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Readings for Ancient Greece 2 -- Unit 11, Delian League

Table of Contents
1    Delian League -- Wikipedia
2    Delian League -- Livius

3    Ancient Athens, the Delian League and Corruption -- From The Logical Place
4    Delos
University of Texas at San Antonio | UTSA
5    Peloponnesian League -- Wikipedia
6    Pericles -- Wikipedia
7    Delos Island
8    From the Delian League to the Athenian Empire
9    Pausanius -- Spartan General
10  Kimon of Athens
11  Aristides

1  Delian League

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Delian League, before the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC.

The Delian League, founded in 478 BC,[1] was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150[2] to 173,[3] under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Second Persian invasion of Greece. The League's modern[4] name derives from its official meeting place, the island of Delos, where congresses were held in the temple and where the treasury stood until, in a symbolic gesture,[5] Pericles moved it to Athens in 454 BC.[6]

Shortly after its inception, Athens began to use the League's navy for its own purposes. This behavior frequently led to conflict between Athens and the less powerful members of the League. By 431 BC, Athens' heavy-handed control of the Delian League prompted the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War; the League was dissolved upon the war's conclusion in 404 BC.



Main article: Greco-Persian Wars

The Greco-Persian Wars had their roots in the conquest of the Greek cities of Asia Minor, and particularly Ionia, by the Achaemenid Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great shortly after 550 BC. The Persians found the Ionians difficult to rule, eventually settling for sponsoring a tyrant in each Ionian city.[7] While Greek states had in the past often been ruled by tyrants, this was a form of arbitrary government that was on the decline.[8] By 500 BC, Ionia appears to have been ripe for rebellion against these Persian clients. The simmering tension finally broke into open revolt due to the actions of the tyrant of Miletus, Aristagoras. Attempting to save himself after a disastrous Persian-sponsored expedition in 499 BC, Aristagoras chose to declare Miletus a democracy.[9] This triggered similar revolutions across Ionia, extending to Doris and Aeolis, beginning the Ionian Revolt.[10]

The Greek states of Athens and Eretria allowed themselves to be drawn into this conflict by Aristagoras, and during their only campaigning season (498 BC) they contributed to the capture and burning of the Persian regional capital of Sardis.[11] After this, the Ionian revolt carried on (without further outside aid) for a further five years, until it was finally completely crushed by the Persians. However, in a decision of great historic significance, the Persian king Darius the Great decided that, despite successfully subduing the revolt, there remained the unfinished business of exacting punishment on Athens and Eretria for supporting the revolt.[12] The Ionian revolt had severely threatened the stability of Darius's empire, and the states of mainland Greece would continue to threaten that stability unless dealt with. Darius thus began to contemplate the complete conquest of Greece, beginning with the destruction of Athens and Eretria.[12]

In the next two decades there would be two Persian invasions of Greece, occasioning, thanks to Greek historians, some of the most famous battles in history. During the first invasion, Thrace, Macedon and the Aegean Islands were added to the Persian Empire, and Eretria was duly destroyed.[13] However, the invasion ended in 490 BC with the decisive Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon.[14] Between the two invasions, Darius died, and responsibility for the war passed to his son Xerxes I.[15]

Xerxes then personally led a second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC, taking an enormous (although oft-exaggerated) army and navy to Greece.[16] Those Greeks who chose to resist (the 'Allies') were defeated in the twin simultaneous battles of Thermopylae on land and Artemisium at sea.[17] All of Greece except the Peloponnesus thus having fallen into Persian hands, the Persians then seeking to destroy the Allied navy once and for all, suffered a decisive defeat at the Battle of Salamis.[18] The following year, 479 BC, the Allies assembled the largest Greek army yet seen and defeated the Persian invasion force at the Battle of Plataea, ending the invasion and the threat to Greece.[19]

The Allied fleet defeated the demoralized remnants of the Persian fleet in the Battle of Mycale— on the same day as Plataea, according to tradition.[20] This action marks the end of the Persian invasion, and the beginning of the next phase in the Greco-Persian wars, the Greek counterattack.[21] After Mycale, the Greek cities of Asia Minor again revolted, with the Persians now powerless to stop them.[22] The Allied fleet then sailed to the Thracian Chersonese, still held by the Persians, and besieged and captured the town of Sestos.[23] The following year, 478 BC, the Allies sent a force to capture the city of Byzantion (modern day Istanbul). The siege was successful, but the behaviour of the Spartan general Pausanias alienated many of the Allies, and resulted in Pausanias's recall.[24]

Formation of the League

After Byzantion, Sparta was eager to end its involvement in the war. The Spartans were of the view that, with the liberation of mainland Greece, and the Greek cities of Asia Minor, the war's purpose had already been reached. There was also perhaps a feeling that establishing long-term security for the Asian Greeks would prove impossible.[25] In the aftermath of Mycale, the Spartan king Leotychides had proposed transplanting all the Greeks from Asia Minor to Europe as the only method of permanently freeing them from Persian dominion.[25]

Xanthippus, the Athenian commander at Mycale, had furiously rejected this; the Ionian cities were originally Athenian colonies, and the Athenians, if no-one else, would protect the Ionians.[25] This marked the point at which the leadership of the Greek alliance effectively passed to the Athenians.[25] With the Spartan withdrawal after Byzantion, the leadership of the Athenians became explicit.

The loose alliance of city states which had fought against Xerxes's invasion had been dominated by Sparta and the Peloponnesian league. With the withdrawal of these states, a congress was called on the holy island of Delos to institute a new alliance to continue the fight against the Persians; hence the modern designation "Delian League". According to Thucydides, the official aim of the League was to "avenge the wrongs they suffered by ravaging the territory of the king."[26]

In reality, this goal was divided into three main efforts— to prepare for future invasion, to seek revenge against Persia, and to organize a means of dividing spoils of war. The members were given a choice of either offering armed forces or paying a tax to the joint treasury; most states chose the tax.[26] League members swore to have the same friends and enemies, and dropped ingots of iron into the sea to symbolize the permanence of their alliance. The Athenian politician Aristides would spend the rest of his life occupied in the affairs of the alliance, dying (according to Plutarch) a few years later in Pontus, whilst determining what the tax of new members was to be.[27]


Composition and expansion

The Athenian Empire at its height, c. 450 BC

In the first ten years of the league's existence, Cimon/Kimon forced Karystos in Euboea to join the league, conquered the island of Skyros and sent Athenian colonists there.[28]

Over time, especially with the suppression of rebellions, Athens exercised hegemony over the rest of the league. Thucydides describes how Athens's control over the League grew:

Of all the causes of defection, that connected with arrears of tribute and vessels, and with failure of service, was the chief; for the Athenians were very severe and exacting, and made themselves offensive by applying the screw of necessity to men who were not used to and in fact not disposed for any continuous labor. In some other respects the Athenians were not the old popular rulers they had been at first; and if they had more than their fair share of service, it was correspondingly easy for them to reduce any that tried to leave the confederacy. The Athenians also arranged for the other members of the league to pay its share of the expense in money instead of in ships and men, and for this the subject city-states had themselves to blame, their wish to get out of giving service making most leave their homes. Thus while Athens was increasing her navy with the funds they contributed, a revolt always found itself without enough resources or experienced leaders for war.[29]



The first member of the league to attempt to secede was the island of Naxos in c. 471 BC. After being defeated, Naxos is believed (based on similar, later revolts) to have been forced to tear down its walls, and lost its fleet and its vote in the League.


Main article: Thasian rebellion

In 465 BC, Athens founded the colony of Amphipolis on the Strymon river. Thasos, a member of the League, saw her interests in the mines of Mt. Pangaion threatened and defected from the League to Persia. She called to Sparta for assistance but was denied, as Sparta was facing the largest helot revolution in its history.[30]

An aftermath of the war was that Cimon was ostracised, and the relations between Athens and Sparta turned hostile. After a three-year siege, Thasos was recaptured and forced back into the League. The siege of Thasos marks the transformation of the Delian league from an alliance into, in the words of Thucydides, a hegemony.[31]

After two years Thasos surrendered to the Athenian leader Cimon. In result, the fortification walls of Thasos were torn down, their land and naval ships were confiscated by Athens. The mines of Thasos were also turned over to Athens, and they had to pay yearly tribute and fines.

Policies of the League

In 461 BC, Cimon was ostracized and was succeeded in his influence by democrats such as Ephialtes and Pericles. This signaled a complete change in Athenian foreign policy, neglecting the alliance with the Spartans and instead allying with her enemies, Argos and Thessaly. Megara deserted the Spartan-led Peloponnesian League and allied herself with Athens, allowing construction of a double line of walls across the Isthmus of Corinth and protecting Athens from attack from that quarter. Around the same time, due to encouragement from influential speaker Themistocles, the Athenians also constructed the Long Walls connecting their city to the Piraeus, its port, making it effectively invulnerable to attack by land.

In 454 BC, the Athenian general Pericles moved the Delian League's treasury from Delos to Athens, allegedly to keep it safe from Persia. However, Plutarch indicates that many of Pericles' rivals viewed the transfer to Athens as usurping monetary resources to fund elaborate building projects. Athens also switched from accepting ships, men and weapons as dues from league members, to only accepting money.

The new treasury established in Athens was used for many purposes, not all relating to the defence of members of the league. It was from tribute paid to the league that Pericles set to building the Parthenon on the Acropolis, replacing an older temple, as well as many other non-defense related expenditures. The Delian League was turning from an alliance into an empire.

Wars against Persia

War with the Persians continued. In 460 BC, Egypt revolted under local leaders the Hellenes called Inaros and Amyrtaeus, who requested aid from Athens. Pericles led 250 ships, originally intended to attack Cyprus, to their aid because it would further damage Persia. After four years, however, the Egyptian rebellion was defeated by the Achaemenid general Megabyzus, who captured the greater part of the Athenian forces. In fact, according to Isocrates, the Athenians and their allies lost some 20,000 men in the expedition. The remainder escaped to Cyrene and thence returned home.

This was the Athenians' main (public) reason for moving the treasury of the League from Delos to Athens, further consolidating their control over the League. The Persians followed up their victory by sending a fleet to re-establish their control over Cyprus, and 200 ships were sent out to counter them under Cimon, who returned from ostracism in 451 BC. He died during the blockade of Citium, though the fleet won a double victory by land and sea over the Persians off Salamis, Cyprus.

This battle was the last major one fought against the Persians. Many writers report that a peace treaty, known as the Peace of Callias, was formalized in 450 BC, but some writers believe that the treaty was a myth created later to inflate the stature of Athens. However, an understanding was definitely reached, enabling the Athenians to focus their attention on events in Greece proper.

Wars in Greece

Soon, war with the Peloponnesians broke out. In 458 BC, the Athenians blockaded the island of Aegina, and simultaneously defended Megara from the Corinthians by sending out an army composed of those too young or old for regular military service. The following year, Sparta sent an army into Boeotia, reviving the power of Thebes in order to help hold the Athenians in check. Their return was blocked, and they resolved to march on Athens, where the Long Walls were not yet completed, winning a victory at the Battle of Tanagra. All this accomplished, however, was to allow them to return home via the Megarid. Two months later, the Athenians under Myronides invaded Boeotia, and winning the Battle of Oenophyta gained control of the whole country except Thebes.

Reverses followed peace with Persia in 449 BC. The Battle of Coronea, in 447 BC, led to the abandonment of Boeotia. Euboea and Megara both revolted, and while the former was restored to its status as a tributary ally, the latter was a permanent loss. The Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues signed a peace treaty, which was set to endure for thirty years. It only lasted until 431 BC, when the Peloponnesian War broke out.

Those who revolted unsuccessfully during the war saw the example made of the Mytilenians, the principal people on Lesbos. After an unsuccessful revolt, the Athenians ordered the death of the entire male population. After some thought, they rescinded this order, and only put to death the leading 1000 ringleaders of the revolt, and redistributed the land of the entire island to Athenian shareholders, who were sent out to reside on Lesbos.

This type of treatment was not reserved solely for those who revolted. Thucydides documents the example of Melos, a small island, neutral in the war, though originally founded by Spartans. The Melians were offered a choice to join the Athenians, or be conquered. Choosing to resist, their town was besieged and conquered; the males were put to death and the women sold into slavery (see Melian dialogue).

The Athenian Empire (454–404 BC)

By 454, the Delian League could be fairly characterized as an Athenian Empire; at the start of the Peloponnesian War, only Chios and Lesbos were left to contribute ships, and these states were by now far too weak to secede without support. Lesbos tried to revolt first, and failed completely. Chios, the greatest and most powerful of the original members of the Delian League save Athens, was the last to revolt, and in the aftermath of the Syracusan Expedition enjoyed success for several years, inspiring all of Ionia to revolt. Athens was eventually still able to suppress these revolts.

To further strengthen Athens' grip on its empire, Pericles in 450 BC began a policy of establishing cleruchiai— quasi-colonies that remained tied to Athens and which served as garrisons to maintain control of the League's vast territory. Furthermore, Pericles employed a number of offices to maintain Athens' empire: proxenoi, who fostered good relations between Athens and League members; episkopoi and archontes, who oversaw the collection of tribute; and hellenotamiai, who received the tribute on Athens' behalf.

Athens' empire was not very stable and after only 27 years of war, the Spartans, aided by the Persians and internal strife, were able to defeat it. However, it did not remain defeated long. The Second Athenian Empire, a maritime self-defense league, was founded in 377 BC and was led by Athens. Athens would never recover the full extent of her power, and her enemies were now far stronger and more varied.

See also


  1. Martin, Thomas (2001-08-11). Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-08493-1.
  2. TheComplete Idiot's Guide to Ancient Greece By Eric D. Nelson, Susan K. Allard-Nelson, Susan K. Allard-Nelson. Page 197.
  3. Streams of Civilization: Earliest Times to the Discovery of the New World By Mary Stanton, Albert Hyma. Page 125
  4. A history of the classical Greek world: 478-323 BC By Peter John Rhodes Page 18 ISBN 1-4051-9286-0 (2006) In ancient sources, there is no special designation for the league and its members as a group are simply referred to with phrases along the lines of "the Athenians and their allies". See Artz, James. 2008. The Effect of Natural Resources on Fifth Century Athenian Foreign Policy and the Development of the Athenian Empire. Saarbrücken, VDM Verlag. P.2
  5. Eva C. Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens (Berkeley: University of California Press) 1985:18.
  6. Thucydides, I, 96.
  7. Holland, Tom. Persian Fire. 2006. 147–151
  8. Fine, pp269–277
  9. Herodotus V, 35
  10. Holland, pp155–157
  11. Holland, p160–162
  12. Holland, pp175–177
  13. Holland, pp183–186
  14. Holland, pp187–194
  15. Holland, pp202–203
  16. Holland, pp240–244
  17. Holland, pp276–281
  18. Holland, pp320–326
  19. Holland, pp342–355
  20. Holland, pp357–358
  21. Lazenby, p247
  22. Thucydides I, 89
  23. Herodotus IX, 114
  24. Thucydides I, 95
  25. Holland, p362
  26. Thucydides I, 96
  27. Plutarch, Aristeides 26
  28. Thucydides I.98
  29. Thucydides i. 99
  30. Thucydides I,100
  31. Thucydides 101


  • Jack Martin Balcer (ed.): Studien zum Attischen Seebund. Konstanz 1984.
  • Ryan Balot: The Freedom to Rule: Athenian Imperialism and Democratic Masculinity. In: David Edward Tabachnick - Toivo Koivukoski (eds.): Enduring Empire. Ancient Lessons for Global Politics. London 2009, pp. 54–68.
  • Christian Meier: Athen. Ein Neubeginn der Weltgeschichte. Munich 1995.
  • Russell Meiggs: The Athenian empire. Repr., with corr. Oxford 1979.
  • P. J. Rhodes: The Athenian Empire. Oxford 1985.
  • Wolfgang Schuller: Die Herrschaft der Athener im Ersten Attischen Seebund. Berlin – New York 1974.

