Syracuse is located on the island of Sicily which is to the East of Greece. Lately, Athens has been trying to take control of pieces of Sicily. Syracuse is not happy about this, because it considers itself to be the most powerful city-state on the island. Syracuse has an average navy and a below average army. It is being forced to pay tribute to Athens because it is a member of the Delian League. The Delian League is a group of city-states that are allied. Athens is the leader of this league. However, not all of the members of the Delian League are happy to be a part of it. Athens often acts like a bully and demands more and more money from each member every year. Athens harshly punishes city-states that attempt to leave the Delian League. For example, the Athenians killed all of the men in the city-state of Melos when they stopped paying tribute. The women and children were sold into slavery.
Syracuse has a lot of fish, vegetables, grains, and precious metals that it likes to trade. Unfortunately, a lot of the profits that Syracuse makes from trading end up in Athens because of the tribute Syracuse must pay to be a member of the Delian League.
Syracuse would like to get rid of Athens’s influence over the city-states of Sicily so that it can be the most powerful city-state on the island. In order to achieve this goal Syracuse has been secretly building up an army and navy on the Western side of Sicily where the Athenians never sail to. Syracuse is willing to fight to the death in order to gain control of Sicily and to earn respect among the other city-states.
As a coastal city-state, Corinth had a glorious history as a cultural and trade centre. Corinth was a monarchy. The people were ruled by a king. The king had many advisors. Together, Corinth's government solved many problems that face cities today. Literature, culture, art, and businesses thrived in Corinth. Corinth was a highly respected city-state in the ancient Greek world.
Corinth had a problem with unemployment. To solve this, they created a huge and successful public works program. This gave people work, like building new aqueducts, while solving other city problems, such as the need for an additional source of drinking water.
To solve the problem of foreign money pouring into their polis, the government of Corinth created its own coinage. They forced traders to exchange their coins for Corinth's coinage at the bank of Corinth, for a fee of course. Corinthians were very good with money.
Although Corinth's schools were not as fine, perhaps, as those of Athens, their boys were educated in the arts and the sciences. As a child, kids were taught at home. From age 7-14, boys attended a nearby day school, where they studied poetry, drama, public speaking, accounting, reading, writing, math, science, and the flute. Boys attended a higher school if their parents could afford it. All boys went to military school for at least two years.
Corinth has long vied with Athens, as both were focused on naval supremacy, trade and colonisation. Corinth developed the trireme, and many felt as though Athens had stolen Corinthian success by building their own. Most recently the conflict between Athens and Corinth has been heating up over the disputed colony of Corcyra.
Megara was a highly respected city-state in ancient Greece. As a coastal city-state, their history was similar to Corinth's, their neighbor. Any Megarian would have told you that their schools were as fine as those of Athens, although they would have had no doubt that any Athenian would disagree.
Boys were trained in the arts and the sciences. As a child, kids were taught at home by their mother or by a male slave.
From age 7-14, boys attended a day school near their home where they memorized poetry and studied drama, public speaking, reading, writing, science, poetry, the flute, the lyre, and a great deal of mathematics.
Boys then attended a higher school, and went on to military school for at least two years.
Like Athens, Megara offered its citizens a great deal of freedom. Like nearly all Greek city-states, Megara had beautiful temples, gorgeous statues, and open-air theatres. They were famous for their glorious textiles, which were the envy of other Greek city-states.
As a coastal town, Megara did a great deal of trading. They had their own coinage, an idea they copied from Corinth (who copied it from Argos.)
They were also explorers. Like all Greeks, they loved to establish new towns. The city-state of Megara founded the city of Byzantium, also called Constantinople, now called Istanbul, way back in 630 BCE.
Megara is a part of the Peloponnesian League, but was more closely aligned with Athens than Sparta both politically and culturally. Their rivalry with Corinth is also starting to heat up.
The ancient city-state of Argos had a nearby harbor for trade and commerce. But Argos was located on a plain. The weather was hot and dry in the summer, and cold and wet in the winter. The soil was not especially fertile. The people of Argos had to fight to grow food. This they did, quite successfully.
They did many things successfully. Many scholars credit Argos with the invention of coinage in ancient Greece, an invention that made trade much easier.
