Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 5, Chapter 16 – Feeling against Sparta in Peloponnese—League of the Mantineans, Eleans, Argives, and Athenians—Battle of Mantinea and breaking up of the League

  1. The alliance between Athens & Sparta was being disturbed by Corinth & cities in the Peloponnese, especially by allies against Sparta. The Athenians suspected Sparta of not following through on its promises. Fighting stopped for 6 years & 10 months but the armistice wasn’t sustainable abroad & the treaty was broken.
  2. In the interval of peace, it was clear that neither Sparta nor Athens was holding up its end of the treaty. There were violations by both in the Mantinean & Epidaurian Wars. Both sides in Thrace were openly hostile toward one another. The Boetians were only renewing their truces for 10 days at a time. Thucydides was there for the whole war, which would last 27 years. However, he was exiled for 20 years after he had helped in Athens’s surrender after the Battle of Amphipolis. He focused on the differences that arose after the first 10 years, the breach of the treaty & the resumption of the war.
  3. The Corinthians turned to Argos, telling them that Sparta had only made an alliance with Athens to subjugate the other Peloponnesian cities. The duty to protect the others now had fallen to Argos. Any independent & justice-minded city ought to join them in a defensive alliance. Most of those who did, did so purely to spite Sparta.
  4. The Argives designated 12 men to negotiate an alliance with any Greek state, except Athens or Sparta. Argos made this plan because its truce with Sparta was about to expire. It also hoped to gain supremacy in the Peloponnese. Sparta wasn’t doing so well & it was looking even worse to others. But Argos, on the other hand, was flourishing due to the fact that it had remained neutral during past 10 years of war.
  5. The Mantineans were the first to join Argos out of fear of the Spartans. They were afraid that Sparta wouldn’t leave them alone while Mantinea was conquering Arcadia. They turned to Sparta’s historical enemy, Argos, which was also a democracy like they were. This defection agitated the rest of the Peloponnese. Most of them didn’t like that the treaty could only be amended if the Athenians & Spartans agreed to it. They felt this could be used to take away their liberties.
  6. The Spartans saw all of this, & that Corinth was the cause. Corinth was also wanting to join the alliance with Argos. They sent ambassadors to prevent it from happening. They claimed the move would violate the oath they had taken. Corinth avoided stating any of the real reasons it was joining. They said they weren’t going to leave allies in Thrace to be ruled by Athens. They denied violating any oaths. They would not make any commitments to Argos or Corinth until the next Congress held in Corinth.
  7. An Elean ambassador showed up. He made an alliance with Corinth & then went on to Argos to ally with them. Elis was at odds with Sparta & the Lepreans. Lepros had been imposing a tribute on Elis & used the war as an excuse. Sparta took Lepros’s side. Elis thought that was enough to go over to Corinth & Argos. The Boeotians & Megarians refrained from saying anything. Argive democracy didn’t suit their tastes.
  8. At the same time, Athens reduced Scione, killed the men & enslaved the women & children. They gave the land to the Plataeans. They also gave Delos back to the Delians – all by the command of the Oracle. The Phocians & Locrians started fighting. The Corinthians & Argives went to Tegea to pull it away from Sparta. But Tegea wouldn’t do anything against Sparta. This caused the Corinthians to slow down – afraid they’d alienate more potential allies. But they encouraged to get the Boeotians to get the Athenians to agree to a 10-day truce. The Boeotians blaked at the subject of an Argive alliance. They went to Athens but failed to get a truce. Athens said that Corinth already had a truce with them, being an ally of Sparta.
  9. That summer, Sparta marched into Arcadia under Pleistonax against the Parrhasians (who were subjects of Mantinea) invited by a faction there. They also wanted to destroy fortifications & annoy others in Laconia. The Mantineans could do nothing to stop this. The trip was a success for the Spartans, who returned soon afterwards.
  10. A soldier who had served with Brasidas & Clearisdas went home. Sparta freed Helots who had served with Brasidas & settled them at Lepreum. Sparta had been at war with Elis & Spartan POWs were on the point of revolting. They were later restored.
