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Dion ed. In particular, this article has been inspired by the recent panegyrical reception of Epaminondas by certain modern authors. Hanson ed. In an introductory discussion about the pleasurable arts and entertainments, Epaminondas is cited as an example of a great and honourable Greek who was musically skilled. This passage is readily repeated by modern authors without so much as a second glance or a comment on its context. Cicero had a deep and long lasting connection to the Greek world, from political dealings to his personal friends.

Hellenes also had an enormous impact on his education. Rowland Jr. Additionally, ten years before writing the Tusculanae Disputationes , Cicero expressed similar feelings. It appears, then, that his judgment did not change over the course of a decade. How did Cicero come to this conclusion? In one of his earliest works, Cicero lauds Epaminondas for refusing to give up command of the army after a great victory over the Spartans Inv.

Although his refusal ran against the letter of the law, as his motives were for the greater good of Thebes, it could be argued that he had not deviated from legality if the intent of the law was taken into account. Cicero also praised Epaminondas for how he died. Although the heroic image of Publius Decius Mus may be a fabrication of the Roman historical tradition, a conclusion partly based on the repeated devotio of family members Livy 8. He claimed that only three or four other Greeks can be counted as having given their lives in such an admirable manner.

Later, in the same work, Cicero compares the deaths of Epaminondas and Leonidas to that of Epicurus, who supposedly died after a long and painful kidney stone-caused blockage, but kept teaching to the end Fin. This is a select group of men who have been whittled out of the larger corpus of military commanders based on a number of criteria. After all, Epaminondas only had two major victories to his name. Cicero was an admirer of ancient Syracuse, and perhaps his affection for Epaminondas may have been influenced by that of Timoleon? He does not include Epaminondas in his list of men who used their knowledge to successfully guide their state De or.

It would be inappropriate, however, to read Epaminondas into this statement. While Cicero described Epaminondas as the greatest man of Greece, and used him as an historical exemplum next to some of the greatest Romans of the Republic, he is not a common Greek exemplar in the Ciceronian corpus.

The most common historical figure from Hellenic history used by Cicero as an exemplum is Themistocles. Indeed, he is invoked more often than any other Greek. In his treatise on friendship, Cicero acknowledges the position and power of Themistocles in the Greek mind, and believed that it was by his hand that the Greeks were saved from the tyranny of the Persians Amic.

Thus, the two figures that Cicero describes in this way are both saviours of the Hellenes in one way or another, one from the Persians and the other from the hegemony of the Lacadaemonians. See also M. Barnes and M. Griffin eds. It is impossible to say which of these two figures Cicero held in more respect.

Themistocles is cited more than Epaminondas. Cicero also had less in common with Epaminondas. But if Epaminondas was a constant topic of conversation for philosophers and an idol for Cicero, he does not seem to have been a well-known figure for less educated, or perhaps less Hellenized, Romans. There is reason to believe that the people of Pursa, in Bithynia, in the first century AD, were not familiar with his story. Dio Chrysostom was forced to give a rather detailed introduction to the character of Epaminondas when addressing the community Or.

This point was noticed by H. Lamar Crosby in his Loeb translation. Cornelius Nepos, a contemporary of Cicero, was forced to write a qualifying statement in the opening of his life of Epaminondas, warning his Roman readers that they could not judge his accomplishments by their own cultural standards, as those of the Greeks were different Epam. It could also be reflective of his audience, who were probably a more general swathe of Roman society than that of Cicero.

See also T. Regardless, this warning is indicative of an audience that was not well acquainted with the character of Epaminondas. Thomes, Egemonia Beotica e Potenza marittima nella politica di Epaminonda Turin, , 10, suggested that Nepos may have used, or essentially copied, a eulogy of Epaminondas for his biography. If this is the case, it is possible that the preface may have been present in a copy of this circulating in Rome, though this is simply conjecture and seems improbable.

The biographer presumed that the Romans who would have been acquainted with Pelopidas were those with a knowledge of history, rather than the masses Pelop. These types of comments are unique to these two biographies within the extant corpus. It is clear that the figures of Epaminondas and Pelopidas were more obscure than the other Greek generals. Unlike Cicero, Nepos does not show exceptional affection towards Epaminondas.

