Introduction to the Fourth Century The Common Peace


The fourth century can be divided into four sections, the first three of which are included in this book. (1) To about 360 Sparta, Athens and Thebes attempted in turn to dominate the Greek world, with Persia in the background as a power to be invoked by the currently predominant Greek city to reinforce its predominance. (2) From 359 to 336 Philip II of Macedon achieved a leading position in the Greek world, which he clothed in familiar Greek diplomatic forms, and at the end of his reign he took advantage of the Greeks’ hankering after unity through another war against Persia, to plan such a war. (3) Philip was assassinated after he had sent out his advance forces; his successor Alexander III (336-323) undertook the campaign and conquered the Persian empire, but his increasing adoption of oriental practices alienated the more conservative Macedonians and Greeks. (4) Alexander died young, without leaving a viable heir; after his death his leading generals competed for supremacy, originally on behalf of a possible heir but later for themselves; and the first phase in this competition reached its climax when in 306–304 the leading contenders each took the title king and it became clear that the Graeco-Macedonian world was to centre on a plurality of large kingdoms.

For the second and third sections Macedon provides a unifying thread, but the first is more complex. In this chapter an outline narrative of the period 404–336 will be given, linked to a series of’common peace’ treaties; in chapters 19–21 the years 404–359 will be explored in more detail, from the angles of Sparta, Athens and Thebes in turn, and in chapter 22 the internal affairs of Athens in the same period will be studied. This will involve some repetition, but will allow the most important themes and events to appear in different contexts.

Sources (cf. pp. 153–4, on 411–404)

Xenophon’s Hellenica (probably resumed after a pause) covers the regime of the Thirty and the restoration of democracy in Athens in II. iii. 11-iv, and then continues to 362 in books III-VII. He spent most of that period as an exile from Athens, living in the Peloponnese as a dependant of the Spartans: not every sentence is favourable to Sparta (NB V. iv. 1: Sparta was deservedly punished for its occupation of Thebes in 382), but the general tendency of his account is, and in particular favourable to king Agesilaus; and, more seriously for those who want to use it as a historical source, it shows little interest in areas and episodes in which Sparta was not involved and/or which Xenophon found uncongenial. Nothing is said of the foundation of the Second Athenian League; the only mention of the new Arcadian capital Megalopolis is in a list of supporters of Thebes in 362 (VII. v. 5); and the Theban leaders Pelopidas and Epaminondas are similarly neglected. The Hellenica like Thucydides’ history contains speeches, but it does not contain a declaration of policy on the speeches. A defender has argued that the substance of the speeches is usually authentic; at worst the speeches represent what a contemporary thought plausible that particular men should have said on particular occasions. Xenophon also wrote a separate work on Agesilaus, and his Anabasis gives an account of Cyrus’ campaign against his brother Artaxerxes II (book I) and the return of Cyrus’ mercenary army, in which Xenophon himself became one of the leaders, to the Greek world.

Diodorus continued to use Ephorus, and Ephorus for the period which it covered - to 386? - continued to use the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia. Diodorus’ account is not consistent in its sympathies, but (presumably reflecting changes in Ephorus’ sources) is particularly hostile to Sparta and Agesilaus in the opening chapters of bookXV (1-22, covering 386/5-381/0) yet becomes favourable to Sparta and Agesilaus after that. Narrative dates, as always, are Diodorus’ own; accounts of battles tend to be conventional, and Leuctra is badly garbled (cf. pp. 286–7); he is capable of striking errors, e.g. killing Chabrias in 375 (XV. 36. iv), when he still had a long career ahead of him; but he gives a far more balanced account of the period than Xenophon. As for the last years of the Peloponnesian War, when there is a direct disagreement between the two, we cannot assume automatically that one is the superior source and must therefore be right.

From Plutarch we have lives of the Spartans Lysander and Agesilaus, and of the Theban Pelopidas; he wrote an Epaminondas which has not survived (the formerly widespread view that Paus. IX. 13–15. vi is a resume of it is fragile). From the beginning of the period we have Andocides’ speeches (I) On the Mysteries and (III) On the Peace, and speeches written by or attributed to Lysias. Isocrates, who lived from c.436 to 338, wrote lawcourt speeches for clients in the 390’s, but is best known as a teacher of rhetoric and a writer of pamphlets in the form of speeches. He was a reflecter of current ideas rather than an original thinker; one theme to be found in several of his speeches is that the Greeks were at their best when they were united in fighting against Persia rather than quarrelling among themselves, so they ought to unite in fighting against Persia once more (an idea given added momentum by the return of the Asiatic Greeks to Persia under the Peace of Antalcidas in 386). From one decade to the next Isocrates looked to a different state or man to lead the Greeks in that war.

As in the fifth century, Athens was the state most given to inscribing public documents on stone: we have a particularly rich collection of texts, with which Diodorus’ account harmonises well, on the foundation of the Second Athenian League (cf. pp. 263–6).

