A Smaller History of Greece
From The Earliest Times To The Roman Conquest
By William Smith D.C.L., LL.D.
THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR.--THIRD PERIOD, FROM THE SICILIAN EXPEDITION TO THE END OF THE WAR, B.C. 413-404.
The destruction of the Sicilian armament was a fatal blow to the power of Athens. It is astonishing that she was able to protract the war so long with diminished strength and resources. Her situation inspired her enemies with new vigour; states hitherto neutral declared against her; her subject-allies prepared to throw off the yoke; even the Persian satraps and the court of Susa bestirred themselves against her. The first blow to her empire was struck by the wealthy and populous island of Chios. This again was the work of Alcibiades, the implacable enemy of his native land, at whose advice a Lacedaemonian fleet was sent to the assistance of the Chians. Their example was followed by all the other Athenian allies in Asia, with the exception of Samos, in which the democratical party gained the upper hand. In the midst of this general defection the Athenians did not give way to despair. Pericles had set apart a reserve of 1000 talents to meet the contingency of an actual invasion. This still remained untouched, and now by an unanimous vote the penalty of death, which forbad its appropriation to any other purpose, was abolished, and the fund applied in fitting out a fleet against Chios. Samos became the head-quarters of the fleet, and the base of their operations during the remainder of the war.
After a time the tide of success began to turn in favour of the Athenians. They recovered Lesbos and Clazomenae, defeated the Chians, and laid waste their territory. They also gained a victory over the Peloponnesians at Miletus; while the Peloponnesian fleet had lost the assistance of Tissaphernes, the Persian satrap, through the intrigues of Alcibiades. In the course of a few months Alcibiades had completely forfeited the confidence of the Lacedaemonians. The Spartan king Agis, whose wife he had seduced, was his personal enemy; and after the defeat of the Peloponnesians at Miletus, Agis denounced him as a traitor, and persuaded the new Ephors to send out instructions to put him to death. Of this, however, he was informed time enough to make his escape to Tissaphernes at Magnesia. Here he ingratiated himself into the confidence of the satrap, and persuaded him that it was not for the interest of Persia that either of the Grecian parties should be successful, but rather that they should wear each other out in their mutual struggles, when Persia would in the end succeed in expelling both. This advice was adopted by the satrap; and in order to carry it into execution, steps were taken to secure the inactivity of the Peloponnesian armament, which, if vigorously employed, was powerful enough to put a speedy end to the war. In order to secure his return to Athens, Alcibiades now endeavoured to persuade Tissaphernes that it was more for the Persian interest to conclude a league with Athens than with Sparta; but the only part of his advice which the satrap seems to have sincerely adopted was that of playing off one party against the other. About this, however, Alcibiades did not at all concern himself. It was enough for his views, which had merely the selfish aim of his own restoration to Athens, if he could make it appear that he possessed sufficient influence with Tissaphernes to procure his assistance for the Athenians. He therefore began to communicate with the Athenian generals at Samos, and held out the hope of a Persian alliance as the price of his restoration to his country. But as he both hated and feared the Athenian democracy, he coupled his offer with the condition that a revolution should be effected at Athens, and an oligarchy established. The Athenian generals greedily caught at the proposal; and though the great mass of the soldiery were violently opposed to it, they were silenced, if not satisfied, when told that Athens could be saved only by means of Persia. The oligarchical conspirators formed themselves into a confederacy, and Pisander was sent to Athens to lay the proposal before the Athenian assembly. It met, as it might be supposed, with the most determined opposition. The single but unanswerable reply of Pisander was, the necessities of the republic; and at length a reluctant vote for a change of constitution was extorted from the people. Pisander and ten others were despatched to treat with Alcibiades and Tissaphernes.
Upon their arrival in Ionia they informed Alcibiades that measures had been taken for establishing an oligarchical form of government at Athens, and required him to fulfil his part of the engagement by procuring the aid and alliance of Persia. But Alcibiades knew that he had undertaken what he could not perform, and he now resolved to escape from the dilemma by one of his habitual artifices. He received the Athenian deputation in the presence of Tissaphernes himself, and made such extravagant demands on behalf of the satrap that Pisander and his colleagues indignantly broke off the conference.
