Delian League

Topics: Ancient Greece, Peloponnesian War, Ionia Pages: 5 (1840 words) Published: August 6, 2014
Origin
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 ofSalamis, 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 atMycale, 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...
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