The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War
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The first volume of Donald Kagan's acclaimed four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War offers a new evaluation of the origins and causes of the conflict, based on evidence produced by modern scholarship and on a careful reconsideration of the ancient texts. He focuses his study on the question: Was the war inevitable, or could it have been avoided?
Kagan takes issue with Thucydides' view that the war was inevitable, that the rise of the Athenian Empire in a world with an existing rival power made a clash between the two a certainty. Asserting instead that the origin of the war "cannot, without serious distortion, be treated in isolation from the internal history of the states involved," Kagan traces the connections between domestic politics, constitutional organization, and foreign affairs. He further examines the evidence to see what decisions were made that led to war, at each point asking whether a different decision would have been possible.
on Mt. Ithome, were still a threat. The Spartans appealed for help to their allies, among them the Athenians, who were particularly wanted for their reputed skill at siege operations. This, of course, led to a debate in Athens. Arist. Ath. Pol. 27. 4; Pluto Per. 9. 2; Aristophanes Wasps 684 fl. See Appendix C. 50 Arist. Ath. Pol. 25. 2; Pluto Per. 9. 3-4; Cim. 15. 1-2. Aristotle has Themistocles helping Ephialtes, but that is surely impossible after 471. 51 1. 101. 1-2. 48 49 71 'THE OUTBREAK
security of the Athenian Empire would corne with the defection of one of these powers. We shall see that Athens met that challenge without changing her imperial policy. We shall also see that her domestic situation between the wars was far more stable than that of her great Peloponnesian rival and could not be successfully exploited by recalcitrant allies. Unlike Sparta, Athens embarked on the years between the wars as the master of her alliance, free to adopt and pursue whatever policy suited
Neither side was sufficiently victorious to impose its will on the other, so there could be no question of destruction or humiliation. The question is whether it was intended to be or possibly could be anything more than a truce. It is customary to answer this question in the negative, to consider the First Peloponnesian War merely as a prelude to the decisive contest that must inevitably follow. 22 But this is to judge by the event, to assume that something was inevitable because it happened. If
needed to use it, for the very threat was enough to cow his enemies. It had been employed to good effect by Themistocles in the 480's to rid himself of all his rivals. It had been turned against him by the coalition of Cimon in 474, and Cimon had been its victim in the democratic surge of 461. V.Te must realize that no politician used the weapon of ostracism unless he was altogether confident that his opponent would be ostracized and not himself. The exception that tested the rule was the
also provided an aura of political and social respectability for the Thurian undertaking. In later years Lampon headed the list of the signers of the Peace of Nicias. He alone prepared recommendations for the regulation of the first fruits of the olive crop offered at Eleusis. "The man came obviously from one of the eupatrid families which dominated the political life of the period and which with the help of adoptions and adlections dominated the religious life throughout the whole history of