The Winner of the War between Athens and Sparta


The war between Athens and Sparta, also known as the Peloponnesian War, was a significant conflict that took place in ancient Greece from 431 BC to 404 BC. This war had a profound impact on the Greek city-states and their future development. While both Athens and Sparta were powerful and influential city-states, only one emerged as the ultimate victor. In this article, we will delve into the details of the war, exploring the causes, major battles, strategies, and ultimately identifying the winner.

The Causes of the War

The tensions between Athens and Sparta had been building for decades before the war broke out. The primary cause of the conflict was the fear and mistrust that each city-state had towards the other’s growing power and influence. Athens, with its strong navy and expanding empire, became increasingly dominant, which threatened the traditional Spartan way of life. Sparta, on the other hand, was a militaristic society that feared Athens’ control over the Delian League and the potential threat it posed to their own power.

1. The Delian League

The Delian League was an alliance of Greek city-states, led by Athens, formed to protect against potential Persian invasions following the Persian Wars. However, over time, Athens used the Delian League as a means to expand its own power and influence. This expansionist policy led to resentment and fear among other city-states, including Sparta.

2. The Growing Power of Athens

Athens, under the leadership of Pericles, experienced a Golden Age, marked by significant cultural achievements and political power. The Athenians invested heavily in their navy, which became the backbone of their empire. As Athens grew in power and wealth, it posed a threat to Sparta’s dominance in mainland Greece.

The Major Battles and Strategies

The Peloponnesian War was a protracted conflict, characterized by a series of major battles and strategic maneuvers. Both Athens and Sparta employed different strategies to gain the upper hand.

1. The Archidamian War

The Archidamian War was the first phase of the Peloponnesian War. It was named after King Archidamus II of Sparta, who led the Spartan forces. In this phase, Sparta adopted a strategy known as the “Grand Strategy,” which involved invading and ravaging the Athenian countryside while avoiding direct confrontation with the powerful Athenian navy. This strategy aimed to weaken Athens economically and force it to surrender.

Athens’ Response: The Long Walls

Athens, recognizing its vulnerability to land invasions, built two long walls connecting the city to its main port, Piraeus. These walls ensured a safe supply route for food and supplies, effectively nullifying Sparta’s strategy of ravaging the countryside.

2. The Sicilian Expedition

One of the most significant events of the Peloponnesian War was the Sicilian Expedition, an ambitious Athenian campaign to conquer Sicily. This campaign proved disastrous for Athens and marked a turning point in the war.

Athens’ Ambitions and Defeat

Athens, seeking to expand its empire and gain control over Sicilian resources, sent a large fleet and army to conquer Syracuse. However, the campaign was plagued by poor leadership, bad decisions, and a lack of preparation. The Athenian forces suffered heavy losses and ultimately faced a crushing defeat, weakening Athens significantly.

3. The Ionian War

The Ionian War was the final phase of the Peloponnesian War, and it saw Sparta receiving support from Persia, a traditional enemy of Greece. This support gave Sparta a considerable advantage and marked a significant turning point in the conflict.

Alcibiades and the Spartan-Persian Alliance

Alcibiades, an Athenian general, defected to Sparta and convinced them to seek Persian support. The Persians, eager to weaken Athens, provided financial and naval aid to Sparta. With this added support, Sparta gained the upper hand and dealt decisive blows to Athens.

The Outcome: The Winner

After years of conflict, the Peloponnesian War finally came to an end in 404 BC. The winner of the war was Sparta, although Athens did not surrender unconditionally.

1. The Fall of Athens

Athens, facing a severe shortage of supplies and resources, was forced to surrender to Sparta. As part of the terms of surrender, Athens had to dismantle its Long Walls and give up its overseas territories, effectively ending its empire.

The Thirty Tyrants

Following Athens’ surrender, Sparta installed a puppet government known as the Thirty Tyrants, which ruled Athens with an iron fist. However, this regime was short-lived, as it faced significant opposition from the Athenian population and was eventually overthrown.

2. The Long-Term Effects

The Peloponnesian War had a lasting impact on both Athens and Sparta. While Sparta emerged as the victor, it was unable to capitalize fully on its victory. The war had weakened all Greek city-states, leaving them vulnerable to external threats.

Decline of Sparta and Rise of Thebes

Sparta’s victory was short-lived, as it faced internal turmoil and decline due to its brutal treatment of conquered territories. Thebes, another powerful city-state, eventually rose to prominence and challenged Sparta’s hegemony in Greece.


The war between Athens and Sparta, the Peloponnesian War, was a defining moment in ancient Greek history. While Sparta emerged as the victor, the war had far-reaching consequences for both city-states. Athens, despite its defeat, left a lasting legacy through its cultural and intellectual achievements. Sparta, on the other hand, faced decline and was eventually surpassed by other Greek city-states. The Peloponnesian War serves as a reminder of the destructive nature of war and the fragility of power.

Rate article
Add a comment