BIO220H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: Megarian Decree, Peloponnesian War, Andocides

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Published on 22 Apr 2013
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CLA230 Lecture 15 Notes
Pericles
- mid-5th century B.C. Athens – often called the Age of Pericles
- historians talk about Pericles most often but ultimately he is not the only
power
- Thucydides – mentions that Pericles was so influential that he got the
assembly to do what he wanted
- quote: “in name demokratia but actually the leadership of the first man”
- strategos – elected office of general – if good/popular, can be re-elected
- can be strategos over and over again – no limit
- Pericles is not the only strategos – one of ten strategi
- re-elected many times – held office 16 times from 445-430 B.C.
- Plutarch wrote Life of Pericles
- quote: Pericles and friends as “the new Peisistratids”
- therefore – virtual tyrants
The Peloponnesian War
- takes place 431-404 B.C.
- cause - addressed by Thucydides
- why they broke the treaty
- quote: “To the question why they broke the [30 years peace of 446 BC], I
answer by placing first an account of their grounds of complaint and points of
difference… The real cause, however, I consider to be the one which was
formally most kept out of sight. The growth of the power of Athens, and the
alarm which this inspired in Sparta, made war inevitable.”
- proximate vs. underlying cause
- proximate causes as “little fires” – “straw that broke the camel’s back”, so to
speak
- Thucydides does not consider the proximate causes as historically accurate –
more underlying
- proximate causes
Corcyra
Epidamnus
Megara
- underlying causes
Spartan fear of Athenian power
- Corcyra – Corinthian colony
- Epidamnus – colony of Corcyra
- Potidaea – Corinthian colony
- Megara – neighbour and traditional enemy of Athens – ally of Sparta – Corinth
also a Spartan ally
- Athens vs. Sparta – more through proxies – Athens in contact with Megara,
Corinth – allies of Sparta
Epidamnus
- civil strife – 435 B.C.
- issues with exiles – asks mother city for help
- Corcyra refuses to help
- go to Delphi – Pythia tells them to ask Corinth for help
- Corinth agrees to help
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- Corcyra tells Corinth not to help – Corcyra and Corinth drawn into conflict
over the issue
- conflict culminates in a naval battle
- large navy on both sides
- three naval powers at the time – Corinth, Corcyra, and Athens
- Corcyra defeats Corinth in the naval battle
Corcyra – The Athenian Vote
- Corcyra approaches Athens for an alliance in 433 B.C.
- Athens must make a decision – does not want t o provoke Sparta – but since
Corcyra is such a great naval power – lots of ships
- Corcyra had about 70 ships
- Corcyra is also a strategic position between Greece, Italy, and Sicily
- Athens cannot afford to lose its naval edge – therefore it allies with Corcyra
- alliance as defensive, not offensive
- Athenian vote – to help defend each other – mentioned by Thucydides
- quote: “It was to be a defensive, not an offensive, alliance. It did not involve a
breach of the treaty with the Peloponnesus… it began now to be felt that the
coming of the Peloponnesian war was only a question of time, and no one
was willing to see a naval power of Corcyra’s magnitude sacrifice to Corinth…
at the same time the island seemed to lie conveniently on the coastal
passage to Italy and Sicily.”
- Battle of Sybota – 433 B.C. – naval battle
- Athens and Corcyra vs. Corinth
- 120 ships between Athens and Corcyra – Corinth had 150 ships
- Athens in direct conflict with the Corinthians – claim to be helping to defend
an ally – Corinth as aggressors
- Athens vs. Corinth despite 30 years of peace – Athenians win
Potidaea
- takes place 433 B.C
- Corinthian colony but Athenian ally
- according to Thucydides – Athens worried that Potidaea will revolt
- decide to proactively tell Potidaea to destroy their fortifications, give
hostages, and remove Corinthian officials
- rise in revolt – Potidaea refuses to agree
- revolt in reaction to the harsh demands
- Sparta promises to invade Attica if Athens attacks Potidaea – more proactive
role with allies than before
- Sparta does not always follow on promises however
- Athens as quick to act
- Sparta as slow, methodical, conservative
