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Lecture 3

AS.190.209 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Oligarchy, Distressing, Appeasement

AS Political Science
Course Code
David, Steven R

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September 8, 2015
Peloponnesian War
1. Causes of war  3 images (man, state, war)
2. Role of domestic politics in foreign policy
3. Role of domestic politics in determining alliance structure
At the time of the war, there were two great city-states – Athens and Sparta. They
had defeated their common enemy of Persia and immediately turned on each other.
Although both Greek city-states, they were both very different. Athens was a
democracy – rule of the many, a naval power – triremes, and dependent on trade –
very much part of the globalized world of Greek city-states. It was also dedicated to
the development of individual and culture – enrich individual citizens. Sparta was an
oligarchy – rule of the few, a land power – hoplites (highly trained citizen soldiers
who formed a phalanx), less dependent on trade – much of what it needed was
taken care of by Sparta; there was also the ethos of individual sacrifice for the state.
Athens and Sparta had a number of city-states allied to them; there was also a
number of neutral city-states. In order to prevent the conflict from escalating, an
uneasy truce was established between Athens and Sparta following the conflict with
Persia. The truce was based on the following principles: first, if you were a neutral
city-state, you were free to join either alliance. Second, if you were allied with one
side, you couldn’t switch alliances. Third, each side was not to attack the other (non-
aggression pact). Finally, if disputes arose, they were supposed to submit arbitration
to city-state elders who would resolve the dispute peacefully. This was designed to
promote and keep the peace between Athens and Sparta. So, what broke the truce?
Two key incidents: one dealing with the city-state Epidamnus and one with Potidaea
and both involving Corcyra. Corcyra was a neutral city-state, but it was a colony of
Corinth, and Corinth was allied to Sparta. Epidamnus on the other hand was a
colony of Corcyra. Having a colony did not mean you had political control over it; it
just meant you had established that city-state (ethnic ties). A civil war broke out in
Epidamnus between the nobles and commoners in which the nobles were expelled.
They wanted to get back in and they got help from other city-states. The commoners
sought help from Corcyra, but it refused involvement. So the commoners then went
to Corinth, since in a sense, Corinth was the original founder of the city. The
Corinthians agreed to help Epidamnus because they believed that Corcyra wasn’t
showing them much respect. Furthermore, the Corinthians felt that Epidamnus
belonged to their sphere of influence, and as such, they believed they had the right
to intervene. Corcyra, however, warned Corinth to stay out since it had decided to
not get involved. But Corinth pressed ahead, motivating Corcyra to help the nobles
on the opposing side. A battle resulted and Corcyra defeated Corinth, infuriating
Corinth due to its believed superiority over the city-state that it had established. In
turn, it was prepared to destroy Corcyra to teach it a lesson. Corcyra at this point
was frightened because it was a neutral city-state. Corinth, on the other hand, was a
Spartan ally, and so Corcyra would be forced to face the entire Spartan alliance.
Therefore, Corcyra went to Athens for help. In their plea for aid, they talked about
justice – appealed to Athenian interest and necessity. Their representatives
admitted that they were wrong to be neutral now they are facing the wrath of
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