Notwithstanding the conduct of Alcibiades the oligarchical conspirators proceeded with the revolution at Athens, in which they had gone too far to recede. Pisander, with five of the envoys, returned to Athens to complete the work they had begun.
Pisander proposed in the assembly, and carried a resolution, that a committee of ten should be appointed to prepare a new constitution, which was to be submitted to the approbation of the people. But when the day appointed for that purpose arrived, the assembly was not convened in the Pnyx, but in the temple of Poseidon at Colonus, a village upwards of a mile from Athens. Here the conspirators could plant their own partisans, and were less liable to be overawed by superior numbers. Pisander obtained the assent of the meeting to the following revolutionary changes:--1. The abolition of all the existing magistracies; 2. The cessation of all payments for the discharge of civil functions; 3. The appointment of a committee of five persons, who were to name ninety-five more; each of the hundred thus constituted to choose three persons; the body of Four Hundred thus formed to be an irresponsible government, holding its sittings in the senate house. The four hundred were to convene a select body of five thousand citizens whenever they thought proper. Nobody knew who these five thousand were, but they answered two purposes, namely, to give an air of greater popularity to the government, as well as to overawe the people by an exaggerated notion of its strength.
Thus perished the Athenian democracy, after an existence of nearly a century since its establishment by Clisthenes The revolution was begun from despair of the foreign relations of Athens, and from the hope of assistance from Persia; but it was carried out through the machinations of the conspirators after that delusion had ceased.
At Samos the Athenian army refused to recognise the new government. At the instance of Thrasybulus and Thrasyllus a meeting was called in which the soldiers pledged themselves to maintain the democracy, to continue the war against Peloponnesus, and to put down the usurpers at Athens. The soldiers, laying aside for a while their military character, constituted themselves into an assembly of the people, deposed several of their officers, and appointed others whom they could better trust. Thrasybulus proposed the recall of Alcibiades, notwithstanding his connection with the oligarchical conspiracy, because it was believed that he was now able and willing to aid the democratic cause with the gold and forces of Persia. After considerable opposition the proposal was agreed to; Alcibiades was brought to Samos and introduced to the assembly, where by his magnificent promises, and extravagant boasts respecting his influence with Tissaphernes, he once more succeeded in deceiving the Athenians. The accomplished traitor was elected one of the generals, and, in pursuance of his artful policy, began to pass backwards and forwards between Samos and Magnesia, with the view of inspiring both the satrap and the Athenians with a reciprocal idea of his influence with either, and of instilling distrust of Tissaphernes into the minds of the Peloponnesians.
At the first news of the re-establishment of democracy at Samos, distrust and discord had broken out among the Four Hundred. Antiphon and Phrynichus, at the head of the extreme section of the oligarchical party, were for admitting a Lacedaemonian garrison. But others, discontented with their share of power, began to affect more popular sentiments, among whom were Theramenes and Aristocrates. Meantime Euboea, supported by the Lacedaemonians and Boeotians, revolted from Athens. The loss of this island seemed a death-blow. The Lacedaemonians might now easily blockade the ports of Athens and starve her into surrender; whilst the partisans of the Four Hundred would doubtless co-operate with the enemy. But from this fate they were saved by the characteristic slowness of the Lacedaemonians, who confined themselves to securing the conquest of Euboea. Thus left unmolested, the Athenians convened an assembly in the Pnyx. Votes were passed for deposing the Four Hundred, and placing the government in the hands of the 5000, of whom every citizen who could furnish a panoply might be a member. In short, the old constitution was restored, except that the franchise was restricted to 5000 citizens, and payment for the discharge of civil functions abolished. In subsequent assemblies, the Archons, the Senate, and other institutions were revived; and a vote was passed to recall Alcibiades and some of his friends. The number of the 5000 was never exactly observed, and was soon enlarged into universal citizenship. Thus the Four Hundred were overthrown after a reign of four months, B.C. 411.