The Origins of the Common Peace

When the Peloponnesian War ended, Sparta was committed to the unqualified return of the Asiatic Greeks to Persia if the treaty of 411 was still in force, perhaps to their becoming tributary to Persia but otherwise autonomous if the sending of Cyrus had been preceded by a Treaty of Boeotius in 408/7 (cf. pp. 156, 196). In fact it took over the cities in Asia Minor along with the other cities of the Athenian empire; and when Cyrus revolted against Artaxerxes, in 402 (cf. pp. 256–7), he was supported by nearly all of the Asiatic Greeks and by Sparta. When Artaxerxes reinstated Tissaphernes as satrap of Sardis, he demanded the submission of the Asiatic Greeks, they appealed to Sparta, and Sparta agreed to support them: it is more likely that there was a treaty of 408/7 which Tissaphernes regarded as obsolete after the Greeks’ support for Cyrus than that Sparta was wilfully breaking the treaty of 411. The first Spartan forces were sent to Asia Minor in autumn 400.

Sparta’s intervention was originally on a small scale, with men other than kings as commanders, and the fighting was punctuated by truces. In 398 Spartan envoys went to the Persian court (Ctesias FGrH 688 F 30 §74 [63]). After some truces which the Spartan Dercylidas made with one enemy in order to concentrate on another (cf. p. 242), in 397 he accepted a truce offered by Tissaphernes to explore the possibility of a treaty by which the Asiatic Greeks would be autonomous and Sparta would withdraw its troops and commanders (Xen. Hell. III. ii. 12–20, Diod. Sic. XIV. 39. iv-vi). In 396 king Agesilaus went to Asia and took reinforcements: on arrival he accepted a truce to enable Tissaphernes to consult the King about the autonomy of the Asiatic Greeks, but Tissaphernes in fact asked for a large army (Xen. Hell. III. iv. 5–6, Ages. i. 10–11, Plut. Ages. 9. i, PolyaenusStrat. II. 1. viii). In 395, after a victory of Agesilaus near Sardis, Tissaphernes was executed and replaced by Tithraustes, who announced the King’s terms: that Sparta should withdraw and the Asiatic Greeks should be autonomous but pay ‘the ancient tribute’. Agesilaus said he could not agree without authority from Sparta, but let Tithraustes pay him to move into Pharnabazus’ satrapy of Dascylium (Xen. Hell. III. iv. 25–6, Diod. Sic. XIV. 80. viii, Plut. Ages. 10. vi-viii). In 394 there was a meeting between Agesilaus and Pharnabazus but not another proposal for a settlement (Xen.Hell. IV i. 29–40: cf. p. 243).

In Greece Sparta had been alienating its former allies, and showing an interest north of the Isthmus of Corinth as well as in the Peloponnese.Timocrates of Rhodes was sent, probably by Pharnabazus in 397, with money to subsidise opponents of Sparta. In 395 a border dispute between Phocis, backed by Sparta, and Locris, backed by Boeotia, led to the outbreak of the Corinthian War against Sparta; Lysander was defeated and killed at Haliartus, and in 394 Agesilaus had to return from Asia to fight for Sparta in Greece. The Athenian Conon, who had escaped to Cyprus at the end of the Peloponnesian War, was by now commanding ships for Pharnabazus. In 394 they defeated Sparta’s fleet at Cnidus, effectively ending Sparta’s supremacy in the Aegean, and in 393 they sailed to Greece, taking money to Corinth and to Athens.

Sparta was not doing well either in Asia Minor or in Greece, and in 392 turned to diplomacy. Antalcidas was sent to Tiribazus, the current satrap in Sardis; Conon headed a delegation from Athens; deputations went also from Sparta’s other main opponents in the Corinthian War, Boeotia, Corinth and Argos. Antalcidas proposed that Persia’s claim to the Asiatic Greeks should be accepted, and all other islands and cities should be autonomous; but this worried Athens (which had recovered the north Aegean islands of Lemnos, Imbros and Scyros, and did not want to lose them again), Boeotia (since Sparta was threatening in the name of autonomy to require the breaking-up of the Boeotian federation), and Corinth and Argos (which were forming a political union and did not want that to be undone), so no agreement was reached. Tiribazus supported the Spartans and arrested Conon, but the failure of the peace proposals suggested that Sparta would continue fighting against Persia, so Tiribazus was replaced by the anti-Spartan Struthas (Xen. Hell. IV.viii. 12–17, cf. Diod. Sic. XIV 85. iv).

The next stage is omitted both by Xenophon and by Diodorus; but, though not all have accepted it, we should probably use a fragment of Philochorus (FGrH 328 F 149 ~ Harding 23) and Andocides’ speech (III) On the Peace to date to 392/1 a congress at Sparta in which the Spartans tried to gain acceptance for modified terms. Athens was to be allowed the three islands as an exception to the principle of autonomy for all (Andoc. III. Peace 12, 14); and the rest of the Boeotian federation could remain if Orchomenus, which had gone over to Lysander in 395, were allowed to secede (§13, cf. §20); but no concession was made to Corinth and Argos (cf. §§24-8, 31–2); and Andocides’ speech says nothing about the Asiatic Greeks. Andocides and his fellow-envoys urged the Athenians to accept the peace, but the Athenians were not prepared to abandon the Asiatic Greeks, rejected the peace and exiled their envoys. We do not know whether the Boeotians were prepared to accept the peace as their envoys recommended, but Corinth and Argos rejected it, and no peace was made.