External links

  • Delian League Livius article (immediately below) by Jona Lendering

2  Delian League

From Livius

Delian League: modern name of the Athenian alliance, founded after the Persian Wars as a military organization directed against the Achaemenid Empire, but converted by the Athenian politician Pericles into an Athenian empire. The Spartans launched the Peloponnesian War (431-404) to force the Athenians to give up the Delian League.


Map of the Delian League
Map of the Delian League

In 480, the Persian king Xerxes invaded Greece, defeated his enemies at Artemisium and Thermopylae, and sacked Athens. Although his navy was severely damaged in the naval battle of Salamis, it was obvious that the Persians were the strongest. So, the great king recalled many troops. This gave the Greeks the breathing space they needed, and they defeated Xerxes' right-hand man Mardonius at Plataea. More or less at the same time, a Greek expeditionary force attacked the remains of the Persian navy at Mycale, and started to liberate the Greek towns in Asia Minor.

In 478, the Spartan prince Pausanias led a Greek expeditionary force to Byzantium. If he would take the city, the Greeks would control the Bosphorus and could keep the Persians out of Europe. However, Pausanias lost authority when rumors were spread that he wanted to collaborate with the satrap of nearby Hellespontine Phrygia, Artabazus. He was recalled by the Spartan authorities, and the Athenian Aristides, who may have been behind the rumors, took over the command of the Greek army.

Although Pausanias was cleared of all accusations, the Spartans now decided to remain outside the war against Persia. For Sparta, the main war aims had been reached now that a cordon sanitaire had been created in Asia Minor. If the Persians wanted to return to Europe, they first had to occupy the towns of the liberated Ionian Greeks. The Athenians had a different perspective. They felt related to the Ionians, and in their view, security could only be reached when their compatriots were safe as well. Therefore, they continued the struggle and founded the Delian League.

From the very first beginning, there appears to have been an element of rivalry with Sparta, as is suggested by the author of the Constitution of the Athenians, a little treatise that is (probably incorrectly) attributed to Aristotle of Stagira:

Aristides saw that the Spartans had gained a bad reputation because of Pausanias and urged the Ionians to break away from the Spartan alliance. For that reason it was he who made the first assessment of the tribute of the cities, in the third year after the battle of Salamis, in the archonship of Timosthenes, and who swore the oaths to the Ionians that they should have the same enemies and friends, to confirm which they sank lumps of iron in the sea.note

This is an interesting quote. It does not refer to Persia, as we should have expected. It is also absent from the History of the Peloponnesian War by the Athenian historian Thucydides, who says that the war against the Persians was just a pretext. It appears that from the very beginning, the allies wanted more: the Delian League, as it is called, was a pact of mutual assistance against all possible enemies, and this implied Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. In fact, the members were embarking upon something bigger and perhaps their alliance should be called "the Ionian League".

In any case, the Ionian card was played. The oaths were sworn at Delos, the little island on which the Ionian Greeks venerated the god Apollo. (Dorians preferred Delphi.) Delos also was to be the treasury, and the Ionians recognized Athens as metropolis, a word that can be translated as "mother city" and was often used to describe the native country of the founder of a colony. The metropolis always had some informal, religious (and sometimes even formal, political) rights in the "daughter city". For example, centuries after Potideia had been founded by Corinth, the Corinthians still sent magistrates to their colony.

The creation of "Ionianism" was the most important aspect of the Delian League, and the more formal conditions of membership were not very elaborate. The allies were to have the same enemies, were to refrain from violence against each other, took a seat in the League's council, and had to take a share in the common wars. The strongest allies provided ships; towns that were unable to maintain ships provided the Athenians with money, so that they could build extra ships and protect them. This was an attractive option, because Athens demanded less money than the towns would have spent on their own defense. (This was the phoros, a word translated as "tribute" in the quotation above.)


Paying tribute was a novelty. The Spartan alliance, the Peloponnesian League, did not ask money, only soldiers, and we hear nothing about financial contributions in other Greek political (con)federations. However, they were all land-based, and the Athenian alliance was not. Maritime political organizations demand another kind of organization.

We must not underestimate the originality of the new alliance, but neither must we close our eyes for the fact that there was a well-known example: the western part of the Achaemenid empire, with its maritime lines of communication and active navy, must have been an important source of inspiration. The system of financial tribute had been designed by king Darius I the Great (522-486), who understood that his kingdom was too large to ask only soldiers and presents from his subjects. To control the western territories -- Libya, Egypt, Phoenicia, Cilicia, Cyprus, Lycia, Caria, Ionia -- he needed a fleet, and to pay the rowers, he needed cash. The result was the monetarization of the tribute.

There are other parallels between the Persian empire and the Delian League. The crews of the galleys of the Persian navy were from various parts of the empire, and in fact, for many towns on Cyprus and in Phoenicia, manning ships was a way to earn the money they needed to pay the tribute. The Athenians did the same: their ships were partly manned by the allies, who received fair wages, spent their money at home, where the authorities obtained their share and paid tribute.

Another aspect that the Athenians copied from the Persians was the appointment of an overseer, the episcopus. This Athenian magistrate kept an eye on the town where he resided, controlled the payment of the tributes, was supposed to prevent insurrections, had to investigate evils, and reported them to the government at home. The Achaemenid model is the "eye of the king". He was appointed by the king to inform him of what was going on in the empire, had more powers than the satraps, was responsible for a well-defined region, supervised the policy of the satraps and the payment of tribute, oversaw how rebellions were suppressed, and reported evils to the king. The Persian title of this official is unknown, but may have been spasaka ("seer"). If so, episkopos (which also has an association with "to see") is a translation that remains close to the sound of the original.

It is also interesting to take a look at the division of the League into five fiscal districts:

  1. Thrace (the northern Aegean): 62 towns, of which Ainos, Argilos, Mende, Potideia, Samothrace, Scione, Sermylia, Strepsa, Thasos, and Torone paid more than five talents.
  2. Hellespont: 45 towns, Abydus, Byzantium, Chalkedon, the Chersonese, Cyzicus, Lampsacus, Perinthus, and Selymbria paying more than five talents.
  3. Ionia (the eastern Aegean): 35 towns, including Cyme, Ephesus, Erythrae, Miletus, and Teos.
  4. Caria: 81 towns, including Camirus, Cnidus, Cos, Ialysus, Lindus, Phaselis, and Telmessus.
  5. and the islands: 29 towns, including Andros, Carystus, Chalcis, Eretria, Naxos, and Paros.

Thrace, the Hellespont, Ionia, Caria, and the Greek islands are not self-defined areas. There's no natural border between Thrace and the Hellespont or between Caria and Ionia, nor are these districts ethnic unities. However, they neatly correspond with five units that were distinguished by the Persian government: Skudra, Hellespontine Phrygia, the Yaunâ on this side of the sea, Karka, and the Yaûna across the sea.


As long as a Persian attack remained possible, the members of the League had good reasons to remain united, but king Xerxes accepted the loss of peripheral countries that were too expensive to occupy. Instead, he preferred to consolidate his grip on rich satrapies like Babylonia and Lydia. Already in 472, when the Athenian playwright Aeschylus wrote his tragedy The Persians, it was believed that the Greeks had won the war and that the battle of Salamis had been decisive. If it had not been clear from the very beginning that the Delian League was not only directed against Persia, it must have been recognized in the late 470's.

Naxos and Carystus were the first to segregate, but were visited by the Athenian navy and forced into surrender (470). Five years later, Thasos suffered the same fate. There were other insurrections in the course of the next decades. The defeated towns were forced to remain in the League and if they had not been democratic yet, they were obliged to change their constitution. On several places, Athenian colonies (clerurchies) were founded. Defeated towns also lost some autonomy, had to disband their navies, and were to pay tribute in cash. The last-mentioned measure made a second revolt almost impossible, because the defeated town that was dreaming of an insurrection was actually paying the army that would come to suppress the rebellion.

Slowly, Athens was converting the league into an empire. In 461, war broke out with Sparta, a conflict that almost naturally implied an ideological struggle between Ionianism and Dorianism, concepts that focused on leadership by Athens and Sparta. At the same time, the Delian League supported Inarus, an Egyptian who led a revolt against the Persians. The League lost an expeditionary force, and the Athenians immediately said that in this crisis, the treasury should be removed from the little island of Delos to a stronger citadel - the acropolis of Athens.

In 446, Athens and Sparta signed a peace treaty, and recognized each other as leaders of an alliance. (Perhaps the Athenians had signed a similar treaty with the Persian king in 449.) After this, the Athenians started to speak about "the cities which the Athenians rule". The transition of the League from a mutual defense organization into an empire was complete, and in the next ten years, we see an increasing Athenian involvement in local affairs. Trials involving an Athenian were to be held in Athens, the Athenians controlled the economy of the member states, represented them in negotiations with Sparta or Persia, and felt free to use the tribute for its own purposes. The splendid Parthenon temple, with its remarkable Ionian influences, is but one example to illustrate that Athens behaved like an imperialistic power that felt free to use war contributions for other purposes.

By the 430's, the Athenian empire had become very unpopular. The Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who described the Persian War, felt that he had to apologize for saying that the Athenians had once defeated the Persians. The implication is that by then, it was widely believed that Sparta alone had defended Greek liberty, and that Athens had become an oppressor like Persia. It was in this climate that the Corinthians convinced the Spartans that they had to liberate the Greeks for the second time. In the spring of 431, the Archidamian War broke out, in which Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes tried to force Athens to give up the Delian League.

This Livius page was created in 2005; last modified on 4 August 2015.

3  Ancient Athens, the Delian League and Corruption
by Tim Harding  From
The Logical Place

After the final defeat of the Persians in the mid-fifth century BCE, the Delian League was gradually transformed into an Athenian empire.  The transformation was accompanied by an accumulation of power over other city states by Athens; associated with certain claims of political corruption.  This essay describes the transformation process, how Athenians justified it, and how they responded to the claims of corruption.  It also examines the claims in terms of the different ancient and modern perspectives of corruption.

Formation of the Delian League

A coalition of Greek city states defeated the Persians at Salamis in 480 BCE and at Plataea in 479 BCE, led by Athens and Sparta respectively (Martin 2000, 104).  Following these victories, there was a brief attempt to continue a broad coalition, including both Athens and Sparta, as a naval operation to drive out Persian outposts in far northern Greece and Ionia.  However, there was strong criticism of the arrogant behaviour of the Spartan commander, Pausanias, and in 477 BCE he was replaced by an Athenian commander, Aristides (Martin 2000, 106; Roberts 2005, 207; Hornblower 2002, 10).  According to Thucydides, the Spartans wanted to be rid of the war against the Persians, and they were satisfied of the competency and friendship of the Athenians (Thucydides 1.96).

Thucydides then describes how Athens formed a new anti-Persian alliance (known as the ‘Delian League’ in modern descriptions):

“The Athenians having thus succeeded to the supremacy by the voluntary act of the allies through their hatred of Pausanias, determined which cities were to contribute money against the barbarian, and which ships;…Now was the time that the office of ‘Treasurers for Hellas’ was first instituted by the Athenians. These officers received the tribute, as the money contributed was called. The tribute was first fixed at four hundred and sixty talents. The common treasury was at Delos, and the congresses were held in the temple.”

The Aegean island of Delos was chosen because it was an ancient religious meeting place, it was centrally located, easy to defend and too small to pose a threat in itself (Bowra 1971, 26).  The member states of the Delian League were predominately those most exposed to Persian attack, located in northern Greece, Ionia and the islands of the Aegean Sea (Martin 2000, 106; Hammond 1967, 256; Bury 1963, 328; Waterfield 2004, 89).  They swore a solemn oath never to desert the alliance (Martin 2000, 106); and to have the same friends and enemies (Aristotle 23, 4-5).  However, League policy was executed by an Athenian high command that also controlled the Treasury, thus concentrating power in Athenian hands from the outset (Pomeroy et al 1999, 205).

View of Delos today

View of Delos today

Transformation to Athenian Empire

There was a gradual process of transformation from a voluntary mutual defence pact into an Athenian empire.  Although each member state in theory had only one vote, in practice Athens exerted the major influence in the League (Roberts 2005, 207-208; Hammond 1967, 257).  An Athenian general commanded every military expedition (Roberts 1998, 88).  Over time, more and more member states contributed money rather than warships.  Athens had superior shipyards and skilled workers to build triremes in large numbers, as well as a large population of thetes willing to serve as rowers.  However, this also meant that rebellious member states such as Thasos, Naxos and Mytilene were unable to defend themselves against naval attack by Athens (Martin 2000, 107).  There is no evidence that Athens consulted other members of the League in suppressing rebellions (Waterfield 2004; 90).

The Battle of Eurymedon in either 469 or 466 BCE was an important final victory for the Delian League over the Persians; and which left Athens free to build its empire (Bury 1963, 338; Bury and Meiggs 1975, 210; Finley 1981, 43).  To keep Athens’ other enemies out of the field during the dangerous process of establishing the empire, cleruchies (external Athenian colonies) were established (Hammond 1967, 306; Lendering undated).

In 454 BCE the League’s treasury was relocated from Delos to Athens.  Ostensibly, this was for security from Persians and pirates; but Delos was probably at no more at risk than previously. This event marks a turning point at which many historians stop referring to the Delian League (Pomeroy et al 1999, 214).  Athenians themselves began using the phrase ‘the cities which the Athenians rule’ in their inscriptions (Hornblower 2002, 17).  After the Kallias Peace Treaty with Persia in 450 BCE, the removal of the original justification for the League completed this transformation process (Roberts 2005, 208).  Yet the allied tributes continued to be ruthlessly extorted by Athenian warships (Wartenberg 1995, 19; de Bois and van der Spek 2008, 93).  Athens was also motivated by the necessity of securing a reliable source of grain from the Black Sea area (Waterfield 2004, 92).  The Athenian Empire at this stage included most of the islands of the Aegean (except for Crete, Melos and Thera), plus of the cities on or near the coast of mainland Greece (Bury and Meiggs 1975, 211).  The League’s territory had become Athenian territory.  Athenian colonies had become military bases (de Blois and van der Spek 2008, 93).


Between 450 and 447, Athens made the use of Athenian silver coins and weights mandatory (Meiggs and Lewis 1969, 45; Bury 1963, 366) which further infringed the autonomy of the allies (Hammond 1967, 306).  The single currency made commercial transaction easier, especially for Athens, and reinforced perceptions of Athenian dominance over a uniform culture (Wartenberg 1995, 27; Waterfield 2004, 93).  Athenians may also have hoped make money from fees charged for reminting non-Athenian coins (Wartenberg 1995, 27).  Athens also controlled shipments of corn, ostensibly to prevent it from being supplied to the Peloponnese (Finley 1981, 57; Hornblower 2002, 16).  Trials involving an Athenian had to be held in Athens (Lendering undated); and foreign defendants in law cases were obliged to come to Athens (Hornblower 2002, 16).  These assertions of Athenian power over her allies, coupled with her interference in their affairs, constitute clear evidence of her imperialism (French 1971, 99); although imperialism does not in itself constitute corruption, as will be discussed later.   

In the winter of 446-445, the Athenian leader Perikles engineered the ‘Thirty Years Peace’ treaty with Sparta, which although it lasted only until 432, did bring peace between Athens and Sparta, and preserved Athenian dominance of its empire (Martin 2000, 115).  Meetings of the Delian League ceased around 435, by which time they had become nonsensical (Waterfield 2004, 92).

Athenian justification for empire

The whole idea of domination and empire ran counter to the ingrained Greek ideals of autonomy and self-sufficiency; and also to the Olympic ideal of the equality of city states (Waterfield 2004, 90).  Athenian domination aroused great resentment in other Greek city states, including Sparta (Lendering undated).

On the other hand, the Athenian Empire did bring benefits to some of the poorer states.  There was security from further Persian attack; and piracy was suppressed to the great advantage of trade (Hornblower 2002, 17). The Ionians recognised Athens as their metropolis or colonial mother-city (Hornblower 2002, 13).  The Athenian navy provided well-paid employment opportunities to the islander population (Roberts 2005, 208).  The cessation of war against Persia would otherwise have confronted Athens with a considerable problem of unemployment (Burn 1948, 98).