  11. That same summer, the Dians took the city of Thyssus, allies of Athens. Talk between Athens & Sparta continued but both sides began to suspect the other. Sparta was supposed to restore Amphipolis & other towns but hadn’t done so. Spartans also couldn’t convince its Thracians allies to accept the treaty (neither Boeotia nor Corinth). But they promised they could & would. Sparta claimed it would turn on those who refused but never did. On the other hand, Athens was upset at these facts & began to suspect the good faith of Sparta, & so refused to restore Pylos. They regretted giving up their POWs & held on to the other places that were expected to be given up until Sparta fulfilled its end of the bargain. Sparta claimed it had done so. Amphipolis was not Sparta’s to restore. It tried to get Corinth & Boeotia on board with the program & comply with Athens’s demands. But Sparta really wanted Pylos back. After a few meetings, they convinced them to do so. Helots & deserters were settled in Cephallenia.
  12. The Ephors who had made the treaty were no longer in office the next winter. Many successors were opposed to the treaty. Embassies came in from the Confederacy – Athenians, Boeotians & Corinthians also showed up in Sparta. Not much in agreement… 2 ephors met privately with the Boeotians & Corinthians. They told them to form an alliance with Argos & then try to bring in the Spartans afterwards. Sparta had a lot to gain from an alliance with Argos. It wanted to get Boeotia to give them Panactum so they could barter for Pylos or to start fighting with Athens again.
  13. The Boeotians & Corinthians left. On the way home, they ran into 2 high officers from Argos & discussed what was said with the 2 ephors. Once united, the alliance could make peace or war. The Argives seemed amenable to the idea & left with the promise to continue discussions. The Boeotian rulers also liked it & received ambassadors from Argos, only to decide to hammer out details later.
  14. All the prospective allies pledged an oath to make war or peace together, not separately. But Boeotian rulers balked at anything definitive because they feared angering the Spartans, especially by allying with the deserters, the Corinthians.
  15. That winter, Mecyberna took Olynthia, including the Athenian garrison inside it. This happened while Athens & Sparta were discussing keeping or not keeping conquests from the war. Sparta wanted Panactum as a bargaining chip for Pylos. Boeotia wouldn’t do this unless Sparta made a separate alliance with them. Sparta wouldn’t do that because that would be a breach of faith with Athens. But wanting Pylos so badly, the alliance was ended & Panactum was razed.
  16. In those first days of summer, the Argives saw that no ambassador was coming from Boeotia, Panactum was levelled & the separate alliance between Sparta & Boeotia had been made – they began to fear that they were on their own. They figured Boeotia had been convinced by the Spartans to burn Panactum & go into alliance with Athens. Argos was afraid that refusing to renew the treaty with Athens would push all other Greek powers into an alliance against them.
  17. Once the ambassadors arrived in Sparta, they tried to negotiate the terms of the new treaty. The Argives wanted the ability to have independent arbiters in the matter of the Cynurian question – a dispute over a territory containing Thyrea & Anthene, now occupied by Sparta. Sparta wouldn’t even discuss it at first but Argos wore them down on it. In the meantime, there’d be a 50-year truce, with a possibility further on to have verbal or military challenges to it. But the Argive ambassadors went home before any formal agreement had been reached.
  18. At the same time, Spartan ambassadors meant to receive POWs from Boeotia as well as Panactum. The Boeotians received the POWs to hand over to Athens. But they also announced the razing of Panactum under the pretext that they were lodging enemies of Athens. The Athenians were angry at the announcement. They thought that Sparta was dealing with them in bad faith because now that they had heard of Sparta’s separate alliance with Boeotia in spite of promises not do so. Generally, esteems between the 2 was low.
  19. The breach between Sparta & Athens put those against the treaty in motion. Most of all was Alcibiades. He wanted an alliance with Argos. He also felt slighted by his noble family’s status being ignored when the discussions were on-going. He was not consulted in this. He did not trust Sparta. The alliance for Sparta – according to him – was only a means for them to crush Argos. Once they’d dealt with Argos, they’d move on to Athens alone. He sent for Argives to set up alliance with Argos & others, now the moment was ripe.
  20. The Argives received this message & realized Athens was now arguing with allies & a fellow democracy, who just happened to have a strong navy. They sent out ambassadors to Athens about an alliance. Sparta sent another ambassador, well disposed towards Athens, wanting to conclude the alliance with Argos. The alliance was not meant to hurt Athens.
  21. The envoys spoke those points, saying they had full powers to settle disputes. Alcibiades was afraid they might influence the public & the alliance with Argos would be rejected. He told the envoys if they kept their powers a secret, he’d give them Pylos back & settle other issues. He wanted to drive a wedge between them & Nisias, & disgrace them in order to push the alliance with Argos. It worked out & when the envoys made a public appearance, they kept quiet about their powers, which made them look foolish. Alcibiades railed against Sparta & pushed for the alliance with Argos. But an earthquake disrupted any final decisions.
