Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.
A League of Their Own
The Delian League was a coalition of Greek cities, led by the city of Athens, that united to fight against the Persian Empire in 478 BC. In this time, places like Athens were independent governments centered around an urban center, called city-states. All members of the Delian League were city-states; each was an independent government, but they worked together for strength and security in the League. The Delian League met on the island of Delos in the Aegean Sea off of Greece. The temple on Delos served as the treasury for the League, where they could pool their resources, and also served as a site to hold congresses for the League.
Forming the Delian League
Around 498 BC, the Greek city-states of Athens and Eretria helped cities in modern-day Turkey rebel against the Persian Empire. After defeating the rebellion, the Persian king Darius the Great decided to punish Athens and Eretria, and began a two-decade invasion of Greece. Eretria was destroyed, but Athens defeated the Persians in 490 BC. Darius' son, Xerxes, returned in 480 BC with large military success. In 479 BC, a large alliance of Greek city-states defeated the Persian invasion of Greece once and for all.
The two main Greek powers, Athens and Sparta, began arguing about what to do next. Sparta saw the war as over, and decided not to continue military action. The city-states who left with Sparta became the Peloponnesian League. Athens decided to continue fighting against the Persian Empire in modern-day Turkey. The group of city-states who sided with Athens met at the sacred island of Delos to form a new alliance. This was the Delian League. The League had three goals: to prepare for the risk of future invasions, to get revenge on Persia, and to form a way to divide the spoils of war evenly amongst the members of the Delian League.
The Athenian Empire
Despite the language of democracy and equality, Athens was the essential leader of the Delian League. Its power in the League grew, especially after the famous statesman Pericles rose to power in Athens around 460 BC. Pericles began using the Delian League's resources, including its navy and taxes, for Athens. It was this money that let him build the massive temple in Athens called the Parthenon. City-states who tried to leave the League were often punished severely. Athens began acting more and more like an empire. It sent Athenian colonists to settle other city-states, collected taxes, and used the shared navy for itself. In 454 BC, Pericles moved the treasury from Delos to Athens, allegedly to protect it from Persia. Effectively, it turned the Delian League into the Athenian Empire.
In 440 BC, the city-state Samos rebelled against the Athenian Empire. The rebellion was crushed but it prompted other city-states to start bringing complaints against Athens to the Peloponnesian League. In 432 BC, the Peloponnesian League voted that Athens had become too aggressive, which effectively was a declaration of war. The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) started with Athenian naval victories. However, Sparta and the Peloponnesian League turned the tides, and later allied with Persia to defeat the Athenian navy. Athens surrendered in 404 BC. The Athenian Empire and Delian League were dissolved, and Athens was stripped of its wealth and power. All of Greece was devastated by the war and suffered wide-spread poverty. City-states began warring more frequently and with less restraint. This is considered the end of Greece's Golden Age, and the decline of Greek dominance in the Mediterranean.
The Delian League was a coalition of independent governments based around urban centers, called city-states, in ancient Greece. The Delian League was formed to continue fighting the Persian Empire after Persia's invasions were finally defeated. The League was led by the city-state Athens. Those city-states who did not want to continue fighting Persia formed the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. Under the Athenian leader Pericles, Athens began taking control of the Delian League. In 454 BC, Pericles moved the treasury of the Delian League from Delos to Athens. This proved that Athens completely controlled the Delian League, and effectively began the Athenian Empire. The power of the Athens provoked war with the Peloponnesian League in 431 BC. The Peloponnesian League won the war, and dissolved the Athenian Empire and Delian League.
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