Delian League - The Athenian Empire (454–404 BC)

The Athenian Empire (454–404 BC)

By 454, the Delian League could be fairly characterized as an Athenian Empire; at the start of the Peloponnesian War, only Chios and Lesbos were left to contribute ships, and these states were by now far too weak to secede without support. Lesbos tried to revolt first, and failed completely. Chios, the greatest and most powerful of the original members of the Delian League save Athens, was the last to revolt, and in the aftermath of the Syracusan Expedition enjoyed a success of several years, inspiring all of Ionia to revolt. Athens was, eventually still able to suppress these revolts.

To further strengthen Athens' grip on its empire, Pericles in 450 began a policy of establishing cleruchiai— quasi-colonies that remained tied to Athens and which served as garrisons to maintain control of the League's vast territory. Furthermore, Pericles employed a number of offices to maintain Athens' empire: proxenoi, who fostered good relations between Athens and League members; episkopoi and archontes, who oversaw the collection of tribute; and hellenotamiai, who received the tribute on Athens' behalf.

Athens's empire was not very stable, and after only 27 years of war the Spartans, aided by the Persians and internal strife, were able to defeat it. However, it did not remain defeated long. The Second Athenian Empire, a maritime self-defense league, was founded in 377 BC and was led by Athens; but Athens would never recover the full extent of her power, and her enemies were now far stronger and more varied.

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