The Spicy Lotus

November 28, 2009

The Peloponnesian War, Thucydides

Filed under: Classic,Greek — pha9 @ 3:31 pm

The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 B.C., was an Ancient Greek war, fought by Athens and its empire against thePeloponnesian League, led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases. In the first, the Archidamian War, Sparta launched repeated invasions of Attica, while Athens took advantage of its naval supremacy to raid the coast of the Peloponnese attempting to suppress signs of unrest in its empire. This period of the war was concluded in 421 BC, with the signing of the Peace of Nicias. That treaty, however, was soon undermined by renewed fighting in the Peloponnese. In 415 BC, Athens dispatched a massive expeditionary force to attackSyracuse in Sicily; the attack failed disastrously, with the destruction of the entire force, in 413 BC. This ushered in the final phase of the war, generally referred to either as the Decelean War, or the Ionian War. In this phase, Sparta, now receiving support from Persia, supported rebellions in Athens’ subject states in the Aegean Sea and Ionia, undermining Athens’ empire, and, eventually, depriving the city of naval supremacy. The destruction of Athens’ fleet at Aegospotami effectively ended the war, and Athens surrendered in the following year.

The Peloponnesian War reshaped the Ancient Greek world. On the level of international relations, Athens, the strongest city-state in Greece prior to the war’s beginning, was reduced to a state of near-complete subjection, while Sparta was established as the leading power of Greece. The economic costs of the war were felt all across Greece; poverty became widespread in the Peloponnese, while Athens found itself completely devastated, and never regained its pre-war prosperity. The war also wrought subtler changes to Greek society; the conflict between democraticAthens and oligarchic Sparta, each of which supported friendly political factions within other states, made civil war a common occurrence in the Greek world.

Greek warfare, meanwhile, originally a limited and formalized form of conflict, transformed into an all-out struggle between city-states, complete with atrocities on a large scale. Shattering religious and cultural taboos, devastating vast swathes of countryside, and destroying whole cities, the Peloponnesian War marked the dramatic end to the fifth-century-B.C. golden age of Greece.

November 15, 2009

Ajax, Sophocles

Filed under: Classic,Greek,Play — pha9 @ 4:24 pm

Ajax (Greek: Αίας, Aias) is a play by Sophocles. The date of its first performance is unknown, but most scholars regard it as an early work, about 450 BCE to 430 BCE. It chronicles the fate of the warrior Ajax after the events of the Iliad but before the end of the Trojan War.

Philoctetes, Sophocles

Filed under: Classic,Greek,Play — pha9 @ 4:18 pm

In Greek mythology, Philoctetes (also Philoktêtês or Philocthetes, Φιλοκτήτης) was the son of King Poeas ofMeliboea in Thessaly. He was a Greek hero, famed as an archer, and was a participant in the Trojan War. He was the subject of at least two plays by Sophocles, one of which is named after him, and one each by both Aeschylusand Euripides. However, only one Sophoclean play survives, the others are lost. He is also mentioned in Homer’sIliad; Book 2 describes his exile on the island of Lemnos, his wound by snake-bite, and his eventual recall by the Greeks. The recall of Philoctetes is told in the lost epic Little Iliad, where his retrieval was accomplished byOdysseus and Diomedes.

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