The wars continued, in Asia Minor and in Greece. Most strikingly, in 390 the Athenian Thrasybulus in a one-year campaign went some way towards reviving the Athenian empire, but the next year he was killed and his successors did not build on what he had begun. In a pair of inscriptions, in 387/6 Athens abstained from interfering with Clazomenae as long as it paid Thrasybulus’ 5 per cent tax(IG ii2 28 = R&O 18 ~ Harding 26), and about the same time it made a decree for a politically divided Erythrae which gave a reply (unfortunately not preserved) ‘about not giving up Erythrae to the barbarians’ (SEG xxvi 1282 = R&O 17 ~ Harding 28). However, in 388/7 Antalcidas as Spartan navarch made an alliance with Tiribazus (who had been reinstated in Sardis), defeated the Athenians and recovered control of the Hellespont. From this position of strength he was able once more to try for a peace treaty, and this time the other Greeks did not feel able to resist.

So, when Tiribazus announced that those who wished to hearken to the peace which the King had sent down should attend, all attended quickly. When they had come together, Tiribazus displayed the King’s seals and read out what was written. It was as follows:

‘King Artaxerxes thinks it just that the cities in Asia should belong to him, together with Clazomenae and Cyprus of the islands, and that the other Greek cities both small and great should be left autonomous, except Lemnos, Imbros and Scyros: these as in the past should belong to the Athenians. Whichever party does not accept this peace, together with those who are willing I shall make war against them both with infantry and by sea with both ships and money.’

On hearing this the envoys from the cities each reported it to their own cities. All the others swore to abide by this, but the Thebans claimed to swear on behalf of all the Boeotians. Agesilaus said he would not accept their oaths unless they swore, as the King’s writing stated, that cities both small and great should be autonomous. (Xenophon, Hellenica, V. i. 30–2)

In 387/6 Tiribazus proclaimed ‘the peace which the King had sent down’ (which is commonly referred to either as the King’s Peace or as the Peace of Antalcidas): the cities in Asia and Clazomenae and Cyprus were to belong to the King [Cyprus was currently in revolt, and the Greeks had tangled with it; Clazomenae was barely separate from the mainland, and was in an area important for Persia’s preparations against Cyprus: cf. pp. 257–8]; Lemnos, Imbros and Scyros were to belong to Athens; all other Greek cities, small and great, were to be autonomous. The Greeks returned home to report the terms; Agesilaus had to threaten invasion to make Thebes accept the disbanding of the Boeotian federation and Corinth and Argos dissolve their union, but the others accepted without demur (Xen. Hell. V. i. 29–36 [see box], Diod. Sic. XIV. 110. iii-iv, Plut. Artax. 21. iv-v).

Persia at last gained the Asiatic Greeks, whom it had long been demanding: this was a price which the Greeks had to pay, but it was widely regarded as a betrayal, and Sparta’s finally coming off the fence on this side harmed its reputation. How Persia treated the Asiatic Greeks, and how they reacted, we are not told; but we shall see that by the 360’s it had broken the treaty by taking possession of Samos. That and the other offshore islands will in any case have been weakened by the fact that their mainland dependencies passed into Persian hands. A settlement which maintained a balance of weakness among the Greeks would help to ensure that none was likely to cause trouble for Persia; and while the Greeks were at peace Greek mercenaries were available to fight for Persia (but also for rebels against Persia) in the western provinces of the empire.

This was to be a lasting ‘common peace’ for all the Greeks (Andoc. III. Peace 17, cf. 34; the term ‘common peace’ appears in IG iv 556 = R&O 42 ~ Harding 57. 2, probably of 362/1, and is used frequently by Diodorus but never by Xenophon), and in that respect it differed from earlier treaties which simply made peace for a specified period between states which had been at war. A settlement on the basis of autonomy for all seems at first sight straightforward and fair, but the reality was far more complicated. Who were ‘all the Greeks’ who accepted it, and to whom was it to apply? Primarily, still, those who had been involved in the Corinthian War; beyond them, the treaty was probably thought of as applying generally to Greece proper and the Aegean and its Thracian coast, but perhaps not to Crete or the north-west of Greece and more certainly not to the more distant Greek settlements; and probably the terms were heard in Sardis and subsequently ratified by some of those other Greeks, particularly those who wanted to make it clear that the provision for autonomy applied to them. How great a degree of independence was autonomy and what were the entities entitled to it? Sparta used the treaty to break up the Boeotian federation, but did not break up other federations (such as the Achaean, within the Peloponnese and certainly within the treaty’s geographical scope, and the Aetolian), in which it was less interested, and it may well not have insisted on a change in status for the lesser cities in Boeotia which were not members represented in the federation but were subordinate to one of those members. It broke up the union of Corinth and Argos, and in 385 it was to split the century-old polls of Mantinea into its component villages. But there was no suggestion that Salamis, which had been a possession of Athens since the sixth century, was an island which was entitled to autonomy or else needed to be mentioned as an exception like Lemnos, Imbros and Scyros; or that the cities of Sparta’s perioikoi were cities which were entitled to autonomy of a kind which they had not hitherto possessed.

