Didn’t do too many papers this semester except for Western Civilization. This one was on the ramifications of the Peloponnesian Wars. I got a 99, so I thought I would share it since most people come to my site to visit my college papers. Please be smart: remember to use proper MLA citation format for quoting from a blog/webpage if you borrow any of the points. My essays are well-visited and will be picked up by college software that scans for possible plagiarism.
Essay: “Ramifications of the Peloponnesian Wars”
The Peloponnesian Wars in Ancient Greece took place in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries BCE. Over the span of 150 years, these two civil wars marked a protracted period of internal conflict that finally ended with the invasion of Greece by the Macedonians from the north starting in 338 BCE. The two cities which had grown into the “superpowers” of their day, Sparta and Athens, had successfully partnered in the defeat of the Persians – Sparta by its highly trained military and Athens by its large navy. Once the Greek provinces on the Aegean coast had been set free from Persian rule, the Greek cities initially looked to the dominant Sparta to reunite all of Greece into a unified empire. Due to its own local lands being under constant threat of rebellion by those neighbors Sparta had effectively enslaved, Sparta was not willing to send its troops out on protracted missions of mere maintenance and leave its own backyard unattended. Athens, with its large navy fleet able to reach island and coastal holdings quickly and maintain a steady presence, grew its own larger sphere of influence in the region and created what became known as the Athenian Empire.
The school of thought in Sparta maintained that all citizens should give of themselves solely for the purpose of the good of the state. Sparta was governed by controlling the lives of its people from their birth, programming their thoughts into complete, unquestioned submission to the state. The school of thought in Athens, and the majority of the surrounding country, stemmed from a start as a small city-state, or polis, where all of the men had a part in governing. Athens grew into a larger city, eventually governed by the upper class, until the number of “heads of state” was reduced to one leader, a “tyrant.” Eventually, reformers brought back the concept of governing by the people, and a democratic government was created. Unthinkable to the Spartans, the democratic style of Athens’ government allowed both upper and lower class men to speak up, question and vote to rule. The ideological differences between Sparta and Athens might best be compared to the differences between communist USSR and the United States during the Cold War before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Individual and collective arrogance, pride, desire for power, desire for wealth, refusal to compromise – all of the usual things countries go to war for – contributed to the two Greek civil wars in 460 and 432 BCE. The resulting First Peloponnesian War resulted in a division of “holdings” between the two large cities. Sparta’s hold over its neighbors was not without resentment by those cities any more than Athens’ demanding tribute from its “allies” was. When one of these smaller tribute-paying cities had a squabble with another, they would insist that their “governor” – Sparta or Athens – step in and take up their cause, thus pulling Sparta and Athens into routine conflict with each other. Within their own region of holdings, the general unrest by small poleis not wishing to be governed by the larger cities often resulted in rebellions, further causing drain upon each of the governor cities’ resources. With such ideological differences in governing styles, Sparta and Athens each felt it necessary to guard against any overthrow of its way of life by the other and felt any stance by the other that might encroach upon its own holdings a direct threat demanding reaction. The Great Peloponnesian War resulted in the refusal by Sparta to allow Athens to arbitrate, leaving the Peloponnesian League of cities standing theoretically opposed to those of the Athenian Empire.
I believe that the most significant ramification of the Peloponnesian Wars was the effect of the stress on the people themselves. From this time period, historians have traced back to early historical accounts of wars written down by Herodotus and Thucydides and early great thinkers and philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates and their students whose ideas and contemplations on cosmic, scientific, mathematical, political and human nature ideas are still with us today. From their writings, we see that some were in favor of the polis system of government, some in favor of democracy, some in favor of aristocratic rule, some in favor of sovereign rule. This continued debate on the best form of government of the people could only have been instigated by the constant struggle between the superpower cities and their continued failings which drew these critical debates. Of course, in Sparta, criticism was punishable by death, which certainly would be a cause of stress for the people wishing to criticize as well.
Additionally, Greek tragedy and comedy peaked during this time period as authors re-focused their writing from plays about mythology to political commentary and satire, sexual innuendo and women as strong, leading characters. The change in these theatrical models clearly shows that the Greeks were deeply interested in the human condition and portrayed it in all of its relevancy to their lives by invoking real-life matters. The artwork, sculpture and architecture from this time period also showed a movement from the ideal and grand to the ordinary, everyday life with the portrayal of common activities instead of merely glorious posturing of the gods.
The internal struggles of the Greeks in finding the best course for their own government were ended by the Macedonian Conquest under Philip of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great. What Ancient Greece lost in self-government, it ultimately gained in its overall far-reaching influence through the sharing of philosophical thought, literature and art throughout a much larger region as unified by Alexander the Great. The freedom of movement for trade throughout Macedonia, Peloponnesus, the Aegean Islands, Asia Minor, down to Egypt and southern Mesopotamia allowed the sharing of ideas and ideals that have been influential for over two thousand years. Without the strife that caused the Peloponnesian Wars, the ideas on how to solve the problems would not have been thought up by the “great thinkers.” Therefore, the ramifications of those civil wars most importantly allowed for the generation of philosophies that were able to be created in a historical window of welcoming, open and democratic environment, something not fully experienced again until the United States worked through getting its own kinks out in the past century.
Kagan, Donald et al. The Western Heritage, Combined Volume, 10th ed., Ch. 3. 2010. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education/Prentice Hall. Print.