The Peloponnesian War (431 - 404 B.C.)
12. The Peloponnesian War and Athenian Life
Athens and Sparta had cooperated during the Persian War, but relations between these two most powerful states in mainland Greece deteriorated in the decades following the Greek victories of 479 B.C. The deterioration had progressed to open hostilities by the middle of the century. The peace struck in 446/445 formally ended the fighting, supposedly for thirty years. New disagreements that arose in the 430s over how each of the two states should treat the allies of the other led to the collapse of the peace, however. When negotiations to settle the disagreements collapsed, the result was the devastating war of twenty-seven years that modern historians call the Peloponnesian War after the location of Sparta and most of its allies in the Peloponnese, the large peninsula that forms the southernmost part of mainland Greece. The war dragged on from 431 to 404 B.C. and engulfed almost the entire Greek world. This bitter conflict, extraordinary in Greek classical history for its protracted length, wreaked havoc on the social and political harmony of Athens, its economic strength, and the day-to-day existence of many of its citizens. The severe pressures that the war brought to bear on Athens were expressed most prominently in the comedies produced by Aristophanes on the Athenian dramatic stage during the war years.
12.1. The course of the Peloponnesian War
The history of the Peloponnesian War reveals both the unpredictability of war in general and the particular consequences of the repeated unwillingness of the Athenian assembly to negotiate peace terms with the other side. The other side of that same coin, of course, is the remarkable resilience shown by Athens in recovering from disastrous defeats and losses of population. Athens kept fighting no matter how dismal the situation until the very moment that an unbreakable Spartan blockade locked the city in a strangle hold in 404. The losses in population and property that Athens suffered in the war had a disastrous, albeit temporary, effect on its international power, revenues, and social cohesiveness.
12.1.1. Thucydides, historian of the Peloponnesian War
Most of our knowledge of the causes and the events of this decisive war depends on the history written by the Athenian Thucydides (c. 460-400 B.C.). Thucydides served as an Athenian commander in northern Greece in the early years of the war until the assembly exiled him for losing an outpost to the enemy. During his exile, Thucydides was able to interview witnesses from both sides of the conflict. Unlike Herodotus, Thucycdides concentrated on contemporary history and presented his account of the events of the war in an annalistic framework, that is, by organizing his history according to the years of the war with only occasional divergences from chronological order. Like Herodotus, he included versions of direct speeches in addition to the description of events. The speeches in Thucydides, usually longer and more complex than those in Herodotus, deal with major events and issues of the war in difficult and dramatic language. Their contents often address the motives of the participants in the war and offer broad interpretations of human nature and behavior. Historians disagree about the extent to which Thucydides has put words and ideas into the mouths of his speakers, but it seems indisputable that the speeches deal with the moral and political issues that Thucydides saw as central for understanding the Peloponnesian War as well as human conflict in general. His perceptive narrative and interpretation of the causes and events of the war made his book a pioneering work of history as the narrative of great contemporary events and power politics.
12.1.2. Thucydides on the causes of the Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, like most wars, had a complex origin. Thucydides reveals that the immediate causes centered on disputes between Athens and Sparta on whether they had a free hand in dealing with each other's allies. Violent disputes broke out both concerning Athenian economic sanctions against the city-state of Megara, an ally of Sparta, and the Athenian blockade of Potidaea, a city-state formerly allied to Athens but now in revolt and seeking help from Corinth, a principal ally of Sparta. The deeper causes involved the antagonists' ambitions for hegemony, fears of each other's power, and concern for freedom from interference by a strong rival.
188.8.131.52. Immediate causes of the war
The outbreak of the war came when the Spartans issued ultimatums to Athens that the men of the Athenian assembly rejected at the urging of Pericles. The Spartan ultimatums promised attack unless Athens lifted its economic sanctions against the city-state of Megara, a Spartan ally that lay just west of Athenian territory, and stopped its military blockage of Potidaea, a strategically located city-state in northern Greece. The Athenians had forbidden the Megarians from trading in all the harbors of the Athenian empire, a severe blow for Megara, which derived much income from trade. The Athenians had imposed the sanctions in retaliation for alleged Megarian encroachment on sacred land along the border between the territory of Megara and Athens. As for Potidaea, it been an ally of Athens but was now in rebellion. Potidaea retained ties to Corinth, the city that had originally founded it, and Corinth, an ally of Sparta, had protested the Athenian blockade of its erstwhile colony. The Corinthians were already angry at the Athenians for having supported the city-state of Corcyra in its earlier quarrel with Corinth and securing an alliance with Corcyra and its formidable navy. The Spartans issued the ultimatums in order to placate the Megarians and, more importantly, the Corinthians with their powerful naval force. Corinth had threatened to withdraw from the Peloponnesian League and join a different international alliance if the Spartans delayed any longer in backing them in their dispute with the Athenians over Potidaea. In this way, the actions of lesser powers nudged the two great powers, Athens and Sparta, over the brink to war in 431 B.C.