Argos was actively involved in the arts. Their magnificent stone sculptures of athletes, rippling with stone muscles, were the envy of many a Greek city-state. Argos was famous for their wonderful musicians and poets. Drama reached new heights in their polis (city-state).
Like all Greek city-states, they had their own way of doing things. Their government was a monarchy - Argos was ruled by a king.
When Athens and Sparta asked Argos to send supplies and troops to help fight the Persians, after the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE, the king of Argos refused. The other Greek city-states held Argos in disgrace for that decision for many years thereafter.
Earlier in Greek history, Argos rivaled Sparta for dominance of the Peloponnesus. By the 5th Century Sparta was clearly the more dominant city state, but Argos still vied for power and refused to join the Peloponnesian League.
Thebes is a town in central Greece which has been continuously inhabited for five millennia. It was an important Mycenaean centre in the middle to late Bronze Age and was a powerful city-state in the Classical period.
Strategically situated on a low plateau commanding the surrounding plains of Boeotia, Thebes (also known as Kadmeia) was first inhabited around 3000 BCE. Following the Dark Ages in Greece (c.1100 to 700 BCE), Thebes re-emerged as an influential Greek city-state and for the next four centuries the city would be a constant rival to Athens and Sparta for regional dominance. Thebes formed the Boeotian League, dominating the surrounding city states in Central Greece.
In 480 BCE Thebes sided with Persia when Xerxes invaded Greece. As a consequence of this, Thebes was hated by the other Greek city states. After the Greek victory against the Persians and allied Thebans at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BCE, Athens and Sparta punished Thebes by promoting Plataea to the leader of the Boeotian League. Plataea was a strong ally to Athens, and later when Sparta needed a counter to Athens’ growing power, they helped Thebes regain control of the Boeotian League. Relations between Sparta and Thebes have since improved considerably.
Athens is the most powerful and wealthy of all the city-states. It is the leader of the Delian League, a group of city-states who are allied for mutual protection against the Persians. The other city-states in the Delian League must pay tribute (money) to Athens or give supplies and ships. Athens also has control over a huge silver mine. The city-state uses a lot of the wealth it receives from the mine to build and improve the Athenian navy.
Athens’s navy is the strongest in all of Greece. It has many ships called triremes. Triremes sink other ships by ramming them. It was the Athenian Navy who fought and defeated the Persian Navy during the Persian wars. Athens’s mighty navy makes sure that the members of the Delain League can safely transport goods for trading. Remember, this protection comes at a price: tribute and ships.
Athens has a great and wise leader named Pericles. Under his guidance the Athenians built a protective wall around their city and around the port city of Piraeus. Piraeus is a very important city to Athens because that is where Athens conducts its sea trade.
Members of the Athenian League have access to the ports and products in the Athenian Empire. This is an excellent resource for a city-state who is looking to do a lot of sea trading. Remember, Delian League members also receive the protection of the Athenian Navy.
Athens needs more soldiers for its army. It is also looking for its new allies to pay tribute. Athens would like to make some friends on the Peloponnesus so that it can begin to gain influence in Spartan territory. It works well with other democracies… as long as those democracies are supportive of Athens.
Sparta has the largest and most powerful army in the world. Spartan hoplites are fierce fighters and are virtually unbeatable when they are in the phalanx formation. Sparta has twice as many hoplites as Athens. They are also much stronger and better trained. It was the Spartan army who killed over 20,000 Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae.
Sparta is the leader of the Peloponnesian League. The league provides protection and security to its members. Sparta does not require other city-states to pay any tribute (money) to be a part of the league. Spartans like to work with city-states who have oligarchies, and they are opposed to democracy.
Sparta does not have a very large navy and does not conduct much trade. Spartans like to mind their own business, and they would especially like it if the Athenians would stop trying gain influence among Sparta’s allies. Sparta prefers to avoid a war at this time, but it will fight if that is what is necessary to keep Athens and her allies away from Spartan territory.
Sparta is looking for allies to join the Peloponnesian League who can provide naval ships to the league. It is also looking for friends on Attica so that it can stop Athens from expanding onto the Peloponnesus.