- Athens besieges Potidaea in 432 B.C.
Megarian Decree
- Thucydides barely mentions this event
- Athens accuses Megara of farming Athenian land – much of which is sacred
- Eleusis – sanctuary of Demeter, Persephone – properties belong to the
goddesses – work and amount of taxes paid to the goddesses
- accused of illegally farming the land – as well as harbouring runaway
Athenian slaves
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- Athenian herald is killed – Anthemocritus
- heralds – not supposed to be killed – have to be protected
- in response – Megara is banned from Athenian ports as wells as those of
Athenian allies
- the Megarian decree shows up a lot in other sources – for some reason
Thucydides downplays it
Congress of Spartan Allies
- meeting of Sparta and her allies – 432 B.C.
- Corinth complaints about Corcyra and Potidaea
- Megara – complaint about the “Megarian decree”
- Spartan assembly votes to declare war on Athens
- lengthy debate before the decision is made – Thucydides preserves the
speeches
- Spartan assembly votes by acclimation – but in this case the ephor cannot
determine which group is the loudest – therefore the assembly must divide
into two sides – breaks anonymity of the vote
- after the congress – Sparta does not immediately invade Attica
- request of Sparta in 432/1 B.C.
- likely asks Athens to disband their empire or dissolve the forced alliance – to
make the alliance voluntary again
- quote: “Sparta wishes the peace to continue, and there is no reason why it
should not, if you would let the Hellenes be independent.”
- assumption of the request must be made – likely to disband the empire
- refusal of Athens to cooperate as “the last straw”
- Pericles convinces the assembly to reject the Spartan ultimatum
- Sparta invades Attica the following summer – 431 B.C.
- however – much fighting had been going on before the war officially started
Causes of the War
- other sources are more emphatic about the importance of the Megarian
decree
- Thucydides barely mentions the Megarian decree
- Plutarch – Greek from Boeotia in the Roman period – using earlier sources
- according to Plutarch – Pericles could have avoided the war by rescinding the
Megarian decree
- Andocides – Athenian orator – around 400 B.C. – at the end of the
Peloponnesian War
- quote by Andocides: ““we went to war again on account of Megara, and
allowed Attica to be laid waste”
- evidence in comedy – plays in the 420s B.C. – during the Peloponnesian War
- Aristophanes – in his play Acharnians – written 425 B.C.
- Quote: “But now some young drunkards go to Megara and carry off the
courtesan Simaetha; the Megarians, hurt to the quick, run off in turn with two
harlots of the house of Aspasia; and so for three women Greece is set ablaze.
Then Pericles, aflame with ire on his Olympian height, let loose the lightning,
caused the thunder to roll, upset Greece and passed an edict, which ran like
the song, that the Megarians be banished both from our land and from our
markets and from the sea and from the continent. Meanwhile the Megarians,
who were beginning to die of hunger, begged the Lacedaemonians to bring
about the abolition of the decree, of which those harlots were the cause;
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Document Summary

Athens often called the age of pericles historians talk about pericles most often but ultimately he is not the only power. Pericles is not the only strategos one of ten strategi re-elected many times held office 16 times from 445-430 b. c. Plutarch wrote life of pericles quote: pericles and friends as the new peisistratids therefore virtual tyrants. The peloponnesian war takes place 431-404 b. c. cause - addressed by thucydides. The growth of the power of athens, and the alarm which this inspired in sparta, made war inevitable. proximate vs. underlying cause proximate causes as little fires straw that broke the camel"s back , so to speak. Thucydides does not consider the proximate causes as historically accurate more underlying proximate causes: corcyra, epidamnus, megara underlying causes, spartan fear of athenian power. Megara neighbour and traditional enemy of athens ally of sparta corinth also a spartan ally. Athens vs. sparta more through proxies athens in contact with megara,

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