Expenditure was incurred by Athens as head of the empire in building and maintaining ships and fortifications, paying military wages and supporting war-orphans.  During peacetime, there was a large excess of imperial income over expenditure, but in wartime the balance was reversed (Hammond 1967, 326).  There were also efficiency gains from economies of scale: the maintenance of a permanent navy would have been too costly for Athens alone (Roberts 1998, 95); and Athens demanded less money that the city states would have spent on their own defence (Lendering undated).

The presence in Athens of large numbers of slaves was a constant reminder that only Athenian naval and military power stood between its citizens and a similar fate.  The chasm between slave-owners and slaves was so wide as to explain the attitudes of Athenians towards their subject allies (Roberts 1998, 39).  Athenians maximised their own freedom by restricting the freedom of other Greeks (Roberts 1998, 85).

In his Last Speech (Thucydides 2.63.1), Perikles warned Athenians against giving up its empire:

“Again, your country has a right to your services in sustaining the glories of her position. These are a common source of pride to you all, and you cannot decline the burdens of empire and still expect to share its honours. You should remember that what you are fighting against is not mere slavery as an exchange for independence, but also the loss of empire and danger from the animosities incurred in its exercise.”

In Greek thought, power was one of the prime sources of glory (Roberts 1998, 85).  According to Thucydides, (Thucydides 2.64.3) Perikles said:

“…even if now, in obedience to the general law of decay, we should ever be forced to yield, still it will be remembered that we held rule over more Hellenes than any other Hellenic state, that we sustained the greatest wars against their united or separate powers, and inhabited a city unrivalled by any other in resources or magnitude.”


Lord Acton’s famous quotation ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ (Dalberg-Acton 1907) is obviously referring to political corruption.  Most modern definitions of political corruption tend to emphasise the subversion of the public good by private interest (Bratsis 2003, 8-9).  Imperialism in itself is generally seen as an act of state rather than as political corruption.  We also need to consider the temporal context: that which may be considered corruption today may not have been regarded as corruption in ancient times.

The initial financial arrangements of the Delian League were equitably worked out by Aristedes and incorporated in a formal agreement to avoid disputes later (French 1971, 79).  There was also a general move towards financial accountability in Athenian affairs by better record keeping (Thomas 1994, 48-49).

During wartime, allied tributes were primarily spent on shipbuilding and other military purposes (Hammond 1967, 326).  However, during the peacetime surpluses of League revenue over expenditure, Athens tended to use allied tributes for its own purposes.  Perikles built popular support for this by practical measures such the rebuilding of the Akropolis, the improvement of state festivals, the payment of trireme crews for eight months of the year, the establishment of cleruchies and colonies (Hammond 1967, 312) and the payment of jurors (Aristotle, 27).

From a reading of the literature related to the fifth century Athenian empire, there appear to be two main claims of possible corruption:

  1. the use of League tributes funds for solely Athenian purposes, for example the rebuilding of the Akropolis; and
  2. the acquisition of confiscated land and property by private Athenian citizens.

Neither of these activities would be possible without the power accumulated by Athens in converting the Delian League into its own empire.  So there is an implied connection here between power and corruption.  I will now examine these two claims of corruption in more detail.

Firstly, the conservative aristocratic politician Thucydides, son of Melesias (not Thucydides the historian) censured the transfer of the allied treasury to Athens and the use of the money to extravagantly adorn the city of Athens (Hammond 1967, 312).  According to Plutarch, the people in the assemblies cried out:

“The people has lost its fair fame and is in ill repute because it has removed the public moneys of the Hellenes from Delos into its own keeping, and that seemliest of all excuses which it had to urge against its accusers, to wit, that out of fear of the Barbarians it took the public funds from that sacred isle and was now guarding them in a stronghold, of this Pericles has robbed it. And surely Hellas is insulted with a dire insult and manifestly subjected to tyranny when she sees that, with her own enforced contributions the war, we are gilding and bedizening our city, which, for all the world like a wanton woman, adds to her wardrobe precious stones and costly statues and temples worth their millions.”

Although the tribute money was used for public rather than private purposes, such trenchant criticism can be interpreted as implying a form of corruption, in the sense of misuse of the money for purposes other than originally intended.

According to Plutarch, Perikles responded to this criticism by proposing to reimburse the city for all the expenses from his private property, under the term that he would make the inscriptions of dedication in his own name (Plutarch 14).  Perikles also defended the use of the tribute money by Athens (Plutarch 12.3) as a ‘fee for service’:

“For his part, Pericles would instruct the people that it owed no account of their moneys to the allies provided it carried on the war for them and kept off the Barbarians; ‘not a horse do they furnish,’ said he, ‘not a ship, not a hoplite, but money simply; and this belongs, not to those who give it, but to those who take it, if only they furnish that for which they take it in pay. And it is but meet that the city, when once she is sufficiently equipped with all that is necessary for prosecuting the war, should apply her abundance to such works as, by their completion, will bring her everlasting glory…”

So according to the standards of the time, it was debateable whether Athenian use of allied tribute funds constituted corruption.  There were arguments for and against, as illustrated by those of Thucydides, son of Melesias, and Perikles.  But in modern times, if for example Belgium started using NATO contributions for public buildings in Brussels, that would almost certainly be viewed as corruption.

Secondly, land and property confiscated after the defeat of rebel states were often allocated to landless Athenian citizens as colonists in the defeated territory.  Finley estimates that around 10,000 Athenian citizens may have benefited from this practice (Finley 1981, 51).  Finley appears to regard these private allocations of property as a form of corruption (Finley 1981, 53).  Whilst this would probably be regarded as corruption in modern times, it is doubtful whether it would have been regarded as corruption in ancient times, given the common practice after a battle victory against a city of killing the men, consigning the women and children to slavery and confiscating land and property.  These would have been viewed as legitimate acts of the victor rather than as corruption.

In conclusion, although the use of allied funds and confiscated property for Athenian purposes may be viewed as corruption by modern day standards, it was not necessarily seen as corruption by the standards of the time.


Ancient Sources

Aristotle, Constitution of Athens, trans. F.G. Kenyon. R.W.J. Clayton (ed.) Athenian Politics, 1973 London Association of Classical Teachers: The Classical Association, London. Available-: Accessed 24 May 2012

Plutarch, The Life of Pericles in The Parallel Lives by Plutarch published in Vol. III of the Loeb Classical Library edition,1916. Available-:*.html Accessed 24 May 2012

Thucydides, A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, R.B. Strassler (ed), The Landmark Thucydides, Free Press, New York, 1996.

Modern Sources

Bowra, C.M., 1971    Periclean Athens, The Dial Press, New York.

Bratsis, P., 2003    Corrupt Compared to What? Greece, Capitalist Interests, and the Specular Purity of the State Discussion Paper No. 8, The Hellenic Observatory/The European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science

Burn, A.R., 1948    Pericles and Athens The English Universities Press Ltd, London.

Bury, J.B., 1963    A History of Greece, Macmillan, London and New York.

Bury, J.B., and Meiggs, R., 1975    A History of Greece 4thedition, Macmillan, London and New York.

Dalberg-Acton, J.E.E. (Lord Acton)., 1907    Appendix, in J. N. Figgis and R. V. Laurence eds, Historical Essays and Studies, Macmillan, London. Available-: accessed 23 May 2012.

de Blois, L. and van der Spek, R.J., 2008    An Introduction to the Ancient World (2nd edition) Routledge, London and New York.

French, A., 1971    The Athenian Half-Century 478-431 BC Thucydides i 89-118 Translation and Commentary, Sydney University Press, Sydney.

Finley, M.I., 1953    Economy and Society in Ancient Greece, Chatto & Windus, London.

Hammond, N.G.L., 1967    A History of Greece (2nd edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hornblower, S., 2002    Chapter 2, The beginnings of the Delian League , in The Greek World 479-323, 9-17.

Lendering, J., Undated          Delian League. Ancient Warfare Magazine. Available-:  Accessed 24 May 2012.

Martin, T. R., 2000    Ancient Greece – From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times, Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Meiggs, R. and Lewis, D. eds, 1969    A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the Fifth Century BC: To the End of the Fifth Century B.C. Vol 1 Oxford University Press, New York.

Pomeroy, S.B., Donlan, W., Burstein, S.M., and Roberts, J.T., 1990    Ancient Greece – A Political, Social and Cultural History Oxford University Press, New York.

Roberts, J., (ed) 2005    Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Roberts, J.W., 1998    City of Sokrates: An Introduction to Classical Athens (2nd edition), Routledge, London.

Thomas, R. 1994    Literacy and the city-state in archaic and classical Greece, in A.K. Bowman and G. Woolf (eds), Literacy and Power in the Ancient World. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Thorley, J., 1996    Athenian Democracy, Routledge, Hoboken.

Wartenberg, U. 1995    Chapter 3, After Marathon: war, society and money in fifth-century Athens, British Museum Press, London.

Waterfield, R., 2004    Athens – A History, Macmillan, London, Basingstoke and Oxford.

4  Delos
From Roadrunners Guide To the Ancient World  (University of Texas at San Antonio | UTSA)
Delos is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece. Delos had a position as a holy sanctuary, as well as the distinction of being the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. As the myth goes, Leto had lain with Zeus, and became pregnant with his children, as was often the case in Greek Mythology. Hera, in her jealous nature, punished Leto by forcing her to wonder the world searching for a safe place to give birth to her children, Artemis and Apollo. Leto finally settled on Delos.   c.f.,
According to archaeologists and ancient scholars, Delos has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC (Kent 1948). Thucydides (2004) identifies the original inhabitants as piratical Carians who were eventually expelled by King Minos of Crete. Delos was a major cult center, acquiring Panhellenic religious significance, and becoming a site for religious pilgrimage (Kent 1948). The greatest influences for the general public to travel were: tourism and pilgrimage. The city of Delos served both as a tourist attraction and a sacred city. It would be the equivalent of Mecca in modern day. Since the city of Delos was once open to the public, everyone would travel and leave offerings, and wealth, at this famous sanctuary. Eventually, Delos became much more exclusive, yet remained a very wealthy city. It had the three largest temples dedicated to Apollo, all on the same small island (Kent 1948). This island became an unbelievable source for revenue from the tourism and pilgrimages made to the temples on Delos, the abundance of natural resource, and the distinction of this site as the center of the Delian League (Kent 1948). It was for these reasons that the entire city was purged and purified. During the Peloponnesian War, it became a law that no one was allowed to die or give birth on the island (Thucydides 2004). All dead bodies were removed as well (Thucydides 2004). This would protect the sanctity of the site and preserve its neutrality, since the island became the treasury of Greece in the Peloponnesian Wars (Thucydides 2004). During the Peloponnesian War, the city saw an enormous amount of revenue, although there are no clear records as to just how much (Kent 1948). After the Persian Wars, the island became the center for the Delian League, founded in 478 BC (Trumper 2009). The League’s treasury was kept at Delos until 454 BC when Pericles had the treasury moved to Athens for safekeeping (Trumper 2009). The island, despite being abundant in natural resources, produced no finished goods. However there were multiple agoras, or marketplaces on the island (Trumper 2009). It became the center of the slave trade, due in large part to the Italian traders that came to Delos to purchase slaves captured by the Cilician Pirates, or prisoners of war (Trumper 2009). This meant that Delos became one of the largest slave trade centers of the time (Trumper 2009). The greatest advantages of being a religious center in the ancient Greek world are the security and wealth. Delos, like many other religious sites was considerably wealthy, and because of this wealth and popularity, it was also heavily protected. Delos not only held monetary wealth, but cultural and religious wealth as well. The Greeks saw it as a matter of personal pride, patriotism, and nationalism to protect this city. This was evident during the Persian War, when Delos became the capital of the Delian League and during the Peloponnesian Wars when the entire city was heavily purified and protected.
 terrace of
                the lions
Terrace of the Lions and Temple of Apollo
The two most famous monuments found at Delos, the Terrace of the Lions and the Temple of Apollo. Another famous temple at Delos is the Temple of the Delians. The Temple of the Delians was done in the same Doric column design as the Parthenon (Summerson 1963).  The vertical shafts of the columns were fluted with parallel concave grooves, and the top of the column flared out to meet a square abacus at the intersection with a horizontal beam (Summerson 1963). The basic features of a Greek Doric column are the orders alternating triglyphs and metopes (Summerson 1963).
                and metropes
The triglyphs are rectangular blocks that project outward and are decoratively grooved with three vertical grooves (Summerson 1963). The triglyphs are between two metopes. Metopes function simply to fill in the space of a Doric frieze (Summerson 1963). Under each triglyphs are pegs that serve no only to add support to the entire structure but to eliminate rainwater runoff (Summerson 1963). The original design came from wooden temples and so the triglyphs were arranged in a way so that each column had to bear a beam which lay across the center of the column (Summerson 1963). This style became so popular that it was regarded as the ideal way for temple construction. However, changing to stone cubes instead of wooden beams required full support of the architrave load at the last column (Summerson 1963). In order to reach this perfect harmonious design that we associate with the Temple of Apollo and the Parthenon, the Greeks had to employ a lot of trial and error. In fact, the first temples had the final triglyph moved, which disrupted the sequence, and left a gap in the order of columns (Summerson 1963). Also the last triglyph was not centered with the corresponding column, which further disrupted the order and stability of the structure (Summerson 1963). The resulting problem is called the Doric corner conflict (Summerson 1963). With the metopes, since they are somewhat flexible in their proportions, the space between columns can be adjusted by the architect (Summerson 1963). Often the last two columns were set slightly closer together to give a subtle visual strengthening to the corners (Summerson 1963). Triglyphs could be arranged in a harmonic manner again, and the corner was terminated with a triglyph (Summerson 1963). However, final triglyph and column were often not centered (Summerson 1963). The Temple of the Delians is the largest of three dedicated temples of Apollo on the island of Delos (Kent 1948). It was begun in 478 BC and never completely finished (Summerson 1963). All the columns are centered under a triglyph in the frieze, except for the corner columns (Summerson 1963). This temple, just like the Temple of Apollo and the Terrace of the Lions, is significant for its religious association with Apollo, but also for its significance to the history of Greece.
temple of
                the delians

Temple of the Delians
Delos is an incredible source for archaeological evidence. The fact that it was a famous religious site is reason for its preservation and relevance. In modern days, people visit Delos to see the remnants of the beautiful temples and to see the history and culture of ancient Greece. In ancient Greek times, this reason for tourism was also true. People travelled to see Delos and to seek spiritual help. It gives historians and archaeologists a clear insight into ancient Greek travel and culture. The combination of tourism, religious center, and a political and economic center under the Delian League makes Delos an extremely provocative site.
Works Cited

Kent, John Harvey   1948 The Temple Estates of Delos, Rheneia, and Mykonos. The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies. 17(4):243-338.

Summerson, John   1963 The Classical Language of Architecture. BBC.

Thucydides   2004 The History of the Peloponnesian War. Richard Crawley trans. Dover Publications.

Trumper, Monika  2009 Graeco-Roman Slave Markets- Fact or Fiction. Oxbow Books Limited.

5  Peloponnesian League

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Peloponnesian League was an alliance in the Peloponnesus from the 6th to the 4th centuries BC. It is known mainly for being one of the two rivals in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC).


Early history

By the end of the 7th century BC Sparta had become the most powerful city-state in the Peloponnese and was the political and military hegemon over Argos, the next most powerful city-state. Sparta acquired two powerful allies, Corinth and Elis (also city-states), by ridding Corinth of tyranny, and helping Elis secure control of the Olympic Games. Sparta continued to aggressively use a combination of foreign policy and military intervention to gain other allies. Sparta defeated Tegea in a frontier war and offered them a permanent defensive alliance; this was the turning point for Spartan foreign policy. Many other states in the central and provincial northern Peloponnese joined the league, which eventually included all Peloponnesian states except Argos and Achaea.

