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Peloponnesian War and Oedipus Tyrannus

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The Peloponnesian war refers to a fight that occurred between the Athenian empire and the Peloponnesian. The attack was initiated and led by Sparta. The war has been split into three distinct phases by various historians. The phases are the Archidamian War (or first phase), the Peloponnese Fight (or second phase) and, finally, the Decelean War (or third phase). These three phases of the war were characterized by signing of various treaties such the Peace of Nicias, massive use of force during attacks and often repeated invasions of the cities. During the Decelean phase, Sparta fortunately received support from Persia (Thucydides & Lattimore 17). There were numerous migrations as most people were abandoning their homes due to the tension and fear of the war. The war was characterized by destitute of capital, non-agricultural activities, reduced trading activities and the rich occupied large masses of land.

Causes of the War

According to Bagnall, the war was as a result of extreme greed by Athens which led it to attempt taking full control of the whole land of Greece. In response to this behavior of Athens, Sparta initiated a war so as to help itself as well as other oppressed cities of Greece. Sparta wanted Peloponnesians to have independence (Bagnall 213). In order to achieve this mission of saving itself and other cities from Athens’ control, Sparta had to form alliances with other smaller cities of Greece. It then sent its army to Athens in 430 BC.

Disagreements between the two states started after Sparta rejected and prevented the proposed reconstruction of the great walls of Athens. According to Kagan, Sparta made the move so that it would be able to rule the defenseless Athens (Kagan 43). However, the real fight began in around 460 BC, when a rebellion broke up in Sparta. During this period, Sparta had to seek military support from its friendly nations, including Athens, but it surprisingly rejected the forces that sent by Athens to it. Kagan suggests that Sparta’s action was due to the fear of Athens’ forces changing their military aid mission and supporting the rebellions instead. As a confirmation of these allegations, Athens resettled the rebellious helot in the city of Naupactus after they were forced to surrender and exiled form Sparta (Kagan 67).

In 460 BC, Athens again took advantage of a conflict between Megara and Corinth to form an alliance with Megara and initiated a war against Sparta that lasted for more than fifteen years. Megara and Corinth were both allies of Sparta.

Another source of aggravation of the conflicts between the two states was the imposition of the Megara decree, a sanction that barred trade with citizens of Megara.

DeSouza asserts that the Peloponnesian war was caused by persistent differences that existed between Athens and Sparta (De Souza 81). In Athens, there was democracy whereas Sparta had a military led government. He states that certain cities were overwhelmed with the fear that Athens would grab their power while others were not happy with Athens spending of the Delian money. According to Bagnall, Pericles’ punishment on cities that resisted Athens further catalyzed the speared of the war. Sparta finally declared war against Athens in 431 BC. During the regime of Pericles, Athens became overcrowded and people could easily get infected by disease. Plague spread steadily killing more than two thirds of Athens’ population, thereby weakening its forces and defense system, including the Pericles (Bagnall 142).

Impacts of the War

The war had a great impact on ancient Greece. Economically, the war left Greece in a miserable economic condition. The city of Athens was not able to regain its economic state and prosperity that it used to enjoy before the war, while Peloponnese suffered from skyrocketing inflation rates and increased poverty.

Politically, the war between the two states resulted in frequent civil wars between cities of Greece. Being in conflict with another city became a norm for the states. The Peloponnesian war resulted into massive destruction of most cities of Greece. It also led to deaths of thousands of the Greeks. In addition, all the Greek states suffered from economic and military losses irrespective of whether or not a city was involved in the wars. The prestigious wealth, policies, and power of Athens led to umbrage, anger and bitterness among other cities of Greece. One of its major effects was the long-term weakening of city-states for more than 50 years. Athens, which was once the strongest city in Greece, was terribly reduced to a helpless and vulnerable state whereas its rival Sparta gained full momentum and power to become the leader of Greece.

End of the War

The war eventually ended after a severe destruction of Athens’ fleet at Aegospotami which forced it to deliberately surrender the fight. In 404 BC, Athens was forced to surrender to Sparta after the fight continued for another fifteen years, despite the signing of the Truce Agreement in 420 BC to bring the war to a halt.