184.108.40.206. Deeper causes of the war
The disputes over Athenian action against Megara and Potidaea reflected the larger issues of power motivating the hostility between Athens and Sparta. The Spartan leaders feared that the Athenians would use their superiority in long-distance offensive weaponry--the naval forces of the Delian League--to destroy Spartan control over the members of the Peloponnesian League. The majority in the Athenian assembly, for their part, resented Spartan interference in their freedom of action. For example, Thucydides portrays Pericles as making the following arguments in a speech to convince his fellow male citizens to reject the Spartan demands even if that means war: "If we do go to war, harbor no thought that you went to war over a trivial affair. For you this trifling matter is the assurance and the proof of your determination. If you yield to their demands, they will immediately confront you with some larger demand, since they will think that you only gave way on the first point out of fear. But if you stand firm, you will show them that they have to deal with you as equals ... When our equals, without agreeing to arbitration of the matter under dispute, make claims on us as neighbors and state those claims as commands, it would be no better than slavery to give in to them, no matter how large or how small the claim may be."
12.1.3. Athenian strategy in the Peloponnesian War
Athens' fleet and fortifications made its urban center impregnable to direct attack. Already by the 450s the Athenians had encircled the city center with a massive stone wall and fortified a broad corridor with a wall on both sides leading all the way to the main harbor at Piraeus seven kilometers to the west. The technology of military siege machines in this period was unequal to the task of broaching such walls. Consequently, no matter what damage was done to the agricultural production of Attica in the course of the war, the Athenians could feed themselves by importing food by ship through their fortified port. They could pay for the food with the huge financial reserves they had accumulated from the dues of the Delian League and the income from their silver mines. The Athenians could also retreat safely behind their walls in the case of attacks by the superior Spartan infantry. From this impregnable position, they could launch surprise attacks against Spartan territory by sending their ships to land troops behind enemy lines. Like aircraft in modern warfare before the invention of radar warning systems, Athenian warships could swoop down unexpectedly on their enemies before they could prepare to defend themselves. This two-pronged strategy, which Pericles devised for Athens, was therefore simple: avoid set battles with the Spartan infantry even if it ravaged Athenian territory but attack Spartan territory from the sea. In the end, he predicted, the superior resources of Athens in money and men would enable it to win a war of attrition.
12.1.4. Losses through Spartan invasions
The difficulty in carrying out Pericles' strategy for winning the war was that it required the many Athenians who resided outside the urban center to abandon their homes and fields to the depredations of the Spartan army during its regular invasions of Attica. As Thucydides reports, people hated coming in from the countryside where "most Athenians were born and bred; they grumbled at having to move their entire households [into Athens] ... , abandoning their normal way of life and leaving behind what they regarded as their true city." When in 431 B.C. the Spartans invaded Attica for the first time and began to destroy property in the countryside, the country dwellers of Attica became enraged as, standing in safety on Athens' walls, they watched the smoke rise from their property as the Spartans put it to the torch. Pericles only barely managed to stop the citizen militia from rushing out despite the odds to take on the Spartan hoplites. The Spartan army returned home after about a month in Attica because it lacked the structure for resupply over a longer period and could not risk being away from Sparta too long for fear of helot revolt. For these reasons, the annual invasions of Attica that the Spartans sent in the early years of the war never lasted longer than forty days. Even in this short time, however, the Spartan army could inflict losses on the Athenian countryside that were felt very keenly by the Athenians holed up in their walled city.
12.1.5. The effects of epidemic
The innate unpredictability of war undermined Pericles' strategy, especially as an epidemic disease ravaged Athens' population for several years beginning in 430 B.C. The disease struck while the Athenians were jammed together in unsanitary conditions to escape Spartan attack behind their walls. The symptoms were gruesome: vomiting, convulsions, painful sores, uncontrollable diarrhea, and fever and thirst so extreme that sufferers threw themselves into cisterns vainly hoping to find relief in the cold water. The rate of mortality was so high it crippled Athenian ability to man the naval expeditions Pericles' wartime strategy demanded. Pericles himself died of the disease in 429 B.C. He apparently had not anticipated the damage to Athens which the loss of his firm leadership could mean. The epidemic also seriously hampered the war effort by destroying Athenian confidence in their relationship with the gods." As far as the gods were concerned, it seemed not to matter whether one worshipped them or not because the good and the bad were dying indiscriminately," was Thucydides' description of the population's attitude at the height of the epidemic.
