Strategy? Victory?

Thucydidites,

From the very beginning of this conflict I listed the strengths of each Sparta and Athens.  I was trying to figure out what overarching strategy could be deployed to each side’s advantage, and I was wondering how each side would try to create and define victory.

Now, I am through year 4 of the war in our reading and I’m still trying to figure out what the strategy for winning the war is on both sides.  It feels like a war of boarder skirmishes and a hope of achieving capitulation through attrition.  I don’t see Athens putting forth a plan to systematically take over the town of Sparta.  Nor, do I see Sparta doing something similar toward Athens.  Maybe each side feels they can win by outlasting the other in a long war of attrition, but I also feel like both sides fall short of full conviction to truly go after “the head of the snake” on either side.  Are they playing checkers instead of chess?  It’s also not clear how victory is being defined by either side.  Is it total annihilation of the people of each side?  Is it to win enough allies to get the other side to capitulate?  Is it to starve the other side of resources until they must choose between capitulation and starvation?  How has each side defined what they are after and their larger plan for getting there?  Is victory defined in a way that will still allow them to stand strong against their arch nemesis of Persia, or are they willing to weaken each other to the point where Persia can walk in and take them over?  Aren’t they worried about that?  It feels like a war of tactics and sub-strategies.  Maybe Thucydides will reveal this later or maybe it will eventually become apparent.  It’s a bit maddening for now as 4years have elapsed and the answer escapes me.

Jim

13. January 2009 by Arrian
Categories: Commentary, Thucydides | Tags: , | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. <p>Hi all,<br>I want to affirm Jim’s great observations. I too am puzzled by the lack of strategic discussion in the text. I would just add that Athens and Sparta had been bumping heads for some time after the Persian wars and before this one. If we take the analogy of the U.S. – U.S.S.R. post WWII cold war, did either side ever pursue a policy of direct destruction of the other? Granted that nuclear weapons prohibited that kind of threat. But perhaps there was some sort of "mutual destruction" implicit in the Athens-Sparta tension as well, in which war would take place centered mostly in allied states rather than on the main country’s home turf. <br>Other questions to consider:<br>What would happen if Sparta committed to an all-out siege of Athens’ long walls?<br>What would happen if Athens committed to an amphibious assault of Laconia, then followed immediately by land invasion of Sparta itself?<br>Andre</p>