The conventional wisdom is that Sparta won, because Athens ultimately surrendered and faced total destruction.
But as Robert Strassler points out in his epilogue to the Landmark edition, which I read this time, the big winner was not a belligerent. Rather, victory belonged to an observer, Persia, which stood on the sidelines and encouraged the fight, and then moved in to collect its winnings. I think too often we don’t consider that as an outcome in wars.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.