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Peloponnesian war was the name given to the disagreement between Sparta and Athens which began in 431 and ended in 404. There are various reasons as to why the Athenians finally lost the Peloponnesian war. Some of these reasons are: scarcity of manpower, lack of money, and the fact that the Peloponnesian economy was badly hurt especially after the Sicilian disaster. Athens didn't have good leadership both political and military; also the misfortunes of the expedition affected the propertied class. Emergence of strong leaders from Sparta like Agis and alliance between Sparta and Persia was a big blow to Athens. They made a big mistake of sending away Alcabiades because he played a great role in helping Spartans to tear down their empire.
After the Sicilian war, Athens had concern over its capability to continue with the warfare, since it had caused them numerous problems. One of the setbacks they faced was scarcity of manpower. The outbreak killed around a third of the population, crippled and disabled more people. When taken into account other deaths that occurred between 431 and 413, Athenians adult males of hoplite group were reduced to less than nine thousand, there were three thousand metrics and eleven thousand thetes which was a great reduction of men who were ready to fight the war. It was hard for them to find troops, even the inexperienced or unskilled from the existing thetes (Kagan, 1991, p3).
Another major problem that they faced was lack of funds to mend the ships, build fresh ones and pay their troops. In 431 they had roughly five thousand talents existing in the public coffers. They had remained with less than five hundred talents in 413. Athens did not anticipate replenishing its finances with improved earnings from the empire. The crush in Sicily caused rebellions that decreased homage payments and increased everyday expenditure by requiring groups to suppress the uprisings (Kagan, 1991, p3).
The domestic financial system of Athens was badly damaged, at that time. Athenians were worn down, physically, financially, as well as psychologically by the Spartan garrison at Decelea. They were banned from running their silver mines, they lost around twenty thousand slaves, and their ability to utilize any of their farmland was decreased. Their homes in the countryside were stolen and stripped by the Boeotians, together with any cattle and herd of animals that could be taken to Euboea for safety. Anything they required they had to import it via longer means which was costly, also they had to sustain an armed force which was required to safeguard the walls day and night. More people were forced to move into the city since they did not have enough means of income. The prices of food and other requirements increased due to raised demand for and high cost of importing. Therefore public coffers were strained since the state had to maintain the needy orphans and widows created by the warfare (Kagan, 1991, p3).
The calamities of the war also affected the propertied group. They were forced to leave their farms which supplied them with earnings and their homes were wrecked by the raiding Boeotians. A Trierarchy was a community service that the richer Athenians conducted in turns and required the selected trierarchs to control a warship as well as fit it out and also to increase the payment of its rowers. Before the Sicilian war, one trierarch was constantly selected for every ship, but shortly after the war the syntrierarchy was established, which allowed two men to contribute to the expenses. Men with adequate wealth to conduct fundamental religious and military services for the state were not available, therefore no assistance was expected after direct war tax was imposed which was known as Eispbora (Kagan, 1991, pp3-4).
Athens also required good leadership both political and military. The expedition had carried off its ablest and experienced generals like Lamachus, Demosthenes, Eurymedom and Nicias. Alcibiades was held exile in Sparta, all the men Athens was relying on to control its forces on the sea and land had disappeared and no one demonstrated the capability and experience required. The emptiness in political leadership was immense, Athens most important politicians like Nicias were dead, Hyperbolus and Alcibiades were in exile and the demagogues who had sustained the Sicilian undertaking were in disrepute. In these instances, the Athenians invented a new mechanism to grant stability and guidance to their government. They decided to select a board of elder men to act as probouloi. Their work was to propose legislation and give advice relating to the existing problems as the circumstances may require. Probouloi responsibilities and powers were not clear and properly defined. They had authority to present a bill in a legislative body and therefore they appeared as replacing council in this key function. Their exceptional status, indefinite period in office, the generality and vagueness of their commission and the details of their selection gave them unprecedented power and influence. Their election into power changed the function and character of the Athens' usual democratic constitution. The establishment of probouloi was considered as an oligarchic aspect in the constitution (Kagan, 1991, pp4-7).
When Athenians were defeated in Sicily, Spartans felt energized and full of eagerness as well as hope to continue with the war until they conquer them. They knew that after they overthrew Athenians, they would hold control of all Greece and hence their objective changed from liberating Greece to ruling them. The fortification of Decelea and their triumph at Mantinea had increased the amount of Spartans who wished to attain great wealth. They had anticipated becoming more authoritative and the homes of its civilians will become even more prosperous. The development of this ambitious and aggressive group in Sparta was as a result of military accomplishments and the war's increasingly changing trends that were altering the behavior of the Spartan society (Kagan, 1991, p11).
