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Thread: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

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    Default A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    Chairete, philoi!

    Okay, I never meant to write about classical Athens since most people already know about it, but I wrote a slightly different version of this text for the Greeks at War mod and the Athenian faction preview. It can be seen here: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showt...henian-Preview

    Since my initial version differed in some points, I have revised it into a new text which I present you here. Have fun reading it


    The History of Athens before the Peloponnesian War

    "Therefore, having judged that to be happy means to be free, and to be free means to be brave, do not shy away from the risks of war." Perikles (circa 495- 429 BC).

    These words by the great statesman and orator Perikles were spoken at a funeral in 430 BC, one year after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. To instill further belief in his fellow citizens that victory for Athens was not only possible, but a logical result if the Athenians would follow his advice, Perikles described his city as the foremost state in Greece. And indeed Athens (Ἀθῆναι: Athénai) was unlike any other of the Greek poleis (city states) in the classical world. There were many things that singled it out, among them it's huge chóra (the land directly possessed by the pólis), it's numerous and modern fleet and its philosophy schools. But the one institution with which Athenai changed the fate of the world the most and the one it is most associated with is democracy. This short text shall give an introduction to the history of Athens before the Peloponnesian War and explain the way it followed, which led to the acqusition of it's unique attributes.


    Attica during the Dark Ages and archaic age

    The origins of Athens can be traced back to the 4th millenium BC, when Attica was first settled. Around 2000 BC Indoeuropean people immigrated to Greece and established their own foundations on the mainland, expelling the indigenous population at sveral places. Among them were the Dorians, who also founded Lakedaimón (Λακεδαίμων: Sparta). However, the Athenians would later claim that they were completely autochthonous and had been natives of the land from the very beginning on. Since this was an idea of the democratic pólis it is difficult to verify. But more important than the actual origin was their own understanding and the dialect they developed- while the Spartan or Messenian dialect was Dorian, the Athenian one was Ionian Greek.
    During the 2nd millenium Athens became one of the biggest towns of the Mykenian age, before the residence was abandoned like most of the palace centres which had dominated Greece during this period. According to the local myth, at some point thereafter, the demigod Theseus formed Athens by combining a number of villages in a synoikismós. However, archaelogy has shown that the place of the city remained populated throughout the so called ''Dark Ages'' (1100- 900 BC) and thus it must already have been one of the biggest settlements in Hellas this early. During the 9th century, Athenai experienced a rapid growth of its population which eventually led to the inner colonization of Attica from Athens. This resulted in almost complete control of Attica as the city's natural chora and the division of the whole peninsula into the Athenian phratries and phyles.
    Despite this administrative development, early archaic Athens remained a society dominated by nobles, far away from the classical city state. The transformation into a polis was a long process, but one of the most important steps along the way was the establishment of the archons. They were the first public offices in Athens and since that time years were named after the incumbent of the archon epónymos (eponymous archon). Further offices such as the polèmarchos (supreme military commander) followed. After internal upheaval at the end of the 7th century BC, a number of laws were codified in 621/620 BC through the work of the legendary Drakon. From Drakon on, every citizen was de iure equal before the public courts- an important foundation stone for the later introduction of the Attic democracy.
    In the decades after Drakon, Athens slowly drifted into crisis. An increasing number of hektémoroi (serfs) was an expression of the spread of poverty and economical inequality. In 594/593 a man called Solon was elected archon, and he was to remain an important political figure in Athenian public life ever after. In the 570s he was voted into the irregular office of diallaktés (arbitrator). As a wise man, he heard the arguments of both sides and introduced a number of changes. The debt bondage was abolished, the possibilities of naturalisation restricted, the export of grain was forbidden (since the ever growing community needed the grain for itself) and the inheritance laws reformed to keep estates in family possession. Furthermore, a people's court was established and the society was officially divided into different classes according to the census. The division was based on how many medimnoi of grain (52,53l) or oil or vine of the same value every citizen could produce. The wealthiest group were the pentakosiomédimnoi, who produced more than 500 medimnoi annually. They were followed by the hippeis, who produced 300- 499 medimnoi a year, the zeugitai (at least 200) and finally the théthes (less than 200). This system also effected the division of the army.


