Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 5, Chapter 15 – Tenth Year of the War—Death of Cleon and Brasidas—Peace of Nicias

Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 5, Chapter 15 – Tenth Year of the War—Death of Cleon and Brasidas—Peace of Nicias

  1. The truce lasted until after the Pythian Games. The Athenians expelled the Delians from Delos thinking they’d been polluted by an old offense – likely due to the removal of the dead from graves. They went to Atramyttium in Asia.
  2. Cleon convinced the Athenians to let him sail to Thrace with 1200 heavy infantry, 300 horses, many allies & 30 ships. They landed at the besieged city of Scione, taking heavy infantry to Torone after learning that Brasidas wasn’t there & its garrison couldn’t withstand an attack. He advanced on the town & took down a wall between it & its suburb to make it one city.
  3. Spartan commander, Pasitelidas, rushed to repel the Athenian attack but seeing the numbers of troops & the ships going into the harbor, & fearing that he’d be taken prisoner, he ran out of the town. The Athenians had taken Torone & rushed over the city wall killing many Peloponnesians & enslaving the rest. Brasidas move to relieve Torone but once he saw it had fallen, he retreated. [At the same time, Panactum was being taken by Boetians by treachery.] Cleon put up a garrison in Torone & headed off to Amphipolis.
  4. Athens sent ambassador Phaeax to Italy & Sicily. The Leontines, after the Athenians had left, had plans to redivide the land. But the rich saw it coming & expelled the commons – scattering them all over. After a while, the rich abandoned & destroyed the city & moved to Syracuse where they became citizens. Later they were joined by the Leontini commoners. The Athenians sent Phaeax, brought Camarina & Agrigentum into a coalition.
  5. On his way home, Phaeax brought in Locrian settlers exiled from Messina who wanted a treaty with Athens. They had been the only Sicilians who hadn’t made peace with Athens. But they had to due to their war with the Hipponians & Medmaeans. Phaeax went home to Athens.
  6. Meanwhile, Athenian Cleon made Eion his base & made an unsuccessful attack on Stagius, & took Galepsus. He sent envoys to Perdiccas to bring him & his army. He sent others to Thrace to bring mercenaries while he waited in Eion. Spartan Brasidas set himself up in an observational position on Cerdylium to be able to see Cleon’s every move. Brasidas was expecting Cleon to attack Amphipolis with his larger force. He didn’t, so Brasidas divided his army between Cerdylium & Amphipolis to wait for Cleon to move.
  7. Cleon’s soldiers were tired of waiting & began to rumble about his incompetence. He caved to their words & started to move the army. His head had been big from the success at Pylos & didn’t expect any fighting anyway. He wanted to use a hill as an observation post. He was waiting for reinforcements & not aiming for victory. He put his army on a hill in front – never expecting a fight – a massive mistake not bringing war machines with him & taking the city defenseless.
  8. Brasidas saw this & descended from Cerdylium & went into Amphipolis. He didn’t want a direct fight with the Athenians since his troops weren’t up to the task. He wanted to use a stratagem. He wanted to use the horses to attack while the Athenians were climbing the hill. He had to do this while their backs were turned & before reinforcements had arrived.
  9. Brasidas spoke to his troops – “Sparta owes its freedom to its valor. Our plan is to attack with part of the army instead of the whole. Don’t see this as lack of courage. But the enemy is disrespecting our courage by making obvious errors. Good soldiers exploit the enemy’s mistakes. Our strategems exploit their mistakes without exposing the whole army to major risks. Their spirit is already low. If we take them by surprise, it will cause them to panic. Remember, today will either make us free men or slaves of the Athenians.”
  10. After the speech, Brasidas prepared a sally (sudden exit from a besieged city) & put his underling, Clearidas at the Thracian gates for support. The Athenians could see every move & word got to Cleon that the whole of the Peloponnesian force was now in the city preparing to make a sally. He did not want fight before reinforcements arrived. So, he ordered a retreat. Because he felt like it was moving too slowly, he joined in it, wheeling the left wing towards Eion. However, they turned the unarmed side toward the enemy. Brasidas saw an opportunity to strike & ordered an attack on the Athenians. Clearidas was also ordered to attack. It caused such a panic that the Athenians ran off chaotically up the hill. However, both Cleon & Brasidas died in the confusion.