There was no impartial machinery for deciding hard cases or for enforcing the treaty: Sparta decided on the interpretation, and with the threat of Persian backing enforced the treaty, not because the treaty gave Sparta a privileged position but because, although it had not been strong enough to achieve military victory, it was currently in a superior position and had surrendered the Asiatic Greeks in return for Persian support in Greece. Agesilaus was an enemy of Antalcidas, but he saw how the treaty could be exploited to Sparta’s advantage, and in a remark quoted by Plutarch on three occasions he replied to a complaint that the Spartans were medising that it was the Persians who were laconising (Plut. Ages. 23. iv, Artax. 22. iv, Spartan Sayings 213 B). We shall see that later treaties did try to incorporate a mechanism for enforcement, but each treaty was made at the instance of one state which hoped to use it in its own interests.

Breaches and Renewals of the Peace

Sparta showed that the peace was to be interpreted by it to suit its own interests. In 385 it attacked Mantinea, and ended by splitting it into the separate villages which had coalesced to form a single polls perhaps c.470 (cf. p. 26); Mantinea appealed to Athens, but Athens ‘did not choose to break the common agreement’ (Diod. Sic. XV. 5. v); presumably Sparta claimed that the principle of autonomy should be applied to the villages rather than to the single polls. In 382 Sparta responded to an appeal to intervene against the Chalcidian federation being built up by Olynthus in the north-east. The appeal came from the threatened cities of Acanthus and Apollonia according to Xenophon, from Amyntas of Macedon according to Diodorus (Xen. Hell. V. ii. 11–20, Diod. Sic. XV. 19. ii-iii): both may be true, but Xenophon’s version suggests that Sparta was again claiming to enforce the autonomy principle (we do not know whether Olynthus or any of its neighbours had sworn to the peace). Olynthus appealed to Athens and Thebes: Athens is not known to have responded but Thebes did. On their way north in 382 Sparta’s forces accepted an invitation to enter Thebes, where they installed a garrison and a pro-Spartan regime: this direct occupation of one of the major cities of Greece was greatly shocking, and is easier to understand if Sparta gave as its excuse the refusal of Thebes to join in enforcing the peace against Olynthus (cf. Xen. Hell. V. ii. 34). The war in the north continued to 379, when the federation was dismantled and Olynthus was made a subordinate ally of Sparta; meanwhile in the Peloponnese Sparta insisted on the restoration of exiles in Phlius c.384-383, and in 379 after a long siege imposed a garrison and a new constitution. Sparta had apparently reached a new height of power.

It must have been hard for other states to know what kinds of relations Sparta would allow. In 386/5 Athens praised the Thracian king Hebryzelmis, but did not grant him an alliance (IG ii2 31 =Tod 117- Harding 29); in 385 it refused to help Mantinea against Sparta; but in 384 a way forward was found: with Chios (which had been hostile to Athens in the last years of the Peloponnesian War but defected from Sparta after the battle of Cnidus) Athens made a purely defensive alliance, which was stated very emphatically to be on the basis of freedom and autonomy and within the framework of the King’s Peace (IG ii2 34–5 = R&O 20 ~ Harding 31).

Theban opponents of Sparta fled to Athens, and a series of setbacks for Sparta began when in winter 379/8 these exiles returned and assassinated the pro-Spartan leaders. A raid on Athenian territory by the Spartan garrison commander in Thespiae, Sphodrias, prompted Athens to action, and in 378/7 the Second Athenian League was founded. We possess an inscribed prospectus setting out the terms on which states were invited to join (IG ii2 43 = R&O 22 ~ Harding 35): the League’s aim was that Sparta should allow the Greeks to live in freedom and autonomy, and to support the King’s Peace [that clause was deleted in the 360’s when Athens had reason to dislike the Persians]; Greeks and barbarians outside the King’s domain were invited to join, on the basis of freedom and autonomy, ‘on the same terms as Chios, Thebes and the other allies’, and subject to various promises, which may be seen both as undertakings that Athens would not treat the new League as it had treated the Delian League and as an attempt to spell out what was to be understood by autonomy. This defensive alliance, which bound its members to support one another against Sparta or any other breaker of the peace, also provided its members with a mechanism for enforcing the peace.