12.1.6. Athenian resilience after the epidemic
The epidemic thus hurt the Athenians materially by devastating their population, politically by removing their foremost leader, Pericles, and psychologically by damaging their self-confidence. Nevertheless, they fought on resiliently. Despite the loss of manpower inflicted by the epidemic, the Athenian military forces proved effective. Potidaea, the ally whose rebellion had exacerbated the hostile relations between Athens and Corinth, was compelled to surrender in 430. The Athenian navy won two major victories in 429 off Naupactus in the western Gulf of Corinth under the general Phormio. A serious revolt in 428-427 on the island of Lesbos, led by the city-state of Mytilene, was forcefully put down. One of the most famous passages in Thucydides is the set of vivid speeches on the fate of the Mytilenians presented by Cleon and Diodotus. The opposing speeches respectively argue for capital punishment based on justice and clemency based on expediency. Their arguments represent stirring and provocative positions that bear on larger political and ethical questions than the immediate issue of what to do about the rebels of Mytilene.
12.1.7. The success of Cleon at Pylos
In 425 B.C. the Athenian general Cleon won an unprecedented victory by capturing some 120 Spartan Equals and about 170 allied troops in a battle at Pylos in the western Peloponnese. No Spartan soldiers had ever before surrendered under any circumstances. They had always taken as their martial creed the sentiment expressed by the legendary advice of a Spartan mother as she handed her son his shield as he went off to war: "Come home either with this or on it," meaning he should return either as a victor carrying his shield or as a corpse carried upon it. By this date , however, the population of Spartan Equals had been so reduced that the loss of even such a small group was perceived as intolerable. The Spartan leaders therefore offered the Athenians favorable peace terms in return for the captives. Cleon's success at Pylos had vaulted him into a position of political leadership, and he advocated a hard line toward Sparta. Thucydides, who apparently had no love for Cleon, called him "the most violent of the citizens." At Cleon's urging the Athenian assembly refused to make peace with Sparta.
12.1.8. The unexpected tactics of Brasidas
The lack of wisdom in the Athenian decision to refuse the Spartan offer of peace after the battle of Pylos in 425 B.C became clear with the next unexpected development of the war: a sudden reversal in the Spartan policy against waging military expeditions far from home. In 424 the Spartan general Brasidas led an army on a daring campaign against Athenian strongholds in far northern Greece hundreds of miles from Sparta. His most important victory came with the conquest of Amphipolis, an important Athenian colony near the coast that the Athenians regarded as essential to their strategic position. Brasidas' success there robbed Athens of access to gold and silver mines and a major source of timber for building warships. Even though he was not directly involved in the battle at Amphipolis, Thucydides lost his command and was forced into exile because he was the commander in charge of the region when the city was lost and was held responsible for the catastrophe.
12.1.9. The Peace of Nicias
Cleon, the most prominent and influential leader at Athens after the Athenian victory at Pylos in 425, was dispatched to northern Greece in 422 to try to stop Brasidas. As it happened, both he and Brasidas were killed before Amphipolis in 422 B.C. in a battle won by the Spartan army. Their deaths deprived each side of its most energetic military commander and opened the way to negotiations. Peace came in 421 B.C. when both sides agreed to resurrect the balance of forces just as it had been in 431 B.C. The agreement made in that year is known as the Peace of Nicias after the name of the Athenian general Nicias, who was instrumental in convincing the Athenian assembly to agree to a peace treaty. The Spartan agreement to the peace revealed a fracture in the coaltion of Greek states allied with Sparta against Athens and its allies because the Corinthians and the Boetians refused to join the Spartans in signing the treaty.
