Alliance with Argos during Second Phase of the Peloponnesian War!
Signing of a defensive alliance by Sparta with Athens led to the actual dissolution of the Peloponnesian League.
Corinth, and the Chalcidiatis of Thebes made alliance with Argos, and so also did the Mantineans who had been extending their power in Arcadia and feared that Sparta might curtail it. Elis also joined in the alliance.
Neither Sparta nor Athens was satisfied at the arrangements by the Peace of Nicias. Sparta did not fulfill her pledge of returning Amphipolis, Athens in return did not leave Pylos. The whole of Peloponnesus was in commotion and people thought the alliance between Sparta and Athens meant the oppression of the smaller states.
The Argive coalition had something contradictory about it. Mantinea and Elis were actuated by hostility to Sparta, Corinth and the Chalcidians by their hostility to Athens. There was thus something inherently self-contradictory about the Argive coalition from the beginning.
The Corinthians and the Argives tried to persuade Tegea to revolt from Sparta but was unsuccessful. The decision of so important a place like Tegea not to go out of the Spartan alliance caused the rest of Peloponnesus to pause and even daunted the Corinthians.
Thus when Mantinea, Argos and Elis converted their agreement for mutual defence into an alliance for common action in waging war and concluding peace, Corinth did not agree to commit herself thus far. But situation in Peloponnesus was not likely to crystallise so long as Boeotia remained uncommitted. Attempts were made to bring Boeotia into the Argive alliance but eventually it failed because the Boeotians resolved not to do anything so long as Sparta left them alone.
In the mean time Sparta continued pourparlers with Athens and in order to get back Pylos, Sparta found that the Athenian prisoners in Boeotia and Panactum must have to be obtained from Boeotia. The price for this, the Boeotians demanded was signing of a separate alliance by Sparta with Boeotia as she had done with Athens.
This Sparta did. But the Boeotians before surrendering Panactum razed it to the ground. The Spartans alliance with Boeotia was a grave insult to Athens for Sparta and Athens by an alliance had agreed not to make any independent alliance. This was a breach of faith by Sparta. Thus when the Spartan envoys went to Athens to deliver the Athenian prisoners and Panactum, and obtain return of Pylos, they were dismissed harshly and Pylos was not returned.
Return of Boeotia to the Spartan camp sealed the fate of the Argive coalition. In panic, on the receipt of a false news that Spartan-Boeotian alliance had been signed with the consent of Athens, Argos hurriedly sought to renew its treaty of neutrality with Sparta. But when it became known that Spartan-Boeotian alliance had strained the relations between Sparta and Athens, Argos yielded to the suggestions of Alcibiades, and acting in unison with Mantinea and Elis sent envoys to Athens to negotiate a quadruple alliance between Athens, Argos, Mantinea and Elis.
The Spartans sent three of their envoys to Athens close upon the heels of the Argive ambassador to convince Athens that Spartan-Boeotian alliance had not been concluded to the detriment of Athens, and to arrange for the return of Pylos.
War party in Athens at that time was being led by Hyperbolus, the lamp-maker and Nicias led the peace- party. Nicias was of the opinion that except under intolerable provocation Athens should not reopen war with Sparta, and Sparta’s non-fulfillment of the terms of the Peace of Nicias should not be by itself a cause for that. After all, disruption of the Spartan coalition.
Nicias argued, was quite as much of value as the fulfillment of the terms of the peace. But the fact that Sparta had regained her allies by ceasing to press them to satisfy the terms of the peace, Nicias arguments did not adequately meet those of his opponents. Hyperbolus who was now a reincarnation of the political tenets and methods of Cleon, was strengthened by the coming to the ranks of the war party a brilliantly gifted person, Alcibiades.
He was opposed to collaboration with Sparta and was in favour of Argive- Athenian alliance. The general point of view he presented was that Sparta wanted to crush Argos first and Athens next. Through a stratagem Alcibiades staged a convincing demonstration that the Spartans were not to be trusted.
This he did by promising support to the Spartan ambassadors and inducing them to declare that they had no plenipotentiary authority. This having been foolishly done by the Spartan ambassadors, Alcibiades openly denounced them of duplicity and convinced the Athenians that Sparta was simply out to get back Pylos and so that she might be able to begin war against Athens.
Nicias was sent to Sparta as the head of an embassy to deliver to Sparta what was virtually an ultimatum that besides rebuilding Panactum and restoring Amphipolis, the Spartans must renounce the Boeotian alliance, or else Athens would enter into a separate alliance with Argos. Nicias could not accomplish anything in Sparta. Accordingly in 420 B.C. Athens signed an alliance with Argos, Mantinea and Elis for a hundred years, which was defensive in form but offensive by implication.
