Naval War College Review


John Nash


The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE) was one of the defining conflicts of the ancient Greek world. It involved almost all the Greek city-states, aligned with one of the two main protagonists, Athens and Sparta. Conventionally it is seen as a war between a great land power, Sparta, and a great sea power, Athens. The effect of viewing the war in this way is to give less prominence to the place of sea power in the conduct of the war, with that element viewed as relevant to only one side. Many scholars acknowledge that Athenian war strategy was primarily a maritime strategy and that Sparta only defeated Athens once the former had embraced the use of sea power against the latter.