Like World Wars I and II, the Peloponnesian War was a total war that stretched both Athens and Sparta to their limits. Although the Spartans ultimately proved more adaptable to the demands of the conflict, the Athenians waged the war with extraordinary tenacity and courage. Even after the devastating defeat in Sicily, the Athenians refused to give up. Convinced that Sparta was determined to destroy them, the Athenians undertook a propaganda campaign to give themselves the moral courage to endure. They resorted to bold military and political strategies to give themselves the resources and leadership for the war. This included the recall of Alcibiades, whose military genius and political skill restored Athens to a commanding position. However, Sparta, too, produced a leader in Lysander, a man with far more integrity and greater ability than Alcibiades.
Questions to Consider:
1. Taking Pericles’s funeral oration and Plutarch’s Lycurgus as our sources, which nation, Athens or Sparta, most proved true to its values during the Peloponnesian War?
2. Do you think that the character and career of Alcibiades justifies a general condemnation of the Athenian democracy?