12.1.10. An uneasy peace
The Peace of Nicias failed to quiet those on both sides of the conflict who were pushing for a decisive victory over the enemy. A brash Athenian aristocrat named Alcibiades (c. 450-404 B.C.) was especially active against the uneasy peace. He was a member of one of Athens' richest and most distinguished families, and he had been raised in the household of Pericles after his father had died in battle against allies of Sparta in 447 when his son was only about three years old. By now in his early thirties--a very young age at which to have achieved political influence, by Athenian standards--Alcibiades rallied some support at Athens for action against Spartan interests in the Peloponnese. Despite the ostensible conditions of peace between Sparta and Athens, he managed to cobble together a new alliance between Athens, Argos, and some other Peloponnesian city-states that were hostile to Sparta. He evidently believed that Athenian power and security, as well as his own career, would be best served by a continuing effort to weaken Sparta. Since the geographical location of Argos in the northeastern Peloponnese placed it astride the principal north-south route in and out of Spartan territory, the Spartans had reason to fear this alliance created by Alcibiades. If the alliance held, Argos and its allies could virtually pen the Spartan army inside its own borders. Nevertheless, support for this new coaltion seems to have been shaky in Athens, perhaps because the memory of the ten years of war just concluded was still vivid. The Spartans, recognizing the threat to themselves, met and defeated the forces of the coalition in battle at Mantinea in the northeastern Peloponnese in 418. The Peace of Nicias was now certainly a dead letter in practice, whatever its notional continuance in theory.
12.1.11. Attack on Melos
In 416 an Athenian force beseiged the tiny city-state on the island of Melos situated in the Mediterranean south of the Peloponnese, a community sympathetic to Sparta that had taken no active part in the war, although it may have made a monetary contribution to the Spartan war effort. In any case, that Athens considered Melos an enemy had been made clear earlier when Nicias had led an unsuccessful attack on the island in 426. Now once again Athens in 416 demanded that Melos support its alliance voluntarily or face destruction, but the Melians refused to submit despite the overwhelming superiority of Athenian force. When Melos eventually had to surrender to the beseiging army, its men were killed and its women and children sold into slavery. An Athenian community was then established on the island. Thucydides portrays Athenian motives in the affair of Melos as concerned exclusively with the amoral politics of the use of force, while the Melians he shows as relying on a concept of justice to govern relations between states. He represents the leaders of the opposing sides as participating in a private meeting to discuss their views of what issues are at stake. This passage in his history, called the Melian Dialogue, offers a chillingly realistic insight into the clash between ethics and power in international politics.
12.1.12. Launching the Expedition to Sicily
In 415 B.C. Alcibiades convinced the Athenian assembly to vote to launch a massive naval campaign against the large island of Sicily to seek the great riches awaiting a conqueror there and prevent any Sicilian cities from aiding the Spartans. Formally speaking, Athens was responding to a request for support from the Sicilian city of Egesta (also known as Segesta), with whom an alliance had been struck more than thirty years earlier. The Egestans encouraged Athens to prepare a naval expedition by misrepresenting the extent of the resources that they had to devote to the military campaign against non-allies in Sicily. The prosperous city of Syracuse near the southeastern corner of the island represented both the richest prize and the largest threat. In the debate preceding the vote on the expedition, Alcibiades and his supporters argued that the numerous war ships in the fleet of Syracuse represented an especially serious potential threat to the security of the Athenian alliance because they could sail from Sicily to join the Spartan alliance in attacks on Athens and its allies. Nicias led the opposition to the proposed expedition, but his arguments for caution failed to counteract the enthusiasm for action that Alcibiades generated with his speeches. His aggressive dreams of martial glory especially appealed to young men, who had not yet experienced the realities of war for themselves. The assembly resoundingly backed his vision by voting to send to Sicily the greatest force ever to sail from Greece. The arrogant flamboyance of Alcibiades' private life and his blatant political ambitions had made him many enemies in Athens, and they managed to get him recalled from the expedition's command by accusing him of having participated in a sacrilegious mockery of the Eleusinian Mysteries and being mixed up in the sacrilegious vandalizing of statues called Herms just before the sailing of the expedition. Alcibiades' reaction to the charges certainly was unforeseen: he deserted to Sparta.
220.127.116.11. The mutilation of the Herms
Herms, stone posts with sculpted sets of erect male organs and a bust of the god Hermes, were placed throughout the city as protectors against infertility and bad luck. A Herm stood at nearly every street intersection, for example, because crossings were, symbolically at least, zones of special danger. The vandals outraged the public by knocking off the statues' phalluses.