League organization

The league was organized with Sparta as the hegemon, and was controlled by the council of allies which was composed of two bodies: the assembly of Spartiates and the Congress of Allies. Each allied state had one vote in the Congress, regardless of that state's size or geopolitical power. No tribute was paid except in times of war, when one third of the military of a state could be requested. Only Sparta could call a Congress of the League. All alliances were made with Sparta only, so if they so wished, member states had to form separate alliances with each other. And although each state had one vote, League resolutions were not binding on Sparta. Thus, the Peloponnesian League was not an "alliance" in the strictest sense of the word (nor was it wholly Peloponnesian for the entirety of its existence).

The league provided protection and security to its members. It was a conservative alliance which supported Oligarchies and opposed tyrannies and democracies.

Later history of the League

After the Persian Wars the League was expanded into the Hellenic League and included Athens and other states. The Hellenic League was led by Pausanias and, after he was recalled, by Cimon of Athens. Sparta withdrew from the Hellenic League, reforming the Peloponnesian League with its original allies. The Hellenic League then turned into the Athenian-led Delian League. This might have been caused by Sparta and its allies' unease over Athenian efforts to increase their power. The two Leagues eventually came into conflict with each other in the Peloponnesian War. Under Spartan leadership, the League defeated Athens and its allies in 404 BC.

Following the disastrous Spartan defeat by Thebes at the Battle of Leuktra in 371 BC, Elis and the Arcadian states seized the opportunity to throw off the yoke of Spartan hegemony; the Arcadians formed themselves into their own league to preserve their independence. The size of the Peloponnesian League was then further reduced by the Theban liberation of Messenia from Spartan control in 369 BC. The states of the north-eastern Peloponnese, including Corinth, Sicyon and Epidauros, adhered to their Spartan allegiance, but as the war continued in the 360s BC, many joined the Thebans or took a neutral position, though Elis and some of the Arcadian states realigned themselves with Sparta. In 338 BC, the Peloponnesian League was disbanded when Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, formed the League of Corinth after defeating Thebes and Athens, incorporating all the Peloponnesian states except Sparta.

External links

6  Pericles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pericles Pio-Clementino
                          Inv269 n2.jpg
Bust of Pericles bearing the inscription "Pericles, son of Xanthippus, Athenian". Marble, Roman copy after a Greek original from c. 430 BC
Born c. 495 BC
Died 429 BC
Allegiance Athens
Rank General (Strategos)
Battles/wars Battle in Sicyon and Acarnania (454 BC)
Second Sacred War (448 BC)
Expulsion of barbarians from Gallipoli (447 BC)
Samian War (440 BC)
Siege of Byzantium (438 BC)
Peloponnesian War (431–429 BC)

Pericles (/ˈpɛrɪklz/; Greek: Περικλῆς Periklēs, pronounced [pe.ri.klɛ̂ːs] in Classical Attic; c. 495 – 429 BC) was arguably the most prominent and influential Greek statesman, orator and general of Athens during the Golden Age— specifically the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars. He was descended, through his mother, from the powerful and historically influential Alcmaeonid family.

Pericles had such a profound influence on Athenian society that Thucydides, a contemporary historian, acclaimed him as "the first citizen of Athens".[1] Pericles turned the Delian League into an Athenian empire, and led his countrymen during the first two years of the Peloponnesian War. The period during which he led Athens, roughly from 461 to 429 BC, is sometimes known as the "Age of Pericles", though the period thus denoted can include times as early as the Persian Wars, or as late as the next century.

Pericles promoted the arts and literature; it is principally through his efforts that Athens holds the reputation of being the educational and cultural center of the ancient Greek world. He started an ambitious project that generated most of the surviving structures on the Acropolis (including the Parthenon). This project beautified and protected the city, exhibited its glory, and gave work to the people.[2] Pericles also fostered Athenian democracy to such an extent that critics call him a populist.[3][4]

Early years

Pericles was born c. 495 BC, in the deme of Cholargos just north of Athens.α[›] He was the son of the politician Xanthippus, who, though ostracized in 485–484 BC, returned to Athens to command the Athenian contingent in the Greek victory at Mycale just five years later. Pericles' mother, Agariste, a member of the powerful and controversial noble family of the Alcmaeonidae, and her familial connections played a crucial role in kickstarting Xanthippus' political career. Agariste was the great-granddaughter of the tyrant of Sicyon, Cleisthenes, and the niece of the Athenian reformer Cleisthenes.β[›][6]

According to Herodotus and Plutarch, Agariste dreamed, a few nights before Pericles' birth, that she had borne a lion. Interestingly, legends say that Philip II of Macedon had a similar dream before the birth of his son, Alexander the Great.[7][8] One interpretation of the dream treats the lion as a traditional symbol of greatness, but the story may also allude to the unusually large size of Pericles' skull, which became a popular target of contemporary comedians (who called him "Squill-head", after the Squill or Sea-Onion).[8][9] (Although Plutarch claims that this deformity was the reason that Pericles was always depicted wearing a helmet, this is not the case; the helmet was actually the symbol of his official rank as strategos (general).[10]

Pericles belonged to the tribe of Acamantis (Ἀκαμαντὶς φυλή). His early years were quiet; the introverted young Pericles avoided public appearances, instead preferring to devote his time to his studies.[11]

His family's nobility and wealth allowed him to fully pursue his inclination toward education. He learned music from the masters of the time (Damon or Pythocleides could have been his teacher)[12][13] and he is considered to have been the first politician to attribute importance to philosophy.[11] He enjoyed the company of the philosophers Protagoras, Zeno of Elea, and Anaxagoras. Anaxagoras, in particular, became a close friend and influenced him greatly.[12][14]

Pericles' manner of thought and rhetorical charisma may have been in part products of Anaxagoras' emphasis on emotional calm in the face of trouble and skepticism about divine phenomena.[6] His proverbial calmness and self-control are also often regarded as products of Anaxagoras' influence.[15]

Political career until 431 BC

Entering politics

In the spring of 472 BC, Pericles presented The Persians of Aeschylus at the Greater Dionysia as a liturgy, demonstrating that he was one of the wealthier men of Athens.[6] Simon Hornblower has argued that Pericles' selection of this play, which presents a nostalgic picture of Themistocles' famous victory at Salamis, shows that the young politician was supporting Themistocles against his political opponent Cimon, whose faction succeeded in having Themistocles ostracized shortly afterwards.[16]

Plutarch says that Pericles stood first among the Athenians for forty years.[17] If this was so, Pericles must have taken up a position of leadership by the early 460s BC- in his early or mid-thirties. Throughout these years he endeavored to protect his privacy and to present himself as a model for his fellow citizens. For example, he would often avoid banquets, trying to be frugal.[18][19]

In 463 BC, Pericles was the leading prosecutor of Cimon, the leader of the conservative faction who was accused of neglecting Athens' vital interests in Macedon.[20] Although Cimon was acquitted, this confrontation proved that Pericles' major political opponent was vulnerable.[21]

Ostracizing Cimon

Around 461 BC, the leadership of the democratic party decided it was time to take aim at the Areopagus, a traditional council controlled by the Athenian aristocracy, which had once been the most powerful body in the state.[22] The leader of the party and mentor of Pericles, Ephialtes, proposed a reduction of the Areopagus' powers. The Ecclesia (the Athenian Assembly) adopted Ephialtes' proposal without opposition.[19] This reform signaled the beginning of a new era of "radical democracy".[22]

The democratic party gradually became dominant in Athenian politics, and Pericles seemed willing to follow a populist policy in order to cajole the public. According to Aristotle, Pericles' stance can be explained by the fact that his principal political opponent, Cimon, was both rich and generous, and was able to gain public favor by lavishly handing out portions of his sizable personal fortune.[20] The historian Loren J. Samons II argues, however, that Pericles had enough resources to make a political mark by private means, had he so chosen.[23]

In 461 BC, Pericles achieved the political elimination of this opponent using ostracism. The accusation was that Cimon betrayed his city by aiding Sparta.[24]

After Cimon's ostracism, Pericles continued to promote a populist social policy.[19] He first proposed a decree that permitted the poor to watch theatrical plays without paying, with the state covering the cost of their admission. With other decrees he lowered the property requirement for the archonship in 458–457 BC and bestowed generous wages on all citizens who served as jurymen in the Heliaia (the supreme court of Athens) some time just after 454 BC.[25] His most controversial measure, however, was a law of 451 BC limiting Athenian citizenship to those of Athenian parentage on both sides.[26]

Such measures impelled Pericles' critics to hold him responsible for the gradual degeneration of the Athenian democracy. Constantine Paparrigopoulos, a major modern Greek historian, argues that Pericles sought for the expansion and stabilization of all democratic institutions.[28] Hence, he enacted legislation granting the lower classes access to the political system and the public offices, from which they had previously been barred.[29]

According to Samons, Pericles believed that it was necessary to raise the demos, in which he saw an untapped source of Athenian power and the crucial element of Athenian military dominance.[30] (The fleet, backbone of Athenian power since the days of Themistocles, was manned almost entirely by members of the lower classes.[31])

Cimon, on the other hand, apparently believed that no further free space for democratic evolution existed. He was certain that democracy had reached its peak and Pericles' reforms were leading to the stalemate of populism. According to Paparrigopoulos, history vindicated Cimon, because Athens, after Pericles' death, sank into the abyss of political turmoil and demagogy. Paparrigopoulos maintains that an unprecedented regression descended upon the city, whose glory perished as a result of Pericles' populist policies.[28]

According to another historian, Justin Daniel King, radical democracy benefited people individually, but harmed the state.[32] On the other hand, Donald Kagan asserts that the democratic measures Pericles put into effect provided the basis for an unassailable political strength.[33] After all, Cimon finally accepted the new democracy and did not oppose the citizenship law, after he returned from exile in 451 BC.[34]

Leading Athens

Ephialtes' murder in 461 BC paved the way for Pericles to consolidate his authority.δ[›] Without opposition after the expulsion of Cimon, the unchallengeable leader of the democratic party became the unchallengeable ruler of Athens. He remained in power until his death in 429 BC.

First Peloponnesian War

Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to Pericles, Aspasia, Alcibiades and friends, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1868, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

Pericles made his first military excursions during the First Peloponnesian War, which was caused in part by Athens' alliance with Megara and Argos and the subsequent reaction of Sparta. In 454 BC he attacked Sicyon and Acarnania.[35] He then unsuccessfully tried to conquer Oeniadea on the Corinthian gulf, before returning to Athens.[36] In 451 BC, Cimon returned from exile and negotiated a five years' truce with Sparta after a proposal of Pericles, an event which indicates a shift in Pericles' political strategy.[37] Pericles may have realized the importance of Cimon's contribution during the ongoing conflicts against the Peloponnesians and the Persians. Anthony J. Podlecki argues, however, that Pericles' alleged change of position was invented by ancient writers to support "a tendentious view of Pericles' shiftiness".[38]

Plutarch states that Cimon struck a power-sharing deal with his opponents, according to which Pericles would carry through the interior affairs and Cimon would be the leader of the Athenian army, campaigning abroad.[39] If it was actually made, this bargain would constitute a concession on Pericles' part that he was not a great strategist. Kagan believes that Cimon adapted himself to the new conditions and promoted a political marriage between Periclean liberals and Cimonian conservatives.[34]

In the mid-450s the Athenians launched an unsuccessful attempt to aid an Egyptian revolt against Persia, which led to a prolonged siege of a Persian fortress in the Nile Delta. The campaign culminated in disaster; the besieging force was defeated and destroyed.[40] In 451–450 BC the Athenians sent troops to Cyprus. Cimon defeated the Persians in the Battle of Salamis-in-Cyprus, but died of disease in 449 BC. Pericles is said to have initiated both expeditions in Egypt and Cyprus,[41] although some researchers, such as Karl Julius Beloch, argue that the dispatch of such a great fleet conforms with the spirit of Cimon's policy.[42]

Complicating the account of this period is the issue of the Peace of Callias, which allegedly ended hostilities between the Greeks and the Persians. The very existence of the treaty is hotly disputed, and its particulars and negotiation are ambiguous.[43] Ernst Badian believes that a peace between Athens and Persia was first ratified in 463 BC (making the Athenian interventions in Egypt and Cyprus violations of the peace), and renegotiated at the conclusion of the campaign in Cyprus, taking force again by 449–448 BC.[44]

John Fine, on the other hand, suggests that the first peace between Athens and Persia was concluded in 450–449 BC, due to Pericles' calculation that ongoing conflict with Persia was undermining Athens' ability to spread its influence in Greece and the Aegean.[43] Kagan believes that Pericles used Callias, a brother-in-law of Cimon, as a symbol of unity and employed him several times to negotiate important agreements.[45]

In the spring of 449 BC, Pericles proposed the Congress Decree, which led to a meeting ("Congress") of all Greek states in order to consider the question of rebuilding the temples destroyed by the Persians. The Congress failed because of Sparta's stance, but Pericles' intentions remain unclear.[46] Some historians think that he wanted to prompt a confederation with the participation of all the Greek cities; others think he wanted to assert Athenian pre-eminence.[47] According to the historian Terry Buckley the objective of the Congress Decree was a new mandate for the Delian League and for the collection of "phoros" (taxes).[48]

During the Second Sacred War Pericles led the Athenian army against Delphi and reinstated Phocis in its sovereign rights on the oracle.[50] In 447 BC Pericles engaged in his most admired excursion, the expulsion of barbarians from the Thracian peninsula of Gallipoli, in order to establish Athenian colonists in the region.[6][51] At this time, however, Athens was seriously challenged by a number of revolts among its subjects. In 447 BC the oligarchs of Thebes conspired against the democratic faction. The Athenians demanded their immediate surrender, but after the Battle of Coronea, Pericles was forced to concede the loss of Boeotia in order to recover the prisoners taken in that battle.[11] With Boeotia in hostile hands, Phocis and Locris became untenable and quickly fell under the control of hostile oligarchs.[52]

In 446 BC, a more dangerous uprising erupted. Euboea and Megara revolted. Pericles crossed over to Euboea with his troops, but was forced to return when the Spartan army invaded Attica. Through bribery and negotiations, Pericles defused the imminent threat, and the Spartans returned home.[53] When Pericles was later audited for the handling of public money, an expenditure of 10 talents was not sufficiently justified, since the official documents just referred that the money was spent for a "very serious purpose". Nonetheless, the "serious purpose" (namely the bribery) was so obvious to the auditors that they approved the expenditure without official meddling and without even investigating the mystery.[54]

After the Spartan threat had been removed, Pericles crossed back to Euboea to crush the revolt there. He then punished the landowners of Chalcis, who lost their properties. The residents of Histiaea, meanwhile, who had butchered the crew of an Athenian trireme, were uprooted and replaced by 2,000 Athenian settlers.[54] The crisis was brought to an official end by the Thirty Years' Peace (winter of 446–445 BC), in which Athens relinquished most of the possessions and interests on the Greek mainland which it had acquired since 460 BC, and both Athens and Sparta agreed not to attempt to win over the other state's allies.[52]

Final battle with the conservatives

In 444 BC, the conservative and the democratic factions confronted each other in a fierce struggle. The ambitious new leader of the conservatives, Thucydides (not to be confused with the historian of the same name), accused Pericles of profligacy, criticizing the way he spent the money for the ongoing building plan. Thucydides managed, initially, to incite the passions of the ecclesia in his favor, but, when Pericles, the leader of the democrats, took the floor, he put the conservatives in the shade. Pericles responded resolutely, proposing to reimburse the city for all the expenses from his private property, under the term that he would make the inscriptions of dedication in his own name.[55]

His stance was greeted with applause, and Thucydides suffered an unexpected defeat. In 442 BC, the Athenian public voted to ostracize Thucydides from the city for 10 years and Pericles was once again the unchallenged ruler of the Athenian political arena.[55]

Athens' rule over its alliance

Bust of Pericles after Kresilas, Altes Museum, Berlin

Pericles wanted to stabilize Athens' dominance over its alliance and to enforce its pre-eminence in Greece. The process by which the Delian League transformed into an Athenian empire is generally considered to have begun well before Pericles' time,[56] as various allies in the league chose to pay tribute to Athens instead of manning ships for the league's fleet, but the transformation was speeded and brought to its conclusion by Pericles.[57]