While these things were going on at Athens, the war was prosecuted with vigour on the coast of Asia Minor. Mindarus, who now commanded the Peloponnesian fleet, disgusted at length by the often-broken promises of Tissaphernes, and the scanty and irregular pay which he furnished, set sail from Miletus and proceeded to the Hellespont, with the intention of assisting the satrap Pharnabazus, and of effecting, if possible, the revolt of the Athenian dependencies in that quarter. Hither he was pursued by the Athenian fleet under Thrasyllus. In a few days an engagement ensued (in August, 411 B.C.), in the famous straits between Sestos and Abydos, in which the Athenians, though with a smaller force, gained the victory and erected a trophy on the promontory of Cynossema, near the tomb and chapel of the Trojan queen Hecuba. The Athenians followed up their victory by the reduction of Cyzicus, which had revolted from them. A month or two afterwards another obstinate engagement took place between the Peloponnesian and Athenian fleets ness Abydos, which lasted a whole day, and was at length decided in favour of the Athenians by the arrival of Alcibiades with his squadron of eighteen ships from Samos.
Shortly after the battle Tissaphernes arrived at the Hellespont with the view of conciliating the offended Peloponnesians. He was not only jealous of the assistance which the latter were now rendering to Pharnabarzus, but it is also evident that his temporizing policy had displeased the Persian court. This appears from his conduct on the present occasion, as well as from the subsequent appointment of Cyrus to the supreme command on the Asiatic coast as we shall presently have to relate. When Alcibiades, who imagined that Tissaphernes was still favourable to the Athenian cause waited on him with the customary presents, he was arrested by order of the satrap, and sent in custody to Sardis. At the end of a month, however, he contrived to escape to Clazomenae, and again joined the Athenian fleet early in the spring of 410 B.C. Mindaras, with the assistance of Pharnabazas on the land side, was now engaged in the siege of Cyzicus, which the Athenian admirals determined to relieve. Here a battle ensued, in which Mindarus was slain, the Lacedaemonians and Persians routed, and almost the whole Peloponnesian fleet captured. The severity of this blow was pictured in the laconic epistle in which Hippocrates, the second in command, [Called Epistoteus or "Secretary" in the Lacedaemonian fleet. The commander of the fleet had the title of NAVARCHUS.] announced it to the Ephors: "Our good luck is gone; Mindarus is slain; the men are starving; we know not what to do."
The results of this victory were most important. Perinthus and Selymbria, as well as Cyzicus, were recovered; and the Athenians, once more masters of the Propontis, fortified the town of Chrysopolis, over against Byzantium, at the entrance of the Bosporus; re-established their toll of ten per cent, on all vessels passing from the Euxine; and left a squadron to guard the strait and collect the dues. So great was the discouragement of the Lacedaemonians at the loss of their fleet that the Ephor Endius proceeded to Athens to treat for peace on the basis of both parties standing just as they were. The Athenian assembly was at this time led by the demagogue Cleophon, a lamp-maker, known to us by the later comedies of Aristophanes. Cleophon appears to have been a man of considerable ability; but the late victories had inspired him with too sanguine hopes and he advised the Athenians to reject the terms proposed by Endius. Athens thus throw away the golden opportunity of recruiting her shattered forces of which she stood so much in need; and to this unfortunate advice must be ascribed the calamities which subsequently overtook her.
The possession of the Bosporus reopened to the Athenians the trade of the Euxine. From his lofty fortress at Decelea the Spartan king Agris could descry the corn-ships from the Euxine sailing into the Harbour of the Piraeus, and felt how fruitless it was to occupy the fields of Attica whilst such abundant supplies of provisions were continually finding their way to the city.
In B.C. 408 the important towns of Chalcedon, Selymbria, and Byzantium fell into the hands of the Athenians, thus leaving them undisputed masters of the Propontis.
These great achievements of Alcibiades naturally paved the way for his return to Athens. In the spring of 407 B.C. he proceeded with the fleet to Samos, and from thence sailed to Piraeus. His reception was far more favourable than he had ventured to anticipate. The whole population of Athens flocked down to Piraeus to welcome him, and escorted him to the city. He seemed to be in the present juncture the only man capable of restoring the grandeur and the empire of Athens: he was accordingly named general with unlimited powers, and a force of 100 triremes, 1500 hoplites, and 150 cavalry placed at his disposal. Before his departure he took an opportunity to atone for the impiety of which he had been suspected. Although his armament was in perfect readiness, he delayed its sailing till after the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries at the beginning of September. For seven years the customary procession across the Thriasian plain had been suspended, owing to the occupation of Decelea by the enemy, which compelled the sacred troop to proceed by sea. Alcibiades now escorted them on their progress and return with his forces, and thus succeeded in reconciling himself with the offended goddesses and with their holy priests, the Eumolpidae.