12.1.13. Athenian defeat in Sicily
The desertion of Alcibiades left the Athenian expedition against Sicily without a strong and decisive leader. The Athenian fleet was so strong that it won initial victories against Syracuse and its allies even without brilliant leadership, but eventually the indecisiveness of Nicias undermined the attackers' successes. The Athenian assembly responded to the setbacks by authorizing large reinforcements led by the general Demosthenes, but these new forces proved incapable of defeating Syracuse, which enjoyed effective military leadership to complement its material strength. Alcibiades had a decisive influence on the quality of Syracusan military leadership because Sparta adopted his suggestion to send an experienced Spartan commander to Syracuse to combat the invading expedition. The Athenian forces were eventually trapped in the harbor of Syracuse and completely crushed in a climactic naval battle in 413 B.C. When the survivors of the attacking force tried to flee overland to safety, they were either slaughtered or captured almost to a man. The Sicilian expedition ended in ignominious defeat for Athens and the crippling of its navy, its main source of military power.
12.1.14. The aftermath of the defeat in Sicily
Alcibiades' desertion turned out to cause Athens more trouble after the catastrophic end of the Sicilian expedition in 413. While at Sparta he advised the Spartan commanders to establish a permanent base of operations in the Attic countryside. In 413 they acted on his advice. Taking advantage of Athenian weakness in the aftermath of the enormous losses in men and equipment sustained in Sicily, they installed a garrison at Decelea in northeastern Attica, in sight of the walls of Athens itself only a few miles distant. Spartan forces could now raid the Athenian countryside year around instead of only for a limited time, as in the earlier years of the war when the annual invasions dispatched from Sparta could never linger longer than forty days in Athenian territory. The presence of the garrison made agricultural work in the fields of Attica too dangerous and forced Athens to rely on food imported by sea even more heavily than in the past. The damage to Athenian fortunes increased when twenty thousand slaves owned by the state and who worked in Athens' silver mines ran away to seek refuge in the Spartan camp. The loss of these slave miners put a stop to the flow of revenue from the veins of silver ore. So immense was the distress caused by the crisis that an extraordinary change was made in Athenian government: a board of ten officials was appointed to manage the affairs of the city, virtually supplanting the council of five hundred.
12.1.15. Revolts among the allies of Athens
The disastrous consequences of the Athenian defeat in Sicily in 413 were further compounded when Persia now once again took a direct hand in Greek affairs. The present Athenian weakness seemed to make this an opportune time to reassert Persian dominance in western Anatolia by stripping away the allies of Athens there. The satraps governing the Persian provinces in the region therefore began to supply money to help outfit a fleet for the Spartans and their allies. Led by the powerful city-state of the island of Chios, some restless allies of Athens in Ionia and elsewhere took advantage of the depleted state of their erstwhile hegemon to revolt from the Delian League alliance. Their defections were urged on by Alcibiades, whom the Spartans had sent to Ionia in 412 to foment rebellion among the members of the Athenian alliance there. A particularly dangerous result of these latter developments was the threat to the shipping lanes by which Athens imported grain from Egypt to the southeast and the fertile shores of the Black Sea to the northeast.
12.1.16. Athenian resilience after defeat in Sicily
Athens demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of the great hardships that had begun in 413, however, by beginning to rebuild its fleet and train new crews to man it. The emergency reserve funds that had been stored on the acropolis since the beginning of the war were tapped to finance the rebuilding. By 412-411 Athenian naval forces had revived sufficiently that they managed to prevent a Corinthian fleet from sailing to aid Chios, lay siege to that rebellious island ally, and win some other battles along the Anatolian coast.
12.1.17. The oligarchic coup of 411
The turmoil in Athenian politics and revenues resulting from the Sicilian defeat opened the way for some influential Athenian men, who had long harbored contempt for the broad-based democracy of their city-state, to stage what amounted to an oligarchic coup d'état. They insisted that a small group of elite leaders could manage Athenian policy better than the democratic assembly. Alcibiades furthered their cause by promising to make an alliance with the Persia satraps in western Anatolia and secure funds from them for Athens if only the democracy would be overturned and an oligarchy installed. He apparently hoped that the abolition of the democracy would led to the possibility of his being permitted to return to Athens. He had reason to want to go home again because his negotiations with the satraps had by now aroused the suspicions of the Spartan leaders, who rightly suspected that he was intriguing in his own interests rather than theirs. He had also made Agis, one of Sparta's two kings, into a powerful enemy by seducing his wife. Alcibiades' promises helped the oligarchical sympathizers in Athens to play on the assembly's hopes by holding out the lure of Persian gold. In 411 they succeeded in having the assembly members turn over all power to a group of four hundred men, hoping that this smaller body would provide better guidance for foreign policy in the war and improve Athens' finances. These four hundred were supposed to choose five thousand to act as the city's ultimate governing body, but they in fact kept all power in their own hands. The oligarchic regime did not last long, however. In Athens, the oligarchs soon lost their unity in struggling with each other for dominance. In the Athenian fleet, which was currently stationed in the harbor of the island city-state of Samos, a staunch ally of democractic Athens, the crews threatened to sail home to restore democracy by force unless the oligarchs stepped aside. In response, a mixed democracy and oligarchy called the constitution of the Five Thousand was created, which Thucydides praised as "the best form of government that the Athenians had known, at least in my time."This new government voted to recall Alcibiades and others in exile in the hope that they could improve Athenian military leadership.
