The Archidamian War: Timeline & Facts

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we'll explore the circumstances which led to the Archidamian War between Sparta and Athens before delving into the war's sequence of events and its results.

The Plague's Part

Plagues, such as the bubonic plague or 'Black Death,' as it is sometimes called, are something we often associate with the medieval era. For example, some estimates claim that one in three 14th-century Europeans perished from the disease. But plagues were not typical of only that period; they seem to rear their ugly heads in other parts of history as well, usually at just the wrong time for a people or group.

Such was certainly the case for Athens during the first part of the Peloponnesian War, also known as the Archidamian War. In this lesson we will briefly explore the circumstances surrounding the war before delving into a timeline of events.

Beginnings

The Archidamian War, which was the first part of the larger Peloponnesian War, occurred due to tensions between the two most powerful Greek city-states of the 5th century B.C.E., Athens and Sparta.

In the mid-5th century, Athens grew more powerful and began subduing other city-states in the Greek peninsula. Athenian control of the Aegean grew greater and greater. Before long, Athens' growing power began to threaten Spartan allies, such as Corinth and Megara, to the point that Sparta's King Archidamus II feared Athens would soon dominate all of Greece.

The stage was set for all-out warfare in Greece between Sparta and its allies, the Peloponnesian League, and Athens and its allies, the Delian League. Sparta also reached out to Persia for help against the Athenians, but these efforts proved fruitless.

War eventually broke out in 431 BC when Sparta invaded Attica, claiming to do so in defense of the rest of Greece.

Delian League in yellow, Peloponnesian League in pink
Map of Greece during Peloponnesian War

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