Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Arcadian War (c. 471–469 B.C.E.)

Arcadian War (c. 471–469 B.C.E.)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Sparta vs. the city-states of

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): The central Peloponnese in
modern-day Greece


MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: In light of Athens’ growing
influence in the newly founded Delian League, Sparta
sought to reassert its fading glory as the foremost land
power in Greece.

OUTCOME: Sparta defeated the Arcadians and reasserted
its hegemony in the Peloponnese.




In the fifth century B.C.E., as the Greek city-states began to
work their way out from under the long shadow of the Persian
Empire, the rivalry between Sparta and Athens came
to dominate the history of the Hellenes. Especially after the
Greek triumphs over Xerxes in 480 and 479 (see GRECOPERSIAN
WARS), Sparta, still the foremost land power in
Greece, came to resent the new influence and respect
enjoyed by Athens. Now preeminent at sea, Athens quickly
moved to form a confederation of maritime states, a compact
resembling the old Peloponnese League, and at Delos
in 477 Athens joined with the city-states of Ionia and those
of the Aegean islands to launch the Delian League. Ostensibly
a compact aimed at keeping the Persians at bay in the
Aegean and at freeing the Ionian states still under Persian
control, the league was also a means, if not to Athenian
hegemony, then at least to Athenian glory as the first
among equals.
As a significant land power, Sparta sought to compete
with and even overmatch the sea power of prosperous
Athens by conquering the Peloponnese Peninsula. Of
course, Sparta did not consult the lesser city-states of Arcadia
in achieving this objective, and so conflict with those
city-states was inevitable. Sparta sought to co-opt the chief
Arcadian city-state, Tegea, by striking an alliance with it,
but when Sparta failed to take control of Arcadia swiftly,
Tegea turned against its ally. This signaled the lesser citystates
of the region to unite in opposition to the invader,
and, indeed, all of Arcadia, save Mantinea, allied against
the Spartans.
Sparta always seemed to rise to meet military necessity
precisely when circumstances were most adverse.
Confronted by enemies everywhere, Sparta rallied, mobilized
its full strength, and swept through Arcadia, forcing a
major land battle at Dipaea in 470 B.C.E. The united Arcadian
forces were badly defeated, so stunningly that mighty
Tegea fell soon after the battle. Sparta now enjoyed dominion
over Arcadia and, with it, substantial control of the
Peloponnese. Yet Athens’s continued dominance of the sea
prevented Sparta from definitively winning the contest
between the two great rivals.


Further reading: William George Grieve Forrest, A
History of Sparta, 950–192 B.C.E. (New York: W. W. Norton,
1969); Bernard William Henderson, The Great War between
Athens and Sparta (New York: Ayer, 1927).

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