Pelopponnesian War
Greek Against Greek: Athens vs. Sparta

Assignments to hand in: City-State Flag    &    Critical Thinking Questions in Issue Handouts

Step 1: Introduction - Look at the pictures below and read the text for a background on this assignment.

Greek City-States Map 431 B.C.E.

Athens: Athens is located in south-central Greece, on the peninsula landmass called Attica. It sits on a large plain surrounded by mountains, and lies about four miles from the Aegean Sea. Because of Athens' proximity to the sea, it developed strong trade relationships with other city-states, allowing it to become powerful and prosperous. During the fifth century B.C.E., Athens secured its powerful trade status by constructing the Long Walls. These two parallel walls stretched for four miles, connecting Athens with its port city Piraeus, and thus ensuring the safe transport of trade goods inland from the coast. Another major Athenian economic asset was silver - obtained from the silver mine of Mt. Laurium - which helped finance the Athenians' social and military programs.
By the early 500s B.C.E., Athens had become the most important Greek city-state, primarily for two reasons: its democratic form of government, and its strong encouragement of the arts. Most free male Athenian citizens could vote and hold public office. Talented people from throughout Greece came to Athens to learn and study in various artistic fields. the best artists, architects, and writers came together in this unique, cosmopolitan city that became noted for its beauty and splendor.
In the early fifth century B.C.E., invasions from the Persian Empire severely threatened Athens' independence and prosperity. After defeating the Persians in 479 B.C.E., Athens put together an alliance - called the Delian League - of numerous Greek city-states that would serve as a mutual defense pact against future Persian aggression. Over time, as Athens grew more powerful, it became the dominant member of the alliance. League members paid an annual tribute to Athens in exchange for Athenian protection. Eventually, Athens used these resources to crate a naval empire in the Aegean Sea and to fight its major enemy during the latter part of the fifth century B.C.E. - Sparta.

Sparta: The city-state of Sparta was located in the southeastern part of the Greek region known as the Peloponnesus. The city sat on the northern tip of a plain, between high mountain regions to the east and west, and about 25 miles from the sea. Sparta's location on a fertile and rain-nourished plain enabled it to develop a strong farming economy. Though based on fertile land, this farming economy was also a product of cheap forced labor. A large class of serfs called helots (pronounced HEH-lots) farmed the land and allowed the free Spartans to concentrate their efforts on other pursuits.
Sparta rose as a powerful city-state on the basis of its strong and stable oligarchic government and its militaristic lifestyle. All male citizens were required to perform full-time military service. This well-trained, full-time army enabled Sparta to be the dominant military power in southern Greece for several hundred years. In addition, it helped ensure that the helots would not rebel against the Spartans. In contrast to Athenian society, the Spartans' lifestyle was rigid and anti-intellectual. Spartans scorned wealth, splendor, and the arts: even during the height of their prosperity, they continued to build only wooden houses, and erected very few public monuments.
During the sixth century B.C.E., Sparta became the most prominent and powerful city on the Peloponnesus. Around 550 the Spartans became leaders of an alliance of Greek city-states that created a powerful, united force against all its enemies. The alliance - called the Peloponnesian League - helped Athens defeat Persia during the Persian Wars (490-479 B.C.E.). However, Athens' power and prestige continued to rise throughout the fifth century B.C.E. Sparta began to fear the spread of Athenian democracy to other city-states, which in turn might encourage Sparta's own helot class to rebel against the Spartan government. Thus, the Peloponnesian League began to seek ways to curb Athenian influence.

Step 2: Choose a City-State and Make a Flag - Read the following Background Information on Neutral City-States, choose one and make a flag on a blank piece of paper for it. Use the city-state's characteristics to draw your flag. Consider the example below:

Example of possible Spartan flag:
Example of Spartan City-State Flag

Step 3: Choosing Allegiance - Below are four different issues of Athenian and Spartan culture. Read the Handout and answer the Critical Thinking Questions at the bottom for each of them (On a separate lined piece of paper.). Look at the corresponding pictures and listen to the CD Tracks.

Issue Athens Sparta
Athens Agora with Acropolis in background
Engraving of the Agora, or marketplace, in Athens. The Acropolis is in the background.
CD Track
Agora in Sparta Engraving of the Agora, or market place, in Sparta.
CD Track
Quality of Life
Architect working with Pericles in Athens construction
Engraving of an architect showing a blueprint to Pericles, as construction is busily underway in Athens.
CD Track
Spartans exercising in the dromos
Engraving of Spartans exercising in the dromos, or physical training court, in Sparta.
CD Track
Treatment of
Athenian women at home
Engraving of Athenian women at home washing clothes, caring for children, and embroidering fabric.
CD Track
Spartan women mixing with men in public
Painting of Spartan women mixing with men in public. The women in the foreground holds her baby while a man tries to determine whether it is healthy.
CD Track
Trade and Prosperity
Athenian harbor crowded with trade ships
Engraving of the Athenian harbor crowded with trade ships. Athens can be seen in the background.
CD Track
Sparta in agricultural valley
Engraving of Sparta situated in an agricultural valley.
CD Track

Step 4: Conclusion - The Peloponnesian War

Spartans forcing the Athenians to tear down the Long Wall During the mid-fifth century B.C.E., the rivalry between Athens and Sparta intensified. In an effort to curb the rise of Athenian influence, Sparta issued Athens an ultimatum: Athens had to free all the cities under its control or face a war. Athens refused, and in the year 431 B.C.E., the war began.
The war between Athens and Sparta - called the Peloponnesian War - lasted for 27 years. The war was primarily fought between the large forces of the Spartan army and the powerful Athenian naval fleet. When the Spartan army invaded the Athenian countryside in the second year of the war, most of the Athenian population gathered inside the city's walls for protection. It was then that a terrible plague struck Athens, spreading quickly through the overcrowded city. Before it was over, one of every four Athenians had died.
The war continued for 26 more years, with both sides winning and losing many battles and suffering many casualties. Finally, the Persians provided Sparta with funds to build a stronger fleet, and this helped the Spartans seal the Athenian's fate. The Persians hoped their assistance would prolong the war and result in the destruction of key Greek city-states. In 404 B.C.E., with much of its fleet destroyed and its population facing starvation, Athens surrendered. Victorious, Sparta forced the Athenians to tear down the walls that surrounded their city.
After the war, Sparta ruled all of Greece for a short time. Then, in the early 300s B.C.E., the city-state of Thebes - aided by Persia - emerged as the leader of Greece. However, the other Greek city-states refused to accept Theban leadership, and fighting continued. By the mid 300s, the weakened Greek city-states were vulnerable to conquest from an emerging power to the north: the kingdom of Macedonia, led by King Philip II. In 338 B.C.E., Philip conquered Greece and created one kingdom.

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