Between 423 and 422 BCE, the warring coalitions of Athens and Sparta began negotiating a truce after nine years of warfare. Around this time, the people of Scione, who had hitherto been on the Athenian side of the war, fatefully made the decision to defect to the Peloponnesian League, which was led by Sparta. Scione was actually one of several cities in northern Greece that changed its allegiance from Athens to Sparta—at the time, a Spartan general named Brasidas was causing endless trouble for Athens by igniting such revolts in the northern cities. Brasidas even visited Scione, welcoming them to the alliance and praising their bravery. Some Peloponnesian forces were left behind in Scione, but these were not enough to press back an Athenian army that arrived on the outskirts of the city before the end of 423 BCE. Unfortunately for the people of Scione, the Athenian siege of their city was still ongoing when the Peace of Nicias was reached in 422 BCE.
One of the effects of the peace was an elaborate prisoner exchange between the Spartan and Athenian factions. As Scione was still under siege, and had not yet won its independence, the city was not included in the truce. Athens considered the city to be in rebellion and labeled the Peloponnesians trapped inside the siege as prisoners of war. During the truce negotiations, Sparta was able to arrange for any Peloponnesian League members in Scione to be given safe passage out of the besieged city, as well as freedom for these warriors to return home. The native citizens of Scione, however, still faced an ongoing siege and now they would face the wrath of Athens without any Peloponnesian support.
The siege of Scione lasted until 421 BCE. When the Athenians finally forced their way inside the forsaken city, they showed no mercy. According to the Athenian general and historian, Thucydides (c. 460-400 BCE), the men of Scione were massacred and the women and children were sold into slavery. Athens then made a gift of the bloodied land to refugees of Plataea, a pro-Athenian city that had been massacred in a similar way by the Peloponnesians in 427 BCE.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
Picture Attribution: (Black-figure “Mastos” with Combat Scenes, c. 530 BCE, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).
- History of the Peloponnesian War (Book IV) by Thucydides, translated by Rex Warner and introduced by M. I. Finley. New York: Penguin Classics, 1972.