As a result from the Persian Wars, Greece felt the need to form an alliance to defend themselves against future attacks. In 478 BCE, the Greek city-states all united to form the Delian League and Athens became the leader of the league. Sparta, however, decided not to join, which led to extreme tension between Athens and Sparta. Due to Athens’ arrogance, such as collecting all the wealth and misusing funds on extravagant buildings, members of the league became unhappy which led to the collapse of the league and the start of the war. In the Melian Dialogue by Thucydides, one of our primary sources, it describes the scenario between the polis Melos and Athens when Melos wanted to withdraw from the league. Thucydides’ record claims, “Athenians: the fact that you are islanders and weaker than others rendering it all the more important that you should not succeed in baffling the masters of the sea. Melians: what is this but to make greater the enemies that you have already, and to force others to become so who would otherwise have never thought of it?” In this scenario, the Athenians are displaying their arrogance and power by referring to themselves as “the masters of the sea”, which is accurate because they did have the strongest navy. But like the Melians said, the Athenians are gaining more ene...
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...ity under the law” and it was essentially Athenian democracy.
During the start of the war, the Athenians were led by Perikles, who died at the hand of a great plague in 429 BCE. His death brought a huge degree of discouragement within Athens and they began to use dangerous strategies instead of Perikles’ careful leadership. It’s often thought that democracies seek peace, but that was definitely not the case in Athens. The outcome of the war ends up being a complete disaster for Athens. Even though it was a disaster, the damage was less than normal for a losing Greek city-state. Following defeat, Athens’ democracy was temporarily dissolved. The cultural aspect of Athens was able to remain intact and by the time Aristotle was born, Athens was able to regain its political status.
Thucydides, Book 5, chapters 84-116
Plutarch, The Life of Solon, 29-31
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