Friday, June 18, 2021

Describe the transition and methods used to turn a Delain League into an Athenian Empire

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"The Delian League had long possessed the trappings of an empire, but at this point it clearly became an empire, or, to use the Greek term, an arche. In the official documents we even find a reference to the 'Athenians and those over whom they rule' The peace treaty with Sparta reflects this, too-it speaks not of a military alliance against Persia but two Greek power centres facing each other. Relations within the Delian league can be deduced from the speeches Thucydides included in his history and also from a number of inscriptions, including tribute lists and various treaties. In the speeches, what is most striking is the tyrannical power Athens exercised over its allies, something Pericles and other orators pointed at with pride. They assert that the foundations of this power were laid when Athens, at the request of its allies, assumed leadership in the war against Persia. The Athenians had kept the alliance alive for three reasons, the same three that motivate most powerful men- honour, wealth and fear. The Athenians, like the Spartans, had only one choice, either to rule by might or to put their own position in Jeopardy". (Meier, C. Athens, p. 58)

The move from the Delian League into the Athenian Empire was due to various methods employed by the Athenians. Although there is no evidence to suggest that this was an Athenian long-term plan, the potential to do so was there from the beginning. Athens use of garrisons, oaths and cleruchs and the ever-growing Athenian navy, was enough to protect Athens from any attack. Along with the Conquest of Boeotia and Aegina cemented this fear of Athenian aggression. The transfer of the treasury to Athens and subject states paying tribute was enough to make Athens a force not be reckoned with. These methods to 'harness' the Greek city states would come at a cost, yet would produce one of the greatest of its time the Athenian Empire.

In some of the states Athens found it necessary to install military garrisons. There were a number of important reasons for this. In most Greek states there were political rivalries between Democrats and the few Oligarchs. Also to protect the majority of citizens who remained loyal to Athens. They also served a political purpose. They were there to protect Athenian officials who were sent out to install democratic governments or at least ones favourable to Athens. When peace was made with Persia the garrisons remained to protect Athens. The use of Oaths of loyalty and legal interference were also valuable to Athens success in these city-states.

"The Chalcidians took the following oath; I will not revoelt from the Athenians by any device or contrivance whatsoever, and neither by word nor deed will I obey anyone who had rebelled…If anyone does I will inform the Athenians… whosoever shall not swear shall be deprived citizenship and his property confiscated and the tenth part of his property shall be devoted to Olympian Zeus…..".

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A Cleruchy was a settlement of Athenian citizens on the territory of others. Cleruchies differed from earlier Greek colonies as they were not independent settlements but still apart of Athens. Their main purpose was to act as 'watch dogs' for Athens' interests and to maintain control over her empire by implanting among its allies a healthy fear of rebellion. Although the numbers of Cleruchies set up were under the leadership of Pericles, the Athenian statesman, it was the first time that they had been set up in allied territory.

" Besides this he sent 1000 cleruchs to the Chersonese, 500 to Naxos, half this number to Andros…In this way he lightened the city of an idle mob, who were trouble makers because they had leisure, and relieved the poverty of people, and by sending out settlers to live alongside the allies installed both fear and a garrison to prevent their rebellion". (Plutarch Perikles 11.4-6)

Athens was well known for its incredible navy. Since the Delian League was made up of almost entirely islands and coastal cities it could be easily controlled by Athens. After the defeat of the Aegina, Athens had the naval power to face the combined strength of all fleets is the Aegean.

The knowledge that Athenian triremes could appear in the harbour at any time was a great deterrent in anti-Athenian elements. Strong walls could have neutralised the power of the Athenian navy but in the signing of the Delian League most of these walls were dismantled. Yet if Athenian fleets were to block their harbours how could the states trade with other states?

The Athenian navy in peacetime acted as patrolling force, which gave confidence to Athens friends, and kept the pirates away.

