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8-10-2015, 12:16

The Treaty between King Darius II of Persia (423-405) and the Lacedaemonians in 411 BC

Thucydides quotes two drafts (Thuc. VIII 18 and 37) as well as the final version of this treaty (Thuc. VIII 58). he mistakes the drafts for actual treaties, but the presence of a prescript with date shows that only the third text is a treaty. Such a prescript is missing from the two drafts, the first of which contains the following proposal which, since it benefits the Persians only, shows that they put it forward:

However much land and (however many) cities the King holds and the King's fathers held, shall be the King's. . . (Thuc. VIII 18)

This meant that the Lacedaemonians were supposed to acknowledge Persian sovereignty over all of Asia Minor, all the Aegean islands, and all of mainland Greece right up to the Isthmus, the farthest extent of the Persians' march in 480 bc. Moreover, the draft makes no mention of anything the Persians are prepared to do for the Lacedaemonians. So the Lacedaemonians negotiated.

The next draft (another Persian document) shows that the Persians were adjusting their demands:

However much land and (however many) cities are King Darius' or were his father's or his ancestors', against this (land) and these (cities) neither the Lacedaemonians nor the Lacedaemonians' allies shall march for purposes of war or harm; neither the Lacedaemonians nor the Lacedaemonians' allies shall levy tributes from these cities. (Thuc. VIII 37)

Moreover, it mentions the Persians' providing something for the Lacedaemonians:

However many troops may be on the King's land at the King's request, the King shall provision them. (Thuc. VIII 37)

In exchange for a Lacedaemonian promise to give the Persians a free hand all the way up to the Isthmus, the Persians will undertake to provision the Lacedaemonians'


Troops that, at the king's request, are in those same regions. The Lacedaemonians are being asked to acknowledge Persian sovereignty in those regions de facto only. In addition they get something for doing so. But negotiations continued.

The final version of the treaty shows the Persians settling for what, presumably, they had truly wanted all along and which in any case was actually feasible:

The land of the King's, however much is in Asia, shall be the King's. . . (Thuc. VIII 58)

The Lacedaemonians, meanwhile, were willing to acknowledge that much, especially since they too received something which they desperately needed:

Tissaphernes shall provide maintenance for the ships which are now present according to the arrangement (probably that mentioned in Thuc. VIII 29) until such time as the King's ships arrive. Once the King's ships arrive, the Lacedaemonians and their allies may, if they should wish, provide maintenance for their own ships on their own. But if they desire to receive maintenance from Tissaphernes, Tissaphernes shall provide it, but the Lacedaemonians and their allies, when the war ends, shall pay back to Tissaphernes however much money they may have borrowed. (Thuc. VIII 58)

In the end the Lacedaemonians agreed to acknowledge Persian sovereignty in Asia Minor; and the Persians agreed to pay for the Lacedaemonians' fleet.

Third, the Athenian democracy’s failure in managing the war had become apparent throughout Athens. Many Athenian aristocrats had always preferred an oligarchy anyway, and they now had practical arguments with which to buttress their views. The leadership of the army and navy proved a fertile breeding ground for such sentiment (Thuc. VIII 47), presumably because the commanders, after some twenty years of the Assembly’s capricious decisions, were simply tired of going about the serious business of warfare at the direction of dilettantes. The first steps towards the dissolution of the democracy took place among the captains of the fleet as it lay off Samos; and from there an aristocrat named Peisander was sent to Athens to arrange for the establishment of an oligarchy (Thuc. VIII 49).

Alcibiades, meanwhile, apparently weary of aiding the Lacedaemonians, now desired to return home. However, as he was wary of the democracy, he too conspired for an oligarchy (Thuc. VIII 47), and his support strengthened the oligarchs’ case. Much discussion took place as to what sort of an oligarchy Athens should receive. Eventually, the oligarchs put forward a blueprint for an oligarchy in which 5,000 were to have political rights with arrangements for a provisional government of 400 charged with implementing the blueprint

([Arist.] Ath. Pol. 30-31). When the time came, the oligarchs met with little opposition. The Assembly meekly voted to dissolve the democracy and ceased to meet. The 400 then entered the chamber where the members of the Boule were sitting, dismissed them, and paid them their wages on the way out (Thuc. VIII 69).

Although the 400 were charged with establishing the government of the 5,000, once in power, they preferred to stay that way. In Athens they initially succeeded by simple delay, but they met with strict opposition from the men in the fleet. The rowers in the fleet - 170 to a trireme with a full crew - were drawn from the lowest and most numerous class in Athens, the Thetes (who had no money to buy Hoplite armor, but could hold an oar in a trireme against pay). Most of the triremes at this point lay off Samos and here resistance to the rule of the 400 was strongest. In fact, the men with the fleet called an assembly at which they deposed all commanders whom they suspected of having connived in the establishment of an oligarchy back home. They elected new commanders - ironically using the oligarchic means of filling an office - and effectively set up a parallel government (Thuc. VIII 75-76) which stole a march on the government in Athens by recalling Alcibiades from exile almost immediately (Thuc. VIII 81).

In Athens, meantime, opposition to the 400 grew as well. The 400 attempted to make peace with Sparta (Thuc. VIII 70) and thereby probably undermined themselves more effectively than anyone else could have. The antidemocratic sentiment in Athens had largely resulted from a desire to win the war and from the realization that the democracy was failing in this task. The attempts at peace by the 400 were probably perceived as collusion and in any case met with no success. Within four months of the establishment of the 400, the next revolution came ([Arist.] Ath. Pol. 33). The Assembly met, voted to depose the 400, and established the oligarchy of the 5,000 (Thuc. VIII 97).

Thucydides has unqualified praise for this new government and calls it a “moderate blend between oligarchy and democracy” (see Box 13.1). The 5,000, once they had taken charge of Athens, led the city back from the brink of disaster in the war (Thuc. VIII 97). In fact, they brought the city almost to the point of victory. The 5,000 secured the loyalty of the fleet at Samos with the mediation of Alcibiades (Thuc. VIII 86), whose recall from exile they confirmed (Diod. XIII 42) under the guidance of Theramenes, a prominent moderate oligarch. Moreover, Thucydides’ statement about the leadership which the 5,000 provided in the prosecution of the war makes it almost certain that the Battle of Cyzicus (see below) occurred on their watch.