While successfully recruiting members for the new League, the Athenians won their first major naval victories since the Peloponnesian War, defeating the Spartans off Naxos in 376 and off Alyzia in Acarnania in 375; and on the mainland the Thebans drove the Spartans out of Boeotia, began organising a new federation, more dominated by Thebes than the old, and in 375 defeated a Spartan army at Tegyra, near Orchomenus. In 375 the King’s Peace was renewed. Xenophon, not mentioning Sparta’s plight, says that Athens was exhausted, and worried by the resurgence of Thebes, and so made peace with Sparta (Xen. Hell. VI. ii. 1). According to Diodorus, however, the Persians wanted Greek mercenaries for a campaign in Egypt and so urged the Greeks to make a common peace, which they gladly did (Diod. Sic. XV. 38). Diodorus badly confuses this treaty and the next, in summer 371, ascribing both to Persia’s initiative and on each occasion having the Thebans excluded because of their claim to swear for the whole of Boeotia. The exclusion of Thebes belongs to the later occasion (and on this occasion Thebes must have made some show of dismantling the new federation), but a fragment of Philochorus (FGrH 328 F 151 ~ Harding 44) confirms for this occasion the involvement of Persia, and mentions Athens’ celebration with a cult and statue of Eirene (Peace); Diodorus’ clause that the cities were to be ‘autonomous and ungar-risoned’ is probably authentic.

The new peace was broken almost immediately. Conflict between Athens and Sparta continued in the west, culminating in victory for Athens and the democrats in Corcyra in 372. On the mainland Thebes resumed the development of a Boeotian federation under its control; in 373/2 it angered Athens by destroying Plataea (which had been destroyed in 427, cf. p. 115, but refounded after the Peace of Antalcidas) and interfering in Thespiae; then it began to threaten Phocis, and Sparta sent an army to help in the defence. In summer 371 the Athenians, increasingly uncomfortable with their Theban allies, sent envoys to Sparta to discuss peace and invited the Thebans to send envoys too. Xenophon gives us speeches by three of the Athenian envoys: Callias, full of his own importance; Autocles, criticising Sparta’s conduct; and the leading politician Callistratus, arguing that Athens and Sparta ought to be on the same side. Peace was agreed on condition that governors should be withdrawn and forces demobilised, and the cities should be autonomous. The Thebans were originally included, as Thebans; afterwards they returned and asked to be recorded as Boeotians. Sources other than Xenophon report a heated altercation between Agesilaus and the Theban Epaminondas, in which Epaminondas argued that if the Boeotian cities were to be autonomous the cities of Sparta’s perioikoi should be too; Xenophon agrees that it was Agesilaus who finally excluded Thebes from the treaty. Diodorus both ascribes the initiative to Persia and has the Thebans excluded, as in 375: this time he is right about the exclusion of the Thebans but it does not seem likely that the Persians were involved (Xen. Hell. VI. iii, Diod. Sic. XV. 50. iv-v [cf. 38. iii: Callistratus and Epaminondas, 375], Plut. Ages. 27. v-28. iv, Nep. XV Epam. 6. iv, cf. Paus. IX. 13. ii).This time the treaty included what may be called an optional sanctions clause: if any state broke the peace, the others might if they wished support those who were wronged, but were not obliged to do so (Xen. Hell. VI. iii. 18).

The Spartan king Cleombrotus, commander of the army sent to Phocis, asked what he should do, and was told to attack Thebes if it would not leave the Boeotian cities autonomous. The result was the battle of Leuctra, in which Sparta was overwhelmingly defeated. After that, Athens took the initiative in convening a conference of ‘the cities which wished to participate in the peace which the King had sent down’ (which means that this was a renewal of the King’s Peace, not that the King was involved on this occasion). The participants swore to ‘the treaty which the King sent down and the decrees of the Athenians and their allies’: it is not credible that all the participants, including Sparta, were now enrolled in the Second Athenian League, and the best explanation is that autonomy was to be defined for the peace as it was in the League. This time there was a compulsory sanctions clause: if any state broke the peace, the others were obliged to support those who were wronged. Thebes was certainly not a participant; Elis refused to swear, because its claim to recover dependent territories lost c.400 was not allowed (Xen. Hell. VI. v. 1–3).

The Athenians were later to claim that the Greeks, and Amyntas III of Macedon (who died in 370/69), and the Persian King had all recognised their right to Amphipolis and the Chersonese (Dem. XIX. Embassy 253, Aeschin. II. Embassy 32, [Dem.] VII.Halonnesus 29, Dem. IX. Phil. Hi. 16). Since they began fighting for Amphipolis and the Chersonese in 368, and this is the one conference convened by Athens, this is probably the occasion to which they are alluding; but it is likely that the claim is doubly disingenuous. Peace treaties could be made on the basis of the status quo, as in the Peace of Philocrates between Athens and Philip in 346, or on the basis of a return to an earlier situation, as in the Thirty Years’ Peace in 446/5 or the Peace of Nicias in 421, or, in a gambit which was often to be employed in the fourth century, on the basis of echein ta heauton, that states should possess what belonged to them (a formula which usually covered a claim to some territory which they did not at the time possess). Probably the peace of autumn 371 was made on the basis of echein ta heauton, and the participants agreed to that, but the Athenians’ claim that Amphipolis and the Chersonese belonged to them was not spelled out in the peace: ‘possessing what belongs to them’ was included in the promises made in the prospectus of the Second Athenian League, which underlay this peace {IG ii2 43 = R&O 22 ~ Harding 35. 11–12), and Isoc.VIII. Peace 16 indicates that at least one common peace was made on that basis. That the Persian King accepted the Athenians’ claim was probably a further instance of ‘spin’: he was not in fact involved on this occasion, but, since the participants swore once more to ‘the treaty which the King sent down’, his agreement could be postulated.

