Thursday, July 28, 2022

Athenian empire (454 – 404 BC)

The Athenian Empire arose from naval power acquired to face the Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. The Hellenic league, formed to combat the Persians, was clearly headed by Sparta. Sparta presided at meetings and provided both land and sea commanders.

The Athenians were interested in trade with the Greek cities still ruled by Persia, and they wanted to liberate their fellow Greeks from Persian rule.

At Athens, the Athenians began rebuilding their walls. The Spartans opposed the rebuilding. Themistocles tricked the Spartans by delays until the Athenian walls were rebuilt. Clear lines of power and strategic moves.

Sparta and its allies on the Peloponnese peninsula withdrew from the war, leaving Athens as the most influential among those cities continuing the war. Athens created a new league of states – a voluntary association called the Delian League.

The Delian league was a new alliance against the Persians, but under Athenian leadership. By 446/5 the Delian League had become the Athenian empire. Peace had been made with Persia, but Athens had firmly retained her hold over the allies.

League forces liberated Greek communities from Persian control and dominated the waters of the eastern Mediterranean. Most subjects paid an annual tribute, with Athens using the monies to build and man warships.
The Delian league's first action, in 476/5, was to take over Eion, a Persian fortress on the Strymon river.

Next the Athenians expelled pirates from Scyrus (near Euboea) and settled it themselves. A few years later, they subdued Carystus, a Euboean city that had medized during the Persian war. Then in 467, Naxos revolted and was subdued. The pattern is clear: attack Persians, take over territory, force a city to remain in the league.

Athens arrogated to itself the role of policeman within its alliance. Athens forced back into its alliance a city that had broken its oath to remain in the league. It suppressed petty wars within the league and intervened in disputes within member cities, favoring those who supported democracy. Athens was beginning to be imperial.

To further strengthen Athens's grip on its empire, Pericles in 450 BC began a policy of establishing kleruchiai—quasi-colonies that remained tied to Athens and which served as garrisons to maintain control of the League's vast territory.

In 437, Amphipolis was founded as an Athenian colony on the Chalcidice. It grew to be an important city, because of the natural resources it could draw on: timber, pitch, metals. The empire was a self-propelling device in terms of economy and military. The fleet was an economic and military tool.

Ultimately, fear of Athens’ growing power sparked the Peloponnesian War with Sparta and its allies, a long and costly war of attrition. Athens’ defeat in 404 BC led to the loss of the empire.
Athenian empire (454 – 404 BC)

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