They could see no future for themselves except to suffer what they had made others suffer…

image‘…the ambassadors announced the terms under which the Spartans would make peace. Theramenes addressed the the Athenians, saying that they had no choice but to obey the Spartans and accept their terms, including taking down the walls of the city and the Piraeus. Some people spoke in opposition, but many more approved, and in the end they voted to accept the peace. After this, Lysander sailed into the harbour of the Piraeus, and the exiles returned. With great zeal they dismantled the walls, to the accompaniment of music provided by flute girls, and they believed that that day would be the beginning of freedom for all of Greece.’

A quote from Xenophon’s Hellenica (2.2.22-23), detailing the final terms the Spartans imposed on a overwhelmed Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War.  Although spared complete annihilation here, Athens in 404 BC was thoroughly defeated and the future of this once-great – but now broken – city was far from certain.

And yet, the ancient Athenians endured and staged a remarkable recovery. Certainly by the King’s Peace of 387-6, which marked the end of the Corinthian, the city was once more a force to be reckoned with. With her constitution, fortifications, and fleet restored, the creation of the Second Athenian Confederation in 378-7 would signal Athens’ full recovery as a major Hellenic power.

But how did the Athenians effect such a transformation? What do the contemporary historians, philosophers, and orators tell us of events in their city during this transformative period? What were the lessons of this revival?

For more on the Long Walls, an enduring symbol of Athenian resolve.

Click on the image above for more on the Long Walls, an enduring symbol of Athenian resolve.

Timeline of Key Events (all BC)

  • 406: Spartan fleet victorious at Notium; Alcibiades’ second exile.
    Athenian fleet victorious at Arginusae.
    Spartans offer to settle the Peloponnesian War.
  • 405: Athenian fleet captured at Aegospotami.
    Siege of Athens, city blockaded.
  • 404: Surrender of Athens and the end of the Peloponnesian War.
  • 404-403: Rule of the Thirty Tyrants at Athens.
  • 403: Democracy restored in Athens, general amnesty declared.
  • 399: Trial and execution of Socrates.
  • 395-386: Corinthian War.
  • 394: Battle of Cnidus.
  • 393: Restoration of the Long Walls of Athens.
    Athens reoccupies Delos and other islands.
  • 388/7: Peace of Antalcidas.
  • 378: Formation of the Second Athenian Confederacy.

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