Athenian Expedition : A Strategic Failure

1164 Words5 Pages
Athens Sicily Expedition, a Strategic Failure in Planning Introduction This paper will narrowly focus on an ancient historian, Thucydides’ account of the Athenian expedition to Sicily during the Peloponnesian War. It will attempt to outline Athenian motivation for planning and executing the expedition using the ends, ways, and means framework. First, it is important to understand Athenian national interests as it shapes the political assembly voting on the expedition and in defining the strategic end and initial means. It sets the stage to focus on two key Athenian leaders, Nicias and Alcibiades, in the evaluation and debate on the risks involved in the expedition. What assumptions are known or unknown, and what means are eventually allocated. The lack of discussion on the ways, the uncertainty on how to accomplish the strategic end is a precursor to Athens’ failure in conquering Sicily. Based on the defined ends, ways, and means, it is my opinion the expedition failed. Ends Athens focused their national interests on expanding the Athenian empire. Athens gained Melos, a neutral island neighbor, by overpowering them and killing all the military age men and sold the rest as slaves.1 During the same winter, an Egestan envoy from Sicily requested military aid based on an old alliance to help with a war with its neighbor Selinus and incentivized the request with an offer to provide funds.2 The Athenian political assembly voted to send an expedition to Sicily and defined the initial ends of the operation: help Egestaeans with their neighbor by sending 60 ships, and restore Leonstini, a city depopulated by Syracuse (a city rising in power).3 Securing these objectives would provide a foothold in Sicily for Athens. The initial narrowly-de... ... middle of paper ... ...had prioritized and stuck to the original ends; help Egesta and restore Leonstini, with a strategic plan (ways) to achieve those ends and studied potential issues that could hinder operations (resupply) the outcome may have been different. Nicias and Athens fell short in the assumptions on what means would be required to sustain a mission with such and overreaching end to conquer Sicily. If the strategic plan had been discussed and completed prior to the voyage, it would have provided the generals a framework in which to work when issues affecting the mission arose. The length of the engagement and strong counter force by Syracuse and their allies made Athenian supplies a critical node. The Athenian expedition was a strategic failure due to overreach, no strategic plan, mission creep, falling short on resources, and fighting two wars at once (Sparta invaded Attica).

More about Athenian Expedition : A Strategic Failure

Open Document