Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 1, Chapter 5 – Second Congress at Lacedaemon – Preparations for War and Diplomatic Skirmishes – Cylon – Pausanias – Themistocles

Pausanias, betrayer of Greece 

Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 1, Chapter 5 – Second Congress at Lacedaemon – Preparations for War and Diplomatic Skirmishes – Cylon – Pausanias – Themistocles

  1. A few years after this, the affairs of Corcyra & Potidaea served as a pretext for war. There was a 50 year period between Xerxes’s retreat & the beginning of the Peloponnesian war. During those 50 years, Athens established an empire & improved their domestic power. The Spartans only opposed the growth briefly. They were mostly silent & very reluctant to engage in war, except out of necessity. At some point, they could no longer ignore the growth of Athens & its encroachment on Spartan alliances. It was clear that war was on the cards. Before definitively deciding it, they checked in with the Oracle of Delphi. The god told them they’d win if they put everything they had into the war.
  2. They had to meet with their allies to put the matter to a vote. Everyone invited to meeting denounced the Athenians. The Corinthians especially railed against the situation in Potidaea:
  3. “We in Corinth can longer accuse the Spartans of neglecting their duty. They brought us all here to vote on a war with Athens. Leaders have a special duty to concern themselves with the common cause. Many of us don’t need any warning about Athens. Cities not in the thick of things don’t have any experience with Athens. But if the inland cities don’t support the coastal cities, their imports & exports with dry up as a result. Usually peace is a good thing but it’s bad to seek peace at the expense of ignoring the inevitability of war & not preparing for success. While the opponent may screw up from time to time, we also need to prepare for success on our side so we don’t need to rely on their stupidity.
  4. “This war was a long time in coming. We have good cause for it & we presented it to the Athenians to no avail. We do have some things going for us. First, we are superior in numbers & military experience – & in obedience in orders. They have been superior on the naval side of things via all the money they’ve pour into their fleet. We may be able to tempt their mercenary sailors with higher wages. The strength is more in number of men than the money. When we can build strength & ability to sail, we can achieve technical & military naval ability. They will never be able to match us on land but we can catch up with them.
  5. “One thing to stop them is to get their allies to revolt against them so as to deprive them of money. This money is used to build military strength & city fortifications – as well as future plans that we don’t even know about yet. War doesn’t really run on rules but more on random chance & keeping one’s temper. Athens is matched up very well against our coalition. So we need to be unanimous against them. If they win, it’s clear we will be enslaved. We would have abandoned our forefathers’ efforts to secure the land by caving to tyrants. This will have been done by lack of sense, courage & vigilance.
  6. “There’s no point in looking to the past to predict the future. We need to step up our efforts & as is our normal course, we can’t get change our habits since they always work for us. Since the god of Delphi has given us a guide on how to win, allies will follow. We will break the treaty that the god has declared to be broken already.
  7. “We must make allies aware that all our interests are the same. So we can’t wait to help Potidaea – the Dorian city besieged by Ionians. We can’t wait any longer for a disaster to come. Vote for war in spite of your fears of war. War is the only way to stabilize our situation. Athens’s tyranny will only grow if we don’t stop it.
  8. The Spartans heard the argument & all the allies voted on the matter. The majority voted for war & within a year, the war would be started.
  9. The year was spent sending envoys to Athens with complaints establishing a pretext for the war. The first complaint was that the Spartans ordered the Athenians to deal with the curse of a goddess. An Athenian Olympic athlete, named Cylon, married the daughter of the tyrant of Megara. At the Temple of Delphi, Cylon was told to seize the Acropolis in Athens. He decided to do it during the Olympic festival in the Peloponnese. He made the attempt by the Athenians came back to stop him by besieging the citadel. Most Athenians left it to the archons to finish the job. Cylon ran out of food & ran to the temple as a suppliant. But those holding the siege refused him this chance & killed him illegally. The killers were dubbed the “Accursed” & were exiled from Athens & were pursued by all Greeks.
  10. The Spartans order the Athenians to deal with this curse. They knew that Pericles had been connected to the accursed through his mother’s side. They thought anything to drive a wedge between him & the city would further the Spartan cause since he was very anti-Sparta.
  11. The Athenians told the Spartans to deal with the curse of Taenarus. The Spartans had once taken Helot suppliants at the temple of Poseidon at Taenarus & killed them. This may have been the cause of an earthquake in Sparta. The Athenians also brought up the Curse of the Goddess of the Brazen House. After Pausanias had been taken back by Sparta, he took a galley from Hermione without permission from the Spartans. He went up to the Hellespont to start some plots in the hopes of leading a takeover of Greece. He was able to make Xerxes beholden to him once the city was freed from the Medes. Pausanias gave him back Persian POWs. He also asked for Xerxes’s daughter in marriage.
  12. Xerxes was pleased with this turn of events. He sent Artabazus to take over for Megabazus & to entrust parts of his army to Pausanias, as well as to cover all of his expenses.
  13. Pausanias had been a Greek here at the Battle of Plataea. Now he was in Byzantium dressed as a Mede, eating like a Mede & working for the Medes. Ultimately, his violent temper & erratic behavior caused allied Greek leadership to shift towards the Athenians.
  14. After Byzantium was besieged, he was expelled by the Athenians. But he didn’t go to Sparta. He went to Colonae drumming up support for the Persians. The ephors of Sparta declared him to be a public enemy. He tried to bribe his way out in Sparta was imprisoned. He elected to stand trial.
  15. The Spartans didn’t have enough proof to convict a member of the royal family. He’d been regent when his cousin, Pleistarchus, Leonidas’s son, was too young to rule. He was under suspicion because of his contempt for the law & for getting too close to the Persians. The Oracle had warned the Spartans about him but they ignored it. He was thought to be working with the Helots, promising them freedom & citizenship if they helped him revolt. The ephors were too reluctant to do anything to him. Only a signed & sealed letter to or from Xerxes would serve as proof of his treason.
