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The Peloponnesian War was a major war in Greece that was mainly fought between Athens and Sparta. The Peloponnesian War was actually two wars, lasting from 460 BCE to 446 BCE and 431 BCE to 404 BCE. Although all wars are considered bad, the first Peloponnesian War was not as bad as the second. While there were a lot of causes of the first war, some actions had a bigger impact than others.
In the 5th century BCE both Sparta and Greece were the major powers in Greece. As both cities kept growing, they would eventually overlap and cause a major conflict. Greece was starting to become afraid of how much Athens’ power was growing, and the fact that they were able to greatly increase the size of their navy because of tributes from allies and its dependents. Also, Athens restarted the project of rebuilding the Long Wall, the fortifications which protected their harbor of Piraeus. One of the few things that delayed Sparta from taking action was the fear that Corinth would side with Athens. After the first war was over, Greece entered a period known as the Thirty Year’s Peace, which didn’t last thirty years, and in reality the hostilities never really ceased.
A major point of the relationship between Athens and Sparta during the Thirty Year’s Peace, which would eventually lead to the second Peloponnesian War, was the city of Poteidaia in 432 BCE. Athens wanted to take timber and minerals from Thrace and demanded that Poteidaia removed their fortifications around the city. After this Poteidaia requested assistance from the Spartans to help defend against Athens and the Spartans gave it. Even after Sparta joined with Poteidaia Athens went through with the plan and laid siege on Thrace.
Soon after Athens also issued the Megarian Decrees, which prevented the city of Megara from using any Athenian or their allies’ ports. Sparta, an ally of Megara asked Athens to repeal the decree since it would cause Megara to be very dependent on Athens because of the fact that they are controlling the trade. Even though Athens refused to repeal the decree, Sparta still didn’t go through with formally declaring war because of the fact that that they were unready to be in another long conflict. The second war started when Thebes attacked Plataea. Platea was an ally of Athens which caused them to come and join the fight. Seeing this, Sparta led the Peloponnesian army into the fight. This was the start of the second Peloponnesian War.
In Greece, the Delian League was formed to unite the many Greek city-states in case of an attack, such as the war with the Persians. The problem with the Delian League was that it did the opposite of what it was supposed to. Sparta, and many Greek city-states outside of Athens resented the complete domination of the Delian League that Athens had. So they formed the Peloponnesian League, which was the rival to the Delian League. The competitive nature of both groups led to harsh relations to see who was more powerful, and what better way to do that than a massive war.
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