    The Parthenon temple at the Akropolis of Athens

    Along with the reforms of Solon, the establishment of the Panathenaic games in 566/565 BC (which were held every four years from then on, exactly like the Olympic Games) and the erection of a wall around the whole city strengthened the rising polis identity. But Athens was still dominated by it's noble elite and far away from the classical democracy it should become famous for. After leading the Athenian troops in a war against Megara on the Isthmos, a wealthy man, who went by the name Peisistratos (circa 600 BC- 528/527 BC), rose to an influential position in the Athenian society. Aided by aristocratic friends in Thebes, Naxos, Argos and Eretria and the revenue he made from gold and silver mines in the Pangaion mountain range, Peisistratos seized control over the city in 546 BC. His enemies assembled their troops at Pallene east of Athens, but were defeated by Peisistratos' mercenaries. An indivual noble had overcome the civic organisation of the polis and he quickly ousted his political rivals from the city. Investments into the farming estates of Attica kept the common people at bay, while mercenaries, Scythian policemen and his own personal guard protected the tyranny.
    The rule of Peisistratos was very eventful and the sources tell us about many stories and myths connected with the tyrant. But here the short conclusion shall suffice, that he must have been successful enough to prevent major revolts and mantain Athens' economical and demographic growth. As one among many tyrants in the Greek world in the later part of the 6th century BC, Peisistratos was neither an exception nor surrounded by enemies. This situation changed considerably a few years after his death and into the rule of his oldest son Hippias. His allies Lygdamis of Naxos and the legendary Polykrates of Samos were overthrown in 525/524 and 522 respectively. Even then, Hippias and his younger brother Hipparchos were still safe until a love affair led to Hipparchos' murder at the Panathenaic Games in 514 BC. Shocked by the attack, which was actually aimed at him, Hippias ordered the immediate execution of the assassins Harmodios and Aristogeiton and tightened his reins. After a further four years of much more brutal and opressive rule, Hippias was finally overthrown in 510 BC.


    The tyrant murderers Harmodios and Aristogeiton

    The fall of the tyrants was also the first interaction between Arthens and Sparta, which had become the foremost state of mainland Greece. The noble family of the Alkmeonids, who had been been bitter rivals of the Peisistratids since 525 BC, called the Spartan king Kleomenes I. (ruled circa 520- 488 BC) to their help. By bribing the Oracle of Delphi, which subsequently told the Lakedaimonians time and again to liberate Athens from Hippias, who had traditionally been a friend of Sparta, they convinced Kleomenes to intervene in Attica. Kleomenes also feared the marriage alliance between Athens and the Persian Empire and intended to get rid of the potential rival by replacing Hippias with a pro-Spartan nobility class. After a failed attack in 511 BC, Kleomenes' army prevailed in 510 and Hippias had to retreat to the Akropolis. Now, as the Lakedaimonian victory in battle had shown the tyrant's weakness, a part of the Athenian populace rallied to the Lakedaimonian cause and arrested Hippias' children. After short negotiations the tyrant agreed to retire and went into exil in Asia Minor with his children- the age of tyranny was over.
    Soon after the departure of the Spartan troops, the citizens of Athens began to assess the overthrow of Hippias as their own achievement and erected statues for Harmodios and Aristogeiton, who became urban heroes. But the civic polis needed strong men to dominate the public affairs, and this role was now filled by Isagoras, who was elected as archon in 508/507 BC. He controlled the public affairs through his noble friends and common clients and thus his position seemed unassailable. However, one of his rivals called Kleisthenes found a way to undermine Isagoras' power. The simple and yet groundbreaking idea of giving more power to the whole populace and the poorer citizens allowed him to gain more votes from the lower social classes. He promised the démos (literal: people) to install a system of isonomía (political equality) and won a majority this way.

    Hard-pressed, Isagoras turned to his guest friend Kleomenes for help. After requesting the expulsion of Kleisthenes and his supporters, Isagoras' rival left the city. However, Kleomenes was not satisfied and led another army to Athens in late 508 without having counselled the Spartan offices. He expelled 700 families and replaced them with 300 followers of Isagoras. But the Areopagos (areios págos, Ares Rock, the ruling council named after the massive rock where it held its assemblies) resisted the putsch and forced Kleomenes, Isagoras and their followers to retire to the Akropolis, where they were besieged. Now Kleomenes found himself in the same position as Hippias two years before and he was eventually forced to agree to leave Athens together with all of his retinue. Immediately thereafter, Kleisthenes returned to the city and the Areopagos passed his reforms. First of all, the administrative division was changed into roughly 120 demoí (later 139)and 10 phyles. Every phylé (φυλή) was given a certain identity and mythical background and formed a base unit for the Athenian army. Furthermore, every phyle sent 50 representatives into the council of the 500. Thus, social and economical ties which favoured the nobility were undermined and theoretically every citizen had the same vote and same chance to win an office. In 501/0, the office of strategós was additionally set up- every phyle could vote one strategós to command its respective regiment.


