Ancient Greece consisted of several city-states or “Polis.” Each Polis had their own views and mind sets, and rarely stopped quarreling over them. Two Polis in particular, Sparta and Athens, had picked a fight with each other over their different beliefs and systems.
Sparta, like all other Polis had one major problem. Land. Most Polis simply stretched out with new colonies to supply their need for land. But Sparta decided to take a more immediate approach to the problem. The near-by Polis of Messenia had several large fields that would be good for crops. The Spartans gathered their soldiers and attacked. The fields were now in Spartan hands, as well as a great number of Messenia’s people. To maintain control over this, Sparta made a conscience decision to become a military Polis. They implemented a reform called the “Lycurgan Reform.” This reform instituted children at a very young age and forced them into the brutal training system of Sparta.
Athens, unlike Sparta, was a heavily democratic society oriented at Philosophy. They held city meetings for all government affairs. All male adult citizens came to these meetings, except a very few. All men had a say in public affairs. Athens also had a large naval fleet, and very frequent trade. Athens had been a center of knowledge and Philosophy.
The war is divided into three phases:
The Arcidamian war
The Second war
The Ionian war
In the first phase of the war, Sparta lead invasion after invasion on Attica. While Sparta attacked on land, Athens attacked at sea, attacking the coast line of Peloponnese. This phase ended in 421 B.C. with the signing of the Peace of Nicias. This treaty, however, was undermined in the next phase of the war when fighting continued in Peloponnese. Athens launched an attack force to Syracuse and Sicily, the attack ended in a disastrous failure. The fleet was destroyed in 413 B.C. This brought on the Ionian war. Sparta, receiving support from Persia, supported rebellion in Athens’ states in the Aegean Sea and in Ionia. This lead to the loss of the naval supremacy Athens had held for so long. The war ended with the victory of Sparta in 404 B.C.
After the Ionian war, Athens was ruled by the ‘Thirty Tyrants’ and democracy was uprooted. But it wasn’t long before the oligarchs were overthrown and democracy was restored by Thrasybulus in 403 B.C.