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The Struggle for Dominance after the Peloponnesian War

In the fifty years after the Peloponnesian War, Sparta, Thebes, and Athens fought to win a dominant position of international power in the Greek world. Athens probably never regained the same economic and military strength that it had formerly wielded in the fifth century B.C., perhaps because its silver mines1 were no longer producing at the same level. Nevertheless, it did recover after the re-establishment of democracy2 in 403 B.C. and soon became a major force in international politics once again. Sparta's widespread attempts to extend its power in the years after the Peloponnesian War gave Athens and the other Greeks states ample opportunity for diplomatic and military action. In 401 B.C., the Persian satrap Cyrus, son of a previous king, hired a mercenary army to try to unseat Artaxerxes II3, who had ascended to the Persian throne in 404. Xenophon4, who enlisted under Cyrus, wrote a stirring account in his Anabasis 5 of the expedition's disastrous defeat at Cunaxa6 near Babylon and the arduous and long journey home through hostile territory7 of the terrified Greek mercenaries from Cyrus's routed army. Sparta had supported Cyrus's rebellion, thereby arousing the hostility of Artaxerxes. The Spartan general Lysander, the victor over Athens in the last years of the Peloponnesian War, pursued an aggressive policy8 in Anatolia and northern Greece, and other Spartan commanders meddled in Sicily9. Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos thereupon formed an anti-Spartan coalition10 because they saw this Spartan activity as threatening their own interests at home and abroad.

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