After this there occurred the battles on land and sea at the Eurymedon river in Pamphylia, in which the Athenians and their allies fought against the Persians, and the Athenians were victorious in both on the same day under the command of Kimon son of Miltiades, they captured and destroyed some two hundred triremes, the whole Phoenician fleet". (Thuydides 1.100.1)

In 44-454 B.C. Athens under the influence of Pericles, the allies were not only expected to support but to engage in acts of aggression on other Greek states. This kept all states under a firm Athenian grip. In 457B.C Athens used the Delian League to help in the defeat of Aegina who was then forced to join the league. This gave Athens not only another state paying a tribute to them but also gave them supreme and unmatched naval control in the Aegean. Also in the battle of Tanagra in Boeotia, Athenians were joined by League troops in the defeat of the Peloponnesians. Not only did these incidents cause fear and resentment amongst many of the members of the league but also they now realised that they were governed by Athenian policies, no longer the league policies.

After this the Aeginetans surrendered to the Athenians, which involved destroying their walls and handing over their ships and agreeing to pay tribute for the future". (Thucydides Account (BK 1. 107.1-108.5)

In 454 B.C. the Athenians had the excuse they needed to transfer the Delian League funds from the Island of Delos, where it had been since 477 B.C., all because of a possible Phoenician raid. This was a major step in the development of the league to an Athenian Empire. Before this movement was controlled by Council of Allies but now it was apart of the Athenian treasury. From here on the Athenians supervised the annual income and assessed the amount of tribute that was due form each state.

The Athenians used the fact that the league treasury had been moved to Athens, and their power over other states to take military action against one another, to make all of the league members, by this time now they were known as "the cities which the Athenians control". To pay a tribute to them, this also included the states, which were defeated by the Athenians using League armies. This would help the Athenians to expand their navy and army, which would eventually expand their sphere of influence within the Aegean and the surrounding territory, which will eventually lead to more tribute paying states.

Shortly afterwards Aegina surrendered, and was forced to destroy her fortifications to hand over her fleet, and agree to pay tribute in the future". (Thucydides Account (BK 1.5-115)

Athens with complete control over the League army and navy, both of which were included into the Athenian forces had complete and utter control of the member states. With this power, the fear of military action if they didn't abide by Athens' Decree's, Athens was able to introduce certain decrees, which the city-states had to abide by or face the consequences. In 447 B.C. the Athenians passed the Cleinias Decree informing the cities of the league for their decision to continue demanding contributions and outlining details of their collection. Those who refused would have to go to Athens to plead their case. Athens then issued a coinage Decree in or around 466 B.C. This enforced the use of Athenian weights, measures and coinage throughout the area of her control. All currencies were to be melted down and the mints closed.

" Around the same time Clearchus proposed the 'Coinage Decree', which closed down all allied mints and imposed Athenian silver coinage, weights and measures on all of the allies. The economic benefits of this decree are not easy to ascertain, but the language is which it is couched is blatantly imperialistic." (Buckley, T. Aspects Of Greek History)

The subjection of the city states to the Athenians, came about by the tearing down of city walls in 'Athenian controlled area' and the contribution of city states' land and naval forces, meant that these city states became more and more inexperienced in and ill-prepared for war, therefore they began to rely on Athens for their protection.

" The alliance between us and the Athenians dates from the end of the Persian War. But the object of the alliance was the liberation of the Hellenes from the Persians, not the subjugation of the Hellenes to the Athenians. So long as the Athenians in their leadership respect our independence we follow them with enthusiasm. But when we saw that they were becoming less and less antagonistic to Persia and more and more interested in enslaving their own allies, then we became frightened". (Thucydides, .10)

The transition form League to Empire was definitely not accidental, but a deliberate movement by the Athenians to gain more power in the Aegean, though they became prosperous through much trade and tribute payed by various states, Athens was constantly at war with either Persia, Phoenicians or the Spartans, this was mainly due to its ever aggressive expansionistic nature. Though the methods used by the Athenians to bring the various Greek city-states under a single rule were very effective and eventually brought about the Athenian Empire.

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