Peace between Athens and Sparta: an agreement signed only in 1996
The Peloponnesian War of 431-404 BC between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta was a pivotal period in world history.
Athens, the semi-democratic state that lent so many of its ideals to Rome and to western civilization as a whole in the modern age, and Sparta, the military state that seemed to have no rivals on the battlefields of the time, fought a war for control of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean Basin.
But in Athens, in 404 BC the Spartans of Lysander have now conquered the Acropolis, imposed the destruction of the walls, the end of democracy and the dismantling of the naval fleet. The Second Peloponnesian War, fought between a league of Peloponnesian and another of Athens, finds its conclusion after 27 years.
Although it seems paradoxical, more an amusing curiosity than a real historical fact, the second Peloponnesian war, officially fought between 431 and 404 BC, in ancient times saw no signing of a peace treaty. The peace declaration was signed by the cities’ mayors Dimitris Avramopoulos and Dimosthenis Matalas at a special ceremony in ancient Sparta, or Lakedaimonm, 300 kilometers south of Athens only on 10 March 1996.
So, Athens and Sparta, rival cities of antiquity, have signed a ‘symbolic’ peace pact that officially ends the Peloponnesian War that ravaged Greece 2,500 years ago. On March 12th, 1996, Athens’ municipal spokesman Vassilias Talamangas announced: ‘This year marks the 25th century since the end of the Peloponnesian War and this symbolic peace pact is our way of commemorating its end!”
The agreement was signed with the following motivation:
“Today, 10 March 1996, in the capital of Laconia, the mayor of Athens and the mayor of Sparta express their deep sorrow for the conflict between the two most important cities of ancient Greece and proclaim the closure of hostilities of the war between Athens and the states of the Peloponnese, inextricably consolidating the bonds of friendship, collaboration and legitimacy that have flourished since ancient times”.
Although in ancient times the declarations of war were not usual, they were much more the peace treaties, especially if related to neighboring cities, such as Athens and Sparta. An example is the “Peace of Thirty Years” of 446 BC, signed after the First Peloponnesian War, always fought between the two Greek Polis.
Athens and Sparta, two different ways of understanding life, culture and society, were among the main protagonists of Western history, exporting models of state government and military discipline that are an example even today.
For over 20 years they have been, even on a political level, in complete peace.