    Bust of Kleisthenes

    Intentionally or not, Kleisthenes had invented democracy (demokratía, δημοκρατία). As implied above, the new constitution also bore a great effect on Athens' military. The Hoplite was now fighting for HIS state, for HIS phylé and HIS démos. Their services were soon needed, when Kleomenes returned in 506 to install Isagoras as tyrant of nearby Eleusis. Boiotians and Chalkidians used the opportunity to raid Attica, but the Korinthians felt that Kleomenes had not told them about his intentions and managed to convince the other Peloponnesians to march back home. With danger averted, Athens took revenge against Chalkis, captured the Euboian polis and partly resettled it with Athenian citizens. At the same time, alliances with Chalkis' rival Eretria and Plataia in Boiotia were concluded- Athenai had emerged from the shatters of tyranny to become one of the most powerful states in Greece with its civic army.
    These new forces were soon put to a daunting test when the Ionian cities in Asia Minor rebelled against the rule of the Persian Empire. In 499/498 their ambassador Aristagoras arrived at Athens, asking for military aid against the Great King. The Council of the 500 decided to send 20 ships, supported by further 5 galleys from Eretria. Most likely they hoped on an immediate success and a good chance for booty, but they were to be disappointed. As with most rebellions against his rule, Dareios I. the Great (550-486 BC) reacted quickly and eventually crushed the Ionian Rebels in the Battle of Lade in 494 BC. By then, the Athenian and Eretrian fleet had long left, but Dareios did not forgive so soon. In the following years he campaigned in the Aegean and in Thrace and sent his envoys to all important poleis in Greece, demanding them to bow down before his overlordship.
    Among the cities which agreed to this was Aigina, an island polis only a few miles west from Athens, which possessed a decent fleet and had almost regularly raided Attica in the past. Subsequently Athens sent its own ambassador to Sparta and offered an alliance including both cities as well as Eretria, Plataia, Korinthos, Arkadia and Elis directed against Aigina and Persia, in which Lakedaimon would be the hegemon. After the Spartans had agreed, they took care of Aigina and forced them to hand over those who had agreed to the Persian demands as hostages. A few months later, a Persian army under Datis and Artaphernes boarded a fleet in Ionia and subjugated the Cyclades before landing on Euboia to besiege Eretria. The city was taken by storm and panic spread in Attica. Immediately another envoy was dispatched to Lakedaimon, only to find its citizens celebrating a lengthy religious festival. Left on their own, the Athenians decided to send their whole army, reinforced solely by their Plataian allies, to the plain of Marathon where the Persian invasion was expected to take place.
    And indeed the army under Miltiades (circa 550- 489 BC) found their foes already encamped on the plain in August 490 BC and positioned itself opposite to the Persians. After having observed each other for several days, the Athenians noticed that the feared Persian cavalry had disappeared and decided to attack. Charging down on the enemy (from more than 1000 ms according to Herodotos, but most likely a Hoplite could only run at that speed and hold his formation more or less for about 100ms) they pressed back the lightlier armoured enemy to the beach until the Persians broke and fled to the remaining ships. Having won the battle, Miltiades quickly concluded that the Persian cavalry must have entered the ships before the fight and was on its way to Athens. According to legend, Miltiades sent one of his fastest men called Pheidippides to Athens, where he arrived in record time and climbed the Areopagos to announce ''νενικήκαμεν!'' (nenikékamen! We have won!) before he broke down- the origin of the modern Marathon race. In any case, the Athenian army hurried back to the city to arrive just in time before the Persian fleet, which had to round the Attican peninsula. Seeing their enemy entering the city, the Persian fleet decided to retreat and the campaign against Greece was over.


    The Greco Persian Wars: The Hellenic League with all cities, which were members at at least one point, is shown in Red. Direct Persian vassals are depicted in Green, while primarily neutral Greek states are Blue (some of them became vassals or closer allies later on, such as Thebes).

