End of The American Empire? – Can Americans learn from The Peloponnesian War…


How many of us have studied The Peloponnesian War and how it relates to power, democracy and human instinct? America’s Founding Fathers studied the Peloponnesian War to make sure they beat the shortcomings of the Classical Greeks – the Athenians.

The biggest problem with the current governments of the United States over the past decades have been taxes. Around 50% of Americans pay no direct tax, which is a violation of one of the principles the Founding Fathers who wanted every citizen to contribute to the upkeep of their nation and the common interest. The result of this is that those who do pay taxes have to pay even higher taxes. And those that can afford to pay even more taxes are given tax cuts to build loyalty with the few who will, in turn, look out for the few and not the many. This is now approaching crisis proportions in the once great United States of America.

Like the Athenians, American politicians make great routine and brilliant speeches but which remain just that – speeches. Let us get back into the article:

The Peloponnesian War, (431– 404 BC), was a war between two city-states in old Greece, Athens and Sparta. Both were head of coalitions and between them, including almost every Greek city-state. The battle engulfed the whole Greek world, and it was considered by Thucydides as the most pivotal war up to that time.

The Athenian grouping or rather empire included a large portion of the island and states around the northern and eastern shores of the Aegean Sea. Sparta was head of an alliance of independent states that included the greater part of the land forces of the Peloponnese and central Greece, and the ocean going state of Corinth. All in all the Athenians had the stronger naval force and the Spartans the stronger army. And the Athenians were wealthier than their adversaries, and amassed wealth from their domains.

Athens and Sparta had battled each other before the Great Peloponnesian War (in what is known as the First Peloponnesian War) but agreed to a ceasefire, called the Thirty Years’ Treaty, in 445BC. In the next years, their individual alliances managed an uneasy peace. But threats restarted in 433BC when Athens aligned itself with Corcyra (Corfu), a colony of Corinth. Battle followed, and the Athenians at that point made strides that violated the Thirty Years’ Treaty. Sparta and its allies blamed Athens for hostility and threatened war.

Pericles, one of the senior leaders of Athens refused to withdraw. Diplomacy failed. So, in the spring of 431BC, a Spartan partner, Thebes, attacked Plataea, an Athenian partner and war started.

The war had two parts to it, with a truce of six years in between.
The first part of the war lasted 10 years and started with the Spartans, under Archidamus II, who led an army into Attica, the area around Athens. Pericles refused to engage the dominant land forces of The Spartan Alliance and encouraged the Athenians to defend their city and make full use of the Athenian Naval Forces by hassling their adversaries’ coasts and ships.

Inside a couple of months, Pericles succumbed to a plague that raged through Athens, killing a huge part its military and in addition to civilian casualties. Thucydides survived and recorded what was happening the effect on Athenian confidence.

Meanwhile (430BC– 429BC), the Spartans unsuccessfully assaulted Athenian bases in western Greece. The Spartans also suffered reverses to their fortunes at sea – in 428BC they tried to help the island province of Lesbos, a tributary of Athens that was about to revolt. The revolt was dealt with by the Athenians who won control its main city, Mytilene.

The fanatic Cleon encouraged the Athenians to slaughter the men of Mytilene and every other person, however, they yielded the following day and executed just the leaders of the revolt. Spartan attacks were all unsuccessful with the exception of city Plataea in 427BC.

Over the next few years, the Athenians attacked the Sicilian city Syracuse and launched offensives in western Greece and Peloponnese itself. By 425BC the image was depressing for Sparta, which then began to sue for peace. But a Spartan force led by Brasidas gained successes in Chalcidice in 424BC, and this encouraged Athenian subject states to revolt. In Amphipolis in 422BC, both Brasidas and the Athenian head Cleon were killed which gave Cleons rival Nicias to encourage the Athenians to accept the Spartans’ offer of peace.

So here The Peace of Nicias began in 421BC and lasted for some six years. It was in this period in which small levels of diplomacy alone with military force were used to bring smaller states onside by one power or the other.
This peace was broken in 415BC, when the Athenians launched a massive offensive against Sicily. And from there the second part of this war began and that lasted for some 11 years.

Sparta. Athens. Strategem of annual invasions into Attica had proved fruitless. Humiliation at Pylos had greatly unnerved her resolve. Desperate to gain return of captured Spartan soldiers (Pylos & Sphacteria) who were related to ‘first families’ and therefore the governing body. Helots were deserting. 30 Year Treaty with Argos about to expire: Argives demanding the return of Cynuria. Two successive defeats at Delium (424) & Amphipolis (422) had left their ambitions in tatters. Death of Cleon had removed a ‘war-hawk’ from a principal position in Athens. Concerned about recent losses tempting her allies to rebel.

Helped by Spartans, Syracuse had the ability to break the Athenian blockade. Regardless of the 413BC reinforcements, the Athenian army was crushed yet again and soon the Athenian navy was beaten as they tried to withdraw and by 411BC Athens was in political unrest. And here Athenian democracy was toppled by oligarchs.

US: If we look at this and how this relates to the current democracies of Europe specifically The United States – politicians have many ‘Cleons’ (fanatics) amongst them, politics is an advertising business to keep the masses busy whilst the few – Oligarchs rule the roost. Who can dispute how big businesses hold the American people, nation and its leaders, hostage while making the government spend extortionate amounts on the military and yet refuse to increase spending for education – the future or common health service for Americans.

Back to Athens: By 411 the Athenian naval force was rebuilt, and straight from a few wins, the Athenians again flexed their muscles but again in 405 the Athenian naval force was destroyed at Aegospotami by the Spartan armada under Lysander, aided by the Persians. The next year, Athens fell. Athens / Greek military power and culturally superior Greek state ended.

Of those of us who wish Americans well and want The United States of America ( how it used to be a nation of courageous, honourable and intelligent people ) to continue to be the preeminent nation on this planet which people around the world look up to and aspire to – or Americans may end up having a Second War of Independence? – Maybe this will be A War of Independence from the Oligarchs which are holding their nation and people hostage and which are using the American people like farm animals – milking them wherever they can.

Anyway: A few years later after Athens fell – in 399 the Athenian philosopher Socrates was condemned to death for questioning conventional ideas and by 338 King Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander The Great) defeated the Greek city-states and imposes his dominion on them which closes the chapter of ‘Classical Greece’.

Maybe I should write some more on this subject?

Mohammed Abbasi

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