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Why Did Sparta Not Manage To Get Control Over A Large Part Of The Greek World That Athens Did?

2290 words - 9 pages

Why did Sparta not manage to get control over a large part of the Greek world that Athens did?In 550BC the Spartans defeated Tegea, this was followed by Argos in 544BC. From 520-490BC under king Cleomenes Sparta was seen as the leader of the Peloponnese and the leader in Greek defence against Persia. In 490BC the Peloponnesian league was created with Sparta as the recognised leader. Despite all this, the Spartans never managed to get control over as much, or of the same areas of the Greek world that Athens did. The reasons for this are far from straight forward. The unique Greek mentality towards warfare, the superior Athenian navy, the mighty Persian Empire, basic geography, key individuals and natural disasters were all to play a part. Rather than simply naming Sparta the 'weaker' or less successful power, (the evidence itself disproves this as, if only for a short time, Sparta managed to crush Athens, installing the regime of the 'thirty tyrants' in 404BC) I believe that it was a combination of all of these factors that combined, in the long term, to work against Sparta.Whilst the Peloponnesian League has been called "the most formidable alliance in Greece" Its creation in 490BC actually marks a reduction in Sparta's power over its Peloponnesian allies. It came about only when the allies refused the legitimate call from king Cleomenes (under the terms of the alliance) to go to war against Athens. This was the first time the Spartans authority had been challenged and resulted in the Peloponnesian League in which all the allies had a say in any defensive/offensive action to be taken.Sparta's powerful position of leadership, however, was to be short lived. By 478BC Sparta's official involvement as leaders in the war against Persia was taken over by Athens. The dominant cause of this lies with an individual, the Spartan Pausanius. His arrogant manner and overbearing actions towards the allies caused so much discontent that the Ionians sought a new alliance with Athens. They then became the natural and popular choice for the leaders against the Persians, in what was named the Delean League (478/7BC).The Spartan reaction to this worrying challenge to their hegemony appears to have split into two factions. The 'Hawke's' feared Athens growing power and refused to accept the idea of a dual-hegemony. The 'Doves', on the other hand, feared that overstretching the Spartan forces against Persia could lead to a helot revolt, which would undermine the whole basis of the Spartan power. They were happy to allow Athens to take on the strain. The conflict between these two factions was present throughout the 5th century.The Hawke's faction were given the perfect chance to gain the upper hand and therefore regain Spartan control when, in 471BC the Delean League was weakening. No action was taken by Sparta to assert power, however, until the revolt of Thasos in 465BC, six years later. The reason for this delay appears to be in the formation of a serious challenge...

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