In the greatest expeditionary force a Greek city had ever assembled, Alcibiades and Nicias both had commands, but before the attack on Syracuse had begun, Alcibiades was recalled to Athens to face a charge of sacrilege. He fled to Sparta; at his advice the Spartans set up a permanent base at Decelea in Attica and sent a military expert, Gylippus , to Syracuse. The incompetent Nicias lost his chance to surprise Syracuse, and after two years his force was wiped out Soon Persia was financing a Spartan fleet.
History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides
Alcibiades sailed it across the Aegean, and there was a general revolt of Athenian dependencies. At Athens the Four Hundred, an oligarchic council, managed a short-lived coup, and Alcibiades, who had quit the Spartans, received an Athenian command. He destroyed the Spartan fleet at Cyzicus The new Spartan admiral, Lysander , built a fleet with Persian aid and won a naval battle off Notium, and Alcibiades was driven from Athens.
The Athenians won one more victory at Arginusae, near Lesbos, in and again declined an offer of peace.
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In the next few years the Athenians took the offensive. They attacked the Sicilian city Syracuse and campaigned in western Greece and the Peloponnese itself. In the picture was bleak for Sparta, which began to sue for peace. But led by Brasidas , hero of the Battle of Delium, a Spartan force gained important successes in Chalcidice in , encouraging Athenian subject states to revolt.
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In a decisive battle at Amphipolis in , both Brasidas and the Athenian leader Cleon were killed. The so-called Peace of Nicias began in and lasted six years. It was a period in which diplomatic maneuvers gradually gave way to small-scale military operations as each city tried to win smaller states over to its side. The uncertain peace was finally shattered when, in , the Athenians launched a massive assault against Sicily.
The decisive event was the catastrophe suffered by the Athenians in Sicily. Aided by a force of Spartans, Syracuse was able to break an Athenian blockade. Even after gaining reinforcements in , the Athenian army was defeated again. Soon afterward the navy was also beaten, and the Athenians were utterly destroyed as they tried to retreat. By Athens itself was in political turmoil.
History of the Peloponnesian War. ( edition) | Open Library
Democracy was overthrown by the oligarchical party, which was in turn replaced by the more moderate regime of the Five Thousand. At the end of the rebuilt Athenian navy, fresh from several victories, acted to restore democratic rule. However, the democratic leaders refused Spartan peace offerings, and the war continued at sea with the Spartan and Athenian fleets trading costly victories.
The end came in when the Athenian navy was destroyed at Aegospotami by the Spartan fleet under Lysander , who had received much aid from the Persians. The next year, starved by an impenetrable blockade, Athens capitulated.
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Thucydides of Athens, one of the greatest of historians, was born about BCE. He saw the rise of Athens to greatness under the inspired leadership of Pericles. In , the second year of the Peloponnesian War, he caught and survived the horrible plague which he described so graphically.
Later, as general in he failed to save Amphipolis from the enemy and was disgraced. He tells about this, not in volumes of self-justification, but in one sentence of his history of the war—that it befell him to be an exile for twenty years. He then lived probably on his property in Thrace, but was able to observe both sides in certain campaigns of the war, and returned to Athens after her defeat in