The final steps in the shift to empire may have been triggered by Athens' defeat in Egypt, which challenged the city's dominance in the Aegean and led to the revolt of several allies, such as Miletus and Erythrae.[58] Either because of a genuine fear for its safety after the defeat in Egypt and the revolts of the allies, or as a pretext to gain control of the League's finances, Athens transferred the treasury of the alliance from Delos to Athens in 454–453 BC.[59]

By 450–449 BC the revolts in Miletus and Erythrae were quelled and Athens restored its rule over its allies.[60] Around 447 BC Clearchus [61] proposed the Coinage Decree, which imposed Athenian silver coinage, weights and measures on all of the allies.[48] According to one of the decree's most stringent provisions, surplus from a minting operation was to go into a special fund, and anyone proposing to use it otherwise was subject to the death penalty.[62]

It was from the alliance's treasury that Pericles drew the funds necessary to enable his ambitious building plan, centered on the "Periclean Acropolis", which included the Propylaea, the Parthenon and the golden statue of Athena, sculpted by Pericles' friend, Phidias.[63] In 449 BC Pericles proposed a decree allowing the use of 9,000 talents to finance the major rebuilding program of Athenian temples.[48] Angelos Vlachos, a Greek Academician, points out the utilization of the alliance's treasury, initiated and executed by Pericles, as one of the largest embezzlements in human history; this misappropriation financed, however, some of the most marvellous artistic creations of the ancient world.[64]

Samian War

Main article: Samian War

The Samian War was one of the last significant military events before the Peloponnesian War. After Thucydides' ostracism, Pericles was re-elected yearly to the generalship, the only office he ever officially occupied, although his influence was so great as to make him the de facto ruler of the state. In 440 BC Samos went to war against Miletus over control of Priene, an ancient city of Ionia on the foot-hills of Mycale. Worsted in the war, the Milesians came to Athens to plead their case against the Samians.[65]

When the Athenians ordered the two sides to stop fighting and submit the case to arbitration in Athens, the Samians refused.[66] In response, Pericles passed a decree dispatching an expedition to Samos, "alleging against its people that, although they were ordered to break off their war against the Milesians, they were not complying".ε[›]

In a naval battle the Athenians led by Pericles and nine other generals defeated the forces of Samos and imposed on the island an Athenian administration.[66] When the Samians revolted against Athenian rule, Pericles compelled the rebels to capitulate after a tough siege of eight months, which resulted in substantial discontent among the Athenian sailors.[67] Pericles then quelled a revolt in Byzantium and, when he returned to Athens, gave a funeral oration to honor the soldiers who died in the expedition.[68]

Between 438–436 BC Pericles led Athens' fleet in Pontus and established friendly relations with the Greek cities of the region.[69] Pericles focused also on internal projects, such as the fortification of Athens (the building of the "middle wall" about 440 BC), and on the creation of new cleruchies, such as Andros, Naxos and Thurii (444 BC) as well as Amphipolis (437–436 BC).[70]

Personal attacks

Aspasia of Miletus (c. 469 BC – c. 406 BC), Pericles' companion.

Pericles and his friends were never immune from attack, as preeminence in democratic Athens was not equivalent to absolute rule.[71] Just before the eruption of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles and two of his closest associates, Phidias and his companion, Aspasia, faced a series of personal and judicial attacks.

Phidias, who had been in charge of all building projects, was first accused of embezzling gold meant for the statue of Athena and then of impiety, because, when he wrought the battle of the Amazons on the shield of Athena, he carved out a figure that suggested himself as a bald old man, and also inserted a very fine likeness of Pericles fighting with an Amazon.[72]

Aspasia, who was noted for her ability as a conversationalist and adviser, was accused of corrupting the women of Athens in order to satisfy Pericles' perversions.[73][74][75][76] The accusations against her were probably nothing more than unproven slanders, but the whole experience was very bitter for Pericles. Although Aspasia was acquitted thanks to a rare emotional outburst of Pericles, his friend, Phidias, died in prison and another friend of his, Anaxagoras, was attacked by the ecclesia for his religious beliefs.[72]

Beyond these initial prosecutions, the ecclesia attacked Pericles himself by asking him to justify his ostensible profligacy with, and maladministration of, public money.[74] According to Plutarch, Pericles was so afraid of the oncoming trial that he did not let the Athenians yield to the Lacedaemonians.[74] Beloch also believes that Pericles deliberately brought on the war to protect his political position at home.[77] Thus, at the start of the Peloponnesian War, Athens found itself in the awkward position of entrusting its future to a leader whose pre-eminence had just been seriously shaken for the first time in over a decade.[11]

Peloponnesian War

Main article: Peloponnesian War

The causes of the Peloponnesian War have been much debated, but many ancient historians lay the blame on Pericles and Athens. Plutarch seems to believe that Pericles and the Athenians incited the war, scrambling to implement their belligerent tactics "with a sort of arrogance and a love of strife".στ[›] Thucydides hints at the same thing, believing the reason for the war was Sparta's fear of Athenian power and growth. However, as he is generally regarded as an admirer of Pericles, Thucydides has been criticized for bias towards Sparta.ζ[›]

Prelude to the war

Anaxagoras and Pericles by Augustin-Louis Belle (1757–1841)

Pericles was convinced that the war against Sparta, which could not conceal its envy of Athens' pre-eminence, was inevitable if unfortunate.[78] Therefore, he did not hesitate to send troops to Corcyra to reinforce the Corcyraean fleet, which was fighting against Corinth.[79] In 433 BC the enemy fleets confronted each other at the Battle of Sybota and a year later the Athenians fought Corinthian colonists at the Battle of Potidaea; these two events contributed greatly to Corinth's lasting hatred of Athens. During the same period, Pericles proposed the Megarian Decree, which resembled a modern trade embargo. According to the provisions of the decree, Megarian merchants were excluded from the market of Athens and the ports in its empire. This ban strangled the Megarian economy and strained the fragile peace between Athens and Sparta, which was allied with Megara. According to George Cawkwell, a praelector in ancient history, with this decree Pericles breached the Thirty Years' Peace "but, perhaps, not without the semblance of an excuse".[80] The Athenians' justification was that the Megarians had cultivated the sacred land consecrated to Demeter and had given refuge to runaway slaves, a behavior which the Athenians considered to be impious.[81]

After consultations with its allies, Sparta sent a deputation to Athens demanding certain concessions, such as the immediate expulsion of the Alcmaeonidae family including Pericles and the retraction of the Megarian Decree, threatening war if the demands were not met. The obvious purpose of these proposals was the instigation of a confrontation between Pericles and the people; this event, indeed, would come about a few years later.[82] At that time, the Athenians unhesitatingly followed Pericles' instructions. In the first legendary oration Thucydides puts in his mouth, Pericles advised the Athenians not to yield to their opponents' demands, since they were militarily stronger.[83] Pericles was not prepared to make unilateral concessions, believing that "if Athens conceded on that issue, then Sparta was sure to come up with further demands".[84] Consequently, Pericles asked the Spartans to offer a quid pro quo. In exchange for retracting the Megarian Decree, the Athenians demanded from Sparta to abandon their practice of periodic expulsion of foreigners from their territory (xenelasia) and to recognize the autonomy of its allied cities, a request implying that Sparta's hegemony was also ruthless.[85] The terms were rejected by the Spartans, and with neither side willing to back down, the two cities prepared for war. According to Athanasios G. Platias and Constantinos Koliopoulos, professors of strategic studies and international politics, "rather than to submit to coercive demands, Pericles chose war".[84] Another consideration that may well have influenced Pericles' stance was the concern that revolts in the empire might spread if Athens showed herself weak.[86]

First year of the war (431 BC)

The Parthenon was prompted by Pericles

In 431 BC, while peace already was precarious, Archidamus II, Sparta's king, sent a new delegation to Athens, demanding that the Athenians submit to Sparta's demands. This deputation was not allowed to enter Athens, as Pericles had already passed a resolution according to which no Spartan deputation would be welcomed if the Spartans had previously initiated any hostile military actions. The Spartan army was at this time gathered at Corinth, and, citing this as a hostile action, the Athenians refused to admit their emissaries.[87] With his last attempt at negotiation thus declined, Archidamus invaded Attica, but found no Athenians there; Pericles, aware that Sparta's strategy would be to invade and ravage Athenian territory, had previously arranged to evacuate the entire population of the region to within the walls of Athens.[88]

No definite record exists of how exactly Pericles managed to convince the residents of Attica to agree to move into the crowded urban areas. For most, the move meant abandoning their land and ancestral shrines and completely changing their lifestyle.[89] Therefore, although they agreed to leave, many rural residents were far from happy with Pericles' decision.[90] Pericles also gave his compatriots some advice on their present affairs and reassured them that, if the enemy did not plunder his farms, he would offer his property to the city. This promise was prompted by his concern that Archidamus, who was a friend of his, might pass by his estate without ravaging it, either as a gesture of friendship or as a calculated political move aimed to alienate Pericles from his constituents.[91]

In any case, seeing the pillage of their farms, the Athenians were outraged, and they soon began to indirectly express their discontent towards their leader, who many of them considered to have drawn them into the war. Even when in the face of mounting pressure, Pericles did not give in to the demands for immediate action against the enemy or revise his initial strategy. He also avoided convening the ecclesia, fearing that the populace, outraged by the unopposed ravaging of their farms, might rashly decide to challenge the vaunted Spartan army in the field.[92] As meetings of the assembly were called at the discretion of its rotating presidents, the "prytanies", Pericles had no formal control over their scheduling; rather, the respect in which Pericles was held by the prytanies was apparently sufficient to persuade them to do as he wished.[93] While the Spartan army remained in Attica, Pericles sent a fleet of 100 ships to loot the coasts of the Peloponnese and charged the cavalry to guard the ravaged farms close to the walls of the city.[94] When the enemy retired and the pillaging came to an end, Pericles proposed a decree according to which the authorities of the city should put aside 1,000 talents and 100 ships, in case Athens was attacked by naval forces. According to the most stringent provision of the decree, even proposing a different use of the money or ships would entail the penalty of death. During the autumn of 431 BC, Pericles led the Athenian forces that invaded Megara and a few months later (winter of 431–430 BC) he delivered his monumental and emotional Funeral Oration, honoring the Athenians who died for their city.[95]

Last military operations and death

In 430 BC, the army of Sparta looted Attica for a second time, but Pericles was not daunted and refused to revise his initial strategy.[97] Unwilling to engage the Spartan army in battle, he again led a naval expedition to plunder the coasts of the Peloponnese, this time taking 100 Athenian ships with him.[98] According to Plutarch, just before the sailing of the ships an eclipse of the sun frightened the crews, but Pericles used the astronomical knowledge he had acquired from Anaxagoras to calm them.[99] In the summer of the same year an epidemic broke out and devastated the Athenians.[100] The exact identity of the disease is uncertain, typhus or typhoid fever are suspected, but this has been the source of much debate.η[›] In any case, the city's plight, caused by the epidemic, triggered a new wave of public uproar, and Pericles was forced to defend himself in an emotional final speech, a rendition of which is presented by Thucydides.[101] This is considered to be a monumental oration, revealing Pericles' virtues but also his bitterness towards his compatriots' ingratitude.[11] Temporarily, he managed to tame the people's resentment and to ride out the storm, but his internal enemies' final bid to undermine him came off; they managed to deprive him of the generalship and to fine him at an amount estimated between 15 and 50 talents.[99] Ancient sources mention Cleon, a rising and dynamic protagonist of the Athenian political scene during the war, as the public prosecutor in Pericles' trial.[99]

Nevertheless, within just a year, in 429 BC, the Athenians not only forgave Pericles but also re-elected him as strategos.θ[›] He was reinstated in command of the Athenian army and led all its military operations during 429 BC, having once again under his control the levers of power.[11] In that year, however, Pericles witnessed the death of both his legitimate sons from his first wife, Paralus and Xanthippus, in the epidemic. His morale undermined, he burst into tears and not even Aspasia's companionship could console him. He himself died of the plague in the autumn of 429 BC.

Just before his death, Pericles' friends were concentrated around his bed, enumerating his virtues during peace and underscoring his nine war trophies. Pericles, though moribund, heard them and interrupted them, pointing out that they forgot to mention his fairest and greatest title to their admiration; "for", said he, "no living Athenian ever put on mourning because of me".[102] Pericles lived during the first two and a half years of the Peloponnesian War and, according to Thucydides, his death was a disaster for Athens, since his successors were inferior to him; they preferred to incite all the bad habits of the rabble and followed an unstable policy, endeavoring to be popular rather than useful.[1] With these bitter comments, Thucydides not only laments the loss of a man he admired, but he also heralds the flickering of Athens' unique glory and grandeur.

Pausanias (c. 150 C.E.) records (I.29) seeing the tomb of Pericles along a road near the Academy.

Personal life

Pericles, following Athenian custom, was first married to one of his closest relatives, with whom he had two sons, Paralus and Xanthippus, but around 445 BC, Pericles divorced his wife. He offered her to another husband, with the agreement of her male relatives.[104] The name of his first wife is not known; the only information about her is that she was the wife of Hipponicus, before being married to Pericles, and the mother of Callias from this first marriage.[105]

The woman whom he really adored was Aspasia of Miletus. She became Pericles' mistress and they began to live together as if they were married. This relationship aroused many reactions and even Pericles' own son, Xanthippus, who had political ambitions, did not hesitate to slander his father.[106] Nonetheless, these persecutions did not undermine Pericles' morale, although he had to burst into tears in order to protect his beloved Aspasia when she was accused of corrupting Athenian society. His greatest personal tragedy was the death of his sister and of both his legitimate sons, Xanthippus and Paralus, all affected by the epidemic, a calamity he never managed to overcome. Just before his death, the Athenians allowed a change in the law of 451 BC that made his half-Athenian son with Aspasia, Pericles the Younger, a citizen and legitimate heir,[107] a decision all the more striking in consideration that Pericles himself had proposed the law confining citizenship to those of Athenian parentage on both sides.[108]


Pericles marked a whole era and inspired conflicting judgments about his significant decisions. The fact that he was at the same time a vigorous statesman, general and orator makes more complex the objective assessment of his actions.