Athens Recovery

There are various factors that led to the successful recovery of Athens. First, the enemies of Athens did not have enough force, strength and drive to bring down Athens, for instance, Sparta lacked the urge to send its military troops to Athens. Athens also received support from other Ionian states that required protection. Persia, on the other hand, deliberately delayed its promise to furnish Sparta with funds and army ships. This led to more and more frustrations of Sparta’s battle plans and strategies during the war. Consequently, Athena was able to win and recover most portions of its empire between 410 BC and 400 BC.

Similarly, Athens shrewdly set aside some finances and more than one hundred and fifty ships that it would use as the last resort during the war. Rusten and Thucydides suggest that Alcibiades; use of less coercion also rapidly facilitated the process of restoring democracy in Athens. He was able to achieve this within a period of only two years (Rusten & Thucydides 69).

Athens after War

In 403 BC, Athens was able to overthrow the oligarchs after a short period of suspension of Athens’ democracy. Similarly, the Corinthian war made it possible for Athens to recover its lost power during the Peloponnesian war.

Lessons from the War

According to Lattimore and Thucydides, countries that wage should learn from the Peloponnesian war that they can easily lose their power, control and supremacy despite their fights to gain it. When Athens was attacked by Sparta, a large number of its citizens migrated and settled behind the walls of the city (Thucydides & Lattimore 51). This led to overcrowding and consequently poor living standards which eventually led to outbreaks of diseases and plagues. He further advises that countries should try as possible as they can to avoid conflicts with their neighbors.

Oedipus Tyrannus

This play was first performed in 426 BC, just a few years after the plague that hard hit Athens. At the beginning of the story, Oedipus finds himself in the city where there was the plague. He attempts to elate the plague. He then comes to realize that the plague would only end after the murder of Laius is identified. Oedipus was determined to pursue the truth but he later realized that he was the actual murder of his own father. This drives him to carry out investigations and develops a series of questions in his efforts of finding out the murderer of Laius, not knowing that he was the one who killed him in a three-way road. Similarly, he later on realizes that the same way he killed Laius, his real father. It is crammed when neverending questions from Oedipus and his condemnation of those who did not want to reveal the truth about the death of Laius (Gaylord 65). Oedipus exhibits extreme arrogance and violence as he searches for the murderer. The play revolves around a king who is humbled by a series of mysterious events beyond his control from extreme supremacy and seeks help form a blind woman. It was a tragic for a king of such high profile to be brought down to high poverty levels.

Lessons from the Play

The play explores different themes, state control among them. This theme can be paralleled with the conflicts that emerged between different states of the ancient Greek. From the story we learn how one may fall due to the unknown circumstance. It also shows us the disadvantages of destructive use of power and excessive pride. The play is about King Oedipus. It begins by the king sending his brother-in-law to seek help for the problems that were being encountered in his empire.

When Creon goes to a priest, he is told that the problems were due to the religious pollution that resulted after the killing of King Laius (Segal 141). When Oedipus called for the priest, he refuses to speak on arrival. Oedipus becomes raged with this act and orders the priest to be killed. The priest further insists that the murder of King Laius was Oedipus’ plan.

Visionary leadership

King Oedipus in the play resembles a dictator king who uses force and coercion to rule. The writer emphasizes on the good qualities of a king such as love for his state and the people. A good king should not be self-centered or be proud. From the Peloponnesian war and Oedipus, it is evidenced that kings usually fall due to the bad ruling of the people who consequently form rebellions to overthrow their governments. In this play, Oedipus is portrayed a leader who will always pursues his own personal interest, is overconfident about himself and quick to angers.

According to Gaylord, King Oedipus resembles that various characters of current political leaders who make citizens of their countries live in hopelessness, fear and desperation (Gaylord 127).


In my opinion, it would be easier for one to understand Oedipus’ Tyrannus play when he/she has heard of the Peloponnesian war. This is because there is a direct relationship between the play and the war. Actually, the play was sent just a few years after the Peloponnesian war within the same setting or environment. The play sets similar themes as the lessons that were learnt during and after the war.

In my view, King Oedipus can be compared with Athens that was taking advantage of its economical, social and political supremacy to exercise control on other cities. This behavior of Athens can be directly linked to King Oedipus’ character of dictatorship. Both the play and Peloponnesian war provide valuable lessons to states that the use of force and conflicts as a way of acquiring power over other nations. The play was best set for colonies.

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