It is the Athenian general Thrasybulus who he ranked above other Greeks Thras. See: A. This is not to say that Nepos did not portray Epaminondas in a favourable light. He does show him to be an exceptional historical personality. For Nepos, the highlight of his life was not in a military victory or in his glorious death, but rather in his acquittal when being tried for not giving up his command. Other authors could also put Epaminondas forth as a worthy exemplum, such as Dio Chrysostom. His military accomplishments are well represented in the Strategemata of Frontinus.

Exploits of the Theban commander are mentioned twelve times in the handbook. Frontinus must have considered the military exploits of Epaminondas to have been quite impressive that he cites them as many times as he did in the Strategemata. It is possible that this was a result of frequent citations of these deeds in earlier strategic handbooks which are no longer extant.

How faithfully historical facts were transmitted to Frontinus, or recorded by him, remains unclear. In a number of instances where we can check the exploits attributed to Epaminondas against other sources, it seems that we need to exercise caution when reading Frontinus e. Strategemata 1. Later Imperial authors give us a wider view of Epaminondas than his military exploits.

Claudius Aelianus, although writing in Greek, was born in Praeneste and probably had a bias towards the literature circulating in Rome during his life. From that moment on, it had found itself positioned to play the role that its people had always seen as its right: as the very fulcrum of world affairs. Over the wreckage of Assyrian power the kings of Babylon had soon succeeded in raising their own far-spreading dominion.

Two years after staging a revolt against Babylonian rule, the Judaeans had been left to mourn their temerity amid the wreckage of all that had previously served to define them. Jerusalem and its Temple had been reduced to a pile of blackened ruins, its king had been obliged to watch the murder of his sons before himself being blinded, and the Judaean elite had been hauled off into exile. There, weeping by the rivers of Babylon, it had seemed to one of their number, a prophet by the name of Ezekiel, that the shadows of Sheol were closing in on the entire global order.

The fall of the great city appeared to contemporaries a veritable earthquake. Two decades earlier, when Cyrus had ascended to the throne, his kingdom had been not merely inconsequential but politically subordinate, for he had ranked as the vassal of the king of Media. In a world dominated by four great powers, there was little scope, it might have been thought, for any outsider to make his way.

Cyrus, however, over the course of his reign had demonstrated the very opposite. The muscle-bound character of the global order confronting him had been turned dazzlingly to his own advantage. Decapitate an empire, he had demonstrated, and all its provinces might be seized as collateral.

First to go had been his erstwhile overlord, the king of Media: toppled in Four years later it was the turn of Lydia. It goes without saying, of course, that the building of an empire is rarely achieved without the spilling of a great deal of blood. The Persians, as tough and unyielding as the mountains of their homeland and raised from childhood to an awesome degree of military proficiency, were formidable warriors.

Certainly, the sword of such a conqueror did not sleep easily in its scabbard. A decade after his triumphant entry into the capital of the world the by now aged Cyrus was still in his saddle, leading his horsemen ever onward. According to one of them, for instance, the queen of the tribe that had killed Cyrus ordered his corpse to be decapitated, then dropped the severed head into a blood-filled wineskin, so that his thirst for slaughter might be glutted at last.

Yet a very different tradition also served to keep alive the memory of Cyrus the Great. He had not merely conquered his enemies, he had assiduously wooed them as well. His mastery once established over the corpses of shattered armies, further bloodshed had tended to be kept to the barest minimum. If the Babylonians chose to attribute his conquest of their city to the will of Marduk, then Cyrus was perfectly content to play along.

The very peoples he had conquered had duly scrabbled to take him at his own estimation and to hail him as their own. With a brilliant and calculating subtlety, Cyrus had succeeded in demonstrating to his heirs that mercilessness and repression, the keynotes of all previous imperialisms in the region, might be blended with a no less imperious show of graciousness, emancipation, and patronage. Guarantee peace and order to the dutifully submissive, however, and the world itself might prove the limit. The Persian high command had recognized in these homesick captives a resource of great potential.