Political leadership

An ostracon with Pericles' name written on it (c. 444–443 BC), Museum of the ancient Agora of Athens

Some contemporary scholars call Pericles a populist, a demagogue and a hawk,[109] while other scholars admire his charismatic leadership. According to Plutarch, after assuming the leadership of Athens, "he was no longer the same man as before, nor alike submissive to the people and ready to yield and give in to the desires of the multitude as a steersman to the breezes".[110] It is told that when his political opponent, Thucydides, was asked by Sparta's king, Archidamus, whether he or Pericles was the better fighter, Thucydides answered without any hesitation that Pericles was better, because even when he was defeated, he managed to convince the audience that he had won.[11] In matters of character, Pericles was above reproach in the eyes of the ancient historians, since "he kept himself untainted by corruption, although he was not altogether indifferent to money-making".[17]

Thucydides, an admirer of Pericles, maintains that Athens was "in name a democracy but, in fact, governed by its first citizen".[1] Through this comment, the historian illustrates what he perceives as Pericles' charisma to lead, convince and, sometimes, to manipulate. Although Thucydides mentions the fining of Pericles, he does not mention the accusations against Pericles but instead focuses on Pericles' integrity.ι[›][1] On the other hand, in one of his dialogues, Plato rejects the glorification of Pericles and quote as saying: "as I know, Pericles made the Athenians slothful, garrulous and avaricious, by starting the system of public fees".[111] Plutarch mentions other criticism of Pericles' leadership: "many others say that the people were first led on by him into allotments of public lands, festival-grants, and distributions of fees for public services, thereby falling into bad habits, and becoming luxurious and wanton under the influence of his public measures, instead of frugal and self-sufficing".[19]

Thucydides argues that Pericles "was not carried away by the people, but he was the one guiding the people".[1] His judgement is not unquestioned; some 20th-century critics, such as Malcolm F. McGregor and John S. Morrison, proposed that he may have been a charismatic public face acting as an advocate on the proposals of advisors, or the people themselves.[112][113] According to King, by increasing the power of the people, the Athenians left themselves with no authoritative leader. During the Peloponnesian War, Pericles' dependence on popular support to govern was obvious.[32]

Military achievements

For more than 20 years Pericles led many expeditions, mainly naval ones. Being always cautious, he never undertook of his own accord a battle involving much uncertainty and peril and he did not accede to the "vain impulses of the citizens".[115] He based his military policy on Themistocles' principle that Athens' predominance depends on its superior naval power and believed that the Peloponnesians were near-invincible on land.[116] Pericles also tried to minimize the advantages of Sparta by rebuilding the walls of Athens, which, it has been suggested, radically altered the use of force in Greek international relations.[117]

During the Peloponnesian War, Pericles initiated a defensive "grand strategy" whose aim was the exhaustion of the enemy and the preservation of the status quo.[118] According to Platias and Koliopoulos, Athens as the strongest party did not have to beat Sparta in military terms and "chose to foil the Spartan plan for victory".[118] The two basic principles of the "Periclean Grand Strategy" were the rejection of appeasement (in accordance with which he urged the Athenians not to revoke the Megarian Decree) and the avoidance of overextension.ια[›] According to Kagan, Pericles' vehement insistence that there should be no diversionary expeditions may well have resulted from the bitter memory of the Egyptian campaign, which he had allegedly supported.[119] His strategy is said to have been "inherently unpopular", but Pericles managed to persuade the Athenian public to follow it.[120] It is for that reason that Hans Delbrück called him one of the greatest statesmen and military leaders in history.[121] Although his countrymen engaged in several aggressive actions soon after his death,[122] Platias and Koliopoulos argue that the Athenians remained true to the larger Periclean strategy of seeking to preserve, not expand, the empire, and did not depart from it until the Sicilian Expedition.[120] For his part, Ben X. de Wet concludes his strategy would have succeeded had he lived longer.[123]

Critics of Pericles' strategy, however, have been just as numerous as its supporters. A common criticism is that Pericles was always a better politician and orator than strategist.[124] Donald Kagan called the Periclean strategy "a form of wishful thinking that failed", Barry S. Strauss and Josiah Ober have stated that "as strategist he was a failure and deserves a share of the blame for Athens' great defeat", and Victor Davis Hanson believes that Pericles had not worked out a clear strategy for an effective offensive action that could possibly force Thebes or Sparta to stop the war.[125][126][127] Kagan criticizes the Periclean strategy on four counts: first that by rejecting minor concessions it brought about war; second, that it was unforeseen by the enemy and hence lacked credibility; third, that it was too feeble to exploit any opportunities; and fourth, that it depended on Pericles for its execution and thus was bound to be abandoned after his death.[128] Kagan estimates Pericles' expenditure on his military strategy in the Peloponnesian War to be about 2,000 talents annually, and based on this figure concludes that he would only have enough money to keep the war going for three years. He asserts that since Pericles must have known about these limitations he probably planned for a much shorter war.[129][130] Others, such as Donald W. Knight, conclude that the strategy was too defensive and would not succeed.[131]

On the other hand, Platias and Koliopoulos reject these criticisms and state that "the Athenians lost the war only when they dramatically reversed the Periclean grand strategy that explicitly disdained further conquests".[132] Hanson stresses that the Periclean strategy was not innovative, but could lead to a stagnancy in favor of Athens.[129] It is a popular conclusion that those succeeding him lacked his abilities and character.[133]

Oratorical skill

A painting by Hector Leroux (1682–1740), which portrays Pericles and Aspasia, admiring the gigantic statue of Athena in Phidias' studio

Modern commentators of Thucydides, with other modern historians and writers, take varying stances on the issue of how much of the speeches of Pericles, as given by this historian, do actually represent Pericles' own words and how much of them is free literary creation or paraphrase by Thucydides.ιβ[›] Since Pericles never wrote down or distributed his orations,ιγ[›] no historians are able to answer this with certainty; Thucydides recreated three of them from memory and, thereby, it cannot be ascertained that he did not add his own notions and thoughts.ιδ[›]

Although Pericles was a main source of his inspiration, some historians have noted that the passionate and idealistic literary style of the speeches Thucydides attributes to Pericles is completely at odds with Thucydides' own cold and analytical writing style.ιε[›] This might, however, be the result of the incorporation of the genre of rhetoric into the genre of historiography. That is to say, Thucydides could simply have used two different writing styles for two different purposes.

Ioannis Kakridis and Arnold Gomme were two scholars who debated the originality of Pericles’ oratory and last speech. Kakridis believes that Thucydides altered Pericles words. Some of his strongest arguments included in the Introduction of the speech, (Thuc.11.35).[134] Kakridis proposes that it is impossible to imagine Pericles deviating away from the expected funeral orator addressing the mourning audience of 430 after the Peloponnesian war.[134] The two groups addressed were the ones who were prepared to believe him when he praised the dead, and the ones who did not.[134] Gomme rejects Kakridis position, defending the fact that "Nobody of men has ever been so conscious of envy and its workings as the Greeks, and that the Greeks and Thucydides in particular had a passion for covering all ground in their generalizations, not always relevantly.".[134]

Kagan states that Pericles adopted "an elevated mode of speech, free from the vulgar and knavish tricks of mob-orators" and, according to Diodorus Siculus, he "excelled all his fellow citizens in skill of oratory".[135][136] According to Plutarch, he avoided using gimmicks in his speeches, unlike the passionate Demosthenes, and always spoke in a calm and tranquil manner.[137] The biographer points out, however, that the poet Ion reported that Pericles' speaking style was "a presumptuous and somewhat arrogant manner of address, and that into his haughtiness there entered a good deal of disdain and contempt for others".[137]

Gorgias, in Plato's homonymous dialogue, uses Pericles as an example of powerful oratory.[138] In Menexenus, however, Socrates (through Plato) casts aspersions on Pericles' rhetorical fame, claiming ironically that, since Pericles was educated by Aspasia, a trainer of many orators, he would be superior in rhetoric to someone educated by Antiphon.[139] He also attributes authorship of the Funeral Oration to Aspasia and attacks his contemporaries' veneration of Pericles.[140]

Sir Richard C. Jebb concludes that "unique as an Athenian statesman, Pericles must have been in two respects unique also as an Athenian orator; first, because he occupied such a position of personal ascendancy as no man before or after him attained; secondly, because his thoughts and his moral force won him such renown for eloquence as no one else ever got from Athenians".[141]

Ancient Greek writers call Pericles "Olympian" and extol his talents; referring to him "thundering and lightening and exciting Greece" and carrying the weapons of Zeus when orating.[142] According to Quintilian, Pericles would always prepare assiduously for his orations and, before going on the rostrum, he would always pray to the Gods, so as not to utter any improper word.[143]


Pericles' most visible legacy can be found in the literary and artistic works of the Golden Age, most of which survive to this day. The Acropolis, though in ruins, still stands and is a symbol of modern Athens. Paparrigopoulos wrote that these masterpieces are "sufficient to render the name of Greece immortal in our world".[124]

In politics, Victor L. Ehrenberg argues that a basic element of Pericles' legacy is Athenian imperialism, which denies true democracy and freedom to the people of all but the ruling state.[144] The promotion of such an arrogant imperialism is said to have ruined Athens.[145] Pericles and his "expansionary" policies have been at the center of arguments promoting democracy in oppressed countries.[146][147]

Other analysts maintain an Athenian humanism illustrated in the Golden Age.[148][149] The freedom of expression is regarded as the lasting legacy deriving from this period.[150] Pericles is lauded as "the ideal type of the perfect statesman in ancient Greece" and his Funeral Oration is nowadays synonymous with the struggle for participatory democracy and civic pride.[124][151]

See also


^ α: Pericles' date of birth is uncertain; he could not have been born later than 492–1 and been of age to present the Persae in 472. He is not recorded as having taken part in the Persian Wars of 480–79; some historians argue from this that he was unlikely to have been born before 498, but this argument ex silentio has also been dismissed.[22] [152]
^ β: Plutarch says "granddaughter" of Cleisthenes,[8] but this is chronologically implausible, and there is consensus that this should be "niece".[6]
^ γ: Thucydides records several speeches which he attributes to Pericles; however, he acknowledges that: "it was in all cases difficult to carry them word for word in one's memory, so my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said."[153]
^ δ: According to Aristotle, Aristodicus of Tanagra killed Ephialtes.[154] Plutarch cites an Idomeneus as saying that Pericles killed Ephialtes, but does not believe him—he finds it to be out of character for Pericles.[39]
^ ε: According to Plutarch, it was thought that Pericles proceeded against the Samians to gratify Aspasia of Miletus.[105]
^ στ: Plutarch describes these allegations without espousing them.[72] Thucydides insists, however, that the Athenian politician was still powerful.[155] Gomme and Vlachos support Thucydides' view.[156][157]
^ ζ: Vlachos maintains that Thucydides' narration gives the impression that Athens' alliance had become an authoritarian and oppressive empire, while the historian makes no comment for Sparta's equally harsh rule. Vlachos underlines, however, that the defeat of Athens could entail a much more ruthless Spartan empire, something that did indeed happen. Hence, the historian's hinted assertion that Greek public opinion espoused Sparta's pledges of liberating Greece almost uncomplainingly seems tendentious.[158] Geoffrey Ernest Maurice de Ste Croix, for his part, argues that Athens' imperium was welcomed and valuable for the stability of democracy all over Greece.[159] According to Fornara and Samons, "any view proposing that popularity or its opposite can be inferred simply from narrow ideological considerations is superficial".[160]
^ η: Taking into consideration its symptoms, most researchers and scientists now believe that it was typhus or typhoid fever and not cholera, plague or measles.[161][162]
^ θ: Pericles held the generalship from 444 BC until 430 BC without interruption.[71]
^ ι: Vlachos criticizes the historian for this omission and maintains that Thucydides' admiration for the Athenian statesman makes him ignore not only the well-grounded accusations against him but also the mere gossips, namely the allegation that Pericles had corrupted the volatile rabble, so as to assert himself.[163]
^ ια: According to Platias and Koliopoulos, the "policy mix" of Pericles was guided by five principles: a) Balance the power of the enemy, b) Exploit competitive advantages and negate those of the enemy, c) Deter the enemy by the denial of his success and by the skillful use of retaliation, d) Erode the international power base of the enemy, e) Shape the domestic environment of the adversary to your own benefit.[164]
^ ιβ: According to Vlachos, Thucydides must have been about 30 years old when Pericles delivered his Funeral Oration and he was probably among the audience.[165]
^ ιγ: Vlachos points out that he does not know who wrote the oration, but "these were the words which should have been spoken at the end of 431 BC".[165] According to Sir Richard C. Jebb, the Thucydidean speeches of Pericles give the general ideas of Pericles with essential fidelity; it is possible, further, that they may contain recorded sayings of his "but it is certain that they cannot be taken as giving the form of the statesman's oratory".[141] John F. Dobson believes that "though the language is that of the historian, some of the thoughts may be those of the statesman".[166] C.M.J. Sicking argues that "we are hearing the voice of real Pericles", while Ioannis T. Kakridis claims that the Funeral Oration is an almost exclusive creation of Thucydides, since "the real audience does not consist of the Athenians of the beginning of the war, but of the generation of 400 BC, which suffers under the repercussions of the defeat".[167][168] Gomme disagrees with Kakridis, insisting on his belief to the reliability of Thucydides.[161]
^ ιδ: That is what Plutarch predicates.[169] Nonetheless, according to the 10th century encyclopedia Suda, Pericles constituted the first orator who systematically wrote down his orations.[170] Cicero speaks about Pericles' writings, but his remarks are not regarded as credible.[171] Most probably, other writers used his name.[172]
^ ιε: Ioannis Kalitsounakis argues that "no reader can overlook the sumptuous rythme of the Funeral Oration as a whole and the singular correlation between the impetuous emotion and the marvellous style, attributes of speech that Thucydides ascribes to no other orator but Pericles".[11] According to Harvey Ynis, Thucydides created the Pericles' indistinct rhetorical legacy that has dominated ever since.[173]


