The Athenian Empire c. 450 BCE


Map Code: Ax02292

In 480 BCE the Achaemenid Persians had launched a second attempted invasion of Greece, but the Greeks, led by the Athenian and Spartan armies and navies, had fought them off in a series of land and sea battles (Thermopylae, Artemisium, Salamis, Mycale, Plataea), the last of which had seen the Persian forces routed and their commander Mardonius killed. In response, in 478 BCE, the Greek city states, numbering over 300, formed an association called the ‘Delian League’, so named after the Cycladic island and religious sanctuary of Delos, where the League’s congresses were held and its treasury was based. The Spartans, who had played a major role in the earlier ‘Peloponnesian League’ and the defeat of the Persians, withdrew from Delos, leaving Athens as by far its most dominant power. This gave rise to the perception of an Athenian Empire and resentment grew among many of the states that Athens was exploiting its position to their disadvantage. Most notably, in 471 and 465 BCE, rebellions in Naxos and Thasos were suppressed, and in 450 the Athenian leader Pericles moved the treasury and administration of the League from Delos to Athens itself. Twenty years later, these fissures were to lead to the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta.

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