Not only had Cyrus permitted the Judaeans to return to the weed-covered rubble of their homeland but funds had even been made available for the rebuilding in Jerusalem of their obliterated Temple. The exiles themselves had responded with undiluted enthusiasm and gratitude.

What greater source of self-contentment for a peripheral and insignificant subject people such as the Judaeans, after all, than to imagine themselves graced by a special relationship with the far-off King of Kings?

Cyrus and his successors had grasped a bleak yet strategically momentous truth: the traditions that define a community, that afford it a sense of self-worth and a yearning for independence, can also, if sensitively exploited by a conqueror, serve to reconcile that community to its very subordination.

This maxim, applied by the Persians across the vast range of all their many provinces, was one that underpinned their entire philosophy of empire. No ruling class anywhere, they liked to think, could not somehow be seduced into submission. True, this did presuppose that the ruling classes themselves could all be trusted to stay in power. Even at the very limits of the empire, where the gravitational pull of the center was naturally at its weakest, there might often be considerable enthusiasm for the undoubted fruits of the Pax Persica. Lydian functionaries still dutifully ran the province for their masters, just as they had done under their native kings.

Their language, their customs, their gods—all were scrupulously tolerated. Even their taxes, though certainly high, were not set so high as to bleed them dry. Men such as this, to whom Persian rule had opened up unprecedented opportunities, certainly had not the remotest interest in agitating for liberty. Nevertheless, not everything was quiet on the western front. Beyond Sardis, dotted along the Aegean coastline, were the gleaming cities of a people known to the Persians as the Yauna.

All the Yauna ever did, it seemed to the Persians, was quarrel. Even when the various cities were not squabbling with one another they were likely to be embroiled in civil strife. This interminable feuding, which had contributed enormously to the initial ease of their conquest back in the time of Cyrus, also made the Ionians a uniquely wearisome people to rule. Where civilized peoples—the Babylonians, the Lydians, even the Judaeans— had their functionaries and priests, the Greeks seemed to have only treacherous and ever-splintering factions. As a result, despite their genius for psychological profiling, the Persians found it a challenge to get a handle on their Ionian subjects.

The challenge for any Persian governor was to pick winners among the various Ionian power players, back them until they had outgrown their usefulness, and then dispose of them with a minimum of fuss. Such a policy, however, could hardly help but be a treacherous one. By favoring one faction over another, the Persians were inevitably themselves sucked into the swirl of backstabbing and class warfare that constituted Ionian politics.

Fire, in the opinion of the Persians, was the manifestation not of a ceaseless flux but rather of the very opposite, of the immanence of an unchanging principle of righteousness and justice. Promiscuous in their sponsorship of foreign gods they might have been, yet they knew in their hearts—as lesser peoples did not—that without such a principle, the universe would be undone and lost to perpetual night.

This was why, so they believed, when Ahura Mazda, the greatest of all the gods, had summoned creation into being at the beginning of time, he had engendered Arta, who was Truth, to give form and order to the cosmos. Nevertheless, chaos had never ceased to threaten the world with ruin, for just as fire cannot burn without the accompaniment of smoke, so Arta, the Persians knew, was inevitably shadowed by Drauga, the Lie. What should responsible mortals do, then, but take the side of Arta against Drauga, Truth against the Lie, Light against Darkness, lest the universe itself totter and fall? This was a question that, in , would prove to have implications far beyond the dimensions of priestcraft or theodicy, for it had come to affect the very future of the Persian monarchy itself.

Then, in the early autumn, his brother, the new king, Bardiya, was ambushed and hacked down amid the mountains of western Iran. Taking his place on the blood-spattered throne was his assassin, a man blatantly guilty of usurpation, and yet Darius I, with a display of nerve so breathtaking that it served to mark him out as a politician of quite spectacular creativity and ruthlessness, claimed that it was Bardiya and not himself who had been the fraud, the fake, the liar.

For all that he was quick to claim a close kinship to the house of Cyrus, and to bundle the sisters of Cambyses and Bardiya into his marriage bed, his dynastic claim to the throne was in reality so tenuous that he could hardly rely on it to justify his coup. Other legitimization had to be concocted, and fast. This was why, far more than Cyrus or his sons had ever felt the need to do, Darius insisted on his role as the chosen one of Ahura Mazda: as the standard-bearer of the Truth.

