How Athens Took Over The Leade Essay

This essay has a total of 1510 words and 8 pages.

How Athens Took Over The Leade


During the period of Greek history from the last years of the Persian Wars till the
beginning of the First Peloponnesian War, the primacy of Sparta declined whileAthens was
gaining increased influence in Greece. The Athenian, Thucydides (460-400 BC), one among
few contemporary historians, left behind the most creditable records about this period.
Although he did not give enough documentation

for many events he described, his Histories remained the main resource of the facts from
that time. In consideration of the fact that he was an Athenian and a participant of the
Athenian army, future historians could not entirely count upon his writing.

In the 480-479 BC there was great anxiety about the strength and magnitude of the Persian
threat. Although the Greeks had managed to force Persians retreat from the Greek mainland,
the danger of reconquest by the Persians was still present. In the battle of Plataea (479
BC), the Greeks, under the Spartan regent and general

Pausanians, obliterated the Persian army. The Greeks also won a naval victory at
Mycale. Although the war drugged on for many years, these two victories marked the end of
the Persian threat to Europe and the beginning of the period of Greek greatness.

The idea of panhellenism - the awareness of Greek unity- appeared as a reaction to the
fear of the Persian invasion. This is how Persia helped the Greece to recognise their
identity, which gave significance to the year 479 BC to be marked as the beginning of the
Classical Greek period. At the other side, the year 479 BC does

not represent a vital turning-point in politics. Sparta's control over her allies was
still unbroken. After the Greeks' triumph on Plataea, when the fear of the Persian
invasion decreased, the idea of the united Greeks started diminishing. Phthonos (envy) was
what characterised the relationship between Sparta and Athens,

and between many other city-states after the Persian Wars. Their rivalry was constant.
The most important direct result of the wars was the establishment of Athens as dominant
Greek naval power. This gave Athens the opportunity to create, in the years to come, an
extensive empire over the newly won territories which had no parallel in earlier Greek
history. A new political order emerged among the Greek

states centred on the two great powers of Athens and Sparta that was to have a profound effect on later Greek history.
Soon after the end of the Persian Wars, the Athenians started rebuilding the walls around
their city previously destroyed in the war. According to Thucydides, when Sparta heard
about rebuilding, she immediately sent an embassy to the Athens

to ascertain the truth. Sparta maintained that no city-state should have the walls, for it
could be dangerous in case of a new invasion. The possible invaders could use fortified
cities as their military bases, as the Persians did during just finished war (I, 90-92).
Thucydides was suspicious to Sparta's reasons for disagreement about

fortification of Athens. Themistocoles, Athenian general, went to Sparta to silence their
doubts. His plan was to hide the truth about the walls as long as Athenians finished them
(I, 90). He even gave orders to the Athenians not to allow Sparta's delegates to come back
until the work of rebuilding the walls was done. When the walls were finally built he step
out and confessed what Athenians have done,

informing Spartans that Athens was now able to make decision about her own interests and
the interests of the rest of Hellos ( I, 91). As Thucydides stated, at this time Spartans
were friendly disposed to Athens because of their gallantry in the Persian wars, so they
did not openly manifest their anger (I, 92). He believed that

Sparta began to feel threatened because Athens was getting stronger and bigger.
The second reason of the strengthening of Athens was the Spartan commander, Pausanias. He
commanded over the Hellenic forces against Cyprus and Byzantium. Pausanias was unpopular
among his own people, especially in those states which were recently freed from Persian
invasion. These states wanted Athens to take the command over from Sparta and to protect
them from Pausanias. As there were some

indications that Pausanias co-operated with Persian king, Sparta did not have other choice
but to pull him out of war and bring him up to the court. He was condemned to starve to
death (I, 94-95). His arrogant and violent behaviour quickly led to dissatisfaction with
Spartan leadership among the Greek allies. After this affair no

ally were ready to accept Sparta's leadership in their descents. This is how Sparta
decided to give up her leading position. In the words of Thucydides," they feared that
when their officers went overseas they would become corrupted, as they had seen happen in
the case of Pausanias, and at the same time they no longer wanted to be

burdened with the war against Persia. They regarded the Athenians as being perfectly
capable of exercising the command and as being also at that time friendly to themselves"
(I, 95).

Sparta's ongoing need to keep her army at home most of the time to guard against helots'
revolt also made prolonged overseas operations difficult to maintain. Athenians
successfully took over the leadership and took in hand all important decisions about the
war, quantity of money or number of ships that every country was

required to contribute.
Difficulty of understanding these events stars with the question how good the relationship
between Sparta and Athens really was after the Persian war. Thucudydes insisted that
Sparta peacefully accepted Athens' taking over of political power, citing the defensive
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