Mantinea and Elis were already in war with Sparta, and Athens was now committed by the new alliance to defend them. The peculiarity of the interstate relations in Greece was that the atmosphere surrounding city-nations was not easily penetrated by the spirit of neighbourliness. But the spirit of party was more pervasive. The effect of the re-alignment of states was the consolidation of Athens, Argos, Mantinea and Elis into a democratic bloc and the gravitation back to Sparta of aristocratic states like Boeotia, Megara and Corinth.
For the greater part of the year 420 B.C. in which the quadruple alliance between Athens, Argos, Mantinea and Elis was signed, neither Athens nor Sparta did anything further to endanger the peace. But the time was industriously employed by Alcibiades in Athens in fomenting war-spirit.
Sparta, on the other hand became aware that-her prestige abroad was not what it had been. Spartan ally Boeotia took her hands off her colony Heraclea in Trachis on the ground that weakened by a defeat at the hands of the neighbouring tribes it was in the danger-of falling into the possession of Athens.
Alcibiades wanted the Athenians to place their army and navy at his disposal to the assistance of Athens’ Peloponnesian allies, the object of which was to crush Sparta completely. Alcibiades’ policy naturally appealed to the restless spirit of action that was strong among the Athenian youth.
The hatred of the Spartans and the hope of dominion over the whole of the Hellas naturally had an instinctive response among the Athenians. Nicias on the other hand was insistent on defensive policy and to avoid rupture with Sparta. But the Athenians instead of supporting any one of the two opinions one offensive, the other defensive, re-elected both Alcibiades and Nicias as generals in 419 B.C.
Alcibiades took his re-election as a support to his policy of offensive war and went to Peloponnesus extending and consolidating their alliance. Patrae in Achaea was won over to the Athenian alliance. His attempt to build a fort at Phium was, however, prevented by the Corinthians and Sicyonians.
Alcibiades’ next move was to win over Epidaurus to the Athenian alliance and for this purpose the Argives working as Alcibiades’ agent picked up a quarrel- with Epidaurus which stirred Sparta to action. The Argives had overrun the open country of Epidaurus. A last moment attempt by Athens at the instance of Nicias did not succeed due to the insistence of Corinth on the ground that there could be no peace when the Argives and Epidaurians were in actual war.
The Spartans mobilised their entire army and marched up to Caryal. Alcibiades proceeded with 1,000 hoplites. But as the Spartans did not move further, Alcibiades returned home. Fighting between the Argives and the Epidaurians, however, went on and when the Epidaurians were about to surrender, the Spartans landed a garrison at Epidauius. But Athens resiled from the position of sure war.
Nicias, now had his chance and charged his opponents the war party as having been willfully and needlessly provocative. The result was that in 418 B.C. Alcibiades was not elected to the generalship. Nicias, Laches and Nicostratus were elected and were in charge of the military operations. The effect of this change was to make Athenian participation in the Peloponnesian war strictly limited to defence needs.
In the mean time Sparta concentrated her force at Phlius the finest Hellenic force assembled up to that time under King Agis, for attacking Argos. Agis planned for not merely the defeat of the Argives but for their total annihilation. He divided his forces into three parts for the purposes of a three-pronged attack.
The Athenians upon whom the Argives had relied having not put up an appearance, the Argives were heading towards sure doom. Two prominent Argives Thrasyllus and Alciphron who were members of aristocratic faction in Argos wished to overthrow democracy in Argos and substitute a Spartan alliance in place of the Athenian alliance, met Agis on their own initiative at the point of the beginning of the war.
They urged him not to begin war and assured him of giving satisfaction and making peace. Agis readily agreed to the proposal without caring to consult anyone except one of the ephors and concluded an armistice for four months in which a peace was to
be concluded. The Argive commanders also accepted the truce without consulting their soldiers or their associates.
The Spartans in general were critical of Agis conduct in signing an armistice. This, to their mind, had thrown off a sure opportunity of success. The Spartan allies also shared the same feelings. The rank and file also smarted under the feeling that a sure victory had been forsaken.
Likewise the Argive soldiers who regarded their position strategically unvulnerable ascribed to their generals who agreed to the proposal of armistice treasonable motive. But for Thrasyllus’ taking refuge in a temple, he would have been stoned to death. Yet insofar as their relationship with Athens was concerned, even honest and wise Argives who were not traitors regarded Athens as a broken reed and began canvassing the wisdom of withdrawal from the Athenian alliance.
Athens did not come to the assistance of Argos at the time of crisis and even the limited assistance that she had sent arrived too late only to be dismissed by the Argive magistrates. Alcibiades at this juncture succeeded in convincing the Argives that the truce had victimised them.
