What Was the Worst War in Ancient Greece?

Ancient Greece has had its fair share of wars, each with their own complexities and consequences. However, there was one war that stood out as the most disastrous and consequential – the Peloponnesian War.

This was a war fought between Athens and Sparta that lasted for 27 years, from 431 BCE to 404 BCE. It was a war that saw the destruction of many Greek cities, the weakening of Athens’ power, and ultimately paved the way for the rise of Macedon.

The Causes of the Peloponnesian War

The Peloponnesian War was caused by a number of factors, including economic tensions between Athens and other Greek city-states, political tensions between democratic Athens and oligarchic Sparta, and Athenian imperialism.

One major factor was Athens’ control over trade in the Aegean Sea, which threatened Sparta’s interests as an agricultural power. The two city-states also had different political systems – Athens being a democracy while Sparta an oligarchy – which led to ideological clashes.

The Course of the Peloponnesian War

The Peloponnesian War can be divided into three phases. The first phase began in 431 BCE when Sparta invaded Attica, the region surrounding Athens. This forced Athenians to retreat behind their walls which led to a deadly plague outbreak in Athens that killed thousands including their leader Pericles.

In the second phase (413-404 BCE), Athens began attacking Syracuse in Sicily to expand its empire while Sparta secured support from Persia which led to a blockade of Athens by sea. In 405 BCE, Athenians were defeated in battle leading to their surrender bringing an end to this phase.

The third phase (404 BCE) marked the end of the war when Sparta defeated Athenians completely causing them great loss and humiliation.

Consequences of the Peloponnesian War

The Peloponnesian War had far-reaching consequences for Greece. It led to the weakening of Athens, the loss of many Greek lives, and the destruction of many cities. Athens lost its empire and its power was greatly diminished.

The war also paved the way for Macedonian expansion under Philip II and ultimately his son Alexander the Great who conquered Greece in 338 BCE. This led to Greece losing its independence until its liberation in the 19th century.


In conclusion, the Peloponnesian War was undoubtedly the worst war in ancient Greece. It lasted for nearly three decades, caused great devastation and loss of life, weakened Athens’ power, and paved the way for foreign rule over Greece. The lessons learned from this war continue to shape our understanding of conflict resolution in today’s world.