  1. Thucydides, 2.65
  2. L. de Blois, An Introduction to the Ancient World 99
  3. S. Muhlberger, Periclean Athens.
  4. S. Ruden, Lysistrata, 80.
  5. 2.37; Thucydides disclaims verbal accuracy.
  6. "Pericles". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2002.
  7. Herodous, VI, 131.
  8. Plutarch, Pericles, III.
  9. V.L. Ehrenberg, From Solon to Socrates, a239.
  10. L. Cunningham & J. Reich, Culture and Values, 73.
  11. "Pericles". Encyclopaedia The Helios. 1952.
  12. Plutarch, Pericles, IV
  13. Plato, Alcibiades I, 118c
  14. M. Mendelson, Many Sides, 1
  15. Plutarch, Pericles, VI and Plato, Phaedrus, 270a
  16. S. Hornblower, The Greek World, 479–323 BC, 33–4
  17. Plutarch, Pericles, XVI
  18. Plutarch, Pericles, VII
  19. Plutarch, Pericles, IX
  20. Aristotle, Constitution of Athens, 27
  21. Plutarch, Cimon, XV
  22. Fornara-Samons, Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles, 24–25
  23. L.J. Samons, What's Wrong with Democracy?, 80
  24. Plutarch, Cimon, XVI
  25. Fornara-Samons, Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles, 67–73
  26. R. Martin, An Overview of Classical Greek History
  27. II, 41
  28. K. Paparrigopoulos, History of the Greek Nation, Ab, 145
  29. Aristotle, Constitution of Athens, 24 and Politics, 1274a
  30. L.J. Samons, What's Wrong with Democracy?, 65
  31. Fine, The Ancient Greeks, 377–8
  32. J.D. King, Athenian Democracy and Empire PDF (135 KiB), 24–25
  33. D. Kagan, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, 79
  34. D. Kagan, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, 135–136
  35. Thucydides, 1.111
  36. P.J. Rhodes, A History of the Classical Greek World, 44
  37. Plutarch, Cimon, XVII
  38. A.J. Podlecki, Perikles and his Circle, 44
  39. Plutarch, Pericles, X
  40. J. M. Libourel, The Athenian Disaster in Egypt, 605–15
  41. H. Aird, Pericles: The Rise and Fall of Athenian Democracy, 52
  42. K.J. Beloch, Griechische Geschichte, II, 205
  43. J. Fine, The Ancient Greeks, 359–361.
  44. E. Badian, The Peace of Callias, 1–39.
  45. D. Kagan, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, 108.
  46. Plutarch, Pericles, XVII
  47. Wade-Grey, The Question of Tribute in 449/8 B. C., 212–29.
  48. T. Buckley, Aspects of Greek History 750–323 BC, 206.
  49. II, 64
  50. Thucydides, 1.112 and Plutarch, Pericles, XXI
  51. Plutarch, Pericles, XIX
  52. Fine, The Ancient Greeks, 368–69.
  53. Thucydides, 2.21 and Aristophanes, The Acharnians, 832
  54. Plutarch, Pericles, XXIII
  55. Plutarch, Pericles, XIV
  56. T. Buckley, Aspects of Greek History 750–323 BC, 196.
  57. H. Butler, The Story of Athens, 195
  58. D. Kagan, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, 98
  59. T. Buckley, Aspects of Greek History 750–323 BC, 204.
  60. R. Sealey, A History of the Greek City States, 700–338 BC, 275.
  61. Roisman, J., Ancient Greece from Homer to Alexander: The Evidence. John Wiley & Sons, 2011, p. 26.
  62. S. Hornblower, The Greek World 479–323 BC, 120.
  63. J. M. Hurwit, The Acropolis in the Age of Pericles, 87 etc.
  64. A. Vlachos, Thucydides' Bias, 62–63.
  65. Thucydides, 1.115
  66. Plutarch, Pericles, XXV
  67. Plutarch, Pericles, XXVIII
  68. R. Sealey, A History of the Greek City States, 310
  69. C.J. Tuplin, Pontus and the Outside World, 28
  70. Plutarch, Pericles, XI and Plato, Gorgias, 45e
  71. Fornara-Samons, Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles, 31
  72. Plutarch, Pericles, XXXI
  73. Suda, article Aspasia
  74. Plutarch, Pericles, XXXII
  75. N. Loraux, Aspasie, l'étrangère, l'intellectuelle, 133–164
  76. M. Henry, Prisoner of History, 138–139
  77. K.J. Beloch, Die Attische Politik seit Perikles, 19–22
  78. A.J. Podlecki, Perikles and his Circle, 158
  79. Thucydides, 1.31–54
  80. G. Cawkwell, Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War, 33
  81. T. Buckley, Aspects of Greek History 750–323 BC, 322.
  82. Thucydides, 1.127
  83. Thucydides, 1.140–144
  84. A.G. Platias-C. Koliopoulos, Thucydides on Strategy, 100–03.
  85. A. Vlachos, Thucydides' Bias, 20
  86. V.L. Ehrenberg, From Solon to Socrates, 264.
  87. Thucydides, 2.12
  88. Thucydides, 2.14
  89. J. Ober, The Athenian Revolution, 72–85
  90. Thucydides, 2.16
  91. Thucydides, 2.13
  92. Thucydides, 2.22
  93. D. Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 69
  94. Thucydides, 2.18 and Xenophon(?),Constitution of Athens, 2
  95. Thucydides, 2.35–46
  96. 2.43
  97. Thucydides, 2.55
  98. Thucydides, 2.56
  99. Plutarch, Pericles, XXXV
  100. Thucydides, 2.48 and 2.56
  101. Thucydides, 2.60–64
  102. Plutarch, Pericles, XXXVIII
  103. 2.35
  104. K. Paparrigopoulos, Aa, 221
  105. Plutarch, Pericles, XXIV
  106. Plutarch, Pericles, XXXVI
  107. Plutarch, Pericles, XXXVII
  108. W. Smith, A History of Greece, 271
  109. S. Ruden, Lysistrata , 80
  110. Plutarch, Pericles, XV
  111. Plato, Gorgias, 515e
  112. M.F. McGregor, Government in Athens, 122–23.
  113. J.S. Morrison-A. W. Gomme, Pericles Monarchos, 76–77.
  114. 2.64
  115. Plutarch, Pericles, XVIII
  116. A.G. Platias-C. Koliopoulos, Thucydides on Strategy, 105
  117. J. Ober, National Ideology and Strategic Defence of the Population, 254
  118. A.G. Platias-C. Koliopoulos, Thucydides on Strategy, 98–99.
  119. D. Kagan, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, 83
  120. A.G. Platias-C. Koliopoulos, Thucydides on Strategy, 119–120.
  121. H. Delbrück, History of the Art of War, I, 137
  122. V.L. Ehrenberg, From Solon to Socrates, 278
  123. B. X. de Wet, This So-Called Defensive Policy of Pericles, 103–19.
  124. K. Paparrigopoulos, Aa, 241–42.
  125. V.D. Hanson, Peloponnesian War, 58
  126. D. Kagan, Athenian Strategy in the Peloponnesian War, 54
  127. S. Strauss-J. Ober, The Anatomy of Error, 47
  128. D. Kagan, The Archidamian War, 28, 41.
  129. V.D. Hanson, Peloponnesian War, 74–75
  130. D. Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 61–62.
  131. D. Knight, Thucydides and the War Strategy of Pericles, 150–60.
  132. A.G. Platias-C. Koliopoulos, Thucydides on Strategy, 138
  133. L.J. Samons, What's Wrong with Democracy?, 131–32.
  134. Sicking, C. M. J. (1995). "The General Purport of Pericles' Funeral Oration and Funeral Speech". Hermes 123: 404–425.
  135. Kagan, Donald (April 2003). 0-670-03211-5 "The Peloponnesian War" Check |url= scheme (help). Viking. ISBN 978-0-641-65469-5.
  136. Diodorus, XII, 39
  137. Plutarch, Pericles, V
  138. Plato, Gorgias, 455d
  139. Plato, Menexenus, 236a
  140. S. Monoson, Plato's Democratic Entanglements, 182–186
  141. Sir Richard C. Jebb, The Attic Orators
  142. Aristophanes, Acharnians, 528–531 and Diodorus, XII, 40
  143. Quintilian, Institutiones, XII, 9
  144. V. L. Ehrenberg, From Solon to Socrates, 332
  145. C.G. Starr, A History of the Ancient World, 306
  146. V.D. Hanson, Peloponnesian War, 584
  147. L. Miller, My Favorite War
  148. E.J. Power, A Legacy of Learning, 52
  149. Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies
  150. R.A. Katula, A Synoptic History of Classical Rhetoric, 18
  151. K. Mattson, Creating a Democratic Public, 32
  152. J.K. Davies, Athenian propertied families, 600–300 BC, 457.
  153. Thucydides, 1.22
  154. Aristotle, Constitution of Athens, 25
  155. Thucydides, 1.139
  156. A. W. Gomme, An Historical Commentary on Thucydides, I, 452
  157. A. Vlachos, Comments on Thucydides, 141
  158. A. Vlachos, Thucydides' bias, 60 etc
  159. Ste Croix, The Character of the Athenian Empire, 1–41.
  160. Fornara-Samons, Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles, 77
  161. A.W. Gomme, An Historical Commentary on Thucydides, II, 145–62.
  162. A. Vlachos, Remarks on Thucydides, 177
  163. A. Vlachos, Thucydides' bias, 62
  164. A.G. Platias-C. Koliopoulos, Thucydides on Strategy, 104 etc.
  165. A. Vlachos, Remarks on Thucydides, 170
  166. J.F. Dobson, The Greek Orators
  167. C.M.J. Sicking, Distant Companions, 133
  168. I. Kakridis, Interpretative comments on the Funeral Oration, 6
  169. Plutarch, Pericles, VIII
  170. Suda, article Pericles
  171. Cicero, De Oratote, II, 93
  172. Quintilian, Institutiones, III, 1
  173. H. Yunis, Taming Democracy, 63


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  • Wade-Grey, H.T. (July–September 1945). "The Question of Tribute in 449/8 B. C". "Hesperia" (American School of Classical Studies at Athens) 14 (3): 212–229.
  • Wet de, B.X. (1969). "This So-Called Defensive Policy of Pericles". Acta classica 12: 103–119.
  • Yunis, Harvey (1996). Taming Democracy. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8358-1.

Further reading

  • Abbott, Evelyn (1898). Pericles and the Golden Age of Athens. G. P. Putnam's Sons.
  • Azoulay, Vincent; tr Lloyd, Janet (2014). Pericles of Athens. Princeton.
  • Brock Roger, Hodkinson Stephen (2003). Alternatives to Athens: Varieties of Political Organization and Community in Ancient Greece. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-925810-4.
  • Gardner, Percy (1902). Ancient Athens.
  • Grant, Arthur James (1893). Greece in the Age of Pericles. John Murray.
  • Hesk, John (2000). Deception and Democracy in Classical Athens. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-64322-8.
  • Kagan, Donald (1991). Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy. The Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86395-2.
  • Lummis, Douglas C. (1997). Radical Democracy. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8451-0.
  • Ober, Josiah (2001). Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08981-7.
  • Rhodes, P.J. (2005). A History of the Classical Greek World: 478–323 BC. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-22565-X.
  • Whibley, Leonard (1889). A History of the Classical Greek World: 478–323 BC. University Press.
  • Gore Vidal, Creation (novel) for a fictional account of Pericles and a Persian view of the wars.

External links

7  Delos
by Delos Lion Sculpture (
published on 26 February 2013 

Delos is a Greek island in the Cyclades archipelago which was both an influential political force and, with its sanctuary to the god Apollo, an important religious centre in the Archaic and Classical periods. The island was also a major commercial and trading centre in the 2nd and 1st centuries CE.

Delos in Mythology

Delos, measuring a mere 3 km², is a small island without any particular advantages for habitation due to its barrenness and lack of water. In Greek mythology, this is precisely why Leto, escaping the wrath of Hera, was able to find sanctuary here in order to give birth to Apollo and Artemis. In some versions of the myth, Zeus (Leto’s lover) called on his brother Poseidon to create the island with a thrust of his trident, hence the name Delos, which signifies ‘appearance’ or ‘apparent’ in ancient Greek. The ancient Greeks also considered the island the centre of the Cycladic group and as the last resting place of the Hyperboreans - a legendary northern race of Apollo-worshippers.
The ancient Greeks considered the island the birthplace of Apollo and the centre of the Cyclades islands.

Historical Overview

The island was first inhabited in the early Bronze Age, and Mycenaean tombs have been excavated dating from the late Bronze Age. Colonised from Ionia in the mid-10th century BCE, it was not, however, until the 8th century BCE that the site began to take on a religious significance in the wider Greek world. Athens, under Pisistratus, took a greater interest in the island in the 6th century BCE and attempted to purify the island by a ‘catharsis’ - removing and prohibiting burials on the island from c. 540 BCE.

Delos further increased its importance when it was chosen as the meeting place and treasury for the Delian League in 478 BCE. In 454 BCE the treasury was moved to Athens and the Athenians also took over administration of the site. Administration changed hands when Antigonus established the League of Islanders in 314 BCE, which included Delos.

Following the Chremonidean War (266-229 BCE), Delos became an independent polis for the next 150 years or so and was administered by a religious council of hieropoioi. In this period, the island enjoyed the generous patronage of various Hellenistic kings. The island’s independence came to an end in 166 BCE when the Romans gave control of Delos back to Athens, also making it a free trade port. This brought another period of prosperity, and the island became an important centre for the slave trade whilst its population greatly increased in size and ethnic diversity, a fact reflected in the adoption of diverse religious cults on the island, such as those to Sarapis and Isis. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when the island was sacked first by Mithradates VI’s general, Archelaus, in 88 BCE and then again by pirates in 69 BCE, events which brought about the island’s gradual and permanent decline.

Delos Panorama

The Sanctuary of Delos

The island was first excavated by a team of French archaeologists from 1873 CE, revealing the true extent of the religious site. The island once had temples dedicated to Apollo (the Artemission), Leto (the Letoon), Artemis, Hera (the Heraion), Zeus, Athena, Hercules, and Asclepius. The Temple of Apollo housed, from the 6th century BCE, an 8 m high cult statue of the god made of wood and covered in gold. There was also a temple dedicated to the twelve Olympian gods (the Dodekatheon). Several other sacred buildings have also been identified but their exact purpose is unclear.

The Panēgyris, an Ionian festival in honour of Apollo, was held every year on the island and in the late 5th century BCE, a spectacular (Athenian inspired) festival - the Delia - was held every five years. The accompanying athletic games and musical and dancing contests attracted visitors from across the Aegean. Victors in the Delian games climbed the island’s Mt. Kynthos in order to be crowned.

As with other major sanctuaries, Delos had a diverse complex of buildings, including a monumental gateway entrance (propylaea) to the site, a theatre (c. 300 BCE, capacity: 5,000 spectators), stadium, several stoas (for example, of Antigonus), gymnasium, hippodrome, palaestras (3rd and 2nd centuries BCE), a hippostyle hall (constructed in the 3rd century BCE) an agora (built under Theophrastus in the 2nd century BCE), and even a sacred lake, guarded by marble lions.

Column Phallus, Delos

Beyond the sanctuary of Apollo, there were also sanctuaries testimony to the city’s one-time cosmopolitan make-up, with temples to Isis, Serapis and Cabeiri. Commercial buildings on the island included markets and warehouses, and the residential area dating from the 2nd century BCE displays grid street plans and large houses, which, with their mosaics, wall paintings, and colonnades, are testimony to the islands one-time prosperity. 

Notable archaeological finds at the site are the famous marble lions, much weather-worn but still retaining a regal air. Of these, five lions survive from the original nine dedicated by the Naxians in the 7th century BCE. In addition, several fine mosaics have been uncovered, including one depicting Dionysos seated on a panther.

  • Ananiades D, Ancient Greece: Temples & Sanctuaries (Toubis, Athens, 2010)
  • Hornblower, S. (ed), The Oxford Classical Dictionary (OUP, Oxford, 2012)
  • Kinzl, K.H. (ed), A Companion to the Classical Greek World (Wiley-Blackwell, London, 2012)
  • Tsakos, K, Delos-Mykonos A Guide to the History & Archaeology (Hesperos, Athens, 1998)
  • Zaphiropoulou, P, Delos (Krene Editions, 1983).

About the AuthorMark Cartwright Mark Cartwright;

Mark holds an M.A. in Greek philosophy and his special interests include the Minoans, the ancient Americas, and world mythology.  He loves visiting and reading about historic sites and transforming that experience into free articles accessible to all.


8  From The Delian League To The Athenian Empire

By Thomas Ash,


When Athens began to emerge as a Greek city state in the ninth century, it was a poor city, built on and surrounded by undesirable land, which could support only a few poor crops and olive trees. As it grew it was forced to import much of its food, and while it was near the centre of the Greek world, it was far from being a vital trading juncture like Corinth. Its army was, by the standards of cities such as Sparta, weak. Yet somehow it became the most prominent of the Greek city states, the one remembered while contemporaries such as Sparta are often forgotten. It was the world's first democracy of a substantial size (and, in some ways, though certainly not others, one of the few true democracies the world has ever seen), producing art and fine architecture in unprecedented amounts. It became a centre of thinking and literature, producing philosophers and playwrights like Socrates and Aristophanes. But most strikingly of all, it was the one Greek city that managed to control an empire spanning the Aegean sea. During the course of this essay I will attempt to explain how tiny Athens managed to acquire this formidable empire, and why she became Greece's most prominent city state, rather than cities which seemed to have more going for them like Sparta or Corinth.

An Athenian coin showing a trireme, the type of ship
Athens used to build a formidable empire

The Persian Invasions and Birth of the Delian League

While we tend to think of Greece as the most important nation of the ancient world before Rome, it was in fact a haphazard collection of autonomous city states, which, even when their forces were combined, were on paper no match for mighty empires like that of Persia. So, when the Persian King Darius I invaded, the Greeks must have been more than a little alarmed. Infuriated by an Athenian-backed revolt in Ionia (the stretch of Turkey's west coast colonised by Ionian Greeks, a historic group which included the Athenians), Darius had demanded tokens of submission from the Greek states. While most of the smaller cities gave in, Athens and Sparta refused to do so, killing the foreign King's heralds as a gesture of defiance. Athens' actions showed a great deal of pluck, given it's relative military weakness, and enraged Darius. He put together a mighty expeditionary force and set sail in 490 B.C.

The Spartan army proceeded to the plain of Marathon near Athens. The Spartans could not help as news of the Athenians' plight reached them on a religious holiday. However, the Athenians managed to win a convincing victory, faced with an army three times the size of theirs. When Darius' son, Xerxes, amassed one of the greatest armies of antiquity to exact revenge for his father's humiliation, fewer than 400 Greek vessels defeated the 1,200 strong Persian fleet thanks to the clever command of the Athenian statesman Themistocles. This caused Xerxes to flee to Asia, and in 479 B.C. his army followed him, pulling out of Greece.

By this time Athens had won the friendship of many Greek states, both because of their defeat of the Persians and because of the unpopularity of the Spartan regent, Pausanias, who, according to Thucydides[1], had "begun to reveal the true arrogance of his nature... [and] appeared to be trying to set himself up as dictator." Thucydides tells us that for these reasons the city states "had gone over to the side of the Athenians", which proceeded to take over leadership of the Delian League, a confederacy of cities determined to protect themselves from Persian attack and "compensate themselves for their losses by ravaging the territory of the king of Persia." Sparta was happy to cede leadership of the league as (according to Thucydides) "they were afraid any other commanders they sent abroad would be corrupted, as Pausanias had been, and they were glad to be relieved of the burden of fighting the Persians.... Besides, at the time they still thought of the Athenians as friendly allies." Also, Sparta wished to keep its army at home to deal with helot revolts (and also to prevent its soldiers from becoming corrupted).