Leuctra revealed suddenly that Sparta was not as strong as everybody had assumed, and the next few years were to see a number of revolutions in Peloponnesian cities, where Sparta was no longer able to underwrite pro-Spartan oligarchies. Most important was the re-creation by Mantinea in 370 of the single polis dismantled in 385, and after that Mantinea’s joining with the other Arcadians in a new federal state, which built a new major city at Megalopolis, in the south-west near Laconia and Messenia. Arcadia joined with Argos and Elis an in anti-Spartan alliance, and failed to gain the support of Athens but did gain that of Thebes. In the winter of 370/69 the allies invaded Laconia and liberated Messenia - which Sparta was never prepared to accept. In this new world, despite the declared objectives of the Second Athenian League, it was now in Athens’ interests to support Sparta rather than Thebes, and Athens made an alliance with Sparta in 369 (Xen. Hell. VII. i. 1–14, Diod. Sic. XV 67. i).

In the next few years there was a good deal of fighting in the Peloponnese (and Thebes built up a league of its own in central Greece, and intervened in Thessaly, but this did not involve Sparta or interest Xenophon), while the Athenians started campaigning, without much success, for the territories which they claimed in the north. Ariobarzanes, the satrap of Dascylium, was still a believer in Persian support for a Spartan-backed common peace. In winter 369/8 he sent Philiscus of Abydus, who convened a peace conference at Delphi: agreement could not be reached, more probably because of Sparta’s claim to Messenia (Xenophon), which was currently the live issue, than because of Thebes’ claim to Boeotia (Diodorus), so Philiscus’ money was spent on mercenaries to fight for Sparta (Xen. Hell. VII. i. 27, Diod. Sic. XV. 70. ii), and Ariobarzanes, he and others were made Athenian citizens (Dem. XXIII. Aristocrates 141–2, 202).

In 367 the Thebans tried to obtain a common peace to their advantage. According to Xenophon Sparta was the first to send an envoy to the King; envoys then went also from Thebes and its Peloponnesian allies, and from Athens. The Theban representative was Pelopidas, and he dominated the conference and obtained a draft which included rulings on a number of current issues: Messenia was to be independent, the region to the south of Olympia now known as Triphylia was to belong to Elis and not to Arcadia, the Athenian navy was to be beached (perhaps that was the only anti-Athenian clause and there was not a clause stating that Amphipolis and the Chersonese were to be independent); there was to be a compulsory sanctions clause. One of Athens’ envoys was persuaded to acquiesce, for which he was prosecuted by his colleague (and it was probably on this occasion that the Athenians deleted the clause in favour of the King’s Peace from the prospectus of their league: cf. p. 231); the Spartan Antalcidas committed suicide. Back in Greece, in 367/6, the Thebans convened a conference at which they hoped to gain acceptance of the terms, but too many states had grounds for dissatisfaction: the Arcadians walked out of the conference, and when the Thebans sent envoys calling on the cities to swear to the peace they all refused (Xen. Hell. VII. i. 33–40, cf. Diod. Sic. XV 81. iii, 90. ii, Plut. Pel. 30). One result of Thebes’ gaining the support of Persia was that, in the Satraps’ Revolt in the western provinces of the Persian empire, Athens and Sparta both supported the rebels: in 366–365 the Athenians besieged Samos and captured it from the Persians, but then did not liberate it but turned it into an Athenian cleruchy.

Theban policies in the Peloponnese were proving unsuccessful: in 366 an attempted annexation of Achaea by Thebes and Argos misfired, and the Achaeans became allies of Sparta; and the Arcadians, alienated by Thebes’ proposal to award Triphylia to Elis, did not end their alliance with Thebes but made a new alliance with Athens. The next peace treaty is problematic. Diodorus under the year 366/5 (for which he has no major episode but a few short entries) reports that the King persuaded the Greeks to end their wars and make a common peace (Diod. Sic. XV 76. iii). Xenophon in a context of 366–365 reports that in Corinth, which was in an unstable condition (about this time a man called Timophanes tried to make himself tyrant but was assassinated), Athens attempted to intervene but was frustrated. The Corinthians then tried to make peace with Thebes for themselves and their allies; Sparta gave permission, but would not itself join the peace and thereby give up the attempt to recover Messenia. Corinth insisted on peace only with Thebes, not alliance; and (perhaps in spring 365) a peace was made, on the basis of echein ta heauton, which included several cities in the north-eastern Peloponnese (Xen. Hell. VII. iv. 4–11). Isocrates’ (VI) Archidamus was written for this context, and some have used it to support Diodorus; the best solution is that the participants claimed to be renewing the King’s Peace once more but the participants were a limited range of states. This treaty involving Peloponnesian allies of Sparta but not Sparta itself marked the end of the Peloponnesian League.

