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Losses through Spartan invasions

The difficulty in carrying out Pericles1' strategy2 for winning the war was that it required the many Athenians who resided outside the urban center to abandon their homes and fields to the depredations of the Spartan army during its regular invasions of Attica. As Thucydides reports, people hated coming in from the countryside where “most Athenians were born and bred; they grumbled at having to move their entire households [into Athens] ... , abandoning their normal way of life and leaving behind what they regarded as their true city.”3 When in 431 B.C. the Spartans invaded Attica for the first time and began to destroy property in the countryside, the country dwellers of Attica became enraged as, standing in safety on Athens' walls, they watched the smoke rise from their property as the Spartans put it to the torch.4 Pericles only barely managed to stop the citizen militia from rushing out despite the odds to take on the Spartan hoplites. The Spartan army returned home after about a month5 in Attica because it lacked the structure for resupply over a longer period and could not risk being away from Sparta too long for fear of helot6 revolt. For these reasons, the annual invasions of Attica that the Spartans sent in the early years of the war never lasted longer than forty days. Even in this short time, however, the Spartan army could inflict losses on the Athenian countryside that were felt very keenly by the Athenians holed up in their walled city.

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