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The Late Classical period (IV century BC)

The crisis of the policy system in the first half of the IV century BC

After the Peloponnesian War, a serious crisis of the policy system began. The incompatibility of the closed social structure of Sparta and its role as a Greek hegemon, to which many policies outside the Peloponnese were subordinate, was revealed. The legislation of Lycurgus also cracked: around 400 there was a revolutionary change in Lacedaemonian legislation, when for the first time, according to the law of Ephor Epitadeus on the freedom of wills and donations of land plots, citizens were allowed to sell and buy allotments. An active inflow of funds began to Sparta. Lysander brought a lot of money, indemnity was received in large quantities, Persia gave funds with a generous hand. The Spartans were unable to use the money rain that fell on them, because their equalizing state was not designed for large monetary turnover. There were rich people in Lacedaemon before the war, there was also a certain social division, but in the existing system, the rich could not express themselves. And with the advent of money, society was unable to maintain its previous level, forced to pursue an energetic foreign policy, which was impossible to implement in the conditions of Sparta. The traditional foundations of Lacedaemon were crumbling.

The spread of mercenaries.

The enrichment of some and the impoverishment of others led to a sharp social division. There were many ruined citizens who did not own land and did not have the opportunity to participate in public meals. The rich bought up large plots, and the poor were excluded from the civic collective. There was a "washout" of the middle layer of owners, and with it - and the direct support of the policy system. If poor farmers could provide for themselves before the war, now they found themselves below the poverty line. A large number of marginals appeared, excluded from society, but forced to earn a living. This is one of the main reasons for the widespread use of mercenaries in the first half of the IV century . The policy hired soldiers and concluded a contract with them - the war turned into a source of sustenance and a financial event. Non-compliance with the agreement entailed the need to pay a penalty, since the soldier's salary was capital and for the soldiers it was not about patriotism, but about where they would pay more, so they easily moved from one employer to another if they promised mountains of gold.

At first, the mercenaries hoped, having saved up money, to return to peaceful work, but gradually these dreams disappeared, since it was already unrealistic for a soldier who had served in the army for 10-15 years to change his chosen profession. Thus, by the middle of the fourth century, mercenary activity became an active factor in Greece. The famous work of the last historian of the classical era Xenophon1 "Anabasis" is dedicated to the return of a mercenary detachment of ten thousand soldiers to Greece from Asia. Xenophon was one of the participants of this campaign.

The development of mercenary activity is the result of the unwillingness of citizens to fight themselves, which indicated a change in the civilian worldview, since with the coincidence in the policy of military and civilian organizations, the militia was one of the structural elements of the city. When it becomes safer and more profitable to hire outsiders instead of themselves and send them to war, people cease to be full-fledged citizens.

The development of mercenary activity had a number of consequences. On the one hand, the craft associated with the manufacture of weapons flourished, and with it the military was improved; on the other, endless wars became an integral feature of the life of the Greeks of the first half of the IV century, which led to the destruction of the economy in principle, as mercenaries ravaged houses, burned fields and destroyed the production still remaining in Greece.

Slavery was widespread, the main source of which turned out to be prisoners of war, primarily from the East Asian regions. Any soldier, once he was captured, could also turn into a slave. However, the Greeks preferred to receive a ransom for their fellow tribesmen, rather than completely enslave them.

"Junior" tyranny.

Mercenaries actively contributed to the establishment of new tyrannical regimes, "junior" tyranny caused by internal instability. Unlike the "older" tyranny, the new regimes did not have a firm social support and they did not have a creator in the person of any political group. State foundations should be based on certain layers within society, and they did not exist in the IV century: tyrannies arose as a result of a random combination of forces, temporary and unexpected political superiority of some over others, when the lucky ones seized the moment to begin their ascent to power.

Tyrants relied primarily on mercenaries, based on the current political situation. However, in the absence of broad public support, tyrannies were doomed to be short-lived, which is why individual regimes based on the usurpation of power ceased to exist at the end of the fourth century. On the other hand, tyrants have played a positive role for some policies, coming to power under the flag of "national leadership" and promising citizens internal well-being, protection of the interests of the state, etc. Tyranny, thus, reflected the trends of the new times, when the old state system had already outlived itself, and the new one had not yet been formed.

The most famous tyrant was Dionysius I of Syracuse, who once captured the arsenal of Syracuse with a detachment of a thousand bodyguards and proclaimed himself the ruler of the city, which he was at the head of for forty years (406-367). In the Western Mediterranean, Dionysius created a major power that united the cities of Eastern Sicily and part of Southern Italy. The fleet of Dionysius dominated the Ionian and Adriatic Seas; the tyrant maintained friendly relations with Sparta and concluded a mutual assistance agreement with Athens. Syracuse was experiencing a period of maximum economic and political recovery. The enlightened Dionysius, who himself composed tragedies, attracted philosophers, poets, artists and scientists to the court. Plato, who did not agree with Dionysius in everything, nevertheless left a description of his personality as an ideal ruler. However, the hegemony of Syracuse did not last long, since the power turned out to be fragile and collapsed already in the middle of the IV century. under the son of the tyrant, Dionysius II.

On the territory of Balkan Greece, in the city of Fera, Jason became a major tyrant. By 372, he united the whole of Thessaly under his rule, recreating a monarchical state. Jason tried to organize a campaign against the Persians, but in 370 he was killed as a result of a conspiracy of aristocrats who took the reins of government into their own hands.

Sophists and Socrates.

