chapter  23
13 Pages

SPARTAN FOREIGN POLICY, 404–387/6

The seeds of discontent and fear among Sparta’s leading allies, Corinth and Thebes, were sown in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Athens in 404. Both allies had wanted the destruction of Athens, but their wishes were ignored by the Spartans who turned Athens into a puppet state by installing a brutal pro-Spartan oligarchy, known as ‘The Thirty Tyrants’ (Diodorus Siculus 14.3.5-7; Xenophon, Hellenica 2.3.2 – the abbreviations ‘D.S.’ and ‘Xen.’ will be used for these works in the rest of the chapter). The Corinthian and Boeotian mistrust of Sparta’s imperial ambitions in Central Greece, exacerbated by the Spartan refusal to share the rich spoils of war, marked the beginning of passive resistance to Sparta which finally broke out into active warfare in 395, when the Quadruple Alliance of Corinth, Boeotia, Argos and Athens engaged in the Corinthian War – so called because most of the fighting on land took place around Corinth. The chief cause of this war was the growth of Spartan power over the Asiatic Greeks at the expense of Persia, and the fear that this caused among the leading states of Greece. They believed that the Spartans, if successful against the Persians, would use their supremacy by land and by sea, on both sides of the Aegean, to establish a Spartan empire in Greece – signs of which were evident from Sparta’s aggressive behaviour in Greece during this period. Although there is a direct interrelation between Sparta’s conflict with Persia in Asia Minor and that with the states of the Quadruple Alliance in Greece, it is probably easier to gain an understanding of the first period of Spartan foreign policy (404-395/4) and the causes of the Corinthian War by concentrating on the events in each region in turn.