Second Sacred War

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Second Sacred War
Date 449–448 BC
Location Mainland Greece
Result Reinstatement of Phocis in its former sovereign rights on the oracle of Delphi.
No territory change
Commanders and leaders

The Second Sacred War took place between 449–448 BC and resulted in an indirect confrontation between Athens and Sparta during the so-called First Peloponnesian War. It was a brief war.

The events

In 457 B.C., after the Battle of Oenofyta, the Athenians who had gained control over Boeotia and Phocis decided to detach the city of Delphi from the Ampictyony and to hand it over to the Phocians. The basic reason was the Athenian's desire to control the sanctuary, i.e. to have the right to Promanteia, but as an excuse they used the pro-Persian behaviour that the Amphictyony had shown. When the Phocians regained control over the sanctuary they minted coins on behalf of the Amphictyony on which features the head of Apollo and a lyre or laurel. The war erupted in 449 B.C.when Sparta detached Delphi from Phocis and rendered it independent, handing it back to the Delphians.[1] The Athenians were however champions of the Phocians. Therefore, in 448 BC, Pericles led the Athenian army against Delphi, in order to reinstate Phocis in its former sovereign rights on the oracle of Delphi.[2] Immediately after the Spartans had left, they recaptured Delphi and handed it back to the Phocians, who held it until 421 B.C., when Delphi was finally proclaimed independent under the Peace of Nikias. Our mmain sources for the events are Thucydides (I.112) and Plutarch (Parallel Lives, Pericles. 21).

According to M. Dillon, the military actions of both Sparta and Athens were quick and effective and there is no evidence that they affected pilgrims consulting the oracle.[1]

In contrast to the Third Sacred War, this war was short and not so bitter.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Matthew Dillon (1997), Pilgrims and Pilgrimage in Ancient Greece, 51
  2. Thucydides, I, 112 and Plutarch, Pericles, XXI