After an apparent stalemate between Athens and Sparta for several years, a series of Athenian Disasters gave Sparta the upper-hand. First, a series of Spartan victories on both Land and Sea, as well as the emergence of plague in Athens, prompted the Spartan powers to the advantage. However, despite the odds, Athens re-emerged. Following a decisive victory at Arginusae (despite the execution of the victorious Admirals), Athens counter-attacked the Spartan Navy at Sea.
The Spartans re-appointed Lysander to the command of the Navy, as the position of Vice-Admiral. Lysander, who had originally won a series of victories against Athens earlier in the war, raised a new fleet of warships that was constructed under the investment of Lysander's ally, Cyrus, the Prince of Persia. The Spartan navy outmaneuvered the Athenians Several times, with Lysander landing troops all around Athenian Territory, eventually near Attica itself.
Finally, the Athenian Navy caught up to Lysander. Both Fleet's took up base nearby each other, and geared up for a full engagement. The Athenians were eager to fight, but Lysander continually refused to comply, and remained shelter until he was fully prepared.
There are some debates to how the battle actually unfolded, but it is a wildly accepted theory that the Athenian Navy sent a decoy fleet to draw out Lysander. Other historians say that the Athenian fleet sailed in its usual battle formation, and engaged the enemy head on.
The origins of the battle did not matter, for by noon on that day, the entire sea was set on fire. Arrows, spears, and swords clashed on the water, until the sun had set on the battle field. By the time evening pulled around, Lysander was surrounded, and defeated. Unable to surrender, the Spartans continued to fight, but no Spartan Ships survived.
The Spartans became increasingly arrogant and refused to surrender. This act proved fruitless to the broken defenders, as nearly 9,000 Spartan sailors perished fighting.
Following the Total Spartan Defeat, the Athenian Navy achieved dominance of the Aegean Sea. Conon, the Admiral of the Athenian Navy, sailed quickly home, and insisted Athens launch a land offensive against Sparta. Lacking grain and outside supplies, Conon believed that Athens could starve out Sparta and break them, a strategy that worked flawlessly.