Third Peloponnesian War

361 BCE


359 BCE


Peloponnese, Southern Greece


Decisive Athenian Victory


Delian League--(Athenian Empire after 360 BCE)

Geraki (Late War)







Geraki (Early-Mid)







30,000 Athenians

19,000 Corinthians

15,000 Allies

Casualties and Losses



The Third Peloponnesian War was a military conflict that engulfed southern Greece, particularly the Peloponnesian peninsula, and Attica. The conflict was a result of a growing Athenian expansionist power that had defeated a series of invading Northern armies and had grown to immense heights. Corinth, who had originally saved Athens in the First Syracusan War,  were decisively defeated after an Athenian invasion of the peninsula and the occupation of Corinth itself.

The Delian League and the Peloponnesian League prior to the Corinthian War. Some Athenian territory had been abandoned after the First Syracusan War.


The great Corinthian victory at Eleusis during the First Syracusan War, had secured the Athenian/Corinthian dominance over Greece and Sicily. However, the Corinthian victory was overshadowed by the vast colonial expansion of the Delian League, which now controlled half of Sicily and the Crimea. For nearly 30 years, Athenian wealth and trade with Corinth brought the peninsula to new heights, along with the foundation of a trading league known as the Peloponnesian League. The League consisted of the remaining independent states in the Peloponnese, and was created to make a more balance system of trade with Athens, who openly encouraged the new foundation. However, vast Athenian monopolies and dominance at sea, began to usher in exotic items from Egypt, Persia, and in some cases, the far east. These luxury items were unmatched in price, and Corinthian merchants began to buckle under the weight of the expensive wares. Soon enough, Athens stockpiles of lavish products completely dismantled the effectiveness of the Peloponnesian League, whose even finest items quickly became worthless. Athenian wares were soon only sold to the riches of the richest, the Persian Empire, who made Athens extremely wealthy.

Soon enough, Corinth perceived itself to be neglected by its Athenian allies, and looked west for trade partners. The rising powers, such as Rome, gave Corinth a brief relapse in wealth, but quickly the trade disintegrated. Finally, in the 370s BCE, Corinth and its allies entered an economic depression state. Soon enough, over the desperate need for gold, several small wars erupted in the peninsula. Smaller cities were gobbled up by cities such as Corinth and Argos, who taxed their populations without second thought. Eventually, the wars divided up the Peloponnese into seven spheres of power; Corinth, Argos, Elis, Megalopolis, Messene, Geraki, and Patra.
583px-Ancient peloponnese.svg

Division of powers in the Peloponnesian War

Initially there were six spheres in the Peloponnesin, with Laconia still divided between the marauding Helot armies following the Great Helot Revolt. Finally, after 369 BCE, the Helot city of Geraki successfully subdued a series of neighboring cities, and made peace with the remains of the Lacadonian states.

With the seventh power in the Peloponnesian Secure, the three powers convened to initiate the reformation of the League from a trading system, to a military alliance. The League then raised a substantial fleet, and captured a series of disputed regions in the southern Aegean, provoking a degree of Athenian hostility.

As Delian rebellions became more and more frequent in the growing Delian League, due to a increasing lack of independence by Athenian "client" states in the Aegean, the Peloponnesian League prepared to strike at the increasingly weakening league. In 363 BCE, the Athenian Assembly voted to adjust taxes on Athenian client states in the League, prompting another rebellion in Anatolia. Timotheus was drawn away to deal with the issue, leaving Helmetrus with a smaller force behind. In January of 362 BCE, the League voted in its next two leaders, or their de facto title; King. The kings were almost entirely dominated by Corinthians and Messenians, and had been so since the Leagues foundation. Due to the circumstances, the assembly of the league elected two staunch conservatives, Atimorachus of Corinth and Igleusis of Messena, for a five year term of absolute power. Atimorachus and Igelusis were swift to act against Athens, and seized the Isthmus of Corinth which had been in Athenian possession since the Peloponesian War (or the Second Peloponnesian War).


The invasion of the Isthmus of Corinth was a surprise to the Athenians, who had neglected the Corinthian rise to power. The true beauty of the invasion was not the abrupt action of the Corinthians, but rather their ability to combine naval and land forces to effectively invade a small width of land. With extensive preparations, the Corinthian Navy was able to shuttle troops across areas of defense. The Athenian Navy, rushed to defeat the smaller Corinthian naval unit near the Isthmus, but was caught in a small group of islands, where the Corinthians encircled them at the Battle of Argolikos Koilpos.

With half of the Athenian Navy destroyed and the city herself under a naval blockade, the Athenians scrambled for a solution. Despite the fact that Athens could withstand the blockade because of her vast land trade across the Delian League, the invading Peloponnesian Force posed a threat that could forever dismantle the Athenian Hegemony. The Assembly turned to Helmetrus, and convened a vote to give the young general total command of the Athenian Armies. The Espistates, the executive power in Athens, was abruptly swayed into support of the new legislation and turned to the courts to confirm is legality. Helmetrus, who was simply one of the 10 Athenian Generals, persuaded the courts that if the Assembly elected him to the position, then the act was just. The courts agreed, and the suggestion was brought up to the Assembly. Despite heavy opposition of the bill, Helmetrus's supporters won out, and the the young champion was named Πρώτη Γενική (First General). These new powers allowed Helmetrus to carry out military actions without the consent of the Assembly, which Helmetrus argued would limit delays in warfare and allow the military to achieve decisive victories. 

The First General marched out of Athens on the day of his political victory, and took command of the armies of Attica, which numbered 30,000 men, the largest united army in all of Greece. At the same time though, the Peloponesian League had deployed its entire force, which in a combined force outnumbered the Athenians by a slim quantity. However, the allied armies were far from united, and it was clear that the Corinthians would have to move quickly in order to solidify the alliance. 

