Sparta and Peloponnesian League (red) at the outset of the Peloponnesian War around 431 BC
Sparta and Peloponnesian League (red) at the outset of the Peloponnesian War around 431 BC

The Peloponnesian League was an alliance of ancient Greek city-states, dominated by Sparta and centered on the Peloponnesus, which lasted from c.550 to 366 BC. It is known mainly for being one of the two rivals in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), against the Delian League, which was dominated by Athens.

Name

The Peloponnesian League is the modern name given to the Spartan system of alliances, but it is inaccurate because there were members outside the Peloponnese, and it was not really a league. The ancient name of the League was "the Lacedemonians and their allies".[1] This is misleading as well, because Sparta could have allies outside of the Peloponnesian League.[2]

History

In its early history, Sparta expanded by conquering Laconia and Messenia and reducing their population into slavery (as helots), but the subjugation of Tegea on its northern border failed at the battle of the Fetters.[3] Following this defeat, Spartan adopted a diplomatic strategy, known as the "bones policy", by appropriating the relics of mythical heroes worshipped in the Peloponnese, starting with Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, whose bones were transferred from Tegea to Sparta.[4][5] This new diplomacy was likely sponsored by Chilon, ephor c.556, who therefore enabled Sparta to present itself as the natural successor of the mythical Achaean kingdom of Agamemnon as described by Homer.[6][7][8] Tegea then signed an alliance treaty with Sparta, which became the starting point of the subsequent Peloponnesian League.[9]

Tegea was pushed towards Sparta by its fear of Argos, its eastern neighbour. For the same reason, all the other neighbours of Argos rapidly concluded treaties with Sparta on the Tegean model: Mantinea, Phlieus, Corinth, Epidaurus and the other cities of Argolis.[10][11] They were followed by Elis, the large city of the western Peloponnesus, and all the Arcadian communities of central Peloponnesus. By 540s, Sparta had concluded alliances with all the Peloponnesian cities, apart from Argos and Achaean cities on the northern shore.[12]

A major change in the organisation of the League took place c.506, when the Spartan king Cleomenes I attempted to capture Athens and place at its head his friend Isagoras as tyrant or as member of an oligarchy. A full army of the League was called and marched on Athens, but the Corinthians returned home when they discovered the purpose of the expedition, also encouraged by the other king Demaratus, who opposed Cleomenes. The campaign therefore failed, and as a result Sparta had to concede the creation of a congress of the League, where members could vote on war and peace.[13] It means that before that time, Sparta could call its allies at will without informing them of the purposes of the war.[14]

The main reason for the allies to remain within the League, despite their loss of autonomy, was the support of oligarchy by Sparta. The oligarchs that ruled most of the League members could rely on the support of Sparta against democrats. Moreover, many of them had friendship ties with Spartan citizens, or even the kings. The Spartan king Agesilaus II (r.c.400–c.360) was especially known for his guest-friendships (xenia) among his allies. Thanks to these friendships, leading oligarchs could send their sons to the agoge, the Spartan education system, where they became trophimoi xenoi, and further developed their attachement to Sparta.[15]

League organization

There was no collective treaty between all the members of the League. As hegemon (leader of the League), Sparta concluded a separate treaty with each member, which therefore entered the League upon its conclusion. Each member swore the same oath with Sparta: "to have the same friends and enemies as the Spartans, and to follow them withersoever they may lead". League members were consequently not bound together, only to Sparta, and could even wage war on each other.[16][17] However, in 378 a League decision forbade internal wars if the League was operating an army outside of the Peloponnese, but perhaps this disposition had already been in place earlier and was a part of the constitution of the League.[18] L. H. Jefery summarises the constitution of the League as "a circle centred on Sparta, with the spokes of a wheel but not necessarily with the added cross-links of a web."[19]