  22. At the assembly the next day, Nicias maintained that Athens & Sparta were still friendly. He wanted to send envoys to Sparta to keep the conversation going. Keeping the war at bay was the best way to build prestige & embarrass enemies. Good relations would keep the peace. The Spartans were very eager to keep peace, & so Nicias thought that would be a way to get Panactum & Amphipolis back intact & to get Sparta not to ally with Boeotia because it would violate their agreement. But the Athenians were hoping that Sparta had made the alliance with Boeotia to give them permission to ally with Argos. They sent envoys down to Sparta saying unless their alliance with Boeotia was off. Athens would feel free to ally with Argos. Sparta refused & the Athenian envoys went home empty-handed. The Athenian government was pissed off & wrote up a treaty with Argos.
  23. The Athenians, Argives, Mantineans & Eleans created a treaty with the following terms:
    1. The signatories are in alliances for 100 years.
    2. Any enemy invading Athens will automatically be at war with the other allies. No one can make peace without the agreement of the others.
    3. Any enemy invading Argos, Mantinea or Elis will be at war with Athens.
    4. No army with hostile intentions can pass through allied territory without all 4 allowing it.
    5. Relieving troops will be maintained by the local city for 30 days. After 30 days, the home city of the troops will pay.
    6. The home city will have command of their own troops. If in a joint operation, command is equally shared.
    7. Each state will swear an oath.
  24. Although new treaties were signer, the old one between Athens & Sparta wasn’t renounced. Corinth was not on board with the new one because it was both an offensive & defensive treaty. It only wanted a defensive treaty. This made them aloof & inclined towards Sparta.
  25. The Spartans were excluded during the Olympic games by the Eleans from going into the temple & therefore, they couldn’t sacrifice or participate in the games. This was because Sparta has refused to pay a fine for moves made during a truce. The Spartans protested but the Eleans wouldn’t listen. Sparta said if it had been aggressive, that would mean that the truce must be off. Anyway, Elis refused until Sparta had paid its fine.
  26. Sparta offered to restore Lepreum or swear to Zeus to pay its fine later. Those were refused & Sparta was excluded from the games. But Elis was afraid that Sparta would force its way into the games. Some Spartans showed up armed. Lichas was beaten by the referees because he had joined in with the Boeotian team to help them cheat & win. He even tried to take the crown for horse racing. The rest of the Spartans kept quiet during the feast. There were discussions afterwards but without any results.
  27. The next winter, a battle took place between the Hercleots, & the Aenianians & co. The Heracleots were defeated & their Spartan commander was killed in battle.
  28. Afterwards, Heraclea was beaten so badly that the Boeotians occupied the town & sent away the bad leader to prevent the Athenians from taking it. Alcibiades went into the Peloponnese with a few heavy infantry & archers, & allies to settle matters with some allies. They got the Patrians to dismantle their walls to start building a fort at Achaean Rhium. The Corinthians & Sicyonians stopped them from doing so.
  29. War broke out between Epidaurs & Argos. Epidaurus didn’t send a monetary sacrifice to Apollo which angered Argos, who was in charge of the temple. Argos & Alcibiades wanted possession of Epidaurus & keep Corinth netural. That would give Athens a shorter route to send reinforcements from Aegina. Argos decided to invade to get the money themselves.
  30. Sparta marched to Leuctra without anyone knowing where they were going, except the commander. But the sacrifices weren’t looking good, so they went home. They asked allies to march out during the holy month of the Dorians. At that time, Argos moved to invade Epidaurus, who’d called in their allies (not everyone came due to the holy month) who arrived.
  31. While the Argives were in Epidaurus, the other allies met in Mantinea. The Corinthians didn’t like the look of things. While Athens & co. were talking about peace, Argos was attacking Epidaurus. They ought to stop in order to negotiate in good faith. The Argives came to the table but when nothing came of the talks, they went back to Epidaurus. The Spartans couldn’t do anything because of the poor sacrifices. Argos carried on ravaging & went home. Athens prepared but went home when Sparta remained inactive.
  32. The next winter, Spartans secretly sent a garrison of 300 to Epidaurus. The Argives complained that the Athenians allowed this to happen in spite of the treaty banning it. The Argives felt let down by Athens. Hostilities between Argos & Epidaurus carried on without any success.
  33. That summer, the Spartans saw the Epidaurians in distress & felt it was time to evil from happening. They decided to go to the battlefield against Argos. Spartan allies came with them – some just to the city of Phlius.
