Headlines from the Peloponnesian War – Book 3
Dear fellow Thucydides readers,
Here are my notes in outline form for Book 3. Feel free to use them to organize your thoughts as you move through your reading. Thucydides does not jump around too much in this book from theater to theater. My outline is made to help focus on the most significant locations for action during each year of the war. Thucydides’ comments start to come to the fore here as the balance of power between Sparta and Athens seems to go nowhere. Three more years elapse with casualties on both sides, yet no great gains are made by either side. I’ll be asking a handful of you to take on a question or two to comment on for our next conference call (Monday Feb 2). Let me know if you see a question you would like for yourself.
Headlines from the Peloponnesian War, years 4, 5, and 6 (428-426 B.C.)
Summary of events so far:
Book 1 – events concerning primarily Athens & Sparta that lead up to the war
Book 2 – first three years progress of the war; at the beginning of Book 2, the Plataean occupation by Thebes starts the Peloponnesian war. By the third year, instead of the usual invasion and devastation of Attica, Sparta and the Peloponnesian League besiege Plataea and pressure it to renounce its association with Athens.
Book 3 – Years four (Mytilene), five (occupations of Mytilene, Plataea, and Corcyra) and six (operations in Sicily and in Northern Greece) of the war focus less on Attica and more on strategic areas important to Athens’ and Sparta’s allies.
Beginning of 4th year (428), Summer
3.1 Archidamus King of Sparta invades Attica again (this Thucydides’ last mention of Archidamus, who must have relinquished command after this); Peloponnesian invasion subsides when provisions run out (showing the vulnerability of a large land force in sustained military operations; the Persians massive onslaught 50 years prior to this was also vulnerable to the same supply problems only on a much larger scale)
3.2-3.6 Revolt of Lesbos (except Methymna); Mytilene, a city on Lesbos and an Athenian subject, wanted to incite Lesbos to revolt even before the war, but Sparta wouldn’t receive their pleas for support. Opening hostilities between Mytilene and Athens end in a truce. Mytilene sends envoys to Sparta during this lull. Hostilities resume – more envoys to Sparta. Athens blockades Mytilene by sea.
3.7 Asopius leads an Athenian fleet (30 ships) around Peloponnesus.
3.8-3.14* Mytilenians present their case at Olympia.
Speech – an indictment of Athenian Imperialism and “enslavement” of other Greeks. Athens’ reputation has gone from being liberators of the Greeks from the Medes (Persians) to now being oppressors of the Greeks. Important quotes –
“It is not in Attica that the war will be decided, as some imagine, but in the countries by which Attica is supported” (3.13.5)
“…you will smooth the way to the overthrow of the Athenians by depriving them of their allies, who will be greatly encouraged to come over” (3.13.7)
Sparta’s opportunity to become a “world” power is now at hand. Can they overcome their provincial point of view or not? Will their culture allow it?
3.15- 3.18 Athens’ massive naval response repels Peloponnesian land & naval invasion of Attica. Spartan response to Mytilene promises a next year invasion of Attica and later 40 ships to Lesbos as reinforcements. Athens blockades Mytilene by land (as well as previously by sea).
Winter, 4th year (428)
3.19 tribute collection from Athenian allies
3.20-3.24 Plataeans break out
3.25 Spartan Salaethus sneaks into Mytilene informing them of Sparta’s plan to invade Attica in the Spring and deliver reinforcements to Mytilene by sea.
Beginning of 5th year (427), Summer
3.26-29 Sparta sends a fleet to Mytilene but before it arrives, the common people take over and surrender to Athens.
3.30* Alcidas the Spartan commander rejects Teutiaplus’ plea to continue to Mytilene
3.31 fearing all sorts of misfortunes (the Athenians have naval superiority)
3.32 he damages Sparta’s reputation as a “liberator” when prisoners continue to be executed
3.33 Paches chases Alcidas’ fleet, mops up Lesbos
3.36 Athenians kill Salaethus, a Spartan advisor to Mytilene, and are very Draconian in punishing the Mytileneans
3.37-40* Cleon presents his case of inclemency towards the Mytileneans: Athenian empire is a despotism.
3.41-3.48* Diodotus’ argument of utility for Athens does not necessarily include harsh measures toward the Mytilenean common people (freedom of speech for all points of view is very important in a democracy) (3.43)
3.49-3.50 Mytilene is “spared”
3.51 Nicias fortifies Minoa opposite Megara
3.52 Plataea surrenders
3.53-3.59* Plataean argument for Spartan leniency (Sparta declined to aid Plataea vs. Thebes, so Plataea went to Athens for help)
3.60-3.67* Theban argument for Spartan inclemency toward Plataea
3.68 Plataea punished and razed
3.69-3.85 Corcyrean revolution, basest passions of human nature are exhibited (3.82-3.84 evils of revolution)
3.86 Sicily – Syracuse, Locri (Dorians) allies of Sparta – control Sicily & grain
Leontini, Rhegium (Ionians) allies of Athens – control Rhegium & sea access
5th year (427), Winter – Aeolian islands (off N. Sicily) invaded by Athens
Beginning of 6th year (426), Summer
3.89 Tsunami/earthquakes, Peloponnesian invasion of Attica postponed
3.90 Athenian victory at Messana (Sicily)
3.91 Athenian invasion of island Melos and Tanagra (amphibious operations)
3.92-3.93 Spartan colony/outpost Heraclea in Trachis established, but does not prosper
Demosthenes, an Athenian commander, launches two land campaigns in Northern Greece:
3.94-3.102 The first resulted in an Athenian defeat at Aetolia, but the Athenians also successfully defend Naupactus from land attack.
6th year (426), Winter
3.104-3.114 The second campaign against Amphilocian Argos results in a great victory. Athenians also purify Delos & hold games (3.104).
3.103, 3.115-3.116 More operations in Sicily. Athenian reinforcements increase (some of these ships will land in Pylos in Book 4!)