Meanwhile a great change had been going on in the state of affairs in the East. We have already seen that the Great King was displeased with the vacillating policy of Tissaphernes, and had determined to adopt more energetic measures against the Athenians. During the absence of Alcibiades, Cyrus, the younger son of Darius, a prince of a bold and enterprising spirit, and animated with a lively hatred of Athens, had arrived at the coast for the purpose of carrying out the altered policy of the Persian court; and with that view he had been invested with the satrapies of Lydia, the Greater Phrygia, and Cappadocia. The arrival of Cyrus opens the last phase of the Peloponnesian war. Another event, in the highest degree unfavourable to the Athenian cause, was the accession of Lysander, as NAVARCHUS, to the command of the Peloponnesian fleet. Lysander was the third of the remarkable men whom Sparta produced during the war. In ability, energy, and success he may be compared with Brasidas and Gylippus, though immeasurably inferior to the former in every moral quality. He was born of poor parents, and was by descent one of those Lacedaemonians who could never enjoy the full rights of Spartan citizenship. His ambition was boundless, and he was wholly unscrupulous about the means which he employed to gratify it. In pursuit of his objects he hesitated at neither deceit, nor perjury, nor cruelty, and he is reported to have laid it down as one of his maxims in life to avail himself of the fox's skin where the lion's failed.
Lysander had taken up his station at Ephesus, with the Lacedaemonian fleet of 70 triremes; and when Cyrus arrived at Sardis, in the spring of 407 B.C., he hastened to pay his court to the young prince, and was received with every mark of favour. A vigrorous line of action was resolved on. Cyrus at once offered 500 talents, and affirmed that, if more were needed, he was prepared even to coin into money the very throne of gold and silver on which he sat. In a banquet which ensued Cyrus drank to the health of Lysander, and desired him to name any wish which he could gratify. Lysander immediately requested an addition of an obolus to the daily pay of the seamen. Cyrus was surprised at so disinterested a demand, and from that day conceived a high degree of respect and confidence for the Spartan commander. Lysander on his return to Ephesus employed himself in refitting his fleet, and in organising clubs in the Spartan interest in the cities of Asia.
Alcibiades set sail from Athens in September. Being ill provided with funds for carrying on the war, he was driven to make predatory excursions for the purpose of raising money. During his absence he intrusted the bulk of the fleet at Samos to his pilot, Antiochus, with strict injunctions not to venture on an action. Notwithstanding these orders, however, Antiochus sailed out and brought the Peloponnesian fleet to an engagement off Notium, in which the Athenians were defeated with the loss of 15 ships, and Antiochus himself was slain. Among the Athenian armament itself great dissatisfaction was growing up against Alcibiades. Though at the head of a splendid force, he had in three months time accomplished literally nothing. His debaucheries and dissolute conduct on shore were charged against him, as well as his selecting for confidential posts not the men best fitted for them, but those who, like Antiochus were the boon companions and the chosen associates of his revels. These accusations forwarded to Athens, and fomented by his secret enemies, soon produced an entire revulsion in the public feeling towards Alcibiades. The Athenians voted that he should be dismissed from his command, and they appointed in his place ten new generals, with Conon at their head.