The League treaties contained defensive obligations: Sparta had to assist an ally attacked by a non-League member, and conversely the allies had to help Sparta in case of an attack.[15] The famous Spartan fear of the helots is shown by a special clause providing that allies had to assist Sparta in case of a slave-revolt, which was activated in the 460s during the Third Messenian War.[20] The treaties between Sparta and the allies were also permanent; secession was not allowed. Several secessions did occur, but as a result of a breach of a treaty. Seceding members usually pointed out a breach of the treaties from Sparta to leave.[21] The procedure to admit new members is not known. Sparta could either decide alone, or submit the approval to their allies in the League congress.[22]

After the Spartan concession of c.506, the Peloponnesian League became a bicameral organisation, with two assemblies: the Spartan ecclesia and the congress of the League, both chaired by an ephor.[23] Spartan citizens first debated the matter between them in the ecclesia. If a positive vote was reached in the ecclesia, the congress of the League was called, where the allies debated and voted on Sparta's proposal.[24] Allies' votes were worth exactly the same in the League congress,[25] but Sparta likely did not participate in the vote, since its decision was already made by the ecclesia.[26] League members were bound by the result of the League congress even if they had voted against it.[27] Approval of the congress was necessary to declare a League war or make peace.[27]

Several instances of allies rejecting Sparta's proposals in the congress are known. The first of them took place c.504, when Sparta summoned what was perhaps the first congress of the League in order to attack Athens and install Hippias as tyrant, but the allies led by Corinth unanimously rejected it. In 440, Sparta wanted to renew war against Athens, but the allies led by Corinth refused to go to war.[28] These events show the great influence exercised by Corinth within the League, thanks to its strategic position on the Isthmus.[25] Moreover, the Corinthians often opposed Sparta or forced its hand, such as in 421, when they refused to swear the oath required by the Peace of Nicias with Athens in the middle of the Peloponnesian War. Their reason was that they would have infringed on some separate treaties concluded with their Thracian allies.[29] In 396, they might have refused to follow Sparta because one of their temples burnt, which was seen as bad omen.[30] The Corinthians seems to have fully exploited exemptions granted when "gods and heroes" were involved in opposition to League orders. Indeed, as most international decisions were bound by sacred oaths and the Spartans notoriously devout, using religious motives was a good way to avoid League obligations.[31][25] Other League members are known to have used the same tricks, such as Phlious, which did not participate to the battle of Nemea in 394 because of an opportune sacred truce.[30]

In war, Sparta had exclusive command of the League army. One of the kings was usually commander-in-chief (it could also be a regent); Spartan officers named xenagoi supervised the levy among the allies and decided how much troops each ally should contribute.[22][25]

Later history

Tensions between the two Leagues were key in the outbreak of the First Peloponnesian War in 460 BC. The conflict between two Peloponnesian League members, Corinth and Megara, specifically the latter's defection to the Athenians due to perceived[citation needed] neglect by the Spartans, was a key factor in the outbreak of hostilities between the two Leagues.[32][33] That war ended with the reintegration of Megara into the League. The two Leagues eventually came into conflict again with each other in the Peloponnesian War. Under Spartan leadership, the League defeated Athens and its allies in 404 BC.

Following the disastrous Spartan defeat by Thebes at the Battle of Leuktra in 371 BC, Elis and the Arcadian states seized the opportunity to throw off the yoke of Spartan hegemony; the Arcadians formed themselves into their own league to preserve their independence. The size of the Peloponnesian League was then further reduced by the Theban liberation of Messenia from Spartan control in 369 BC. The states of the north-eastern Peloponnese, including Corinth, Sicyon and Epidauros, adhered to their Spartan allegiance, but as the war continued in the 360s BC, many joined the Thebans or took a neutral position, though Elis and some of the Arcadian states realigned themselves with Sparta. In 338 BC, the Peloponnesian League was disbanded when Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, formed the League of Corinth after defeating Thebes and Athens, incorporating all the Peloponnesian states except Sparta.

