order to force the Spartan fleet at Ephesus in battle. When Lysander does not take the bait, Alcibiades puts his helmsman Antiochus in charge of the fleet and goes to help Thrasybulus besiege Phocaea. Antiochus, against orders, actively attempts to draw out the Spartans. The Athenian fleet is defeated and the Spartans return to Ephesus. Alcibiades returns to reinforce the Notium fleet, but is unable to draw the Spartans out again. The Athenians, shaken by the defeat of their navy, remove from command Alcibiades and almost all their experienced generals. Alcibiades will never return to Athens again. Because of term limits, Lysander is replaced by Callicratidas.
Callicratidas, after a victory at Mytilene, is decisively defeated at Arginusae. Callicratidas is killed. However, the victory at Arginusae leads to a crisis for Athens. At the end of the battle, the eight generals had to choose between proceeding to destroy a Spartan fleet at Mytilene before it could escape and rescuing the survivors of twenty five ships that had been sunk during the battle. The generals leave behind a small contingent under Thrasybulus and Theramenes to rescue survivors and lead the rest to destroy the Spartan fleet, but a storm makes both impossible. The Athenians are angry at the failure to save the survivors. The generals accuse Thrasybulus and Theramenes, but both, who had been sent back to Athens with the news, are able to defend themselves. Instead, Athenian anger turns on the generals, who are ordered to return home for trial. Six of the eight return. A proposal is made that the assembly should vote on the fate of the generals without any further debate; opposition to this dissolves when the same motion is brought against those who attempt to argue against the proposal as illegal. By chance, Socrates was the presiding officer of the assembly (the presiding officer was chosen by lot, and this was the first and only time Socrates held public office in his lifetime). He refuses to put the matter to the vote, claiming that he will not do anything contrary to the law. This attempt to prevent the action fails; the assembly passes the motion anyway and votes to execute all six generals.
Sparta again petitions Athens for peace; Athens again refuses.
405 The Spartan fleet under Lysander crushes the Athenian fleet at Aegospotami, and so thoroughly that Athens almost entirely loses its previously uncontested sway over the Aegean. In effect, the result is a sort of large-scale blockade of Athens: with the Spartans able to control much of Attica because of their control of Decelea and the Athenian navy no longer able to guarantee safe trade, Athens is nearly isolated for the first time in the war. Lysander begins to capture Athenian allies.
404 Unable to bring in grain by sea and facing the threat of starvation, the Athenians surrender. Athenians at Samos hold out somewhat longer, but are also brought to heel. The walls and fleet of Athens are destroyed, and Athens is stripped of all of its overseas power. Corinth and Thebes demand the complete destruction of Athens, but the Spartans refuse, instead establishing an oligarchic government, the Thirty Tyrants, and making it a member of the Laecedomonian League. Thus ends the Peloponnesian War.
The Thirty Tyrants are led by Theramenes and Critias. Critias was an associate of Socrates (and Plato's cousin; another member of the thirty, Charmides, was Plato's uncle). They begin a bloody purge.
403 Thrasybulus, with a small group of Athenian exiles, seize the fort of Phyle, which had been left undefended due to lack of funds. The Athenians and Spartans attempt to dislodge them, but fail. Thrasybulus seizes the Piraeus, which is the primary link between Athens and the sea and is no longer protected by the Long Walls; the government of the Thirty Tyrants crumbles and Critias is killed. According to Plato, Apology 32c-d, Socrates narrowly avoided being executed for failure to comply with the demands of the Thirty Tyrants by the collapse of the government.
The Spartans defeat the Athenians at the Battle of the Piraeus, but the Spartan king, Pausanias, agress to allow continued democratic government if certain concessions are meant. He will be brought to trial for this, for which he will be narrowly acquitted.
402 The Spartans attack and defeat Elis in retribution for its behavior in the war; despite being called, Corinth and Thebes refuse to assist. This will be the beginning of a number of imperialistic ventures in which Sparta will engage over the next several years. This will lead in 395 to the Corinthian War, in which Sparta will face off with a coalition composed of Corinth, Thebes, Argos, and Athens. Despite some Spartan victories, that war will end Sparta's attempt to become a naval power, and will more or less end in stalemate; but the peace negotiated afterward will favor, in the short run, Spartan hegemony and, in the slightly longer run, result in increased Persian interference and control. However, the walls and fleet of Athens are restored in the course of the war, and by its end in 387 Athens will have regained parts of its previous empire.
401 Against Socrates' advice, Xenophon joins the Ten Thousand, mercenaries who fight for Cyrus the Younger in his succession dispute with his brother Artaxerxes II. They will win the battle of Cunaxa, but Cyrus's death will leave them stranded in hostile territory, forced to fight their back home, a story told in Xenophon's Anabasis.
399 Socrates tried and executed; there is evidence that his association with Critias is one of the things that turns the jury against him, even though by law no one could be charged for crimes committed before 403 (hence the charges of impiety and corrupting the youth).