The year of Lysander's command expired about the same time as the appointment of Conon to the Athenian fleet. Through the intrigues of Lysander, his successor Callicratidas was received with dissatisfaction both by the Lacedaemonian seamen and by Cyrus. Loud complaints were raised of the impolicy of an annual change of commanders. Lysander threw all sorts of difficulties into the way of his successor, to whom he handed over an empty chest, having first repaid to Cyrus all the money in his possession under the pretence that it was a private loan. The straightforward conduct of Callicratidas, however, who summoned the Lacedaemonian commanders, and after a dignified remonstrance, plainly put the question whether he should return home or remain, silenced all opposition. But he was sorely embarrassed for funds. Cyrus treated him with haughtiness; and when he waited on that prince at Sardis, he was dismissed not only without money, but even without an audience. Callicratidas, however, had too much energy to be daunted by such obstacles. Sailing with his fleet from Ephesus to Miletus, he laid before the assembly of that city, in a spirited address, all the ill they had suffered at the hands of the Persians, and exhorted them to bestir themselves and dispense with the Persian alliance. He succeeded in persuading the Milesians to make him a large grant of money, whilst the leading men even came forward with private subscriptions. By means of this assistance he was enabled to add 50 triremes to the 90 delivered to him by Lysander; and the Chians further provided him with ten days' pay for the seamen.
The fleet of Callicratidas was now double that of Conon. The latter was compelled to run before the superior force of Callicratidas. Both fleets entered the harbour of Mytilene at the same time, where a battle ensued in which Conon lost 30 ships, but he saved the remaining 40 by hauling them ashore under the walls of the town. Callicratidas then blockaded Mytilene both by sea and land; but Conon contrived to despatch a trireme to Athens with the news of his desperate position.
As soon as the Athenians received intelligence of the blockade of Mytilene; vast efforts were made for its relief; and we learn with surprise that in thirty days a fleet of 110 triremes was equipped and despatched from Piraeus. The armament assembled at Samos, where it was reinforced by scattered Athenian ships, and by contingents from the allies, to the extent of 40 vessels. The whole fleet of 150 sail then proceeded to the small islands of Arginusae, near the coast of Asia, and facing Malea, the south- eastern cape of Lesbos. Callicratidas, who went out to meet them, took up his station at the latter point, leaving a squadron of 50 ships to maintain the blockade of Mytilene. He had thus only 120 ships to oppose to the 150 of the Athenians, and his pilot advised him to retire before the superior force of the enemy. But Callicratidas replied that he would not disgrace himself by flight, and that if he should perish Sparta would not feel his loss. The battle was long and obstinate. All order was speedily lost, and the ships fought singly with one another, In one of these contests, Callicratidas, who stood on the prow of his vessel ready to board the enemy, was thrown overboard by the shock of the vessels as they met, and perished. At length victory began to declare for the Athenians. The Lacedaemonians, after losing 77 vessels, retreated with the remainder to Chios and Phocaea. The loss of the Athenians was 25 vessels.
The battle of Arginusae led to a deplorable event, which has for ever sullied the pages of Athenian history. At least a dozen Athenian vessels were left floating about in a disabled condition after the battle; but, owing to a violent storm that ensued, no attempt was made to rescue the survivors, or to collect the bodies of the dead for burial. Eight of the ten generals were summoned home to answer for this conduct; Conon, by his situation at Mytilene, was of course exculpated, and Archestratus had died. Six of the generals obeyed the summons, and were denounced in the Assembly by Theramenes, formerly one of the Four Hundred, for neglect of duty. The generals replied that they had commissioned Theramenes himself and Thrasybulus, each of whom commanded a trireme in the engagement, to undertake the duty, and had assigned 48 ships to them for that purpose. This, however, was denied by Theramenes. There are discrepancies in the evidence, and we have no materials for deciding positively which statement was true; but probability inclines to the side of the generals. Public feeling, however, ran very strongly against them, and was increased by an incident which occurred during their trial. After a day's debate the question was adjourned; and in the interval the festival of the APATURIA was celebrated, in which, according to annual custom, the citizens met together according to their families and phratries. Those who had perished at Arginusae were naturally missed on such an occasion; and the usually cheerful character of the festival was deformed and rendered melancholy by the relatives of the deceased appearing in black clothes and with shaven heads. The passions of the people were violently roused. At the next meeting of the Assembly, Callixenus, a senator, proposed that the people should at once proceed to pass its verdict on the generals, though they had been only partially heard in their defence; and, moreover, that they should all be included in one sentence, though it was contrary to a rule of Attic law, known as the psephisma of Canonus, to indict citizens otherwise than individually. The Prytanes, or senators of the presiding tribe, at first refused to put the question to the Assembly in this illegal way; but their opposition was at length overawed by clamour and violence. There was, however, one honourable exception. The philosopher Socrates, who was one of the Prytanes, refused to withdraw his protest. But his opposition was disregarded, and the proposal of Callixenus was carried, The generals were condemned, delivered over to the Eleven for execution, and compelled to drink the fatal hemlock. Among them was Pericles, the son of the celebrated statesman.