    For the Great King, the failure of Marathon was a mere annoyance at the ultimate border of his vast empire, but for Athens the triumph had proven it's singularity and enhanced the self confidence of its polis society. Buoyed by the success, they helped in the liberation of Eretria and sent 70 ships under Miltiades against the Cyclades, which expelled the Persian garrisons from the western Cyclades, but failed to overcome the resistance at Paros. Another unsuccessful expedition against Aiginia proved that Athens' military might, especially on sea, was still limited. Miltiades had been wounded at Paros and was convicted for the failure of the expedition and thus died in prison in late 489 BC. The time had come for one of his former sub commanders at Marathon, who had already been elected as archon in 493/492: Themistokles (circa 525 BC- 459 BC) originated from a family of priests and his mother was either Thracian or Carian- thus he was no proper member of the Athenian nobility as most of the decisive figures in Athenian public affairs before him. He advocated the construction of a strong fleet to defeat Aiginia and eventually overcame his more noble foes through the óstrakismós (shard court), which expelled his rivals Xanthippos and Aristeides for ten years each. In 483/482 new silver mines were opened at Laureion in Attica and the increased revenue was used to construct an impressive fleet of 200 trieres.
    But the rise of Athen's naval power did not only have military consequences, it also changed its social structure. Since hundreds or even thousands of rowers were needed for the fleet, many thétes and even slaves were recruited for this position. Thus they gained a vote and the confidence to use it in the ekklesía (people's assembly) which everyone could attend- and many slaves even won their freedom, thus also rising to the state of active citizens. The huge fleet and its confident crews were soon needed to defend Athens against a far greater threat than Aiginia- the Persians were about to return. The preparations for a combined land and sea operation against Greece had started in 485 BC, shortly after the new Great King had ascended to the throne: Xerxes I. (circa 519- 465 BC). The massive works in Asia Minor had been detected by Athenian spies in 484 BC and thus the campaign against Aigina was duly cancelled and an assembly of all members of the alliance of 490 BC was held at Sparta. However, it only took place in autumn 481 BC, when the Persian army was already gathering in numbers in Sardes.
    The envoys of all poleis which took part agreed to sign a common peace between them, which finally ended the conflict between Athens and Aigina, among others. All present states concluded a formal alliance against the Persian Empire. The initial members were: Athens and it's dependent poleis (the Western Cyclades and Chalkis on Euboia) as well as its own allies (Eretria and Plataiai), Sparta and all its symmachoi (dependent allies) on the Peloponnesos as well as all full members of the Peloponnesian League (Elis, Korinthos and its dependent cities [Anaktorion, Leukas and Ambrakia], Tegea, Mantineia, Phleious and most minor towns around them), Thespiai in Boiotia and the Lokrian poleis. Ambassdors were also dispatched to Argos, Syracuse, Kerkyra and the Cretan poleis to secure their military power, but all of them declined for various reasons (while Argos was accused of a secret understanding with Xerxes, Syracuse demanded the command over the Hellenic League, which Sparta could not accept. They also faced their own problem in a large Carthaginian invasion force in 480 BC. Crete and Kerkyra probably still felt safe enough in their isolated positions). Lakedaimon was put in charge of both the common army and the fleet and thus the Hellenic League was formed.


    Bust of Themistokles

    In the spring of 480 BC, the grand army of Persia crossed the Hellespont into Thrace. The Hellenic League soon got wind of their arrival and sent 10 000 Hoplites under the Spartiate Euainetos to Thessaly, where the local opposition wanted to take up arms against the invaders. But by this point the slowly moving war machine of Xerxes was already encamped at the royal court of the unlucky King of Macedonia, who had to pay for the whole supply of the majestic forces. Euainetos judged the Tempe valley in Thessaly as a poor defensive position and thus retired his troops to the Thermopylai, the gate to Middle Greece. 3000 Hoplites were moved further backwards while the Agiad King Leonidas I. took over the forces at Thermopylai. His troops were joined by a few hundred Thebans who had left their mother city, which had decided to become a Persian vassal. After the impressive royal army had arrived here in August 480, Leonidas famously held the position until the enemy found a way to attack the Greeks in the back and slaughter the Spartiates and their helots as well as their Theban and Thespaian allies, who had decided to hold the desperate position.
    At the same time, the Hellenic fleet under the Lakedaimonian Eurybiades fared better and their 334 trieres largely survived the Battle at Cape Artemision after a storm had severly hit the more numerous Persian fleet. But when news arrived about Leonidas' defeat, the fleet retreated southwards to save what was left of the League. At this point most Peloponnesians wanted to fortify the Isthmos and to surrender Attica. In this seemingly hopeless situation for his countrymen, Themistokles reminded his fellow citizens of the Delphian prophecy, which had promised the Athenians that ''the wooden walls'' would be the city's salvation. He interpreted these words as a reference to their fleet and once again he managed to convince his fellow citizens to follow his advice and evacuate the city. The populace was brought to Troizen, Aigina and Salamis while the Persian troops slowy advanced on Attica before burning down the proud city of Athens. But with grim conviction, Themistokles led the Hellenic fleet to victory in the Battle of Salamis in September 480 after the invaders had fallen for is various deceptions and were outmaneuvred in the narrow strait. For now, Athens was saved and the majority of the Persian fleet returned to its Asian harbours for the winter. But once again, the victory had been much brighter for the Greeks than it had been damaging for Persia and the Persian army remained in Europe, in charge of Xerxes' relative Mardonios.

