How did Athens develop the Delian League into the Athenian Empire?

The development of the Athenian Empire from the Delian League up to 440 BC can be seen through the nature of Athenian imperialism which is evident through the activities of the Delian League and the changes in the political, judicial, economic and financial affairs of the League.

The development of the League can be accounted for through the changing nature of League activities. Initially, the activities of the League were beneficial for everyone, as they were based around the main purpose of the League, which was to repel the Persian influence in the Aegean. This is evident in the battle of the Eurymedon river, where the forces of the Delian League defeated the Persian forces, which resulted in the signing of a peace treaty between the Greeks and Persians. Thus the Persian influence from the Aegean had been repelled. However, the focus of the League activities soon transitioned from being League orientated into Athenian orientated. For example, in 469 BC Naxos tried to leave the Delian League which the Athenians highly resented, however due to a lack of primary sources there is no apparent reason for Naxos wanting to leave the Delian League. The revolt did not last long as Athens eventually overpowered the Naxians forcing them back into the league and enslaving the populace. According to Thucydides “Naxos was the first allied city to be enslaved”. Similarly, this transition is also evident through the Revolt of Thasos in 465 BC, when Thasos revolted due to their resentment of the Athenian interference in their gold mining.  Athens besieged Thasos from 465 to 463 BC, eventually defeating the Thasians and forcing them to pull down their city walls, pay tribute and to hand over their ships and mining interests. Hence, the development of the Athenian empire can be accounted for through the changing nature of League activities as seen through the battle of the Eurymedon river as opposed to the revolts of Naxos and Thasos.

Additionally, the transition in League activities is also seen through the revolts of Euboea and Samos. The revolt of Euboea occurred in 447 BC when Euboea decided to take advantage of the dispute between Athens and Sparta, following the first Peloponnesian war. However, Euboea was eventually defeated by Athens a year later, ending the revolt. The impact of Athens’ dominance over the League’s military and navy is reflected by J.B. Bury who states “[allies failed to] protect themselves from an abuse of power by Athens”  Similarly, during the revolt of Samos in 440 BC, Athens, under the leadership of Pericles, willingly used military force to suppress Samos and force it back into the league. Therefore, the development of the Athenian empire can be accounted for through the changing nature of the activities of the League.

When accounting for the development of the Athenian empire, the changing nature of the political and judicial interests of the League can be taken into consideration. The changing nature is evident through the oath taken by member states, Athens’ judicial control of law courts, Athens’ political control through the establishment of democracies in member states and Athens’ control of the foreign policy of member states. Initially, during the establishment of the league, the member states were forced to take an oath, which was supposedly made permanent by throwing iron bars into the sea. Upon the establishment of the league, the member states took an oath, which was supposedly made permanent by throwing iron bars into the sea, initially the consequences for breaking the oath weren’t so severe. However, over time it was evident that if a member state were to break the oath, they were subject to serious consequences. This is evident through the Chalcis Decree put forward by the Athenians which states that  “… in the case of exile, death, and loss of political rights… there shall be reference to Athens…”, which shows a transition in the Athenian mentality towards other member states, revealing an imperialistic attitude makes the transition from league to empire more apparent. Consequently, the development of the Athenian empire can be accounted for through the changing nature of the political and judicial interests of the League which is seen through oath taken by member states and the Chalcis decree.

Furthermore, this imperialistic attitude of the Athenians is further evident as they persuaded the member states to adopt democratic systems of government, however, it can be argued that the member states were forced by Athens to succumb to democracy due to Athens’ strong military power and influence. Additionally, it can be argued that upon the formation of the Delian League, the foreign policy of the member states had become the foreign policy of the League. However, over time it can be assumed the foreign policy of the League had become the foreign policy of Athens. For example, after the ostracism of Cimon in 461 BC, the foreign policy of Athens had significantly changed, as it had changed from pro-Sparta to anti-Sparta, which is evident as Athens became allies with Sparta’s enemies. Furthermore, this new foreign policy had now become the foreign policy of the rest of the League members as they were now not allowed to have relations with Sparta. Thus, the development of the Athenian empire can be accounted for through the changing nature of the political and judicial interests of the League which is evident through Athens’ judicial control of law courts, Athens’ political control through the establishment of democracies in member states and Athens’ control of the foreign policy of member states.

The changing nature of the League’s economic and financial interests is another factor which can be taken into consideration when accounting for the development of the Athenian Empire. For instance, the League treasury was initially situated on the island of Delos. However, in 454 BC, the treasury was moved to Athens on the basis of security. The movement of the treasury shows the development of the Athenian empire as the funds of the League had now become Athenian funds, this is evident as Athens began spending the League funds on whatever they found to be necessary, for example, the funds were spent on the sacred treasury of Athena. In addition, the changing nature of the League’s economic and financial interests is also evident as overtime Athens began to control the economy of the League. Initially, League members were allowed to use their own currency. However, Athens soon established the Coinage Decree which stated: “If anyone strikes silver coinage in the cities, or does not employ Athenian currency, weights and measures, I will punish and penalize him in accordance with the previous decree…”. The Coinage Decree shows how Athens forced the member states to adopt the Athenian currency, weights, and measures. Furthermore, this shows how the League was more like the Athenian empire, as all member states used Athenian currency and Athenian weights and measures. Therefore the development of the Athenian empire can be accounted for through the changing nature of the League’s economic and financial interests which is evident through the movement of the treasury and the compulsory use of Athenian currency, weights and measures.

Ultimately, the development of the Athenian empire up to 440 BC can be accounted for through the nature of Athenian imperialism. This is evident through the activities of the Delian League and the changes in the political, judicial, economic and financial affairs of the League.

 

lol

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s