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The Peloponnesian War

This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of Ancient Greece.

The Peloponnesian war involved the two largest power centers in Greece:

-Athens backed by its empire

-Sparta with its allies in the Peloponnese League. 

This conflict was important for many reasons: its unprecedented length, the number of cities involved in the fighting and the vast number of battle sites.

For ten years Athens dominated the sea, while Sparta was more successful on land. Pericles persuaded the population of Attica to take refuge behind the fortifications of Athens and Piraeus, giving the Spartans free rein to make periodic raids on Attica’s farmlands. But in 429, an outbreak of the plague killed a third of the population, including Pericles, and led to the failure of his strategy.

In 421, Sparta and Athens signed a peace treaty that was supposed to last for 50 years. However, war broke out again two years later and the Athenians were defeated at Mantineia.

In 415, Pericles’ nephew, Alcibiades, persuaded the Athenians to launch an attack against Syracuse: they would take over Sicily and have access to the island’s wheat and timber resources. This expedition was a disaster for Athens: its navy was destroyed, and its soldiers were massacred or taken prisoner.

During the years that followed, Sparta called on the Persians for financial help, but in return, they had to give up the Greek cities in Asia Minor.

The Athenian navy was finally beaten by Lysander, the Spartan admiral, during the sea battle of Aegospotami in 405 BC.


The following year, the Spartans entered Athens, which was subjected to an occupation force. It had to hand over what remained of its navy and destroy the Long Walls. This signaled the end of Athenian dominance.