The fourth century BC is often seen as the decline of the Greeks, a process that began with the defeat of Athens by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War. But this shortchanges a vital period. At this time, the Athenians achieved a stable government under decent legal processes, the Greeks developed nascent federal political systems, markets thrived, orators brought forth groundbreaking ideas, and the philosophical schools of Plato, Aristotle and others were established. The Greeks began to contemplate the possibility of a “common peace” for all, based on the autonomy of each city-state.
This course focuses on the defining political and military events of the first half of the fourth century BC (403 to 355 BC). In bloody clashes, the slave society of Sparta was neutralized, setting free Greeks held as slaves for generations—one of the most liberating events in all of history. Central to these events is the concept of autonomy, which greatly influenced attempts by the Greeks to resolve their political conflicts under federal political systems. The course emphasizes political and military events that set the stage for the rise of the Macedonians under Alexander the Great, a topic that will be the subject of a future course. The course draws in part from chapter two of John David Lewis’s book Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History.
(MP3 download; 2 hrs., 54 mins, 127 MB)