The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War
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The first volume of Donald Kagan's acclaimed four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War offers a new evaluation of the origins and causes of the conflict, based on evidence produced by modern scholarship and on a careful reconsideration of the ancient texts. He focuses his study on the question: Was the war inevitable, or could it have been avoided?
Kagan takes issue with Thucydides' view that the war was inevitable, that the rise of the Athenian Empire in a world with an existing rival power made a clash between the two a certainty. Asserting instead that the origin of the war "cannot, without serious distortion, be treated in isolation from the internal history of the states involved," Kagan traces the connections between domestic politics, constitutional organization, and foreign affairs. He further examines the evidence to see what decisions were made that led to war, at each point asking whether a different decision would have been possible.
others are made more likely. But men can make decisions that alter the course of events. It is the difficult but necessary task of the historian to distinguish between relatively open choices and those that are only apparent. When Thucydides suggests that the Peloponnesian War was inevitable, he is, of course, correct. That is, at some point in time before the clash of arms, there was no way to alter the course leading to war. What makes the assertion of inevitability challenging and important is
social, and economic. This enraged the other settlers and led to the slaughter and expulsion of the Sybarites. 14 10 Ehrenberg thinks that the Athenian invitation to the Peloponnesians to join them in founding the colony belongs to 446/ 5, but he admits that this is not certain (AlP, LXIX , 153 and note 18). 11 ATL, III, 299-300. 12 See Appendix F. 13 Strabo p. 263, 6. I. 13. 14 12. II. 1-2. Diodorus places these events after the foundation of Thurii, but his chronology throughout is
muddled. Strabo's account speaks only of Sybaris and Sybarites. He tells a clear and simple story that is preferable. 157 THE OUTBREAK OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR These events took place after the signing of the Thirty Years' Peace in the spring of 445 . We must allow at least a year for the development of the strife and the final clash, so that by the spring or summer of 444, possibly a bit later, the word of what had happened must have reached Athens. It is generally agreed that some time in
indeed than any other geographical group. The upshot of the affair was that the Thurians sent to Delphi to ask, "Who shall be called the founder of the city?" The god replied that he himself should be considered the founder. That settled the matter. Thereafter Apollo was declared the founder of Thurii, and peace was restored. "The Panhellenic character of the colony was made clear, 32 The date is established by Diodorus (12. 35) and has not been challenged so far as I know. It is accepted both by
and 308; B. D. Meritt, AJA, XXIX (1925), 292 ff.; F. E. Adcock, CAH, V, 172. 179 THE OUTBREAK OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR reached only through the Hellespont and the Bosporus. Egypt was again safely under Persian rule and not available for Athenian use; North Africa was a Carthaginian preserve. Sicily and southern Italy were open to Athenian trade, but they were a long way off and very much under Peloponnesian influence. Thus, the Hellespontine route to the Black Sea was the life line of Athens.