In Thessaly Thebes had been supporting a federation of cities against a dynasty of tyrants in the city of Pherae, and Thebes’ intervention ended successfully (but with the death of Pelopidas) in 364, when the tyrants had their power limited to that one city and were made allies of Thebes. Athens had been supporting Pherae, and Theban hostility to Athens continued: in 366 Thebes managed to gain possession of the disputed territory of Oropus; Diodorus reports a plan, instigated by Epaminondas, to build a hundred triremes and win over Athens’ Aegean allies, and a Theban naval campaign in 364 stirred up trouble in Ceos. In 362 and 361 Alexander of Pherae, now constrained on land, turned to attack Athens by sea.

In the Peloponnese friction over Triphylia led to the outbreak in 365 of a war between Elis and Arcadia, with other Peloponnesians and Athens supporting Arcadia but Sparta supporting Elis. In 364 with Arcadian support the people living near Olympia, the Pisatans, celebrated the Olympic festival, and in fighting in the sanctuary the Eleans won a battle but could not dislodge the Pisatans. However, in 363 a rift opened up in Arcadia, with a Mantinean faction unhappy to spend sacred funds from Olympia on mercenaries, and sympathetic to Sparta, while a Tegean faction was happy to spend the money and remained friendly with Thebes. In winter 363/2 the Mantinean faction was powerful enough to make peace between Arcadia and Elis, but the disagreement developed into open war, with Mantinea allied to Sparta, Elis, Achaea and Athens, and Tegea and Megalopolis to the other Peloponnesians and Thebes. In 362 Epaminondas took an army to the Peloponnese, and after he and the Spartans under Agesilaus had marched and counter-marched between Arcadia and Laconia there was a battle at Mantinea, in which Epaminondas was killed when his army was getting the upper hand. Xenophon ends his Hellenica by remarking that the battle which might have resolved the power struggle in Greece resulted in fact in even more indecisiveness and confusion than before (Xen. Hell. VII. v. 26–7).

The Greeks then made ‘a common peace and alliance’, i.e. a peace with a compulsory sanctions clause; because it was stipulated that Messenia was to be autonomous, Sparta stood out; but presumably the Theban-dominated Boeotia was allowed to participate as ‘Boeotia’ (Diod. Sic. XV 89. i-ii, Polyb. rV 33. viii-ix, Plut. Ages. 35. iii-iv).This is probably the context to which we should assign an inscription in which the Greeks who have made a common peace reply to ‘the man who has come from the satraps’ that if the King does not make trouble for them they will not make trouble for him (IG iv 556 = R&O 42 ~ Harding 57): i.e. they refuse to help the rebels in the Satraps’ Revolt (though the Athenian Chabrias went to Egypt as a freelance mercenary commander), but Sparta, not participating in the peace, sent Agesilaus to Egypt (he died on the return journey, after about thirty years as one of Sparta’s most active kings).

Philip II of Macedon

The Greek world was transformed by the reign of Philip (359-336). Previously Macedon had been an unstable kingdom on the edge of the Greek world; in the 360’s Athens had tangled with it through its attempt to recover Amphipolis, and Thebes through its intervention in Thessaly. When Philip came to the throne he quickly strengthened the kingdom, and began to seize opportunities to expand it eastwards towards the Hellespont and southwards towards Greece. At an early stage he annoyed Athens, by seizing Amphipolis in 357, in circumstances which led the Athenians to allege that he had cheated them: Athens declared war, but was prevented from acting against him by the Social War of 356–355 against members of a League which had lost its purpose since Leuctra and was unstable after Thebes’ activity in the late 360’s.

In Greece Thebes, though it had lost Pelopidas and Epaminondas, was still the strongest and most ambitious single power; and it attempted to use the Amphictyony of mostly central Greek states which controlled Delphi as an instrument of its power. In 363 Thebes was granted precedence in the consultation of the oracle, and some leading men of the polls of Delphi were expelled by the Amphictyony and welcomed in Athens. Thebes also used the Amphictyony to impose fines on states hostile to it: Sparta for sacrilege committed during the occupation of Thebes in 382, and Phocis for cultivating the sacred plain of Cirrha, by the Gulf of Corinth below Delphi. In 356 the Phocians seized Delphi, thus provoking the Third Sacred War, in which Phocis was supported by Sparta and Athens and opposed by the Amphictyony and Thebes. Philip took advantage of this to become involved on the side of the Amphictyony, while his expansion towards the Hellespont led to further conflict with Athens.