The crisis manifested itself in the worldview of the Greeks. Traditional knowledge no longer satisfied people who subjected everything to revision and doubt. During the Peloponnesian War, a new direction in philosophy, sophism, was developed. Sophist philosophers ("sages") wandered through Greece and taught people wisdom for a moderate fee. If in the archaic era philosophers were interested in the arrangement of the world, nature and the entire universe, now man was the focus of attention. This reorientation to a certain extent anticipated the era of Hellenism.

The sophists' worldview reflected the relativity and instability of the real world, therefore, in their opinion, there was no absolute truth, and any judgment could be interpreted in two ways. Sophists liked to play word games, forcing their opponent to admit one judgment, and then, asking tricky questions, forced him to refute. Sophistic problems are known, for example: one tree is not a garden, two trees are not a garden, but if you add a tree to them, then eventually a garden will appear; at what point will it arise, or when can we say that there are one or two trees? There is no such facet, which is why it is impossible to put forward an absolute judgment about the listed trees.

Nevertheless, such bead games contributed to the emergence of serious philosophy: at this time, the famous Socrates (470-399), one of the greatest philosophers of Greece, became famous. The main place in his teaching he devoted to the moral education of citizens, focusing on ethics. Socrates saw the negative sides of democracy and was one of the opponents of its extremes, because he believed that eventually this system could degenerate into a dictatorship of the poor, ochlocracy, when the crowd seized power. Socrates managed to notice such features of the Athenian state system already at the end of the IV century, which could not please his contemporaries. Socrates was mocked and criticized. Aristophanes wrote the comedy "Clouds", in which he cruelly and rudely ridiculed Socrates, calling him an "empty thinker" because he did not distinguish between the teachings of Socrates and the sophists. In the end, a trial was held over the philosopher, which ended with a guilty verdict, according to which Socrates drank a cup of poison.

Creation of unions.

The creation or activation of existing unions, on the one hand, reflected the crisis of Greek society, and on the other, was an attempt to get out of it. In Greece, there were already alliances with the goals of defense and military offensive, for example, the Peloponnesian and Athenian. The latter was resumed in the IV century BC as the II Athenian Maritime Union (378-338), repeating the history of its predecessor, although not on such a scale: if the first included almost 250 cities, then the second - about 70, that is, three times less.

Another type of unions are regional federations that united residents of a certain ethnic area: Boeotian, Chalcidian, Thessalian, Phocidian, Arcadian unions, etc. By uniting in a federation, the Greeks tried to overcome internal divisions and internecine strife in certain areas of Greece, as well as to unite individual nationalities. However, the emergence of numerous associations inevitably led to their clash and the desire of one union to achieve supremacy in Greece and become the hegemon of the Mediterranean without sufficient forces, which was the reason for many wars of the first half of the IV century.

Wars of the first half of the IV century BC

Sparta, after the Peloponnesian War, did not fulfill the promise to return the cities of Asia Minor to Persia, which is why the war of Sparta with Persia (399-394) broke out, as a result of which no one achieved an absolute victory. However, it was now that the line was drawn under the political history of Sparta as a hegemon state, which no longer represented a monolith dangerous for other polises.

A coalition was formed against Sparta, uniting Athens, Thebes and cities that were part of the Peloponnesian Union, such as Corinth, whose influence was very significant, and Megara. The anti-Spartan coalition, supported by Persia, opened hostilities that resulted in the Corinthian War: its main battles took place in the area of Corinth (395-387). After the Spartan squadron was defeated near Knida (394), in 387 under the pressure of Persia, the so-called "Antalkid" peace was concluded in Susa (Antalkid was the head of the Spartan embassy), which once again reflected the balance of power between Persia, Sparta and the anti-Spartan coalition. But Persia was in a better position. The Greeks refused the conquests of the Greco-Persian wars and ceded the Asia Minor cities of Miletus and Ephesus, included in the Persian satrapies. The world of the Antalkids opened the way for the Persian fleet to the Aegean Sea.

Sparta suffered a final defeat in 371 after the Battle of Leuctra (a city in Boeotia), when the Lacedaemonians were defeated in open battle for the first time. The Theban militia, led by Epaminondas, fought with them, using a new tactical technique - the "oblique" wedge: the Thebans sidestepped the unwieldy Spartan phalanx and defeated it. The Spartans, trying to justify themselves, claimed that they were beaten not according to the rules.

Since 371, Sparta ceased to exist as a powerful state that determined the fate of the Greek Mediterranean, and now Thebes claimed the first place in Greece, standing at the head of the Boeotian Union, which destroyed the Peloponnesian Union. The Thebans in the central part of the Peloponnese, Arcadia, after the battle of Leuctra, created an alliance of Arcadian cities and deprived Sparta of Messenia, that is, half of its real land fund. Athens, the former allies of Thebes in the fight against the Spartans, did not support the Boeotian Alliance, because they themselves sought hegemony. There was a rift within the second Athenian Naval Alliance, and the Allied War began (357-355), which ended with the defeat of Athens.

Numerous wars are explained by the fact that no association of cities wanted to strengthen the neighboring union, and therefore there was a regular consolidation of policies against the strongest, who aspired to power. Such a war of "all against all", in the words of one of his contemporaries, led to the senseless extermination of the Greeks by the Greeks. The intervention of Persia also played an important role, since the side that received money from it often won - a vicious circle was formed.

The way out of the crisis became possible only through the forcible subordination of Greece to another young power strong enough to retain power. This role was fulfilled by Macedonia, which, being less developed and less civilized than Greece, conquered Greek cities. This is a natural process characteristic of other epochs: both the Roman Empire fell under the blows of the barbarians, and the Tatars subjugated Russia precisely because it is easier for a less civilized, but still young and "not tired" people to make themselves dependent on a society that stands at a higher level of cultural development.