  16. The ephors got a hold of just such a letter from its messenger but wanted to hear from Pausanias himself. The messenger went to Taenarus under the guise of a suppliant for forgiveness in this affair. At the temple, he had a hut built with a secret room where he hid some ephors to hear treasonous discussion. The man spoke to Pausanias who asked him why he was a suppliant & if he was still an agent of the king. He told the guy to deliver the letter ASAP.
  17. The ephors heard this & still decided to do nothing for the time being. Eventually they decided to arrest him. As they were about to arrest him, one of the ephors may have tipped him off & he ran to the Brazen House Temple. He was able to get sanctuary in a tiny room. The ephors peeked under the roof to make sure it was actually him in there. Once they were sure it was him, they barricaded him in there. He was just about to die of starvation when they let him out. Before they could do anything with him, he died. The god of Delphi insisted on a royal burial but stated that there would still be a curse for what had happened.
  18. While a finger had been pointed at the Medism of Pausanias, the Spartans told the Athenians that they wanted Themistocles to be treated the same way. He’d already been ostracized & was living in Argos. He was currently being searched for.
  19. Themistocles got wind of the plot against him & ran off to Corcyra. The Corcyraeans didn’t want to give him up because he’d been such a big help against Corinth earlier but they also didn’t want to piss the Athenians & Spartans off. They let him run off to Molossus. He hadn’t been on good terms with its king but made himself a suppliant to the King’s wife. She gave him her child to hold by the hearth. When the king came in, Themistocles begged him to accept him as a suppliant because retaliation was only honorable between equals. Themistocles’s opposition to the king was only business & not personal.
  20. The King told the Spartans he would not give them Themistocles. He sent him to Pydna because he wanted to go see the Persian king. He boarded a ship bound for Ionia but it could only go as far as Naxos, which had been blockaded but an Athenian ship. The crew didn’t know him so he explained who he was & what his situation was. If he wasn’t allowed to pass, he would offer them a bribe. The captain took the bribe & took him to Ephesus. Themistocles landed & headed inland. He sent a letter to the king, Artaxerxes, Xerxes’s son. The letter showed some contrition about the war but emphasized that it was purely out of defense. He also mentioned that he had warned Xerxes that the attack off Salamis was coming. Since the Greeks wanted blood for his friendly gestures to the Persians, he wanted to leave & see Artaxerxes in person.
  21. The king have him one year to make his way to see him – so he could learn the Persian language & customs. He showed up & was welcomed with open arms. Artaxerxes partly welcomed him out of vague plans to try to subjugate Greece again & partly out of respect. Themistocles was one of the best men ever to read a situation for what it was & be able to think outside of the box for a solution. He had good reads on people & circumstances, especially in areas he had had no experience in. The cause of his death was officially declared to be from a disease. But there were rumors that he had poisoned himself. He’d been governor of Asiatic Magnesia. His bones were buried in secret in Attic since it was illegal to bury personae non gratae with honors.
  22. The Spartans had sent their envoy with their demand & got 2 demands back. The next envoy they sent told Athens to raise the siege of Potidaea & respect Egina’s independence. They also said war could be prevented by allowing Megara to use Athenian harbors. Athens was not about to give in & accused the Megarians of farming on consecrated grounds & harboring runaway slaves. The Spartan ultimatum said: “Sparta wants peace & that would require Greek independence.” The Athenians met to deliberate on an answer. Many were pro-war, many wanted to avoid. Pericles spoke:
  23. “My advice is to give no concessions to the Spartans. They’re talking tough now but I don’t know if they mean it. But remember this – the Spartans never once allowed us any legal recourse. Any complaints about Athens have been accompanied by commands & threats of war. They’ve told us to leave Potidaea, give Egina independence & to allow Megara to use our ports. What’s in it for us? Would they really go to war over these? They are treating us like underlings, not equals.
  24. “All threats of war are endangering all of our lives & possessions. Threatening us is not allowing us to run our empire as we wish. & to fight a war & lose would essentially enslave us. We in Athens have a great deal of resources. The Spartans are useless on the seas. They also can’t be away from home for too long because they don’t have any resources other than what they provide for themselves. They may be able to win the first battle, but the longer war goes on, the harder they’ll find it to fight. Their politics are such that their alliance has no direction & usually ends in disputes & inaction. They all want vengeance but each one of them will be reluctant to pay for it. This self-interest will destroy their common cause.
  25. “Eventually, the lack of money will create hard times & delay of action. But war won’t wait for things to get better. We don’t need to worry about them destroying our fortifications or them raising a navy. Their army can’t stop our navy. Plus, if they do form a navy, they’ll have to learn to sail quickly – something that’s not possible.
  26. “Even if they could get money from Olympia or Delphi, the money won’t stop us from drafting sailors & soldiers from our population & that of our allies. I think this is a decent summary of Sparta & Athens at the moment. We have way more resources & naval knowledge to be afraid of ultimatums from them. We also can’t be spooked by the prospect of war.
  27. “As things stand, I’m more afraid of us screwing up than them being smart & skilled. In the meantime, allowing Megara to use our ports will buy us some time & get them off our backs. We won’t start fights but we will resist those start them. Did our fathers resist Persia just to have us get pushed around by our neighbors?”
  28. The Athenians sent a message to Sparta recommending legal arbitration according to the terms of the truce.
  29. All of this came out of the affairs of Epidamnus & Corcyra. While they were still speaking to each other, the Spartans & the Athenians were moving towards war.

Author: knowit68

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