Thursday, January 14, 2016

Between the Peloponnesian War and the Corinthian War (404-395 BC)

You may recall that the Peloponnesians had made an alliance with Persia by agreeing to cede all of Asian Greece to the Persian Empire.  It was a shameful betrayal of the Greek cause, and the Athenians would no doubt have been outraged by it if they had not been equally willing to the the same thing.  Presumably no one actually expected the deal to hold; they simply wanted a tactical alliance to defeat a common enemy before going to war with each other.  Be that as it may, the Persians were not immediately in a position to collect on the deal because their emperor died shortly after the end of the war and Persia was consumed with civil war between two of his sons.  The Spartans backed Prince Cyrus and sent a mercenary force to fight for him.  This force included Xenophon and was the subject of his most famous work, the Anabasis, but it does not concern me here.

With Persia distracted, (circa 402-401 BC), the Spartans set out to settle a grudge with the city of Elis. Elis, though in the Peloponnese and therefore Sparta's own backyard, was a democracy, had formed an alliance with Athens and Argos earlier during the war, and had grossly insulted the Spartans by barring them from the Olympics and by beating one of their Elders* when he entered a chariot driven by a Theban.  Besides, Elis had subordinated a number of smaller neighboring cities and was starting to look like a mini-hegemon. Sparta's dominance was strong enough that all the mainland Greeks except Thebes and Corinth, but including Athens, joined. They received potential assistance from an oligarchic faction, led by a very rich man, who led a slaughter of democrats, including a man who resembled the leader of the democratic faction. This started to put the democrats to route, but in fact the democratic leader was drunk and sleeping it off.  When his followers realized he was still alive, they rallied and forced the oligarchs to take refuge with the invaders.  The end of the war was mixed.  Elis was forced to give up all subordinate cities, but kept its democracy.


Meanwhile (circa 400 BC), Persia's civil war had ended with Cyrus, the Greek candidate, being killed.  The southern satrap, Tissaphernes, who had been on the opposite side, was in a position to enforce the original treaty with Sparta and demanded that Ionia submit to his rule.  We have no information on whether Ionia had shaken off the decarchies or, if so, how far they had begun to recover.  Whatever the case, they had little choice but to appeal to Sparta for aid.  The Spartans sent a force consisting of 1000 freed helots and 4000 allies, commanded by Tibron.  When they asked Athens for troops, the Athenians sent 300 cavalry who had supported the Thirty, hoping they would not return.  He fought with considerable success, capturing cities or persuading them to defect, but was then ordered to head south.  However, he also plundered allied land and was therefore recalled  (and later exiled), and replaced with Dercylidas.  Dercylidas promptly made a truce with Tissaphernes (presumably requiring him to leave Ionia alone for the time being) and instead headed north to fight Pharnabazus, the rival satrap, who had been a loyal ally in the previous war, but had insulted Dercylidas personally, so he held a grudge.

Heading north, Dercylidas fought with considerable successwinning nine cities in eight days before stopping for the winter.  That spring (398 BC), he met with ambassadors from the Cheronese (the peninsula on the north side of the Hellespont) whose lands were being plundered by the Thracians. He drove the Thracians out and built a wall across the isthmus, thus protecting the peninsula and allowing it to prosper.  Xenophon also reports that he took messengers from the southern cities and found them "peaceful and prosperous," which seems unlikely, given the decarchies Lysander had imposed and the ordeal of getting rid of them.**  But in 397 BC, the Ionians sent ambassadors  warning that they were once again being menaced by Tissaphernes and asking for help, so Dercylidas headed south again.  The sides prepared for battle, but Tissaphernes was intimidated and sought a conference.  At it, the Greeks demanded independence for the Asian Greek cities, while the Persians demanded the withdrawal of the Greek army and Spartan garrisons.  Each side conveyed the proposal to their respective governments.

Xenophon described the Asian campaign in detail because he was almost certainly present; indeed, it contains a reference to himself.  But he makes no mention whatever of another very important development that was taking place at about the same time.  Remember Conon?  The Athenian admiral present at the city's final and utter defeat?  Fled to Cyprus, rather than return home and face the music?  Well, during the truce with Dercylidas, the satrap Pharnabazus persuaded the Persian king that he needed a Greek commander for his navy and then sailed to Cyprus and persuaded Conon  to take the job.  Conon began gathering forces as Pharnabazus headed for the mainland to join Tissaphernes to meet Dercylidas and the Greeks.  The Spartans countered by making an alliance with Egypt and setting out to build their own navy. They attempted to blockade Conon, but Conon escaped, sailed to Rhodes (far south of Asian Greece, see map above), and incited a revolt.

Xenophon does not mention any of this, only that in Sparta (396 BC) there were rumors of a Phoenician fleet of 300 ships setting sail.  But presumably these developments had something to do with why the Spartans raised a force of 2000 freed helots, 6000 allies, and 30 citizens, commanded by their new king Agesilaus, with Lysander second in command.  It is here that Xenophon first mentions the decarchies that Lysander set up, saying that he hoped to restore them.  On the way, he wanted to make sacrifice at Aulis (near Thebes), as Agamemnon had when sailing to Troy, but the Thebans refused.  At first he simply gained an extension of the truce and continuation of negotiations. Xenophon also acknowledges that many of the Asian Greek cities were in a state of "confusion,"  their decarchies overthrown, but the democracies not restored.  Lysander being better known in Asia than the king Agesilaus, everyone approaching him instead of the king.  Agesilaus and his council  resented this and responded by refusing any request Lysander made.  Egos clashed, and Agesilaus sent Lysander north, to the Hellespont.  Lysander was ultimately recalled to Sparta.

