407: Downfall
(Lysander becomes Spartan War Leader)

407: Downfall (Lysander becomes Spartan War Leader) Spartan officer, from The Greeks documentary

In 407 the Spartans made Lysander the chief general of their forces. Like Alcibiades he was a man of exceptional gifts, but unlike him he renounced all luxury, pleasure and show, unless it served to help his one overriding ambition: victory for Sparta.

Lysander spent a year avoiding all unnecessary conflict. Instead he concentrated his energies on building up a navy and striking up a close relationship with Greece's traditional foe: Persia. Only once did he openly engage in battle, and as the result of that naval victory, Alcibiades was removed from office: he had made the mistake of leaving his fleet in the command of one of his drinking companions.

A year later a newly built Athenian navy won a major victory, only to lose 2000 men on the way home due to storms. The assembly blamed the generals, and condemned them to death. Of the officials appointed to review the case only the philosopher Socrates refused to accept the judgement. Democracy was descending into mob rule once more. More atrocities followed when the assembly voted to chop off the right hands of all prisoners of war in an attempt to prevent them fighting again.

Sparta suggested peace, but once again Athens refused. They had missed their last chance...

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