Corinthian Wars

B.C. 395 to 387
Sparta — versus — Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos (allied with Persia)

Corinthian War
During the Corinthian War, which was fought ten years after the Peloponnesian War, three of Sparta's former allies joined forces with Athens against her. The causes of the war involved considerable treachery and personal grudges, as well as the usual jealousies and political intrigue.

Agesilaus was the king of Sparta during this period, and during the years 396-395 BC, was campaigning with great success in Asia Minor, against the Persian satraps. He had freed many of the Ionian Greek cities from Persian control, and won considerable territory in the inland as well. Unable to drive Agesilaus from their own territory, the Persians sought to stir up as much trouble as possible for Sparta on the mainland. The strategy worked. Agesilaus was called home at the height of his victorious campaigns in Anatolia.

Instead of attacking Sparta directly, Thebes had provoked the initial battle at Haliartus in Northwest Greece, by inducing one of their allies to raid Phocis, a Spartan ally. The Spartan forces sent to relieve Phocis were divided, and the command under Lysander was attacked by a Theban force in the area and routed. It was after this battle, that Argos, Athens, and Corinth openly allied themselves with Thebes, and the Spartans realized a full-blown civil war was imminent.

Although Sparta and the allies were formally at war until 387 BC when the Peace of Antalcidas brought about an end to hostilities, all of the major battles were fought in 394 BC. There were only two full blown land battles during the course of the war, first at Corinth, and then at Coronea. Sparta won costly victories at each, but was not strong enough to follow up on either of them. At sea, Sparta fared considerably worse. Virtually her entire fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Cnidus, leaving Athens and Persia in control of the seas. This brought about an effective stalemate, although skirmishes, intrigue, plotting, and counter-plotting preceded apace.

The terms of the Peace of Antalcidas have been widely viewed as disgraceful, since they returned the Ionian Greek states to Persian control. Persia had been the primary instigator of the Corinthian war, and was in the end, its primary beneficiary.

DateBattle Summary
395 BC  
Battle of Haliartus   Thebeans victory
Fought B.C. 395, when Lysander, at the head of a Spartan force, without waiting as had been arranged to effect a junction with Pausanius, attacked the town of Haliartus. The Haliartians, seeing from the battlements that a body of Thebans was approaching, made a sortie, and the Spartans, attacked simultaneously in front and rear, were routed, and Lysander slain.
394 BC  
Battle of Corinth   Spartans victory
Fought B.C. 394 between 14,000 Spartans, and 26,000 Athenians, Corinthians, Thebans and Argives. The allies were defeated, losing twice as many men as their opponents, but the Spartans, in spite of their victory, were obliged to retire, leaving the Isthmus in their possession.
394 BC  
Battle of Coronea   drawn battle victory
Fought August B.C. 394, between the Athenians, Argives, Thebans, and Corinthians, and the Spartans under Agesilaus. The Spartan right defeated the Argives, but their left fled before the Thebans, who then attacked the Spartan right, but, after a desperate struggle, were defeated. The Spartans, however, had suffered so severely that Agesilaus was compelled to evacuate Boeotia.
394 BC  
Battle of Cnidus   Persians victory
Fought B.C. 394 between 120 Spartan triremes under Pisander and a largely superior Persian fleet under Pharnabazus, and Conon the Athenian. Pisander was defeated and slain, and his fleet destroyed. Persia thus re-established her power in the Greek cities of Asia, and the maritime power of Sparta was destroyed.

Short Biography
Lysander Spartan naval Commander who defeated Athens in Peloponnesian War.
Agesilaus Leader of Sparta after the Peloponnesian War. Campaigned in Asia Minor and warred with Thebes.
Conon Leading General of Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War.
Pharnabazus Persian governor of Phrygia who conspired with Thebes to incite the Corintian War to recall Agesilaus from Asia Minor.

Story Links
Book Links
Lame King  in  Tales of the Greeks: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Peace of Antalcidas  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Agesilaus  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
When Sparta Ruled  in  The Story of the Greek People  by  Eva March Tappan