    During the winter, this Mardonios tried to break up the Greek alliance through negotiations. He offered Athens a leading role in Greece under a benevolent Persian rule, but in the presence of a Spartan embassy the Athenians declined both this and a Lakedaimonian offer to pay the expenses of their families until the war had ended- but at the same time, they asked their allies to send an army to Attica. Herodotos depicts this as a pivotal moment, in which arguably only the Spartan embassy prompted the Council to rejected the Persian proposal, but it might as well just be a narrative exaggeration by the Father of Historiography. In any case, Mardonios' envoys returned home with more disappointment and in Summer 479 BC the royal army advanced into central Greece. Once again, the Athenians evacuated to Salamis and their city was sacked because no Peloponnesian army had shown up yet. The Athenians repeated their earlier pleas for reinforcements and eventually an force made up of Spartiates, perioikoi (free Greeks living in Lakonia without citizenship; in Athens they were called metoikoi) and helots (the serf like farmers in Messenia) marched northwards. They met with the armies from Corinth, Athens, Tegea and other allies in Attica and marched into Boiotia, where they were reinforced by a number of Plataians. Near the destroyed town, both sides formed their troops for battle in early August 479.
    Under the command of the Lakedaimonian regent Pausanias, himself barely twenty years old, the biggest Greek army ever seen encamped near the mountains to stay away from the plain where the feared Persian archers and cavalry could develop their full terrible potential. The exact numbers are unknown, but most likely Pausanias had about 40 000 men at his disposal, among them a few hundred horsemen, at least 15 000 Peloponnesian skirmishers including the Helots, and more than 20 000 Hoplites from the Peloponnese, Athens, Plataiai, Euboia, Megara, Aigina and a number of smaller towns. Argos and Thebes abstained from the coalition once more, while the Mantineains arrived only after the battle was over- if intentionally or accidentally is open to conjecture. On the other side of the plain, protected by the stream of the Asopus river, the numbers for the Persian troops are even more vague and can only be estimated. Considering the limits of ancient supply and the distance to its homeland, the Persian troops will have most likely (see Lazenby, Delbrück etc.) numbered about 60 000 men infantry- including a great number of bowmen- and 10 000 men cavalry. To this we must add about another 10 000 Greeks from Macedonia, Thessaly and Thebes and other places who were fighting as vassals of the Great King.
    Pausanias and his council knew that the strength of the enemy was their cavalry as well as their archers and during a first skirmish in the plain the Greeks suffered heavy casulaties through the feared Persian bows and had to retire to the hills to escape the aerial bombardment. Similar to Marathon, the preparations on both sides and the cautious tactical plans led to a stalemate of several days, until Pausanias ordered a fake retreat to lure the enemy cavalry onto the rugged ridges and into a melee. Mardonios initially fell for it and sent both the Immortals and the bulk of his cavalry after the Peloponnesians on the left side of the battlefield seen from his point of view. He led the mounted contingent himself and was shocked when the Spartan and Tegeate Hoplites suddenly turned their spears and shields around and received his cavalry charge in phalanx formation. Pausanias duly dispatched a messenger to the Athenians and their Euboian and Aiginate allies on the other side of the battlefield to tell them to attack the Persians in the rear. However, the Athenians ignored the order because they had been attacked by the Theban phalanx, who assualted them ferociously (according to Herodotos, in difference to the other Greek allies of Mardonios who fled as soon as an opportunity arose). During the struggle on the right (seen from Plataiai), a Spartiate called Arimnestos picked up a rock and threw it at Mardonios, who had come too close to the battle lines. According to Herodotos, he was hit in the head and fell dead off his horse.
    The Persians, seeing that their general had died, began to break away and Mardonios' remaining bodyguard was slaughtered by the Lakedaimonians. Meanwhile, the Athenians had overcome their Theban opponents and one part of the Achaemenid forces under Mardonios' rival Artabazos had already left the battlefield. Now, the battle soon turned into a rout and the Peloponnesians eventually managed to storm the Persian camp once the Athenians came to their help. The survivors of the Persian army fled northwards, while the Hellenic League resolved to punish Thebes. After more than a decade, Hellas had been saved.


    The decisive phase of the Battle of Plataiai

    The significance of the victory of Plataiai is often overshadowed today by Marathon, Thermopylai and Salamis. Plataiai was a battle mainly won by the Spartans and their Tegeate allies and thus many Athenians favoured to promote the victories of Marathon and Allies, but it was only at Plataiai that a Greek army defeated the royal forces of Persia in a pitched battle and ended the threat of subjugation. About 40 000 Hellenes stood against about 80 000 Persians and triumphed against the more numerous enemy- this was the birth of a new age of Greek history. Fueled by confidence, they soon went eastwards to strip the Ionian Greeks off Persian rule. Only a few weeks after Plataiai, the Hellenic fleet won a decisive victory at Mykale and completely destroyed the Persian fleet in Asia Minor. On request of Athens, Samos, Chios, Lesbos and a few minor islands were admitted into the Hellenic League. But while Athens wanted to continue the liberation of the Eastern Greeks, the Peloponnesians and most of all Sparta were more hesitant and eventually returned home. Left with their own allies, the Athenian fleet besieged Sestos and took the city at the turn of the year 479 to 478 BC.
    The Greco-Persian Wars had led Athens and Sparta closer together, but at the same time it also laid the fundament for their later rivaly. As I mentioned above, the rise of the Athenian fleet also led to a further democratisation of the Athenian polis society and its public institutions. In Sparta, on the other hand, the ekklesia (here also called apella) was equally promoted, but central control over the expanding military activites fell into the hands of the ephors, the senior administrators of the city. Calling on the Thermopylian mentality, they propagated the particularity of Sparta and isolated its society from the rest of Greece.

    After the wars against Persia the almost five decades followed, which are called Pentecontaetia (πεντηκονταετία) by Thucydides. During this time, Sparta's junior partner Athens rose to a great power and became its main rival. Under the guidance of Themistokles, Athenai at first constructed the long walls to encircle the vital harbour Peiraieus and reerected the public buildings of the city. With their fleet still in Asia, command over the Hellenic forces passed to Pausanias, who showed greater ambitions than his predecessor, but was dimissed after the liberations of Cyprus and Byzantion because he had acted like a tyrant at the Hellespont. Eventually, command over the fleet was assigned to Athens, which was fully in accordance with Lakedaimon's aims back then, because they could concentrate on their issues at home this way while the Atticans would distract the Persians from mainland Greece. Since the allies had formerly sworn their oath to Sparta, a new alliance had to be concluded and many members of the Peloponnesian League also took the chance to leave, being replaced by Ionian states. Every member contributed either money or its own ships and the league's treasury was brought to the Apollon temple on Delos- hence its name: The Delian League. The new military alliance began new operations against the Persian Empire at Eion on the Strymon, Skyros and Karystos on Euboia in 476/475 BC, with the former being pressed into the league. Under the new Athenian commander Kimon (circa 510- 450 BC) the successes continued.

    At Mykale, the Phoenician ships of the Persian fleet had not been present and thus Kimon, who had replaced Themistokles as the mightiest man in Athens, set after them. After securing the sea route from Athens to the Hellespont and the Bosporan poleis on the northern end of the Black Sea, he chased them for years until the final showdown took place at the mouth of the River Eurymedon in Pamphylia. In a huge combined sea-and land operation, the Delian forces won a double victory over their Achaemenid foes, which included the afore mentioned Phoenician ships. This stunning defeat of the Persians, which probably took place in 466 BC, gave Athens a free hand in Asia Minor and guaranteed the liberty of Ionia. The overwhelming success strengthened the Athenian position as the hegemon of the Delian League, which had expanded to include most Aegean islands as well as numerous cities in Thrace, at the Hellespont and in western Asia Minor. Some of the bigger members soon realized that Athens was turning the League into the long arm of its own military and tried to leave the alliance. But both Naxos (circa. 470 BC) and Thasos (466/465) were pressed back into the organisation by force.
    As Thukydides (1,97) correctly observed, the Delian League evolved from a federation of symmachoi (allies) into an arché (rule/empire) of Athens. Most members preferred to pay the money instead of equipping their own ships and paid the price when Athens' fleet became bigger and bigger while they lacked one of their own to resist the hegemon. Athen's rapid expansion was also increasingly seen as an annoyance or even a threat on the Peloponnese, especially during the three year siege of Thasos. Furthermore, a terrible eartquake devastated Lakonia in 462 BC and many Spartan citizens lost their lifes. Their Messenian helots saw their chance and rebelled against their overlords, who called the powerful Athenians for help to storm the mountain fortress of Ithome. Kimon himself led 4000 Hoplites into Messenia, but was quickly sent back by the Spartans- allegedly because they feared that the Atticans might eventually conspire against them together with the helots. In fact it is more likely that Lakedaimon intended to revert the democratic reforms in Athens, an aim Kimon shared with them. Since they finally failed to do so, the citizens of Athenai felt aggrieved and offered the surviving rebels exile in Naupaktos. As if that was not enough, they also dissolved their alliance with Sparta.
    After Kimon had returned to the city and failed in his attempt to suppress the democratic movement, he was ostracised and a man called Ephialtes, a friend of the famous Perikles, replaced him in his dominating position. Although he was murdered soon thereafter, this Ephialtes managed to pass a number of reforms which strengthened the democratic development and restricted the power of the Areopagos. With the new confidence of the thetes and Athens successful foreign policy, the influence of the common people was on the up. Even the poorest man on the streets of Athens watched increasingly interested when the government signed alliances with Argos, Megara and Thessaly before the summer of 461 BC. The alliance with Sparta's arch enemy Argos was a blatant insult and led to the so called ''First Peloponnesian War''.


    The Delian League and its allies in 431 BC (In Yellow). The Peloponnesian League and its allies are shown in Red

    The first war between Sparta and Athens encompassed a number of allies which were primarily involved in the fighting. Athens had secured the support of its Delian League, Argos and the Phokians, while Sparta's cause was represented by Corinth, Epidauros, Aigina, Thebes and the Dorians in central Greece. During the first years of the conflict, small scale skirmishes dominated the warfare and Athens focused on a continuation of its old rivaly with Aigina. After a decisive victory at sea, Aiginia was besieged for several years and eventually fell in 456 BC. Its walls were torn down, its trieres confiscated and a tribute imposed- Aiginia became just another oppressed member of the Delian League. One year earlier, Lakedaimon had intervened in Central Greece to save the Dorians from a Phokian attack. A sizeable Athenian army entered Boiotia, trying to intercept the Spartans, but was forced to battle at Tanagra. In a bloody fight, the Boiotio- Lakedaimonian alliance brushed aside Athens' challenge and secured Doris.
    Even before this failure Athens had finalised its fortifications with the long walls to include both ports, Piraeus and Phaleron, into the defensive system. Thus strengthened at home, the strategos (military commander) Tolmides was sent into Peloponnesian territory where he laid waste to the countryside. But pride goes before a fall and when the rulers of the city equipped a fleet to aid Egypt in its revolt against the Persian Empire, almost all ships and its crews were eventually annihilated by the Great King's forces. Shocked by the news, Athens cancelled the assemblies of the Delian League, moved the treasury from Delos to Athens and openly declared it as its very own empire. But when another expedition, this time against the king of Macedon, failed, the new imperial power was forced to seek terms with its foes. In 451 BC, Athens and its Delian League, which by now consisted of more than 140 member states, concluded a peace treaty for five years. At the same time, another fleet defeated a Persian expedition against Cyprus and reassured the citizens of Athens that their power was unbroken.

    While war with Sparta and its Korinthian ally had been stopped for now, Boiotia had largely been annected by Athens after the Battle of Oinophyta. However, this rule did not last for long as Thebes and formerly exiled Boiotians provoked a rebellion of the subjugated cities in 448/447 BC. Tolmides was dispatched with a number of Hoplites to supress the revolt, but the Boitoian allies smashed his forces at the Battle of Koroneia in 447 BC. Once again, Athens' reputation suffered and it had to face a rebellion on Euboia, while Megara managed to leave its alliance. Standing true to the treaty, Lakedaimon ignored the pleas of the Euboians and in 446 BC Perikles (circa 490- 429 BC) succeeded in wiping out the resistance to imperial rule. Intimidated by the example, Megara asked to join the Peloponnesian League and was duly accepted. With both sides content of the results, a peace for thirty years was concluded in 446/445 BC. For the first time, the poleis of Greece were divived into Lakedaimon/Korinthos and their allies, Athenai and its allies and the neutral rest. Both sides respected the treaty and when Samos rebelled against Athenian overlordship in 440/439 BC, the Peloponnesians ignored their calls for help as they had done with the Euboians a few years before. Perikles took charge of the situation and after a short war Samos was forced back into the league.

    The Democracy had grown into a naval empire. While Athens' grip on it's maritime vassals tightened, it did not challenge the Lakedaimonian hegemony on land. And thus it was fitting that a conflict involving two of Greece's other remaining naval powers- and probably the two mightiest ones after Athenai itself- led to the Peloponnesian War. Korkyra or Kerkyra was one of the earliest Greek colonies, founded by Corinthian settlers in the late 8th century. In difference to other Corinthian colonies such as Ambrakia or Anaktorion, Korkyra's relation with it's mother city dwindled early on. It is difficult to determine the exact reasons for this, but the distance between Korkyra and Korinthos, the islanders' democratic tendencies and their very own naval ambitions will all have played a role in this. In any case, this conflict reignited in 433 BC, when Korkyra turned against Epidamnos.
    Laying on the Epirote-Illyrian shoreline northeast of the Ionian islands, the town had been founded by Korinthian and Korkyrean colonists together in the 7th century BC. In face of it's warlike Illyrian neighbours it had maintained close relations to its Corinthian protector and when Korkyra concluded an alliance with the local tribes to besiege Epidamnos, the Corinthians sent a strong force to the defenders' aid. Having not only captured Epidamnos, but also expelled the Corinthian citizens, Korkyra feared the revenge of its mother city and immediately dispatched envoys to Athens to ask them for help. Realizing the strategical position of Korkyra and the size of its fleet, Athens agreed to a defensive alliance, which naturally enraged the Corinthians and prompted them to attack their foes. A squadron of twenty Athenian ships arrived just in time to save the Korkyreans from defeat in the Battle of Sybota, still in the same year. Both sides suffered heavy casualties and claimed victory for themselves. While Korkyra had lost the majority of its proud fleet, the Corinthians and their vassals had to retreat when more Athenian ships arrived and thus left Epidamnos in the enemy's hand.



    Map of North Western Epeiros, the Ionian Islands and the Illyrian coast. Korkyra, Anaktorion, Ambrakia and Epidamnos can be seen on this map

    Angered by Athen's invention, Corinth seized it's chance for revenge when its former colony Potidaia on the Chalkidike peninsula, a member of the Delian League, declared it's exit from the de facto Athenian empire in 432 BC. But even with the Battle of Sybota having taken place the year before, Korinthos was not yet ready for open war with Athens and only sent an ''inofficial'' army made up of allies and mercenaries to protect Potidaia. Alarmed by the situation, the Athenian authorities dispatched a strong army to Chalkidike, which began a prolonged siege of the city. To these two affairs came a third clash of the two sides, when Athens imposed a commercial embargo on Megara, which excluded them from any trade with the League's ports.
    Finally Korinthos decided that enough was enough and when the Peloponnesian League assembled in the hot summer of 432 BC, the city's representatives demanded to declare war upon Athens. In this they were duly supported by Megara. However, it was clear that only Lakedaimon's voice could lead to a common decision, which would also bring the minor allies as well as Elis and the Arkadian poleis, who had less interest in naval rivalries, on the intended course for war. The ephors and the kings of Sparta, of whom Archidamos II (ruled 469- 427 BC) led the conference, had by now realized that Athenian power was growing more and more and that it was aiming at a total hegemony over Hellas. As Thukydides literally put it: ''Athens had grown so powerful that the Spartans were stricken with fear and went to war'' (1,23,6). Despite Archidamos' late plea for restraint, the apella judged that the Athenians had broken the peace treaty and voted for war...

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Thank you for reading
    Last edited by Mausolos of Caria; December 06, 2015 at 04:18 PM.


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  2. #2

    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    Thank you for your hard work. Great read. I'm getting into this period by reading the History of the Pelopenisian War.

  3. #3
    Mausolos of Caria's Avatar Royal Satrap
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    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    At last, someone commented on it! Thank you for your kind words, Thukydides really is a great starting point to get into the history of classical Greece. In fact, I'm attending a colloquium about Athenian naval power in the book this evening


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    Lord Oda Nobunaga's Avatar 大信皇帝
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    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    Yeah I'm planning to read this at some point.

    "Famous general without peer in any age, most superior in valor and inspired by the Way of Heaven; since the provinces are now subject to your will it is certain that you will increasingly mount in victory." - Ōgimachi-tennō

  5. #5

    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    What would you recommend after I read the HotPW?

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    Mausolos of Caria's Avatar Royal Satrap
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    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    I'm looking forward to your comment, Lord Oda

    Chet, what do you want to read? More primary sources first or also academic literature? And are you looking more specifically at the later part of the 5th century and the Peloponnesian War, or at the classical age and the whole 5th century BC in general?


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    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    Anything written by contemporaries. I have already read Xenophons' expedition and Cyropaedia.
    I admit that this is not my strongest field but I am interested in changing this.

  8. #8
    Mausolos of Caria's Avatar Royal Satrap
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    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    If you also want to have a look at the earlier history, there's obviously Herodotos' histories. You can also pick different books as you like, just have a look at the structure and where the different excursions about each region, its culture and history are.


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    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    Quote Originally Posted by Mausolos of Caria View Post
    If you also want to have a look at the earlier history, there's obviously Herodotos' histories. You can also pick different books as you like, just have a look at the structure and where the different excursions about each region, its culture and history are.
    The Histories is pretty good, I really liked the vibe of it all, especially when Herodotos reasoned why things happened (salt in the pyramid blocks for example). I have read it a few years ago, might go for it again.

    Thanks

  10. #10
    Mausolos of Caria's Avatar Royal Satrap
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    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    Ah that is nice then Also, if you are interested in this period, are you aware of my other articles?


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  11. #11

    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    Sadly no. I've been a long time lurker of the forum but I can't remember if I have read any of your articles, but will give a go at the search engine of the forum.

  12. #12
    Mausolos of Caria's Avatar Royal Satrap
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    Default Re: A City like no other- The History of Athens up to the Peloponnesian War

    There is two about the classical age, one about Syracuse and one about Arcadia

    Mantineia and Tegea:
    http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showt...al-Greek-World

    Gelon of Syracuse:
    http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showt...nt-of-Syracuse


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