  34. The Argives were aware of the Spartan expedition & marched down the road with their allies. Spartan allies got positions on hills surrounding the Argives.
  35. The Argives fought with the Phlisians & Corinthians. A few deaths happened on both sides. The others didn’t find the Argives where they expected them to be but further down the road. Eventually they moved to box the Argives in. The Argives had no cavalry & the Athenians hadn’t showed up yet. The Argives didn’t see the danger. But Argive general, Thrasylus went to speak with a Spartan general to ask to defer things to an arbitrator & make a peace treaty.
  36. Those Argives who negotiated only did so without the authority of the majority. Both sides agreed to a 4-month true for Argos to fulfill its promises. The Spartans & allies followed it according to the law but blamed the Spartan general for letting an opportunity to crush the Argives slip by. The Argives blamed their general for letting a good opportunity to fight go.
  37. Afterwards 1000 infantry & 300 horsemen showed up from Athens. Argos begged them to leave, as did the Mantineans & Eleans who were still at Argos. Alcibiades told the Argives they couldn’t make a truce according to the treaty & now the Athenians were there, the war should resume. They marched on Orchomenes (except the Argives) & besieged it. They wanted it because it housed hostages from Arcadia held by the Spartans. The locals surrendered on the condition they could join the Athenian alliance.
  38. Orchomenes was now secure. The allies now debated on where next to attack. The Eleans wanted Lepreum & the Mantineans wanted Tegea. Argos & Athens sided with Mantinea. The Eleans went home angry as the other allies made plans for an attack on Tegea.
  39. When the Spartans got home, Agis was heavily blamed for not defeating Argos. But after news of the fall of Orchomenes, the people were very angry. They were ready to burn his house down. But he was able to calm them down by promising to do better. A new law was made that when he was on campaign, he had counsellors whose consent he had to have to continue any actions or decisions he had made.
  40. Sparta received word from Tegea that the allies were going to attack & if Sparta didn’t do something they’d surrender. Sparta sent a force whose size had never been seen before. Sparta ordered the Arcadians to Tegea while they went to Orestheum – sending back 1/6 of their troops to reinforce Tegea. They called in allies from Corinth, Boeotia, Phocis & Locris to go into the area of Mantinea. It was short notice be they showed up as soon as they could to camp out near the temple of Heracles & plunder.
  41. The Argives took a strong defensive position & the Spartans moved in on them. An old man among the Spartans called to Agis, telling him that he was over-compensating for his previous retreat by rushing into an attack. Agis turned his army away through the Tegean territory into the Mantinean territory. They began to divert the river separating the 2 territories. He wanted to make the Argives came down from their hillside position to the plain to fight. The Argives were surprised at the retreat. They began to doubt their general too for letting the Spartans get away without pursuing them once again. This made the generals get the army out of its position to go into the plain to attack the Spartans.
  42. The next day, the Argives & co. got in fighting formation. The Spartans went back to their encampment by the temple of Heracles but ran across the Argives in very close range. They didn’t have long to prepare to fight. Orders went down from Argis to his officers to prepare for the battle.
  43. The Argives & allies lined up on their side & the Spartans lived up on theirs.
  44. The Spartan army looked the largest but it’s hard to say what the exact numbers were. The Spartans were secretive but there were 7 companies. The first rank of all numbered 448. How deep? Maybe 8 ranks deep. That would make 3584 heavy infantry.
  45. The armies each received their own words of encouragement. The Mantineans were fighting for their country & avoiding a return to servitude. The Argives were reviving ancient supremacy, including their share of the Peloponnese. Athens was fighting for honors & victory over the Spartans. The Spartans were singing songs & reminded each other to fight bravely.
  46. The battle began. The Argives rushed out & the Spartans moved forward slowly, in time & in order.
  47. Just before the battle, Agis set upon a manoeuvre. The unarmed sides of each soldier were covered by the soldiers’ neighbors’ shields for better protection. Agis feared his left being out-flanked by the Mantineans but was comfortable with his right side which was strong & could reinforce the left side.
  48. As Agis gave his orders, 2 captains did not move over (they’d be banished for that later for cowardice). While the Spartans were outclassed as far as skill was concerned. But they were superior in courages, especially in-close fighting. The Spartans were broken on one side but the center were able to stand firm & reinforced the crumbling sides.
  49. The Argive army was cut in 2. The Spartans & Tegeans closed in on the Athenians, who were caught between 2 fires, & defeated (it could have been worse if the Athenian cavalry hadn’t been effective). Agis, meanwhile, saw his broken left wing & ordered the rest of his army to support it. The Argives & co. saw parts of their own broken lines, panicked & ran off. The Spartans fought until the enemy was routed & didn’t pursue them for long.
