The Delian League Essay

Explain the methods used by the Athenians to transform the Delian League into the Athenian Empire. (25 marks) There is certainty no evidence to suggest that the Athenians had any long-term plans, in the years 479-470 BC, to change the Delian League into an empire, although from the beginning the potential to develop into an imperial power were there. Because from the beginning, Athens had considerable power as she was the permanent hegemon.

The most important aspects involving the transformation of League into empire was the changing relationships between Athens and her allies, Pericles? mperial policy, Athens selsh self interest in gaining more power by using the Leagu  power and establishing laws onto her allies such as the Coinage Degree and the Chalcis Degree.

These aspects had portrayed Athens? gradual alteration of the Delian League into an imperial power. Originally the Delian League was formed as an alliance of free and equal states. At there were only two types of members of the League; those contributing ships (larger states) and those contributing money.

But over time when Persian threat were no longer in sight, allied states started to leave the League.

Athens then force the allies back into the League as tribute paying subject allies. This caused these states to pay tribute with nothing in return and lost their autonomy. The event with Naxos, as they were the ? rst to leave, was a warning to other ally states of the consequences of breaking the oath of the alliance. Additionally, the use of the League? s power to reduce the state Thasos to subject status because of a personal quarrel with Athens, indicated a change in the nature of the League.

And by 446-445 BC, there is no longer any doubt or pretence about Athens? imperial position. Although in the beginning, the Athenians did not aim for an empire, these events did however, depicts the starting point of the transformation of League into an imperial power. Furthermore, the boost of the deteriorating relationship between Athens and her allies can be seen between 450-446, when Athens launched a system of cleruchies, which were settlements of Athenian citizens on con? scated land of subject allied states.

The establishments of cleruchies had cause much resentment from other Greek states towards Athens. According to Plutarch, this system had relieve “the city of a large number of idlers and agitators and raise the standards of the poorest classes”, but at the same time it implanted amongst the allies “a healthy fear of rebellion”. It also allowed Athens to gain more numbers of hoplites, as only Athenian men with money can become a hoplite soldier. This had increased the military force in Athens and had strengthened Athens? old on her empire, as they were located at strategic points in the Aegean.

The worsening relationship between Athens? and her allies in the League is due to Athens? sel? sh self interest in developing her imperial power, and this had allow Athens to gradually grow into an empire. This sel? sh self interest can be seen after the Peace of Callias. At the aim of the League was, according to Thucydides, ? to compensate themselves for their losses by ravaging the territory of the King of Persia? but in 449 BC Persian lost the battle against Cimon in Cyprus and signed a peace treaty called  Peace of Callias. Although this meant that the League? s aim had been fullled, the Athenians argued that the Persians would strike again if the Greeks appeared weak. This argument from Athens had an underlying aim, that was so the Greeks states would not leave the League, or else Athens would lose its? power as hegemon and to continue to pay tribute to the League, or in a more accurate sense, to Athens.

Athens? gradual sense of alteration of League to empire is also seen in Pericles? imperial policy. The end of the war with Persia and the 5 year truce with Sparta confronted Pericles with a major problem. Thousands of soldiers and sailors, previously away on summer campaigns and supported by League funds, were now unemployed. He used the Temples on the Acropolis that had been in ruins since the second Persian invasion as a way to deal with all the unemployments. However this required funds.

Pericles then called on a Panhellenic conference of all Greek states of the mainland and the Aegean to discuss the rebuilding of all temples destroyed by the Persians and the security of the Aegean sea as an underlying intention to get support for the rebuilding of Athens? temples and for the recognition of the Athenian navy as protector of the Aegean. This excuse used by Pericles was to force the allies to continue their contributions in order to further his policies of carrying out a building program, developing democracy, and maintaining Athenian forces over a wide area.

Plutarch records how Pericles? enemies, denounced his actions as “barefooted tyranny”. Pericles replied that “the Athenians were not obliged to give an account of how the allies? money was spent”, and as long as Athens provided the services paid for, she could use the surplus any way she wished. Therefore, the tribute from allies was not used for the Delian League, but to be used for Athens? interest in building up their city. By passing out laws, it had restricted Athens? allies of their freedom by obliging to Athens? rule.

This is seen when Athens had passed out a Coinage Decree in 450-446 BC, enforcing uniformity of coinage, weights and measures among the members of the League. This measures had made trade much easier to handle, it was a further example of the allies? loss of freedom. Furthermore, the Chalcis Decree, issued after the Euboean cities revolted, required the inhabitants to take an oath “not to revolt against the Athenian demos” and “to be obedient to the Athenian demos”, which revealed no doubt that the original members of the League were now very much subjects of an imperial power.

In conclusion, Athens? gradual transformation of the Delian League into the Athenian Empire can be seen in the deterioration of her relationship with her allies due to her arrogant actions on bene? ting her own interests, Pericles? imperial policy which further his policies of carrying out a building program, developing democracy, and maintaining Athenian forces over a wide area, but also the establishing of laws onto her allies such as the Coinage Degree and the Chalcis Degree.

There is no evidence to say that the Athenians had any long-term plan in turning the League into an Empire, but according to Thucydides, Athens had “three very powerful motives security, honour and self-interest”, which were the reasons why the Athenians took control of an empire. These events and actions by Athens had led the Delian League, which was once an alliance of free and equal states, into a tyrannical imperial power known as the Athenian Empire.

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