The number of free men in Laconia who were not Spartans was increasing at an alarming rate. In the early 421, the number of neodamodies was around one thousand, helots were the people who battled in the Spartan army, they were awarded their freedom and rewarded with a piece of land, by 396 they were around two thousand. Another group consisted of bypomeiones, these are men who were born to a Spartan group, went through the Spartan structure of education and they had qualified as Spartan citizens but their poverty status disallowed them from donating their share to the regular meals. Hence they were disqualified from respect, citizenship and honor. Mothakes was another group; it included people like, Lysander, Gylippus and Callicratidas who participated greatly in the Peloponnesian war. The only hope for these men who were viewed as inferior to reach a point of eminence and honor was only through military occupation. This helped them to gain enormous wealth so as to acquire economic foundation to be admitted as a citizen or to a mess. The best opportunity for them was to destroy the Athenian empire in the Aegean because it offered a good chance to obtain wealth for the victorious Spartans and the leaders were to be honored as well. Those who did not have a way to obtain citizenship gained it through warfare. People such Lysander and Gylippus who had citizenship but their positions of respect and honor were downplayed by their inferior origins, wished to advance their condition by conquering in the war. All these men provided an authoritative pressure for more aggressive and forward strategy than was usual for Spartan (Kagan, 1991, pp 11-13).
The influence of Agis contributed greatly to the Athenians losing the Peloponnesian war. He was bearing the influence and glory he acquired by his success in Mantinea. He had greater powers than the Spartan king; he was ready to increase his power and reputation by pursuing the anticipated downfall of the Athenian empire under his rule. He had the freedom to dispatch the army wherever he wanted to collect money and to gather troops. He was ready to use his extraordinary powers to enlarge Spartan authority over the Greeks. Allies of Thessalians and Achaeans of Phthiotis were forced to give hostages and money to him. He positioned the hostages at Corinth to offer security and also used them to convince their people to join the Spartan association. Agis was visited by two groups which wanted to revolt from Athenian empire. The first visit was from Euboea and this was a horrible blow to Athens because they had moved a herd of animals to that island and depended on it for provisions. The second visit was from Lesbos, acquiring it meant that Spartan would obtain a populous and large rich island. Most importantly was its strategic situation for it was located to act as a foundation for campaign to reduce Athens' sustenance via Hellespont which was the surest and quickest way to end war (Kagan, 1989, pp98-110).
There were two other groups that went to Sparta to support the revolts from Athens. One group came from Erythrae and Chios which was supported and accompanied by a representative from Tissaphernes. The other delegation consisted of Athenagoras of Cyzichus and Calligeitus of Megara and they were Greeks. They recommended Spartans to give support to the rebelling Greek cities in the Hellespontine region. The most outstanding bit of these developments was when two Persian satraps agreed to collaborate with Spartan in the warfare against Athens (Kagan, 1991, pp28-29).
When Spartans were almost giving up, Alcibiades moved them back into action. He traveled to Ephors and compelled them to send five ships not as initially planned to connect with the other Peloponnesian ships from Corinth and to sail straight to Ionia with him on board. He explained that if the fleet sailed immediately it would get there even before the Athenians get the reports of difficulties experienced by the Peloponnesian fleet. Alcibiades informed the Ionians about the Athenians weak spots and Spartans eagerness, he was believed because he had outstanding knowledge of both Sparta and Athens and he required this so as to influence the Ionians. Alcibiades was dismissed from Athens for good after he was defeated in the war near Notion, he wanted to show his value to his ever apprehensive hosts and this was the only chance he had to redeem himself (Kagan, 1991, pp41-41).
Sicilian war was a major contribution to the fall of the Athenian empire. After this disaster, Athens lost most of its manpower, they did not have enough money to mend their ships, build new ones or pay their troops. Their economy was badly damaged, the propertied group was highly affected and they lacked good leadership both political and military. Most of their allies and subjects started to revolt and joined hands with Sparta. There was emergence of ambitious and aggressive faction in Sparta and also a leader with unusual powers known as Agis. The coalition between Sparta and Persia was another blow to the Athenian empire. Alcibiades betrayed them after they sent him away for good; he assisted Sparta to win the Peloponnesian war with his outstanding intimate knowledge of Athens.