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In investigating the siege of Syracuse by the second Athenian expedition to Sicily one must establish the Athenians motives for undertaking such a large expedition the nature and composition of the expedition itself the political conflicts and compromises which from the outset reduced its chances of success and Athens ignorance of Sicilian affairs which led them to underestimate the strength of their enemies and overestimate the support they would receive from their allies This essay is not an account of the events of the war itself which is easily available elsewhere but of the causes and motives behind the events as we know them Thucydides account of the war is almost our sole contemporary source supplemented here and there by the fragments of other accounts and by modern archaeology As outlined in HD Westlakes essay Athenian Aims In Sicily Athenian interests in Italy and Sicily changed rapidly after the death of Pericles It is clear from the many passages in Thucydides that Greeks at home and in Sicily never dismissed the possibility of naval support being received by the Peloponnesians from their western allies1 but the aim of Pericles strategy in the west seems to have been only partly to prevent this somewhat remote possibility The desirability of preventing so far as possible the shipment of Sicilian grain to the Peloponnese must have been recognised by many Athenians2 and was most likely of greater concern to Pericles than the lesser possibility of a western fleet sailing against the Athenians With the repeated large scale raids of 431 and 430 Pericles apparently believed that if demand for food could be so much increased in the Peloponnesus by means of repeated plundering raids that it could no longer be met by imports some coastal states where the distress would be most acutely felt might be impelled to desert the Spartan cause3 Pericles aims in the west seem therefore to have been to prevent western military aid
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