Greco-Persian Wars - Peace With Persia

Peace With Persia

After the Battle of Salamis-in-Cyprus, Thucydides makes no further mention of conflict with the Persians, simply saying that the Greeks returned home. Diodorus, on the other hand, claims that in the aftermath of Salamis, a full-blown peace treaty (the "Peace of Callias") was agreed with the Persians. Diodorus was probably following the history of Ephorus at this point, who in turn was presumably influenced by his teacher Isocrates—from whom there is the earliest reference to the supposed peace, in 380 BC. Even during the 4th century BC, the idea of the treaty was controversial, and two authors from that period, Callisthenes and Theopompus, appear to reject its existence.

It is possible that the Athenians had attempted to negotiate with the Persians previously. Plutarch suggests that in the aftermath of the victory at the Eurymedon, Artaxerxes had agreed a peace treaty with the Greeks, even naming Callias as the Athenian ambassador involved. However, as Plutarch admits, Callisthenes denied that such a peace was made at this point (ca. 466 BC). Herodotus also mentions, in passing, an Athenian embassy headed by Callias, which was sent to Susa to negotiate with Artaxerxes. This embassy included some Argive representatives and can probably be therefore dated to ca. 461 BC (after an alliance was agreed between Athens and Argos). This embassy may have been an attempt to reach some kind of peace agreement, and it has even been suggested that the failure of these hypothetical negotiations led to the Athenian decision to support the Egyptian revolt. The ancient sources therefore disagree as to whether there was an official peace or not, and, if there was, when it was agreed.

Opinion amongst modern historians is also split; for instance, Fine accepts the concept of the Peace of Callias, whereas Sealey effectively rejects it. Holland accepts that some kind of accommodation was made between Athens and Persia, but no actual treaty. Fine argues that Callisthenes's denial that a treaty was made after the Eurymedon does not preclude a peace being made at another point. Further, he suggests that Theopompus was actually referring to a treaty that had allegedly been negotiated with Persia in 423 BC. If these views are correct, it would remove one major obstacle to the acceptance of the treaty's existence. A further argument for the existence of the treaty is the sudden withdrawal of the Athenians from Cyprus in 449 BC, which Fine suggests makes most sense in the light of some kind of peace agreement. On the other hand, if there was indeed some kind of accommodation, Thucydides's failure to mention it is odd. In his digression on the pentekontaetia, his aim is to explain the growth of Athenian power, and such a treaty, and the fact that the Delian allies were not released from their obligations after it, would have marked a major step in the Athenian ascendancy. Conversely, it has been suggested that certain passages elsewhere in Thucydides's history are best interpreted as referring to a peace agreement. There is thus no clear consensus amongst modern historians as to the treaty's existence.

If the treaty did indeed exist, its terms were humiliating for Persia. The ancient sources that give details of the treaty are reasonably consistent in their description of the terms:

  • All Greek cities of Asia were to 'live by their own laws' or 'be autonomous' (depending on translation).
  • Persian satraps (and presumably their armies) were not to travel west of the Halys River (Isocrates) or closer than a day's journey on horseback to the Aegean Sea (Callisthenes) or closer than three days' journey on foot to the Aegean Sea (Ephorus and Diodorus).
  • No Persian warship was to sail west of Phaselis (on the southern coast of Asia Minor), nor west of the Cyanaean rocks (probably at the eastern end of the Bosporus, on the north coast).
  • If the terms were observed by the king and his generals, then the Athenians were not to send troops to lands ruled by Persia.

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