What gave the Greeks/the Athenians/the Spartans their identity? The identity of the Greeks/the Athenians/the Spartans was based on the other: do you agree?
Athens was a legendary city in classical time with her various involvements in warfare alliance, democratic development and manufacturing of laws and culture. But how to define the identity of Athenians and who gave them this identity could come from various origins. The name Atthis, or Attike, meaning ‘the Athenian or Attic (History)’ (Harding, 2008, p.1), was the given title in antiquity to a series of monographs, written between the end of fifth century, the middle third BC and sometimes the Hellenistic period. According to the cultural and democratic development during the Delian League and the thereafter period, I would like to say that the Athenian identity was mainly given by Athenians themselves in a large extent and recognized by others in a smaller extent.
To begin with, it was about the independence Athenians succeeded during the Persian war. During the war in Byzantium, Pausanias managed to alienate many of the Allied contingents, particularly those that had just been freed from Persian over her hegemony, with a multiple agreement Athenians had taken over the leadership place by the request from Ionians and others. Meanwhile Spartan showed a huge opposition towards Pausanias for cooperating with their enemy and thus Pausanias lost his power and reputation by making Athenians the leader of the upcoming Delian league (Ober, 2011). One might argue it was the pushing from Ionians cities, using to be Athenians colonies, to perceive Athenians the leader making them identified the outstanding leader so the identity should be given by others. It is right to a certain sense, yet if the Athenian did not have enough power and fleets to be the leader there would be no reason others dared to make such an invitation. So the warfare power was the self-realization factor to be independent among others and to be a powerful city no to be took over.
Here is the continuing proof of Athenians’ self-given identity. By rejecting Spartan king Leotychides’s thought sending all Greeks to Europe in order to get rid of Persians’ domination, the Athenians took the duty to protect Ionian cities. After Spartans’ withdrawal in Byzantium, the dominant league fighting Xerxes's invasion was no longer Spartans but the Athenians (Ober, 1994). Athenians then raised a congress at Delos to confirm the alliance and to keep standing firm in front of Persians. The alliance consisted of the Aegean islands and it was namely the Delian League. The league’s goals were to stop the ravaging of Persians, an opportunity to counterattack Persians and an even way to distribute those spoils and gains for wars(Ober,1994). From the information the league had its own recruitment requirement: paying tax and army for protection and treasury from the league. Simply the setting up of a league did not show much about a city’s identity, yet the Delian league was the utmost recognition showing who was included and excluded for being Athenian. For example the withdrawal of Spartan made them being Spartan themselves but not being a partner of the Athenians. Also the ‘entry fee’ made the Athenian able to make their rules for other to follow and to be benefited from. Athenians were no longer subordinate to Persian or being threat by Spartans but they could be perceived themselves as a leader and center of the Delian league, making decisions for their future path plus to be respected by the league members.
The reason for saying that an identity was generated was because Athens was no longer subordinate to Persians after the victory. Her power was strong to provoke an identity based on Athens herself instead of living under the potential threat from Persian.
Cultural development among Athenians was a strong recognition and realization of the Athenian own identity...
References: Philip Harding, 2008, The Story of Athens: The Fragments of the Local Chronicles of Attika, Routledge, Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World
Josiah Ober, 2005, Athenian Legacies: Essays on the Politics of Going on Together, Princeton University Press,
Jon Hesk, University of St. Andrews, 2000, Deception and democracy in classical Athens, Cambridge University Press, The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge, CB2 2RU, UK
Josiah Ober, 1994, Civic Ideology and counterhegemonic discourse: Thucydides and Sicilian Debate, The Johns Hopkins University Press, The Baltimore and London P.104-127
Walter Burkert, 1977, Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical, English Translation copyrighted by Basil Blackwell Publisher and Harvard University Press, p.99-140
Josian Ober, 2011, Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens, Princeton University Press, 2010/4/4, p. 46-69
L. Kallet (2000), ‘The Fifth Century: political and military narrative’, in R. Osborne (ed.), Classical Greece (Oxford), esp. 176-82
P. J. Rhodes, 2003, Nothing to Do with Democracy: Athenian Drama and the Polis: The Journal of Hellenic Studies Vol. 123, (2003), The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, p.104-119
Webster Dictionary: Drama
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