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Ancient Greece in 431 BC was not a nation It was a large collection of rival city-states located on the Greek mainland on the west coast of Asia Minor and on the many islands of the Aegean Sea Most of the city-states had become allied with one or the other of the leading military powers Athens and Sparta Athens was a great naval power while Sparta relied mainly on its army for superiority In 431 BC these alliances went to war against each other in a conflict called the Peloponnesian War The war which went on for 27 years is named for the Peloponnesus the peninsula on which Sparta is located The result of the war was the crushing defeat of Athens and the end of its maritime empire A more long-range result was the weakening of all the city-states This made them vulnerable to takeover by Macedonia several decades later A brilliant account of the war was written by the historian Thucydides as events unfolded His work still stands as a definitive source of information on the war The Athenian Empire and the Spartan Alliance coexisted as long as a balance of power was maintained between them A truce called the Thirty Years Treaty had been signed by both powers in 445 BC Within a decade the truce was breaking down as Athens sought to extend its empire In 433 Athens allied itself with Corcyra a colony of Corinth but Corinth was an ally of Sparta Incited by Corinth Sparta accused Athens of aggression and threatened war Athens under the leadership of Pericles refused to back down The next year Athens demanded that Potidea a Corinthian colony tear down its sea defenses and expel Corintian magistrates Unavailing negotiations and the Athenian embargo on commerce from Megare began to strain the two powers peace until it proved too much War began in the spring of 431 when Thebes a Spartan ally attacked
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