The Argives also were easily convinced of the fact that they had been cheated out of a sure victory by their generals. Although the strength of the coalition had been largely impaired by the above incident, yet it was strong enough to lead to the fatal decision of taking up offensive warfare. Attempts on Orchomenus, and in particular, on Tegea stirred Sparta to action. Loss of Orchomenus drove the Spartans to fury.
Agis started for Arcadia with a strong force. At Tegea he was joined by reinforcements from Lepvum, Herea and Maenalia and without waiting for reinforcements from Corinth, Boeotia, etc., who were to join him at Mantinea, Agis sought out the enemy in order to give battle at once. But when his soldiers were at stone’s throw of the enemy, Agis countermanded his order and withdrew his forces rapidly. Agis and his soldiers seemed to have lost all the Spartan virtues.
The Argive confederates came down into the plain in battle array in order to engage the enemy wherever they were found. The army of Agis moving in column of route suddenly blinded upon the confederate army. For a moment there was terrible confusion and consternation in the ranks of the Spartans, but the discipline of the Spartans soon asserted itself.
In the battle that followed, the Spartans came forward singing their war songs and keeping step and evenness of front. The Argives and their confederates won a fruitless victory on both the flank but had to court defeat at the end due to the attack by Agis and his men at the centre. Vastly outnumbered, the Mantineans and the Argive regulars sought safety in flight.
The fugitives reassembled at Mantinea and were joined by the Eleans and 1,000 fresh troops from Athens. But they had no mood to try their luck in another engagement. The strength of the Spartans and the weakness of the Argives had become too apparent already. By a single battle, with a loss of 300 men the Spartans reestablished completely their military prestige, and twenty-four years were to elapse before any Greeks ventured again to face them in open field.
The campaign in Arcadia, thus came to an abrupt end. The Spartans returned home. The Argive confederates now decided to surround the city of Epidaurus by fortifications and to open a direct road to Athens. All this was meant to save the Argives. But work was only partially done, Athens doing her part, others giving up the work soon after they began it. Leaving a mixed garrison in the Athenian section, they all withdrew.
The disintegration of the Argive coalition was thus nearly complete. In the autumn of 418 B.C. Agis led a Spartan force to Tegea wherefrom despatched Lichas to Argos for the purpose of offering the Argives the choice between peace or war. Alcibiades went to Argos to argue the Argives to continue to be in war with Sparta but with no success.
The Argive aristocrats had already entered into a secret understanding with Sparta, opposed Alcibiades and carried the day against him. Argos reversed her policy and repudiated her treaty with Athens, Elis and Mantinea.
Thus the Quadruple Alliance was dissolved. Argos joined Sparta in an alliance for fifty years. The rest of the Peloponnesian states and Spartan allies outside Peloponnesus were to share the alliance with Argos on the same terms as between Argos and Sparta. ‘Its fundamental condition was a notable concession to Argive pride and ambition that in case a general expedition of Peloponnesians and their allies was necessary, not Sparta alone, but Sparta and Argos, deliberating together, should decide, what forces each member should contribute.
A natural consequence of this alliance was an agreement between Argos and Sparta to wage war against Athens if they would not evacuate Peloponnesus. It was also agreed that neither Sparta nor Argos would enter into peace or war unilaterally but together. The result of all this was that Athens had to withdraw her troops from Epidaurus; Mantinea released her dependencies and made a thirty years’ peace with Sparta.
Perdiccas of Macedon joined Sparto-Argive alliance as a first step to his withdrawal from Athenian alliance. The Spartan victory in the battle of Mantinea yielded the above political fruits and at this moment the position of Sparta in Greece seemed stronger than it had been at any time since the formation of the Delian confederacy.
The opportunity of the Spartan triumph was created by Alcibiades and Argos by deciding upon a policy of war. But even after that the triumph itself was assured by Athens herself by refusing to risk her main army in the Peloponnesus. This was caused mainly by Nicias as also by the weakness of the government in Athens occasioned by the violence and equality of parties. There is reason to suppose that the Athenian alliance with Elis, Argos and Mantinea was an error. Actual mistake lay in the way in which Athens made use of this coalition.
Greek democracies would not allow the state officials go unpunished for their failures. Votes for ostracism of both Nicias and Alcibiades as also of Hyperbolus were taken in which Nicias and Alcibiades combined their interests and made each other’s supporters not to vote. The result was that required number of votes (6,000) were not there for Nicias or Alcibiades and both were saved. But Hyperbolus was voted for ostracism.
Soon after, opportunity offered itself for regaining Argos by Athens under circumstances of Spartan weakness due to the shaky loyalty of the, Peloponnesians to Sparta. Parties responsible for this were the Argive friends of Sparta who wanted to effect an oligarchical revolution in their state. On the other hand, the admission of Argos into the Peloponnesian partnership would only be tolerable to the Spartans when the Argive government was run by partisans subservient to the Spartans.
