The Great War Between Athens and Sparta

by Bernard W Henderson

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§ 1. The theatre of war .

This is from the 1927 edition and the pages are linkable - eg

The " North-West " of Greece, the district from the island Zacynthus on the south to Corcyra on the north, was of importance to Athens because its islands, coast towns, and peoples commanded the route which her ships, merchantmen, and War vessels must take on the voyage to and from ltaly and Sicily. Until it came to War (When the islanders' ships were worth the having), the district was not valuable to her for any other reason, either political or commercial, except in so far as it was always a pleasure to annoy Corinth by interference in its affairs. For the district was full of Corinthian colonies.

For years past, the North-West had been the scene of fierce feuds and hatreds. City raged against city, tribe against tribe. The natives of the coast and the hinterland behind it were hardly more civilised than they are to-day, when competing religions have added their fuel to the flames. It needed Rome to give the district prosperity and peace. All its inhabitants, Greek and barbarian, in 431 B.C., were united in just one very reasonable determination, namely to use the great War for Back up to Great War Between Athens and Sparta contents

their own ends, to get by it the better of their own local enemies. Otherwise, what did it matter to any of them which of these two distant, powerful, and quarrelsome cities, Athens and Sparta, came out on top? Even Corinth's interests could kindle but a gentle enthusiasm in her own colonies, and not in all of these. Sparta, indeed, might be more likely to leave the North-West to its own happy devices than were the Athenian busybodies with their ever-restless fleet. And Sparta was proclaiming loudly that she was fighting for the " liberty " of all the Greeks. A noble war-cry! Who would guarantee that Sparta herself would leave them alone if she did manage to win the victory ? Meanwhile, however, there were rich chestnuts to be picked out of the blazing fire.

There were two feuds in chief, the one on sea the other on land. Corcyra had hated Corinth for two and a half centuries. On land there was a feud as bitter. The chief military power of the district (to use grandiose language) was that of the Ambraciots on the north, whose chief city was Ambracia, a Corinthian colony, a town of some 7000 citizens.[Beloch, Bevolkerung, p. IQ4; Thuc. ii. 80. 3.] Their neighbours, the Amphilochians to the east of the Ambraciot Gulf and the Acarnanians to the south of it, had fallen at logger- heads with thern concerning the chief town of district, Amphilochian Argos, near the head the gulf. Amphilochians first dwelt in this town. Later, there came Ambraciot settlers and lived with them side by side. The original townsfolk learnt Greek ways and speech from them. Their Amphi- lochian kinsfolk remained barbarians. Presently the

updated 25th April 2011


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