In the following year (B.C. 405), through the influence of Cyrus and the other allies of Sparta, Lysander again obtained the command of the Peloponnesian fleet, though nominally under Aracus as admiral; since it was contrary to Spartan usage that the same man should be twice NAVARCHUS. His return to power was marked by more vigorous measures. He sailed to the Hellespont, and laid siege to Lampsacus. The Athenian fleet arrived too late to save the town, but they proceeded up the strait and took post at AEgospotami, or the "Goat's River;" a place which had nothing to recommend it, except its vicinity to Lampsacus, from which it was separated by a channel somewhat less than two miles broad. It was a mere desolate beach, without houses or inhabitants, so that all the supplies had to be fetched from Sestos, or from the surrounding country, and the seamen were compelled to leave their ships in order to obtain their meals. Under these circumstances the Athenians were very desirous of bringing Lysander to an engagement. But the Spartan commander, who was in a strong position, and abundantly furnished with provisions, was in no hurry to run any risks. In vain did the Athenians sail over several days in succession to offer him battle; they always found his ships ready manned, and drawn up in too strong a position to warrant an attack; nor could they by all their manoeuvres succeed in enticing him out to combat. This cowardice, as they deemed it, on the part of the Lacedaemonians, begat a corresponding negligence on theirs; discipline was neglected and the men allowed to straggle almost at will. It was in vain that Alcibiades, who since his dismissal resided in a fortress in that neighbourhood, remonstrated with the Athenian generals on the exposed nature of the station they had chosen, and advised them to proceed to Sestos. His counsels were received with taunts and insults. At length, on the fifth day, Lysander, having watched an opportunity when the Athenian seamen had gone on shore and were dispersed over the country, rowed swiftly across the strait with all his ships. He found the Athenian fleet, with the exception of 10 or 12 vessels, totally unprepared, and he captured nearly the whole of it, without having occasion to strike a single blow. Of the 180 ships which composed the fleet, only the trireme of Conon himself, the Paralus, and 8 or 10 other vessels succeeded in escaping. Conon was afraid to return to Athens after so signal a disaster, and took refuge with Evagoras, prince of Salamis in Cyprus.
By this momentous victory (September, B.C. 405) the Peloponnesian war was virtually brought to an end. Lysander, secure of an easy triumph, was in no haste to gather it by force. The command of the Euxine enabled him to control the supplies of Athens; and sooner or later, a few weeks of famine must decide her fall. He now sailed forth to take possession of the Athenian towns, which fell one after another into his power as soon as he appeared before them. About November he arrived at AEgina, with an overwhelming fleet of 150 triremes, and proceeded to devastate Salamis and blockade Piraeus. At the same time the whole Peloponnesian army was marched into Attica and encamped in the precincts of the Academus, at the very gates of Athens. Famine soon began to be felt within the walls, and at the end of three months it became so dreadful, that the Athenians saw themselves compelled to submit to the terms of the conqueror. These terms were: That the long walls and the fortifications of Piraeus should be demolished; that the Athenians should give up all their foreign possessions, and confine themselves to their own territory; that they should surrender all their ships of war; that they should readmit all their exiles; and that they should become allies of Sparta.
It was about the middle or end of March, B.C. 404, that Lysander sailed into Piraeus, and took formal possession of Athens; the war, in singular conformity with the prophecies current at the beginning of it, having lasted for a period of thrice nine, or 27 years. The insolence of the victors added another blow to the feelings of the conquered. The work of destruction, at which Lysander presided, was converted into a sort of festival. Female flute-players and wreathed dancers inaugurated the demolition of the strong and proud bulwarks of Athens; and as the massive walls fell piece by piece exclamations arose from the ranks of the Peloponnesians that freedom had at length begun to dawn upon Greece.