Silent-sigfig wrote:This is correct on all accounts. In fact, during the early stages of the Peloponnesian the Athenian strategy was to surrender their land to Sparta and destroy the Spartans and their allies with their navy. This strategy would've worked too, if not for Athens getting wrecked by a Plague and a series of incompetent leaders after the death of Pericles.
The plague was bad, but Athens survived that still in good shape and I'm not sure incompetent leaders was any greater problem with the Athenians than with the Spartans.
I would lay the chief cause at Athens decision to both undertake the Sicilian expedition and to try Alcibiades for a capital crime (which caused him to defect to Sparta). Had they undertaken the Sicilian expedition but left Alcibiades in command it would at least not have failed so disastrously and perhaps even have succeeded. Had they gotten rid of Alcibiades and not gone on the Sicilian expedition, they would have lost their best commander, but they would at least have retained the militarily dominant position they had achieved with the Peace of Nicias.
By doing both, they ensured the failure of the Sicilian expedition (which was slaughtered almost to a man and destroyed their superior position) and gave the Spartans an excellent adviser (he was the one who finally got the Spartans to fortify Delium [to which Thucydides attributes a large share of the eventual Athenian defeat] and to pursue a more offensive strategy than they had dared to previously.) Even though Alcibiades double-defected back to the Athenians a few years later, the damage was done and all the best ships and the highly trained oarsmen and coxswains which had been destroyed and killed in Sicily could never be recovered.
It is interesting to note that after Alcibiades became prominent after the Peace of Nicias, he was always winning, whichever side he was on, as long as he was given authority to do what he wanted. The man was unbeatable. Lysander was not able to defeat the re-built Athenian navy until Alcibiades was removed from command; and then the defeat was a direct result of the Athenian commanders disregarding a specific warning that Alcibiades had given them as a private citizen. I imagine that when I do fill out my Greek faction I will make it Athenian, just so I can have an Alcibiades hero.