Athens turned to less ambitious policies after losing several of its League members in the Social War, but was prepared to oppose Philip when he directly threatened Athenian interests, and in the early 340’s tried to build up a southern Greek alliance to resist his expansion southwards. Philip encouraged uncertainty as to whether he would continue to support the Amphictyony; at the beginning of 346 the Athenians’ plans were frustrated when the Phocians, hoping Philip would change sides, refused to cooperate with them, and so they tried to make peace with Philip. They wanted a common peace treaty, which would embrace all their allies including the Phocians; Philip insisted on peace between himself and his allies and ‘Athens and its allies’ (meaning the League), and, when it was too late for anybody to help the Phocians, made it clear that he was still on the side of the Amphictyony. The Phocians surrendered, Philip was given their place in the Amphictyony, and Athens again felt cheated (Diod. Sic. XVI. 59–60, Just. Epit. VIII. 4. i-5. v, cf. speeches of Demosthenes and Aeschines: pp. 347–51).

In Athens Aeschines wanted to accept the peace and make the best of it; Demosthenes, claiming that Philip had designs on Athens and all of Greece, wanted to renew the conflict. Philip offered to renegotiate the peace, and to enlarge it into a common peace, which he now thought he could turn to his advantage, but Athens wrecked the negotiations by making demands which Philip could not have been expected to accept. Athens declared war on Philip in 340; a Fourth Sacred War began later that year, and Philip entered it in 339; by then Athens and Thebes were united against him, and he defeated them at Chaeronea in 338. After that he combined several strands in fourth-century institutions: a common peace treaty, based on territorial adjustments which would help to maintain a balance of weakness; a league of allies, the so-called League of Corinth, with Philip as itshegemon, ‘leader’, and with a representative council (thus providing mechanisms not only for enforcing the treaty when it was broken but also for deciding what should count as breaches of it); and in the council not equality of representation as in the Peloponnesian and Athenian Leagues but proportional representation as in the Boeotian federation dissolved in 386 and in the Arcadian federation of the 360’s. Sparta, on account of Messenia, refused once more to take part; Athens joined (and so what remained of the Second Athenian League was disbanded); Thebes (more severely treated, as a former ally which had turned against Philip) had a pro-Macedonian government and a garrison installed (Diod. Sic. XVI. 89, Just. Epit. IX. 5. i-iv, cf. IG ii2 236 = R&O 76 ~ Harding 99. A). Mainland Greece, except Sparta, was now subject to Philip. He did install some garrisons (in Thebes, Ambracia and Corinth, the so-called ‘fetters of Greece’), but in general his supremacy did not take the form of outright conquest and direct intervention: like the leading Greek cities before him he clothed his supremacy in garb which left the cities theoretically autonomous members of an alliance, but the mechanisms he created made it clear that his allies would be expected to decide as he wanted.

Since before the Peace of Antalcidas there had been talk of the desirability of uniting the Greeks once more in a war against Persia, and the abandonment of the Asiatic Greeks under that treaty was a further wrong to be avenged. From 346 (in his V. Philip)Isocrates had looked to Philip to lead the Greeks in that war: I argue in this book that gaining supremacy in Greece was an objective in its own right for Philip, not just a necessary preliminary to that war, but towards the end of his reign he was contemplating war against Persia, and the Greeks’ desire for revenge provided a convenient excuse. The League of Corinth formally decided to fight that war and appointed Philip as commander; he sent out advance forces in 336; when he was assassinated that summer, his son Alexander succeeded to his position in Macedon and in the League, and successfully undertook the war.


On the common peace treaties in general see Ryder, Koine Eirene. Problems in the interpretation of the terms are explored by Rhodes, ‘Making and Breaking Treaties in the Greek World’, in de Souza and France (eds.), War and Peace in Ancient and Medieval History, ch. 2.

On the question whether Andoc. III. Peace and Philoch. FGrH 328 F 149 = Harding 23 refer to 392/1 or to 387/6 see E. Badian, ‘The King’s Peace’, in Georgica… G. Cawkwell, 25–48 at 26–34 (387/6); A. G. Keen, ‘A “Confused” Passage of Philochoros (F 149A) and the Peace of 392/1 BC‘,Hist, xliv 1995, 1–10, ‘Philochoros F 149A&B: A Further Note’, Hist, xlvii 1998, 375–8 (392/1). More drastically, it is argued that Andoc. Ill is not an authentic speech but a later rhetorical exercise by E. M. Harris, ‘The Authenticity of Andokides’ De Pace: A Subversive Essay’, in Polis and Politics… M. H Hansen, 479–505.

On the peace of 387/6 and its aftermath see R. Seager, ‘The King’s Peace and the Balance of Power in Greece, 386–382 BC‘, Ath.2 Hi 1974, 36–63; Badian, ‘The King’s Peace’ (cf. above).

The interpretation which I give of ‘the decrees of the Athenians and their allies’ in the peace of autumn 371 is due to M. Sordi and is accepted by Ryder, Koine Eirene, 132–3: against it see Lewis, Selected Papers in Greek and Near Eastern History, ch. 5.

The view that the peace of 365 was in theory a renewal of the King’s Peace but the participants were a limited range of states is due to M. Zahrnt, ‘Xenophon, Isokrates und die images RM2 cxliii 2000, 295–325 at 314–21.

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