A force of 2,000 men comprising Sparta n and Argives whose aristocratic sympathies were pronouncedly notorious went forth to set up an oligarchy in Sicyon and the two together to overthrow democracy in Argos. This was done by a coup in early Spring of 417 B.C.
The Spartan activities in setting of oligarchies in Argos and other places created an uneasiness in Peloponnesus. The Peloponnesians, the Corinthians in particular, seemed to have thought that the best check to Spartan arrogance was the freedom of Argos. Within Argos, the coup provoked terrible resentment and the Argives gathered round a central revolutionary body which was marking time for rising against the forcibly set up oligarchy.
Nor was there any dearth of outside sympathy for the Argive democrats. In July, 417 B.C. when the Spartans were preoccupied with a religious celebration the Argives rose up against their masters. In prolonged street-fighting caused by the rising, the oligarchs were slain or expelled, and before any Spartan help came all was over.
A Peloponnesian Congress was held for deciding upon the question of action upon Argos. In the Congress there was a strong opinion in favour of granting autonomy to Argos. When this was not agreed to and a decision to make joint war against Argos was taken, Corinth refused to take part in the combined Peloponnesian expedition against Argos.
The Argives preferring democracy to peace renewed their alliance with Athens, through Alcibiades, for fifty years. Their aim was, however, not to challenge Spartan headship in the Peloponnesus but simply to preserve their independence. To avoid blockade Argos was sought to be connected with the sea by long walls.
The project was of course devised by Alcibiades. Enough number of skilled carpenters and masons were sent to help the Argives in completing the work, but before that could be done the Spartans came with troops. Their hopes of assistance from the Argive oligarchs were belied.
They, therefore, dismantled the wall, massacred the inhabitants of Hysiae which they captured, and departed. The Argives retaliated by a raid into Phlius which had given asylum to the Argive oligarchs. Alcibiades carried away on an Athenian ship 300 Argives who were either disloyal to democracy or loyal to Sparta.
In the next two years, i.e. from 416 to 414 B. C. Sparta made several attempts to restore oligarchy in Argos and Athens made efforts to preserve democracy. Four expeditions were made against Argos in at least two of which the Spartans ravaged the Argive country, and twice the Athenians came by sea to the assistance of Argos to find the invaders gone.
Thus there was no direct engagement between Sparta and Athens. The Argives retaliated the plundering their country by invading and plundering the Spartan land of Thyrea. The Athenians sailed with a fleet along the coast of Peloponnesus and put landing parties ashore in Laconia, at Epidaurus, Limera and Prasiae. This gave the Spartans the pretext for opening the general war with clean conscience.
Nicias was of the opinion that the area where Athens should conduct military operations was Thrace and not Peloponnesus. His contention received added force due to the secession of Dium. Nicias, therefore, launched an expedition with the help of Perdiccas, the fickle-minded, shifty king of Macedon, to put down the rebels. But Perdiccas was already in secret league with Sparta and deserted the Athenians.
The expedition was naturally, a failure. Patching up an armistice with the Chalcidians the Athenians turned on their disloyal ally, Perdiccas. Forsaken by the Spartans and the Chalcidians, Perdiccas was compelled to change sides again. Athenians then turned their efforts to the recovery of Amphipolis. But despite support given by Perdiccas and numerous Thracians their attack and blockade of the city did not yield any result. Before anything decisive was arrived at, when bad news from Sicily forced them to suspend operations.
It is possible to trace a change in the Athenian policy. She was no longer willing to commit herself seriously either in Thrace or in Peloponnesus. There was a reversion to the policy of Periclean peace the purpose of which was to make Athens the most splendid and enjoyable place in Greece.
Periclean policy of accumulation of reserves of money, erection of buildings, erection of a new temple of Athena, etc., were begun. The spirit of the epoch, like that of Nicias himself was conservative. Tributes of the allies were reassessed on a lower scale in 421 B.C., yet there was an accumulation of a financial reserve of 3,000 talents in six years.
Athenian courts exercised commercial and criminal jurisdiction, a sovereign tribunal had the competence to dispose of serious political offences. Transmarine traffic continued to be regulated in the interest of the Athenian market. Athenian weights and measures were prescribed for the whole empire.
The idea penetrated into the subconsciousness of the Athenians that the sea and all that used it were theirs and under their protection, Melos, a tiny Dorian island which had the temerity to disregard the assessment of tribute on her had to pay the penalty. The island was starved to submission and all adult male inhabitants were killed, women and children were sold to slavery. But another island was soon to tempt Athens to its nemesis.