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By Hal Marcovitz

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Whether they were governed by assemblies or monarchs, Greek city-states were suspicious of one another and often outwardly hostile. Warfare among the city-states was common. The tiny island of Ceos in the Aegean Sea was home to four city-states that constantly waged war among themselves. Sparta shared the Peloponnesian Peninsula with Argos, but the two poleis were bitter enemies and regular combatants. The city-states of Plataea and Sybaris fought so much that they finally destroyed each other.

But the original purpose of the alliance between the two bitter foes—a common defense against the Persians—had long since passed from the memories of their current leaders. ”30 Soon, the entire country was caught up in the civil war. City-states took sides. Sparta won the allegiance of every city-state in Peloponnesus except Argos, its longtime enemy. Most of the island states in the Aegean Sea backed Athens. Pericles, the leader of Athens, concocted an ill-advised strategy to win the war. Knowing that Sparta possessed the better infantry, Pericles knew his troops would never defeat the Spartans on the battlefield.

The flower of the city, the Athenian youth, was abroad. . The early toleration of the democratic state was forgotten. ”33 In 413 BC, a two-year campaign on the island of Sicily ended in an Athenian defeat—all Athenian soldiers were killed in battle, executed by their captors, or made into slaves. Moreover, during the course of the war, the best Athenian military leaders had either been killed in battle or exiled after disputes with the assembly or archons. By now, Athens suffered from a dearth of skilled military leaders.

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Ancient Greece by Hal Marcovitz


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