12.1.18. The restoration of democracy
With Alcibiades as one of the commanders, the revived Athenian fleet won a great victory over the Spartans in 410 at Cyzicus on the southern shore of the Black Sea. The Athenians intercepted the plaintive and typically brief dispatch sent by the defeated Spartans to their leaders at home: "Ships lost. Commander dead. Men starving. Do not know what to do." The pro-democratic fleet now demanded the restoration of full democracy at Athens, and in this year Athenian government returned to the form and membership that it had possessed before the oligarchic coup of 411. It also, according to a later source, returned to the same uncompromising bellicosity that had characterized the decisions of the Athenian assembly in the mid-420s. ust as after the defeat at Pylos in 425, the Spartans offered peace after their defeat at Cyzicus in 410. Athens refused. In any case, the Athenian fleet went on to reestablish the safety of the grain routes to Athens and to compel some of the allies who had revolted to return to the alliance.
12.1.19. The end of the war
The aggressive Spartan commander Lysander ultimately doomed Athenian hopes in the war by using Persian money to rebuild the Spartan fleet and by ensuring that it was well led. When in 406 he inflicted a defeat on an Athenian fleet at Notion, near Ephesus on the Anatolian coast, Alcibiades, who had not been present but was held to have been reponsible for the safety of the Athenian forces, was forced into exile for the last time. The Athenian fleet nevertheless won a victory off the islands of Arginusai, south of the island of Lesbos, later in 406, but a storm prevented the rescue of the crews of wrecked ships. The Athenian commanders were condemned to death for alleged negligence in a mass trial at Athens that contradicted the normal guarantee of individual trials. Once again the assembly rejected a Spartan offer of peace on the basis of the status quo. Lysander thereupon secured more Persian funds, strengthened the Spartan naval forces still further, and decisively eliminated the Athenian fleet in 405 in a battle at Aegospotami, near Lampsacus on the coast of Anatolia. He subsequently blockaded Athens and finally compelled Athens to surrender in 404 B.C. After twenty-seven years of near-continuous war, the Athenians were at the mercy of their enemies.
12.1.20. The rule of the Thirty Tyrants
The Spartan leaders resisted the demand of their allies the Corinthians, the bitterest enemy of the Athenians, for the utter destruction of Athens. They feared Corinth, with its large fleet and strategic location on the isthmus potentially blocking access to and from the Peloponnese, might grow too strong if Athens were no longer in existence to serve as a counterweight. Instead of ruining Athens, Sparta installed as the conquered city's rulers a collaborationist regime of anti-democratic Athenian aristocrats, who became known as the Thirty Tyrants. These men came from the class of aristocrats that had traditionally despised democracy and admired oligarchy. Brutally suppressing their opposition and stealing shamelessly from people whose only crime was to possess desirable property, these oligarchs embarked on an eight-month-long period of terror in 404-403 B.C. The metic and famous speechwriter-to-be, Lysias, for example, whose father had earlier moved his family from their native Syracuse at the invitation of Pericles, reported that the henchmen of the Thirty seized his brother for execution as a way of stealing the family's valuables. The plunderers even ripped the gold earrings from the ears of his brother's wife in their pursuit of loot. As a result of political divisions among their leadership, the Spartans did not interfere when aprodemocracy resistance movement came to power in Athens after a series of street battles in 403 B.C. To put an end to the internal strife that threatened to tear Athens apart, the newly restored democracy proclaimed an amnesty, the first known in Western history, under which all further charges and official recriminations concering the period of terror in 404-403 B.C. were forbidden. Athens' government was once again a functioning democracy; its financial and military strength, however, was shattered, and its society harbored the memory of a bitter divisiveness that no amnesty could completely dispel.
Thomas R. Martin, An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander