Athenian Imperialism and her Changing Relations with Allies

Topics: Peloponnesian War, Ancient Greece, Sparta Pages: 8 (2213 words) Published: June 6, 2007
Nature of Athenian Imperialism

Changing Relations with Allies

Lars Hoogvliet

After the conclusion of the Persian Wars (492-479BC) with Athens being the true victor, and before the Peloponnesian War, a period of prosperity covered Athens, and they needed to devise new ways to protect themselves and expand their wealth, and how this would affect their relations with allies.

'The Athenians and their Allies' was an organisation led by the Athenians in the 5th century, but is now referred to as the 'Delian League' or the 'Confederacy of Athens.'

The official aim of the League was, according to Thucydides, "to compensate themselves for their losses [of the Persian War] by ravaging the territory of the King of Persia." The long term aim of the League was to ensure the freedom of the Greeks and prepare them for any future wars to come. This makes the League both a defensive and offensive organisation.

Athens was to become the leader of the League, for various reasons, including their large navy and success at Salamis, but an underlying cause was that the Spartan King, Pausanias who "treated his own allies harshly and arrogantly and scattered insults far and wide with his officiousness and absurd pretensions" as written by Plutarch. Gaining leadership to the League could be considered a catalyst for Athens' imperialistic ways in years to follow.

Thucydides believes that it was the Ionian Greeks who instigated the transferal of leadership from Sparta to Athens, and Athens then said something which would have been a large cause for the Peloponnesian War which was to follow in 432BC; "We did not gain this empire by force. It came to us at a time when you [Sparta] were unwilling to fight on to the end against the Persians." This would obviously insult the Spartans greatly, as Sparta was a war-loving city-state which prided itself in bravery and fighting to the death.

Athenian leadership of the League soon became near inevitable, as Sparta was hardly experienced or capable of maintaining a large fleet, and still had many of their own problems to deal with.

Athens needed a large source of income if it was to carry out its aims mentioned above, and it would also require a large fleet. Some city-states would be responsible for providing money, others for ships.

A system of contributions had been devised, and was carried out by Aristides, "[he was] appointed to survey the various territories and their revenues, and then to fix their contributions according to each member's worth and ability to pay" as Plutarch recalls.

The League's actual extent isn't known, but according to the book _Ancient Greece Using Evidence_, in the first year of the League its power extended to 'Byzantium in the Propontis, the Aineum promontory in the north-west, Rhodes in the south-west and Siphnos in the south-west.'

During 478-461BC, the League was under a large influence of Cimon. Cimon entered politics at the right time as Plutarch writes "[the people] had had enough of Themistocles and they proceeded to promote Cimon to the highest honours and office in State."

Cimon, who was excellent at handling the public, was also pro-Spartan, and this would later cause trouble for him as Athens and Sparta would end up at war with each other.

During Cimon's reign over the League, three main operations took place. They included 'against the Persians, some against their own allies when they revolted, some against the Peloponnesian powers with whom on various occasions they became involved.' - Thucydides.

Over the next decade or so, various campaigns were conducted under the will of the Delian League. They include the capture of Byzantium, the capture of Eion, conquest of Scyrus, coercion of Carystus, revolt and subjugation of Naxos, the Battle of Eurymedon and the revolt of Thasos.

During the Revolt of Thasos, the Thasians called to various allies for help, the Spartans included. The Spartans answered the call and prepared to...

Bibliography: (2006). _Cimon - Wikipedia_
[Internet].
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