The Fall of Sparta
In 415 BC the Sicilian Expedition had begun. It was to be the largest invasion fleet Athens had ever sent, consisting of around 134 triremes. In addition to its impressive fleet size, the expedition also supported up to 5100 hoplites, 750 Mantiineans and Argives, 1300 light troops as well as archers, and 30 horsemen.
The expedition also sported the brilliant general Alcibiades, who had recently stood trial for destroying a series of statutes representing the god Hermes, but had managed to successfully prove his innocence.
The Athenians knew the cost of failure involved in the expedition. Failure to take Syracuse would result in the flow of grain supplies to Sparta and her Peloponnesian allies to continue uninterrupted, ensuring the enemy armies and people would always be well fed.
When the expedition finally began, hopes were high that victory could be secured. In fact, that was exactly what happened. After pushing back the Syracuse troops on several occasions, the four generals involved agreed to Alcibiades' daring plan to take the city in one fell swoop. And indeed, they did. Yet the victory was not without a rather large defeat. General Niccias was killed in the ensuing chaos of battle, while many brave men were lost.
With the fall of Syracuse, all grain supplies to the Peloponnesian peninsula ceased at once. The cites of the Peloponnese began to starve, yet held out for many years. Eventually, Alcibiades convinced the assembly of Athens to allow him to send an army to seize Sparta. Her allies did not put up much of a fight on the way there. Their armies were near the breaking point, barely subsisting on whatever meagre rations they could acquire. Eventually Sparta was in sight.
The Spartans fought harder, as hard as they ever had before. But it was all in vain. In the end, the Spartan king lay dead, killed by a stray arrow, while the city burned. Sparta had fallen.
Virtually overnight, Alcibiades became a well respected - and feared - hero. Celebrations were held in his honor, and while the Spartans scorned him, the Athenians loved him. However, revenge was not so kind to Alcibiades. In 401 BC, a Spartan assassin's dagger would end his life outside his home. All of Athens would mourn the loss of such a great hero.