Helmetrus divided his army into three armies, two of them numbering 14,000 and the latter numbering 2,000. Helmetrus desired to make the appearance of two armies, while using his elite troops in the third to swing the tide. King Atimorachus of Corinth and his co-ruler, decided to divide their own armies into two, copying their enemy in a effort to avoid a flanking maneuver. The two rulers were convinced that the Isthmus was too thin for any grand maneuvers, and decided that Helmetrus had to seek open conflict, in which the terrain would be in the Corinthians favor. 

Helmetrus moved one of his armies to the Northern section of the Isthmus, drawing in one of the Corinthian armies. The second Corinthian army, under Igleusis, was unable to reinforce Atimorachus's troops, as the southern Athenian army had engaged the Corinthians in a series of skirmishes. 

In the meantime, Helmetrus had his third army march up the center of the Isthmus and take position near a small heavily forested area. The Northern Athenian army then followed up by forcing Atimorachus into a better supplied position, which happened to be near the Third Army. Helmetrus engaged and defeated Atimorachus by outflanking the Peloponnesian forced with his Third Army while his Second Army openly engaged the Corinthians, at the Battle of Perachora. The Peloponnesian Forces were forced to withdraw south away from the Perachora region in a merging move with Igleusis's army. 

The two kings convened at a meeting near the Corinthian camp, in which both leaders presented possible military plans. After several hours of debates and presentations of strategy, the kings decided to abandon their campaign and retreat back to the Peloponnesian, under risk of being obliterated by the now larger Athenian army. In May, the   entire allied army had fled from the Isthmus and arrived near Corinth. Using the victorious Corinthian navy, the Peloponnesian forces were able to stabilize their defensive front and hold back Helmetrus's army at the Isthmus. 

As the treasury of Athens began to drain as a result of massive wartime spending in both Greece and the Aegean Islands, Athenian inflation began to steadily rise, as well as a decrease in the valuation of Athenian coins from 85% silver to 76%. Also, the blockade of Athens had destroyed trade overseas, and a dreadful series of financial crises began to arrive. 

Timotheus, who was concluding his war in the Aegean, assumed command of his navy and rushed to Athens with the second half of the Athenian Navy. Fearing for his life in a naval battle, Timotheus landed in the north of Greece and rushed south alone to assume political command. When he arrived in Athens with a great military "triumph" (Timotheus was granted political honors but was never granted a military parade similar to those of Rome).

What followed was a series of major political reforms that forever changed the history of Athens. As a result of the inability to pursue a swift victory, Timotheus and his supporters suggested a series of economic reforms that would veer Athens away from total naval reliance. Using approximately five million drachma, the Athenian Assembly issued the construction of five major trade posts along the eastern coast of Greece. To encourage the motion towards land trade, 500,000 drachma were invested as benefits to Athenian citizens who employ themselves into the service of the landposts. 

This legislation drained the economy to its last legs, but on August 11th, Timotheus offered to the Assembly the final solution for the Athenian financial crisis. Late in the evening on the same day, the Assembly passed the dissolution of the Delian League and declared the foundation of the Athenian Empire (Empire only as a territoral phrase, not as a government type). The annexation of the Delian League states increased Athenian territory by 600%, and quadrupled the tax income. The timing was perfect as well, as Timotheus's subjugation of the rebellious Aegean puppets forced the majority of the annexed states to accept their fate or risk open war with Timotheus. 

With the Delian League destroyed, Timotheus set out to raise a new navy from the annexed states, while simultaneously pacifying any rebellious states. 

With the news of the reforms quickly spreading throughout the empire, Timotheus sailed south to Helmetrus was 1/2 of the remaining Athenian fleet and 30 new ships from around the Aegean colonies. Intent on engaging the Corinthian fleets outside of Attica, the Strategos sent word to his son to begin a renewed offensive the night after the battle. 

The Athenian fleet destroyed the Corinthian ships that had previously shamed Athens earlier in the war, and hence the blockade of Athens was shattered, along with the defense of the Isthmus. Helmetrus (as promised) marched on the same night with his entire army, with little to none opposition against the retreating allied forces. 

With a counterinvasion already underway, Helmetrus moved to defeat his enemies into decisive conflict, one that would end the war. 

Already shamed by his early defeat, the Corinthian King and his ally moved North to attack the larger Athenian Army, but were horribly defeated in the largest battle of the war, the Battle of Corinth. The defeat of Corinth ushered in a time period of total chaos amongst the Peloponnesian states. With the Athenian declaration of the annexation of Corinthian territories and the exile of its King to Crete, the league was all but destroyed.

In a search for salvation, Elis, turned to Athens for peace. Helmetrus agreed with the Elisian people, that if Elis allied itself with Athens, it would become a client kingdom of Athens, opposed to a province. The Elisian leaders agreed, and pulled out its troops of the remaining Peloponnesian armies. The situation only got worse for the allied states, as amidst an Athenian offensive in the south, Geraki was burned to the ground following a accidental fire. The result was total anarchy in Laconia, with Helot states resuming their hostilities to one another. These independent wars would continue even after the Athenian annexation.

In late winter of 359 BCE, the city-state of Elis turned its armies against their former allies and marched on Messene. Following a brutal campaign that lasted through the summer, Igleusis was killed in a ambush, and Messene became vulnerable. 

As Helmetrus pillaged the country side of the Peloponnesian, the people of the city states turned against their leaders, and pleaded to Athens for peace. With most of the Peloponnesian Kings expelled, the people of the peninsula sued for peace with Athens, offering the total annexation of all of the Peloponnesian (excluding the client kingdom of Elis). This deal, was far beyond the dreams of Helmetrus, who proudly accepted this profound peace settlement. 

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