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The Peloponnesian War, 431-404 BC

2. Dates

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the dates for the war. The Peloponnesian War is conventionally dated to the period 431-404 BC, but this period included almost a decade of peace between Athens and Sparta. Why do we see the Peloponnesian War as one single conflict as opposed to two wars separated by a peace?


In this course, Professor Paul Cartledge (University of Cambridge) gives a detailed account of the Peloponnesian War, 431-404 BC. We begin by clarifying some of the terminology used to discuss the war, including the question of what we should actually call it, before turning in the second module to the question of why the conventional dates for the war (431-404 BC) may be open to question. After that, we think about some of the sources available to the modern historian researching the Peloponnesian War, both literary (e.g. Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, Plutarch's Lives) and otherwise (e.g. epigraphic and archaeological evidence), before turning in the fourth module to the causes of the Peloponnesian War, including both the longer-term causes and shorter-term triggers for war.

In the following three modules, we look at the course of the war itself. First, we trace the events of the Archidamian War and the Peace of Nicias (431-15 BC). After that, we look at the Sicilian Expedition (415-13 BC). And then we explore the final phase of the war, known as the Decelean War or the Ionian War, ending with the Athenians' defeat (413-404 BC).

In the eighth module, we consider some of the shorter- and longer-term consequences of the Peloponnesian War, including the complicated set of events in the fourth century BC and the ultimate ascendency of Macedon in the later part of the century, which changed the complexion of the Greek world completely. Finally, in a short ninth module, we offer some suggestions for further reading.


Paul Cartledge is Professor of Greek History in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge, where he has taught since 1979; he is also a Fellow of Clare College. His undergraduate and doctoral qualifications where obtained at Oxford, where he completed a dissertation on the archaeology and history of early Sparta under the supervision of Professor Sir John Boardman. He is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of a score of books, including most recently The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece; The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization; Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History c.1300-362 BC; The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others; The Spartans: An Epic History; Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past and Thermopylae: The Battle that Changed the World . He co-edits two monograph series, sits on the editorial boards of three learned journals and serves as consultant in ancient history to Duckworth publishers. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and holds the Gold Cross of the Order of Honour awarded by the President of the Hellenic Republic.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cartledge, P. (2019, January 15). The Peloponnesian War, 431-404 BC - Dates [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cartledge, P. "The Peloponnesian War, 431-404 BC – Dates." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Jan 2019,