What were the factors leading to the Athenian's defeat in the Peloponnesian War?

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martinjmurphy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Peloponnesian War was a war between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta.  This war lasted 27 years from 431 B.C to 404 B.C. and ended with a Spartan victory. In general, Sparta had a powerful army and was able to control land battles and Athens had a powerful navy and was able to control the sea.  Sparta was able to eventually win this war for several reasons.  First was a disastrous Athenian military expedition to Sicily.  Athens wanted to capture the city of Syracuse and acquire a new source of grain for Athens.  The Athenians lost 200 warships in this military undertaking, weakening its naval power.  More importantly, Sparta gained an ally in Persia.  With Persian assistance, Sparta was able to build a more powerful navy, and was able to defeat and destroy the Athenian navy in the Hellespont.  With this defeat, Athens lost control of the Aegean Sea. Athens was no longer able to bring food into the city.  With their food supplies running low, Athens was forced to surrender to Sparta.  Perhaps the most important factor in the whole war was the aid given to Sparta by the Persians.

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