ATHENS VS. SPARTA
HOW ATHENS AND SPARTA FOUGHT A LONG AND DISASTROUS WAR FOR THE LEADERSHIP OF GREECE
 ATHENS and Sparta were both Greek cities and their people
spoke a common language. In every other respect they were
different. Athens rose high from the plain. It was a city
exposed to the fresh breezes from the sea, willing to look at
the world with the eyes of a happy child. Sparta, on the other
hand, was built at the bottom of a deep valley, and used the
surrounding mountains as a barrier against foreign thought.
Athens was a city of busy trade. Sparta was an armed camp
where people were soldiers for the sake of being soldiers. The
people of Athens loved to sit in the sun and discuss poetry or
listen to the wise words of a philosopher. The Spartans, on the
other hand, never wrote a single line that was considered literature,
but they knew how to fight, they liked to fight, and they
sacrificed all human emotions to their ideal of military preparedness.
No wonder that these sombre Spartans viewed the success
of Athens with malicious hate. The energy which the defence of
the common home had developed in Athens was now used for
purposes of a more peaceful nature. The Acropolis was rebuilt
and was made into a marble shrine to the Goddess Athena.
Pericles, the leader of the Athenian democracy, sent far and
wide to find famous sculptors and painters and scientists to
 make the city more beautiful and the young Athenians more
worthy of their home. At the same time he kept a watchful
eye on Sparta and built high walls which connected Athens
with the sea and made her the strongest fortress of that day.
An insignificant quarrel between two little Greek cities led
to the final conflict. For thirty years the war between Athens
and Sparta continued. It ended in a terrible disaster for
During the third year of the war the plague had entered
the city. More than half of the people and Pericles, the great
leader, had been killed. The plague was followed by a period
of bad and untrustworthy leadership. A brilliant young fellow
by the name of Alcibiades had gained the favor of the
popular assembly. He suggested a raid upon the Spartan
colony of Syracuse in Sicily. An expedition was equipped and
everything was ready. But Alcibiades got mixed up in a street
brawl and was forced to flee. The general who succeeded him
was a bungler. First he lost his ships and then he lost his
army, and the few surviving Athenians were thrown into the
stone-quarries of Syracuse, where they died from hunger and
The expedition had killed all the young men of Athens.
The city was doomed. After a long siege the town surrendered
in April of the year 404. The high walls were demolished.
The navy was taken away by the Spartans. Athens ceased to
exist as the center of the great colonial empire which it had
conquered during the days of its prosperity. But that wonderful
desire to learn and to know and to investigate which
had distinguished her free citizens during the days of greatness
and prosperity did not perish with the walls and the
ships. It continued to live. It became even more brilliant.
Athens no longer shaped the destinies of the land of Greece.
But now, as the home of the first great university the city began
to influence the minds of intelligent people far beyond
the narrow frontiers of Hellas.