Peace of Antalcidas

The Peace of Antalcidas (387 BC), also known as the King's Peace, was a peace treaty that ended the Corinthian War in ancient Greece. The treaty's official name comes from the Spartan diplomat who traveled to Susa to negotiate the terms of the treaty with the king of Persia. The treaty was more commonly known in antiquity, however, as the King's Peace, a name that reflects the depth of Persian influence in the treaty. The treaty was the first Common Peace, in which all the cities of Greece made peace simultaneously on the basis of autonomy.

The end of the war

By 387 BC, the central front of the Corinthian War had shifted from the Greek mainland to the Aegean, where an Athenian fleet under Thrasybulus had successfully placed a number of cities across the Aegean under Athenian control, and was acting in collaboration with Evagoras, the king of Cyprus. Since Evagoras was an enemy of Persia, and many of the Athenian gains threatened Persian interests, these developments prompted Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, to switch his support from Athens and her allies to Sparta. Antalcidas, the commander of a Spartan fleet, was summoned to Susa, along with the satrap, Tiribazus. There, the Spartans and Persians worked out the form of an agreement to end the war.

To bring the Athenians to the negotiating table, Antalcidas then moved his fleet of 90 ships to the Hellespont, where he could threaten the trade routes along which the Athenians imported grain. The Athenians, mindful of their disastrous defeat in 404 BC, when the Spartans had gained control of the Hellespont, agreed to negotiate, and Thebes, Corinth, and Argos, unwilling to fight on without Athens, were also forced to negotiate. In a peace conference at Sparta, all the belligerents agreed to the terms laid down by Artaxerxes.

Terms of the peace

The most notable feature of the Peace of Antalcidas is the Persian influence it reflects. The Persian decree that established the terms of the peace clearly shows this:

King Artaxerxes thinks it just that the cities in Asia should belong to him, as well as Clazomenae and Cyprus among the islands, and that the other Greek cities, both small and great, should be left independent, except Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros; and these should belong, as of old, to the Athenians. But whichever of the two parties does not accept this peace, upon them I will make war, in company with those who desire this arrangement, both by land and by sea, with ships and with money. [Xenophon, "Hellenica" ]

Ionia and Cyprus were abandoned to the Persians, and the Athenians were compelled to cede their newly-won territories in the Aegean. Equally significantly, the insistence on autonomy put an end to a novel political experiment that had grown out of the war, the union of Argos and Corinth. In what the Greeks called "sympoliteia", the two cities had politically merged, granting all citizens joint citizenship. They were forced to separate, and the Thebans were required to disband their Boeotian league. Only Sparta's Peloponnesian League and helots were overlooked, as the Spartans, who were responsible for administering the peace, had no wish to see the principle of independence applied there.


The single greatest effect of the Peace of Antalcidas was the return of firm Persian control to Ionia and parts of the Aegean. Driven back away from the Mediterranean by the Delian League during the 5th century, the Persians had been recovering their position since the later part of the Peloponnesian War, and were now strong enough to dictate terms to Greece. They would maintain this position of strength until the time of Alexander the Great.

A second effect was the establishment of Sparta in a formalized position at the top of the Greek political system. Using their mandate to protect and enforce the peace, the Spartans proceeded to launch a number of campaigns against states that they perceived as political threats. The largest of these was a campaign in 382 BC to break up the federalist Chalcidician League in northeastern Greece. On the way there, the Spartan commander Phoebidas seized Thebes and left a garrison. The principle of autonomy proved to be a flexible tool in the hand of a hegemonic power.

The Peace of Antalcidas was not successful in bringing peace to Greece. Fighting resumed with the campaign against Olynthus in 382, and continued, with intermittent attempts to restore the peace, for much of the next two decades. The idea of a Common Peace proved to be enduring, and numerous attempts would be made to establish one, with little more success than the original. By granting powers to Sparta that were sure to infuriate other states when used, the treaties sowed the seeds of their own demise, and a state of near-constant warfare continued to be the norm in Greece.


*Fine, John V.A. "The Ancient Greeks: A critical history" (Harvard University Press, 1983) ISBN 0-674-03314-0
*cite wikisource|Hellenica|Xenophon

ee also

*List of treaties


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