  11. The Spartans buried Brasidas & he was hailed as a hero for preserving the city of Amphipolis. They exchanged the dead with the Athenians. The Athenians, being thoroughly beaten sailed home.
  12. 3 Spartans led 900 reinforcement troops to Thrace to help the campaign in the region.
  13. But once they had arrived they learned that the battle had taken place. Both generals were dead & the Athenians had gone home. They felt they were needed in the area & went home themselves. There was a real push for peace on both sides.
  14. After the battle & the retreat of the 900 reinforcements, both sides wanted to begin peace talks. Athens began to lose confidence in the loyalty of its allies. Sparta was disillusioned with the previous notion that the war would be won in a couple of years. Sparta was also losing control of its allies. Their truce with Argos was about to expire & Argos wasn’t going to renew it without the return of Cynuria. Sparta couldn’t fight both Argos & Athens at the same time. They even feared losing Peloponnesian cities to Athens.
  15. These conditions made both sides look for a peace treaty. Sparta was the more eager of it. Spartan POWs were from noble families who wanted to push for peace with Athens in order to get them returned. Athens didn’t want to negotiate their return but war fatigue was setting in & this was a condition of peace. They agreed to an initial 1-year truce.
  16. Incidentally, Cleon & Brasidas were the biggest opponents of the peace. With them both dead now, the stage was clear for new leaders who favored peace. Now, Pleistoanax was king of Sparta & Nicias was the general of Athens. Nicias was pushing to get himself out of trouble & give himself a good name. This peace accord seemed to be the ticket. Pleistoanax made enemies after being restored to the Spartan throne after 19 years of living in exile.
  17. Both sides realized once peace was in the works, the disasters would stop. The Spartans sent forces near Attica to spur the Athenians into talking. Finally, a peace agreement was reached, making each side restore its conquests but Athens got to keep Nisaea. Spartan allies were on board, except the Boethians, Corinthians, Eleans & Megarians.
  18. Terms of the Peace:
    1. With respect to national temples, there’ll be free passage over land & sea to sacrifice, travel, consult & attend the oracle, games, etc.
    2. The Temple of Delphi & the city will be neutral with its own state, laws, taxes, magistrates & judges.
    3. The treaty will last 50 years.
    4. Fighting is unlawful. Any problems should be dealt with through legal means.
    5. The Spartans will give back Amphipolis to Athens. Athens may not carry out any war on the people. Other cities in the area will be neutral. But if they want to join an alliance, they are free to do so.
    6. Athens will give back Coryphasium, Cythera, Methana, Pteleum & Atalanta to Sparta. All Spartan POWs will be sent home.
    7. The Spartans will give back Athenian POWs.
    8. Athens can do what it likes with Scione, Torone & Sermylium.
    9. Both sides will swear an oath to abide by the terms of the treaty.
    10. Anything left out of the treaty should be judged on whether or not it’s consistent with this treaty.
  19. The treaty began on the 27th day of Artemisium & oaths were sworn by all the big wigs.
  20. The treaty was made in the spring, after the festival of Dionysius – almost exactly 10 years after the war began.
  21. The Spartans freed the POWs & sent messengers to Thrace to order Clearidas to hand over Amphipolis & accept the treaty. But Clearidas & others in Thrace didn’t like the treaty & refused to obey. Clearidas sailed to Sparta to explain himself. He was convinced to obey & went back to comply with the orders.
  22. Those who had refused to accept the treaty were asked to adopt it. Many continued to refuse. They wanted a fairer deal. Now the Spartans decided to form an alliance with the Athenians in anticipation of Argos getting belligerent.
  23. They made new terms for an alliance:
    1. Athens & Sparta will be allies for 50 years.
    2. If anyone invades Sparta, Athens will fight the attacker.
    3. If anyone invades Athens, Sparta will fight the attacker.
    4. If the Spartan slave population revolts, Athens will help put it down.
    5. Both sides will swear to this treaty. If something needs to be added or taken out, both sides will do so by agreement.
  24. A bunch of big wigs swore an oath over this treaty. Athens returned POWs afterwards.

Author: knowit68

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