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Athens signed a 30-year truce with Sparta in 446 and was now viewed as the protagonist of democracy Sparta on the other hand was viewed as the defender of oligarchy Pretty much the whole Greek world was divided between the two camps In any given polis those who wanted oligarchy sought aid from Sparta while Athenian aid was sought by the democrats The war was started by a dispute between Corinth member of Peloponnesian League and its colony Corcyra island of NW coast of mod Greece in 435 The Corcyraeans naturally invoked the aid of Athens For a while it was only a local affair but things escalated until in 432 the Peloponnesian League declared war on Athens This war is known as the Peloponnesian War the book confusingly calls it the Great Peloponnesian War a purely modern designation and is particularly famous because the Greek historian Thucydides wrote about it in the first proper work of history in the Western tradition It was an odd two-fold war On one hand one has the Peloponnesian League which was militarily predominant but lacked a common fund and had no naval force On the other hand Athens had a huge maritime empire which could feed it but not a sufficient army to defeat the League So long as Athens navy remained intact the Peloponnesians could inflict on the Athenians no decisive defeat The Athenians could use their fleet to move their forces around with impunity but found it difficult to do any major damage to the Peloponnesians One of the great Athenian defeats the Sicilian campaign began in an effort to find some way to get an advantage over the Peloponnesians The war only ended when after two decades of war it finally dawned on the Spartans that Athens could only be defeated through the destruction of her fleet At the start of the war Pericles decided on a war of attrition
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