The Causes of the Great Peloponessan War

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There has been, and continues to be great debate amongst historians surrounding the precise causes of the Great Peloponnesian War. The classical source of Thucydides provides great first hand insight into the causes of the war, as well as both Kagan and St. Croix, modern historians. Various long term factors including the Growth of Athenian Power, the 30 Year Peace Treaty and the selfish attitudes of city states all gave weight to the eventuality of war. Other short term events took place such as the civil war at Epidamnus, The Battle of Sybota, the Potidaean Revolt and the Megarian Decree, causing triggers to ignite this great war.

For many years in the Greek world, prior to the outbreak of war, the growth of Athenian power had been increasing. Athens had control of the largest naval fleet of the Greek States and held many allies in the region. Noticeable rifts had begun to rise between both Athens and Sparta around 460BC and Thucydides argues that “the growth of Athenian power and the fear this caused in Sparta” had infact created what is argued to be one of the core elements of this war. This fear of Sparta is argued by Thucydides and Kagan as being one of the largest underlying factors that upset a balance of peace in the region. This fear and tension gave way to the eventual outbreak of war following many short term events that triggered conflict that was unnecessary and preventable with a calm-headed nature.

The mindset of many Greek states at the time also provided grounds to incite violence and the outbreak of war. Both St. Croix and Thucydides argue that many of Sparta’s allies, namely Corinth and Megara, wished to go to war with Athens due to their fearful nature of their power, and in some cases as a result of harsh ...

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...e hoslities and the causes of the eventual war. However, historians will continue to debate the level of influence that particular factors and events played on the final lead to war, due to the complex nature of alliances and aggressive mindsets held in the Greek world.

Works Cited

Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2014. Peloponnesian War - Ancient History Encyclopaedia. Avaliable at: [Accessed: 20/05/14]
Ancient Greek Battles. 2011. Revolt of Potidaea. Available at: [Accessed: 23/05/14]
Kagan, D 1996, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, Cornell University Press, London
Ste. Croix, G. E. M. d, 2001, The Origins of the Peloponnesian War, Duckworth Publishers, London
Thucydides 432 BCE, History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. R Warner, Penguin, London
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