Agesilaus stayed and waged war, more successfully in the mountains, where infantry had the advantage, than on the plains, where advantage lay with the cavalry.  While wintering over, he began to raise his own cavalry.  He made raids deep into Persian territory, taking many captives and much booty.  He advanced inland as far as Sardis (see map), which was definitely Persian territory (Greeks were seafarers and lived along the coastline). Tissaphernes was present at Sardis at the time, leading the Persians to suspect collusion.  He was executed (no sorrow on the part of the Greeks!) and replaced with Tithraustes. Tithraustes persuaded  Agesilaus to head north again, into Pharnabazus' territory and offered to pay his army's expenses if he did.  Xenophon then  mentions, rather off-handedly, that the Spartan authorities placed Agesilaus in command of the navy, and that he set the cities to work building ships and placed his brother-in-law, Peisander in command, although he was lacking experience.  Not mentioning the navy Conon was raising or the revolt in Rhodes rather downplays the importance of naval matters!  Agesilaus then returned with his land campaign.  He may have downplayed the importance of naval matters as well.




The Persians, unable to dislodge the Greek army, sought to force it to leave by stirring up trouble in Greece.  Xenophon  reports that they sent a Rhodian to bribe politicians in Thebes, Corinth and Argos to start a war on Sparta. Athens did  not need a bribe; the desire to resume their former power was sufficient.  The Thebans then stirred up a war between two smaller neighbors, the Phocians and the Locrians and intervened  on behalf of the Phocians by invading Locris. The Spartans had a lot of old grudges with Thebes and were eager to intervene on the other side.  Plutarch, incidentally, is  skeptical of this version, offering it as one alternative, against the other, that the war began on its own without outside intervention, that Lysander was angry at the Thebans for claiming a share of the spoils of war and for giving refuge to Athenians fleeing the Thirty, and that he persuaded the Ephors to go to war with Thebes.  Threatened with invasion, the Thebans sought alliance with Athens. This was a bit awkward, since after Athens' defeat, it was the Thebans who had called for Carthaginian (or, the Greeks might have said, Melian) terms, and the Spartans who opposed them, but the Thebans blamed that on the individual delegate and pointed out that the Spartans had, after all, set up the Thirty and the Thebans given refuge to Athenians fleeing them, and pointed to the decarchies***  Lysander had imposed, and other complaints as well.  The Athenians agreed, despite their still-weakened condition nine years after the end of the last war.

Lysander gathered a local force under his command, while king Pausanias (the Spartans, you may  recall, had two kings), marched north with a Spartan force.  Lysander attacked the city of Harliartus  (see map above), a local city with a Theban garrison, without waiting for Pausanians' force to arrive.  According to Plutarch, Lysander wrote to Pausanias to inform him of his plans, but the message was intercepted and the king therefore did not know Lysander was attacking Haliartus. In any event, Lysander did not wait, but launched a direct attack on the wall.  Theban forces came to the city's relief, Lysander was killed, and his army routed to the hills.  Pausanias arrived too late to come to the rescue. Anything he might have accomplished was thwarted when the Athenian force showed up. Lysander's body was too close to the wall to recover by force, his army was scattered, the allies were dispirited. Pausanias therefore requested a truce to recover the bodies.  This was considered an admission of defeat.  The Thebans refused unless the army agreed to withdraw, which it did.  This was unheard-of.  Requests for a truce to recover bodies were always granted unconditionally. As the Peloponnesian army retreated, the Thebans harassed anyone who set a single foot of the road.

When Pausanias returned home, he was criminally charged with failing to show up on time, with agreeing to the truce, and with allowing the restoration of the Athenian democracy (which was beginning to re-assert itself in foreign policy for the first time since its defeat).  He fled for his life and was sentenced to death in abstentia.  Apparently Athenians were not the only ones with the deplorable habit of criminally charging defeated generals.  The restoration of democracy in Athens would not be the only time Pausanias would prove himself "soft" on democracy.  In exile he would be on "friendly terms" with the popular party in Mantinea and interceded with his son not to execute them after they were defeated in a later war.

The year was now 395 B.C.  The Corinthian War was on.  And my blogging on Ancient Greek history will stop for a while as I learn about the endless, sordid wars in which the Greeks wore each other down until the Macedonians came in and ended their system of sovereign and independent city-states.  I mean to return to contemporary topics now, but also to put up a few posts on Classical Greece in general, not related to the failure of democracy, but simply about the fascinating things I have learned along the way.

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*Presumably meaning a member of the Council of Elders and not just an old man.
**Grote interprets this phrase to mean that the Persians were not bothering them, and not to address their domestic condition.
***These decarchies are referred to in the present tense.  Grote takes this as evidence that some of them still continued as late as 395 BC. My version of the Hellenica takes this to mean that Xenophon was trying to show up the Thebans as bald-faced liars.

1 comment:

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

    ReplyDelete