List of members

Original members (before c.504 BC)

Later additions (after c.504 BC)

List of wars of the Peloponnesian League

References

  1. ^ Cartledge, Agesilaos, p. 9.
  2. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 102–105.
  3. ^ Cartledge, Sparta and Lakonia, p. 118.
  4. ^ Forrest, History of Sparta, pp. 75, 76.
  5. ^ Cartledge, Sparta and Lakonia, pp. 119, 120, summarises this shift as "‘Helotization’ to diplomatic subordination".
  6. ^ Huxley, Early Sparta, pp. 69; Chilon may have been of Achaean descent, p. 138 (note 496).
  7. ^ Ste. Croix, "Herodotus and King Cleomenes", pp. 96, 97.
  8. ^ Cartledge, Sparta and Lakonia, p. 120
  9. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 97.
  10. ^ a b Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 333.
  11. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, pp. 606, 607, 613.
  12. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 339.
  13. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 109.
  14. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 109, 110.
  15. ^ a b Cartledge, Agesilaos, p. 10.
  16. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 106, 107.
  17. ^ Cartledge, Agesilaos, pp. 9, 10.
  18. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 106, 120, 121.
  19. ^ L. H. Jefery, "Greece before the Persian Invasion", in Boardman et al., Cambridge Ancient History, vol. IV, p. 352.
  20. ^ Cartledge, Agesilaos, p. 13.
  21. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 107, 108.
  22. ^ a b Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 112.
  23. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 304.
  24. ^ Cartledge, Agesilaos, pp. 11, 12.
  25. ^ a b c d Cartledge, Agesilaos, p. 12.
  26. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 110–112.
  27. ^ a b Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 104.
  28. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 116, 117.
  29. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 119.
  30. ^ a b Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 120.
  31. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 118, 119.
  32. ^ Kagan, Donald (2005). The Peloponnesian War : Athens and Sparta in savage conflict, 431-404 BC. London. p. 16. ISBN 0-00-711506-7. OCLC 60370044.
  33. ^ Thucydides 1.103
  34. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 96, 97.
  35. ^ Salmon, Wealthy Corinth, p. 240.
  36. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 466.
  37. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 97 (note 22).
  38. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 469.
  39. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, pp. 606, 607.
  40. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 613.
  41. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, pp. 608, 609.
  42. ^ L. H. Jefery, "Greece before the Persian Invasion", in Boardman et al., Cambridge Ancient History, vol. IV, p. 360.
  43. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 100, 187, 188, 212.
  44. ^ Salmon, Wealthy Corinth, p. 262.
  45. ^ a b c d Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 123.
  46. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 463.
  47. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 333–335.
  48. ^ a b c Salmon, Wealthy Corinth, p. 265.
  49. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 621, however writes that "Subsequent Aiginetan membership in the Peloponnesian League is unlikely."
  50. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 616.
  51. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 610, mention the possibility that Hermione left instead in c.425.
  52. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 610.
  53. ^ Capreedy, "A League within a League", pp. 491–493.
  54. ^ a b Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 495.
  55. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 490.
  56. ^ Capreedy, "A League within a League", pp. 493–496.
  57. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, pp. 490, 542.
  58. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, pp. 518, 519.
  59. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 524.
  60. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 612.
  61. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 615.
  62. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 123, 124, 335–337.
  63. ^ a b Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 124, 338.
  64. ^ a b Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 124.
  65. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, p. 107.
  66. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 474.
  67. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 484.
  68. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 478.
  69. ^ Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian War, pp. 145, 146.
  70. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 627.
  71. ^ Hansen & Nielsen (eds.), Inventory, p. 637.
  72. ^ L. H. Jefery, "Greece before the Persian Invasion", in Boardman et al., Cambridge Ancient History, vol. IV, pp. 351, 357.
  73. ^ D. M. Lewis, "The Tyranny of the Pisistradidae", in Boardman et al., Cambridge Ancient History, vol. IV, p. 301.
  74. ^ Cartledge, Sparta and Lakonia, p. 126.
  75. ^ L. H. Jefery, "Greece before the Persian Invasion", in Boardman et al., Cambridge Ancient History, vol. IV, pp. 360, 361.

Bibliography