  50. This was the biggest battle that had happened in Greece for a long time. The Spartans held a position around the dead, took their own dead & buried them. A truce allowed all sides to bury the dead. The Argive/Athenian alliance lost 110 while the Spartans lost 300.
  51. The other Spartan king, Pleistonax went out with a reinforcement of old & young men. They got to Tegea, they heard of the victory & went home. The Spartans sent late-comers home too. They had previously been seen as cowardly or disorganized (especially after Pylos), but this battle put those impressions to bed. The day before the battle, the Epidaurians invaded the deserted Argive territory & cut off parts of the Argive army. After the battle, 3000 Eleans, 1000 Athenians marched on Epidaurus. While the Spartans were keeping the Carne, the Athenians helped finish the wall in the city & left a garrison.
  52. Once the Carnean holidays were over, the Spartans went to Tegea & sent proposals to Argos. There was a party in Tegea wanted to overthrow the democracy. Their goal was to set up a treaty with Sparta & later on an alliance with them. Lichas went to Argos with 2 proposals to regulate conditions of war & peace.
  53. The accept proposal was this…
    1. Arogs will restore the Orchomenian children & the Maenalians their men & resotre the men they had in Mantinea to Sparta.
    2. Argos will evacuate & destroy the fortifications there is Athens refuses, they’ll be enemies of Argos & Sparta.
    3. If the Spartans have child hostages, they’ll hostages, they’ll return them.
    4. As far as offering to the god, the Argives will impose an oath to it on Epidaurus.
    5. All cities in the Peloponnese will be independent no matter the size.
    6. If powers outside the Peloponnese invade, the Peloponnesian cities will unite to repel them.
    7. All allies of Sparta outside the Peloponnese will be on equal footing with Sparta. Allies of Argos will be on equal footing with it.
    8. If allies approve of the treaty, they can send it home to be considered.
  54. The Argives accepted the proposal & the Spartan army went home from Tegea. The Argives were convinced to abandon their alliance with Mantinea, Elis & Athens – & to join an alliance with Sparta on terms:
  55. Sparta & Argos agree to an alliance for 50 years.
    1. All disputes will be decided by a fair & impartial arbitration.
    2. The other Peloponnesian cities may be included in this as sovereign & independent. If so, they have disputes, they will also be fairly & independently arbitrated.
    3. All Spartan allies outside the Peloponnese & all Argive allies outside the Peloponnese will be on equal footing with them.
    4. If a common expedition is necessary, the Spartans & Argives will consult on it.
    5. If any of the cities have a question on borders, it must be settled. A 3rd city will be referred to. Private citizens will have disputes decided by the law.
  56. Once the alliance was set, each party released everything acquired by war or otherwise. They agreed that no one would contact Athens until they evacuated their forts & left the Peloponnese. They would only declare war jointly, Argos & Sparta sent envoys to Thrace & Perdiccas to join their league. Perdiccas didn’t completely abandon Athens even though he wanted to. Argos asked Athens to leave Epidaurus. Athens sent Demosthenes to bring back the garrisoned troops. Afterwards, Athens signed a treaty with Epidaurus.
  57. After Argos defected to the Spartans, Mantinea felt powerless & went to deal with Sparta, & gave up sovereignty of its towns. Argos & Sparta sent armies to Sicyon to make its government more oligarchical than before. They then went to put down democracy out Argos & set up an oligarchy sympathetic to Sparta.
  58. The next summer, people in Athos revolted from Athens to the Chalcideans & Sparta settled affairs in Achaea. A popular group in Argos grew in courage & boldness, & waited for the Gymnopaedic festival in Sparta & fell upon the oligarchs. After a fight, the commons won, killing some & banishing others. Sparta ignored any calls for help for a while & eventually marched to Argo. The commoners of Argos courted a renewal of alliance with Athens. They built a long wall to the sea to avoid a land blockade to import by sea. All Argives set out to build the wall.
  59. The following winter, the Spartans marched against Argos. Agis was in command. The intelligence they had amounting to nothing. They took down the walls being built. After taking Argive towns & killing all freemen, they dispersed the rest of the men to other cities. Argos plundered Phlius & plundered it for harboring exiles. Athenians blockaded Macedonia because it sided with Argos & Sparta. Perdiccas was declared an enemy because his betrayal.

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