Delian League

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Delian League

(dē`lēən), confederation of Greek city-states under the leadership of Athens. The name is used to designate two distinct periods of alliance, the first 478–404 B.C., the second 378–338 B.C. The first alliance was made between Athens and a number of Ionian states (chiefly maritime) for the purpose of prosecuting the war against Persia. All the members were given equal vote in a council established in the temple of Apollo at Delos, a politically neutral island, where the league's treasury was kept. The assessments to be levied on the members were originally fixed by Athens, and the fairness with which these were apportioned contributed much toward maintaining the initial enthusiasm. States contributed funds, troops, and ships to the league. After Persia suffered a decisive defeat at Eurymedon (468 B.C.), many members supported dissolution of the league. Athens, however, which had profited greatly from the league, argued that the danger from Persia was not over. When Naxos attempted to secede, Athens, taking the leadership from the assembly, forced (c.470 B.C.) Naxos to retain allegiance. Soon Thasos attempted the same maneuver and was likewise subdued (463 B.C.) by the Athenian general Cimon. The Athenians were so successful in their aims, using both force and persuasion, that by 454 B.C. the league had grown to c.140 members. An invasion by the league's enemies, Sparta and its supporters, was averted in 457 B.C., and Thebes, the traditional enemy of Athens, was subjected (456 B.C.). In 454 B.C., because of the real or pretended danger of Persian attack, the treasury was transported from Delos to the Athenian Acropolis. The league had in effect become an Athenian empire. However, its unity was not very stable, and in 446 B.C. Athens lost Boeotia. Gradually Athens lost its prestige as well as many of its alliances, and, with the Peloponnesian War (404 B.C.), the league came to an end. In 394 B.C., Conon reestablished the Athenian mastery of the sea at Cnidus. Proffers of alliance reached Athens, and in 378 B.C. the second Athenian confederacy was formed. Two years later Athens won a naval victory over Sparta near Naxos; the Athenians and Spartans compromised with a treaty that left Athens supreme on the sea and Sparta supreme on the mainland of Greece. In 371 B.C., Thebes withdrew from the alliance and gained predominance over Boeotian land that had been occupied (387 B.C.) by Sparta. A treaty was made between Athens and Sparta. By 351 B.C., however, the status of the league had been seriously weakened in the north and in the east, and in 338 B.C. the league was utterly destroyed by the victory of Philip II of Macedon in the battle of ChaeroneaChaeronea
, ancient town of Boeotia, Greece, in the Cephissus (now Kifisós) River valley and NW of Thebes. There the Athenians and Thebans were defeated (338 B.C.) by the Macedonians under Philip II, and in 86 B.C.
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Delian League


an alliance of ancient Greece, uniting maritime cities and the islands of the Aegean Sea under Athenian hegemony. It came together in 478–477 B.C.

The Delian League arose during the Greco-Persian wars (500–449) as a union of the Greek city-states for the joint struggle against the Persian state of the Achaemenids. Formally, it was a confederation of independent city-states enjoying equal rights. Meetings of the league were held on the island of Delos in the sanctuary of Apollo. The league’s treasury (until 454–453) was also kept there under the jurisdiction often elected treasurers. Actually, from the very beginning the Athenians began to control the league’s affairs. Athenian strategists directed the combined military operations. In addition, they fixed the rates of the monetary assessment, the phoros, and apportioned it among the league’s members. At first, some of the members equipped ships instead of paying the phoros, but the Athenians preferred the monetary payments. By about the end of the 440’s, the only states that did not pay the phoros but instead supplied ships and troops were Lesbos, Chios, and Samos (the last furnished ships until the revolt of 440–439). The remaining member states went into three tax districts. In 443–442, the number of tax districts was increased to five: Ionia, Caria, Hellespont, Thrace, and the islands. The Carian district was merged with the Ionian around 437. An Athenian representative, or episkopos (literally, observer), was put at the head of each tax district. In a number of cases, the Athenians placed temporary or permanent garrisons in the cities and set up military-agricultural settlements on land confiscated from the local citizens. The Athenian popular assembly by legislative order determined the rates and apportioned the phoros every four years (the rates changed: for example, Aristides first set it at 460 talents; in 425, it was 1,300 talents). At its height, up to 200 cities were members of the Delian League.

In 454–453, on the pretext that it was dangerous to keep the treasury on Delos, the Athenians moved it to Athens. From that time on, the Athenian government disposed of the treasury as it wished. Displaying an obvious aim to subordinate the member states to its own continuous control, Athens began to interfere in their domestic affairs and establish an order that would be advantageous for itself. The attempts of the individual members to get out from under Athens’ guardianship and leave the league were quickly suppressed: revolts were put down on the islands of Naxos (467–466) and Thasos (465–463), in Chalcidice (446–445), and elsewhere. All the commercial activity of the member cities was placed under Athenian control. Athenian coinage was declared compulsory, and in 434 league members were forbidden to issue their own silver coinage. The Athenian system of weights was introduced everywhere. The jurisdiction of the league members was also restricted: all matters that concerned their relations with Athenians, and later all the most important matters of the citizens of the member cities, began to be considered in the Athenian court. Thus, the Delian League turned into an Athenian maritime empire. During the Peloponnesian War, from 431 to 404 (especially after the unsuccessful Sicilian expedition of 413), the mass defection of members began. In 404, Athens, having suffered defeat in the war, was compelled to liquidate the Delian League at the demand of the Spartans and their allies.


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Lur’e, S. la. “Ekspluatatsiia afinskikh soiuznikov.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1947, no. 2.
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