Peace of Nicias
The Peace of Nicias, also known as the Fifty-Year Peace, was a peace treaty signed between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta in March 421 BC, ending the first half of the Peloponnesian War.
In 425 BC, the Spartans had lost the battles of Pylos and Sphacteria, a severe defeat resulting in the Athenians' holding 292 prisoners. At least 120 were Spartiates. They had recovered by 424 BC, when the Spartan general Brasidas captured Amphipolis. In the same year, the Athenians suffered a major defeat in Boeotia at the Battle of Delium, and in 422 BC they were defeated again at the Battle of Amphipolis in their attempt to take back that city. Both Brasidas, the leading Spartan general, and Cleon, the leading politician in Athens, were killed at Amphipolis. By this time both sides were exhausted and ready for peace.
The negotiations were begun by Pleistoanax, King of Sparta, and the Athenian general Nicias. Both decided to return everything that they had conquered during the war, except for Nisaea, which would remain in Athenian hands, and Plataea, which remained under the control of Thebes. Most notably, Amphipolis would be returned to Athens, and the Athenians would release the prisoners taken at Sphacteria. Temples throughout Greece would be open to worshippers from all cities, and the oracle at Delphi would regain its autonomy. Athens could continue to collect tribute from the states from which it had received it since the time of Aristides, but Athens could not force them to become allies. Athens also agreed to come to Sparta's aid if the Helots revolted. All of Sparta's allies agreed to sign the peace, except for the Boeotians, Corinth, Elis, and Megara.
Seventeen representatives from each side swore an oath to uphold the treaty, which was meant to last for fifty years. These representatives were, for Sparta, the kings Pleistoanax and Agis II, Pleistolas, Damagetus, Chionis, Metagenes, Acanthus, Daithus, Ischagoras, Philocharidas, Zeuxidas, Antiphus, Tellis, Alcindas, Empedias, Menas, and Laphilus. The Athenian representatives were Lampon, Isthmonicus, Nicias, Laches, Euthydemus, Procles, Pythodorus, Hagnon, Myrtilus, Thrasycles, Theagenes, Aristocrates, Iolcius, Timocrates, Leon, Lamachus, and Demosthenes. However, Athens's chief goal, the restoration of Amphipolis, was denied when Clearidas obtained from the Spartans a clause in the treaty negating the transfer. Thus the treaty was broken from the start and, after several more failures, was formally abandoned in 414 BC.
- Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 5, 13–24.
- Donald Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 2004, 197–209.
- Text of the Peace of Nicias