Initially the Delian League was a fairly loose coalition of states, each one independent and sharing a common interest with the others. Members of the league were numerous: Thucydides[2] tells us that they included "Chios, Lesbos, Plataea ... most of Acarnania ... Ionia, the Hellespont, Thrace and the islands between the Peloponnese and Crete towards the East, and all the Cyclades except for Melos and There" as well as Aegina and most of the Euboean cities. Together, these states constituted a formidable force capable of achieving it's objectives.

A map showing the Athenian empire and the extent of discontent
(Courtesy 'The Ancient Source' - address given)

While Athens was the leader of the league, all its member states had an equal vote in the ruling council. Initially the league's actions were only for the well being of its members. Under the command of the Athenian Cimon, the Persian fortress of Eion on the Thracian coast was captured in 476 B.C. After this, Persian power in the North began to diminish. In 473 B.C Cimon crushed a group of Dolopian pirates who had been terrorising the central Aegean from the island of Scyros. An allied colony was established in their place. In 468 B.C. the Persian fleet was annihilated on the river Eurymedon in southern Turkey, again by Cimon, while at some point in the 460s, Cimon liberated the Southern Aegean and Caria from Persian control.

Meanwhile, Sparta was in trouble. Two of the states in the Peloponnesian League, a Spartan-led collection of states far looser than the Delian league, became democratic, while Argos revolted against her leadership. After a devastating earthquake and helot revolt, the stricken Spartans appealed to Athens for help. This was only given with reluctance after Cimon begged the Athenians "not to allow Greece to go lame, or their own city to be deprived of its yoke-fellow". However, Sparta grew alarmed by growing Athenian imperialism and asked that the Athenian presence in their city be withdrawn.

From a league to an empire

While freeing the southern Aegean from Persian control, Cimon succeeded in convincing more states to join the league. According to Diodorus[3], having persuaded "the cities of the sea coast [and] the cities of Lycia" to revolt, he "took them over in the same way". This, along with further evidence, suggests that these cities were forced to join whether or not they wanted to. Plutarch tells us "Phaselis ... refused to admit [Cimon's] fleet or to fight against the King, and so he devastated their land." In 480 B.C. the Athenians attempted to force impoverished Andros to pay a sum to the league:

"the Greeks ... surrounded Andros with a view to capturing it. Andros was the first island to reject Themistokles' requests for money."
(Herodotus VIII.111)

Further evidence of expansionistic Athenian policy can be seen in the case of Carystus, the one city in Euboea which declined membership of the Delian League. After refusing to join a second time in 472 B.C., they were paid a visit by the league's fleet and promptly conquered. In both these cases the Athenian's actions were at least partially justifiable. The Athenians had secured Greek control of the Aegean and Carian. At the time of the Carystian incident the Persians still controlled these regions, and thus Carystus could become a stepping stone to mainland Greece and encourage other Euboean cities to leave the league.

A less justifiable incident was the way the Athenians dealt with Naxos' attempted secession from the league. The Naxians had seen the Persian threat in the North decline as a result of the league's actions, and saw no reason to continue contributing money to the league. The Athenians and the other allies, however, did not see it that way. The Naxians' resources were needed in the South and the Naxians had, after all, sworn to remain in the league forever, as symbolised by the sinking of lumps of metal in the sea: a permanent, irreversible action. Athens also had reasons of its own, which I gesture at in my conclusion. Naxos was subjugated and the allies decided to take its fleet and change the naval contributions it made into a regularly-given tribute. A garrison was left behind: Naxos effectively became an imperial subject. Similarly, Erythrai, which rebelled in the 450's B.C. was the subject of a harsh and authoratitive decree.

By now the Persian threat had more or less dissolved and so the league had achieved its purpose. However the Athenians chose to enforce the league's oath and force all members to remain in it. One member to revolt was Thasos, a rich and navally powerful island which controlled parts of nearby Thrace. The Athenians clearly had their eyes set on natural resources in Thrace, and when they started to dispute the Thasian possession of a gold mine, the Thasians grew worried, and threatened to withdraw from the league.

Because of this the league overcame the Thasian fleet in 465 B.C. capturing 33 ships and laid seige to Thasos. The Spartans were sufficiently concerned with Athenian expansionism (and while the Delian League acted as one unit, it was clear that the Athenians were behind this action) to sign a secret pact with the Thasians under which they would invade Attica. As it happened Sparta could not do this due to internal strife, but the pact shows how transparent the Athenian imperialism was.

At the same time as besieging Thasos the Athenians established an allied colony in Thrace, where they were clearly anxious to establish a foothold. In 462 B.C. Thasos had to capitulate, and lost her fleet, gold mint and city walls. Like Naxos, it was forced to pay tribute rather than making contributions to the navy. The disputed gold mine and some other valuable settlements in Thrace were annexed by the Athenians (it is notable that the Athenians took these over without even a pretence to them being under control of all the league).

Athens embarked on an aggressive new foreign policy, aimed against Sparta, Athens' major rival in Greece. Athens allied with Argos, Sparta's traditional antagonist in the Peloponnese, and proceeded to attack Corinth, Sparta's most important ally. Vast operations were launched on both land and sea, and the result was that by 457 B.C. Athens had control of the whole of central Greece (although this control had collapsed by the time of the Thirty Year Truce's signing in 445 B.C.). Athens' eagerness to build an empire (and the fact that the sometimes-foolish boldness with which it acted was partly caused by its being a democracy) was evident in its decision to send a vast fleet of 200 triremes to aid an Egyptian revolt against the Persian empire. This served little practical purpose, and more sober minds would doubtless have kept to their own affairs. Athenian cleruchies (colonies) were set up at strategic points throughout Greece, the Mediterranean and even the Black sea, where Athens maintained a good relationship with Cimmerians as it grew more and more dependent on the import of grain from this tribe. Amphipolis was built at a strategic junction on the northern Aegean coast road; Thourioi was founded as an Athenian stronghold in Magna Graecia; and a fleet was sent to the Back Sea simply as a demonstration of Athenian power and to keep the vital trade routes open. An Athenian empire was now well and truly established.

The Resultant Empire

The Athenian Empire at its height (450 B.C.)

Athens had by now obtained a mighty empire. Of the more than 200 members (membership of the league had increased because Athens' friendship was an important asset for many Greek cities), only a few allies remained largely autonomous. According to Aristotle:

"After the Athenians had gained their empire, they treated their allies rather dictatorially, except for Chios, Lesbos and Samos. These they regarded as guardians of the empire, allowing them to keep their own constitution and rule over any subjects they happened to have."
(Consitution of Athens XXIV)

However, the majority had ceased to contribute ships and instead gave Athens tribute. The change can be seen in the transmutation of the word phoros' meaning. Originally it meant 'contribution', but as the Delian League changed into the Athenian Empire, it came to mean 'tribute.' In around 448 B.C. Athens issued a controversial decree:

"If anyone in the cities strikes silver coins and does not use the currency, weights and measures of the Athenians, but foreign currency, weights and measures ... exact penal retribution"
(Klearkhos Decree)

As well as using the tribute it received to build ships, Athens embarked on an ambitious building program under Pericles. The Acropolis was rebuilt, with magnificent buildings such as the Parthenon (shown below) and Erechtheum contributing to the beautification of the city. Some warned that by doing this, the Athenians gave up any pretence of working for the good of the League. The allies were indeed furious at the way their money was spent, but Pericles replied that so long as Athens protected her allies from the Persians it was not their concern how their money was spent.

The Parthenon (Courtesy Department of Archaeology, Boston University)

After the incidents at Carystus, Naxos and Thasos, a new type of member emerged: a subject state. These states would at the very least be dominated by an Athenian garrison, and served as Athenian puppets in the league's assembly. When these votes were counted together with those of the small states which were clearly intimidated by Athens, the assembly became irrelevant: whatever Athens wanted would always be done. It fell into disuse an was abolished between 440 and 432. After this, Athens ruled over the league by decree. Earlier, in 454 B.C., the treasury of the league had been moved from the small, neutral island of Delos to Athens. So great was Athenian control of the League that allied troops were used in conflicts where only Athens' interests were involved.

Athens maintained it's leadership by a number of means. It possessed a magnificent navy, as the League's ships became part of the Athenian navy. This consisted of 300 triremes, and was by far the largest in the Greek world. At least 60 triremes were kept in the Aegean at any one time. The trireme was the predominant warship of the time, a narrow vessel built for speed. Each one required 180 oarsmen in three tiers, and fought by ramming enemy ships or boarding them with marines. As Pericles said to the Athenians:

"The whole world is divided into two parts, the sea and the land... Of the whole of one part you are in control"
(Thucydides II.62)

Thucydides also tells us of the extent of the Atenians' power over their discontented but impotent allies:

"The subject states of Athens were especially eager to revolt, even though it was beyond their capability."
(Thucydides VIII.2)

"They learned nothing from the fate of those of their neighbours who had already revolted and been subdued."
(Thucydides III.39)

"The Athenian fleet grew strong with the money which the allies had themselves contributed, whilst whenever they revolted they were ill-prepared and inexperienced."
(Thucydides I.99)

Athens maintained a tight grip over all their allies, never letting a hint of dissent go unpunished. For example, the Chalkians had to swear not to "follow anyone who revolts, and if any person causes a revolt, [to] denounce him to the Athenians." Often, constitutions that were models of Athens' were imposed on allies, and serious cases were placed under the jurisdiction of Athens. Law courts often prosecuted anti-Athenian elements. Control became so absolute that eventually no ally could sentence someone to death without first obtaining Athenian permission. We are told that:

"...the Athenians sail out and bring false charges against the respectable elements among [their allies] and hate them, because they realize that the ruler is always hated by the subject"
(Old Oligarch I.14)

It is worth noting that many Athenians viewed this as an altruistic arrangement, and could not understand the anger at lost independence it caused. As Athenian delegates to Sparta complained:

"In law suits with our allies arising out of contracts, we have put ourselves at a disadvantage, and when we arrange to have such cases tried by imperial courts at Athens, people accuse us of being over-fond of going to law."
(Thucydides I.77)

Colonies established on confiscated land were useful in the control of troublesome allies:

"Pericles sent out one thousand settlers to the Khersonese, five hundred to Naxos, 250 to Andros, one thousand to Thrace to make their homes with the Bisaltai ... and, by setting up garrisons among the allies, to implant a fear of rebellion."
(Plutarch, Pericles XI)

Athens opportunistically exploited religion and idealism. Land was claimed because it had belonging to Athena, the patron of Athens, or, in the case of Scyros, because Theseus' bones were claimed to have been found there. Athens encouraged the belief that she was the mother of all Ionian cities, and propagated the myth that the Athenian Demeter had granted corn to mankind. While Athens usually supported democrats against oligarchs, she would occasionally support oligarchs when the situation demanded it. In short, she was willing to do practically anything to maintain her empire, and went to extreme lengths. The Delian League had been intended to keep Greece from becoming a part of the Persian empire. Instead, it was the means by which Athens established an empire in Greece.


When she assumed leadership of the Delian League, Athens' intentions were for the most part honourable. In the first few years of her hegemony she accomplished extraordinary feats, forcing the Persians from Greece. However, she also experienced a huge influx of money from the league's members intended to pay for its naval forces. The Athenians grew used to a higher standard of living, due to the money and food now flowing into the city. The prestige and power of their city was advantageous to them all. Athens was reliant on imported corn to support her growing population: the money now flowing into her coffers enabled her to obtain it. Income from tributes and pillaging from the empire came to more than a thousand talents a year, while confiscated land and colonies provided livelihoods for many Athenians. The money from the empire was used to support the navy, construct magnificent public buildings, and support the city's poor. Jobs were created by the empire as well: almost everyone served in the navy at one point or another.

Everyone in the city benefited, so it is not surprising that democratic Athens elected to keep the money flowing in when the league succeeded in eliminating the Persian threat. While justifying their actions to the Peloponnesians, Athenian representatives said:

"We have done nothing surprising, nothing contrary to human nature, if we accepted leadership when it was offered and are now unwilling to give it up."
(Thucydides I.76)

"So far as the favour of the gods is concerned, we think we have as much right to that as you ... it is a general and necessary law of nature to govern wherever one can ... we know that you or anybody else with the same power as ours would be acting in precisely the same way."
(Thucydides V.105)

It is also worth noting that while the tributes became more oppressive after the Peace of Callias, they were never seen as being far too high. In fact the only dramatic rise in their level took place in 425 B.C., and this was both because of the political tension that year and to correct for recent inflation. Athens' preference for monetary rather than naval contributions was also at least partially justified by the fact that it was beyond the capabilities of many of the states in the Delian League to build triremes and train crews in the complicated art of manoeuvring a triple-banked rowing boat in battle. Athens had plenty of men eager to earn money as oarsmen, and also the shipyards and skilled craftsmen required to build triremes. Indeed, many in the league were happy to let Athens take care of building ships.

However, by doing this they were signing away their independence. The fleet which was meant to be the league's became Athens', and with it she could overcome any ally who complained about the tribute it had to pay. It could be argued that Athens' rashness, its self-confidence and the notorious "busy-bodyness" of which the Spartans complained were partly due to its democratic status. While oligarchs might not have taken such risks, the assembly was pushed into adventurism time and again by the potential rewards it held for the city's people. They knew their empire for what it was, but were naturally loath to give up the prosperity, wealth, prestige and security that came with it. The latter concern in particular provided a self-perpetuating rationale, as each exercise in imperialism infuriated the city's traditional enemies, and its erstwhile allies, further. As Pericles said to his countrymen:

"Your empire is now a tyranny: it may have been wrong to take it; it is certainly dangerous to let it go."
(Thucydides II.63)


  1. Thucydides I.95
  2. Thucydides II.9
  3. Diodorus XI.60


  • Athens Ascendant, George Dent Wilcoxon (Iowa State Press/1979)
  • History of the Peloponessian War, Thucydides (Primary source)
  • A History of Greece, Bury & Meiggs (MacMillan, 1975)
  • The Athenian Empire, Meiggs (OUP, 1972)
  • The Athenians And Their Empire, McGregor (University of British Columbia Press, 1987)
  • These Were the Greeks, Amos & Lang (Stanley Thornes, 1979

Tom Ash is the webmaster of Big Issue Ground and Atheist Ground. He studied philosophy at Oxford and Cambridge, where he was president of the University Atheist and Agnostic Society. He currently does non-profit work and freelance web development.

9  Pausanius -- Spartan General
Encyclopedia Britannica

Pausanias,  (died probably between 470 and 465 bc , Sparta [Greece]), Spartan commander during the Greco-Persian Wars who was accused of treasonous dealings with the enemy.

A member of the Agiad royal family, Pausanias was the son of King Cleombrotus I and nephew of King Leonidas. He became regent for Leonidas’ son after the father was killed at Thermopylae (480). Pausanias commanded the allied Greek army that defeated the Persians at Plataea (479), and he led the Greeks in the capture of Byzantium (478).

While Pausanias was at Byzantium, his arrogance and his adoption of Persian clothing and manners offended the allies and raised suspicions of disloyalty. Recalled to Sparta, he was tried and acquitted of the charge of treason but was not restored to his command. When the Athenians separated from the Spartans to form the Delian League, Pausanias returned to Byzantium privately and held the city until expelled by the Athenians (probably in 477). He retired to Colonae near Troy but was later again recalled to Sparta to face charges of conspiracy. Suspected of plotting to seize power in Sparta by instigating a helot uprising, he took refuge in the Temple of Athena of the Brazen House to escape arrest. The Spartans walled in the sanctuary and starved to death [tkw note -- him bringig him out of the temple just before he died to avaid poluting the Temple to death.]

Although Herodotus doubted that Pausanias had colluded with the Persians, Thucydides, writing years after the events, was certain of his guilt. It is conceivable that the Spartans had made Pausanias a scapegoat for their failure to retain the leadership of Greece.

10  Cimon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cimon - Kimon
Bust of Cimon in Larnaca, Cyprus
Born c. 510
Died 450 BC
Citium, Cyprus
Allegiance Athens
Rank Strategos (general)
Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis (in Cyprus)

Persian Wars