This seamless identification of his own rule with that of a universal god was to prove a development full of moment for the future. Usurpers had been claiming divine sanction for their actions since time immemorial, but never one such as Ahura Mazda could provide. Trampling down his enemies, Darius was not only securing his own rule but also, and with fateful consequences, setting his empire on a potent new footing.

When the Assyrian kings had portrayed themselves subduing their foes, they had done so in the most extravagant and blood-bespattered detail, amid the charging of shock troops, the advance of siege engines, the trudging into exile of the defeated. No such specifics were recorded at Bisitun. History, so Darius was proclaiming, had in effect been brought to a close.

Such a monarchy, now that the new king had succeeded in redeeming it from the Lie, might surely be expected to endure for all eternity: infinite, unshakable, the watchtower of the Truth. The covenant embodied by Persian rule was henceforth to be made clear in every manifestation of royal power, whether palaces or progresses or plans for making war: harmony in exchange for humility, protection for abasement, the blessings of a new world order for obedience. This was, of course, in comparison to the propaganda of Assyria a prescription notably lacking in a relish for slaughter, but it did serve very effectively to justify global conquest without limit.

After all, if it was the destiny of the King of Kings to bring peace to a bleeding world, then what were those who defied him to be ranked as if not the agents of anarchy and darkness, of an axis of evil? Tools of Drauga, they menaced not merely Persian power but also the cosmic order that it mirrored.

No wonder, then, that it had ended up an invincible conviction of imperial propagandists that there was no stronghold of Drauga so remote that it might not ultimately be purged and redeemed. The world needed to be made safe for the Truth. Such was the Persian mission. In , gazing eastward, Darius duly dispatched a naval squadron to reconnoiter the mysterious lands along the Indus.

Invasion swiftly followed; the Punjab was subdued; a tribute of gold dust, elephants, and similar wonders was imposed. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the empire, in the distant west, a Persian battle fleet had begun to cruise the waters of the Aegean. In Samos was conquered and annexed. Westward as well as eastward, it seemed, the course of empire was taking its way. Here, in a land that to the sophisticated agents of a global monarchy could hardly help but appear an impoverished backwater, the quarrelsome and chauvinist character of Ionian public life found itself reflected in a whole multitude of fractious polities.

Greece itself was little more than a geographic expression: not a country at all but a patchwork of city-states. True, the Greeks regarded themselves as a single people, united by language, religion, and custom; but as in Ionia, so in the motherland: what the various cities often seemed to have most in common was an addiction to fighting one another.

Nevertheless, the same restless propensity for pushing at boundaries that in Ionia was feeding into a momentous intellectual revolution had not been without effect on the states of the mainland as well. Unlike the peoples of the Near East, the Greeks lacked viable models of bureaucracy or centralization to draw on. Racked by chronic social tensions, they were nevertheless not entirely oblivious to the freedom that this gave them: to experiment, to innovate, to forge their own distinctive paths.

Over the years, repeated political and social upheaval had served to set many cities on paths that were distinctively their own. They were, rather, a people who, by the standards of the Near Eastern norm, were unsettlingly different. And some were more different than others. Merciless and universal discipline had served to teach every Spartan, from the moment of his birth, that conformity was all.

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The citizen would grow up to assume his place in society, the warrior would assume his place in a line of battle. No longer, as they had originally done, did the Spartans rank as predators on their own kind, rich upon poor; rather, they had become hunters in a single deadly pack. For their near neighbors in particular, the consequences of this transformation had been devastating.

The citizens of one state, Messenia, had been reduced to a condition of brutalized serfdom, those of others in the Peloponnese to one of political subordination. Across the entire Greek world the Spartans had won for themselves a reputation as the foremost warriors in the world. Some Greeks, rather than face the wolflords of the Peloponnese on the field of battle, had been known to run away in sheer terror. And now, in a city that had once been a byword for parochialism and backwardness, an even more far-reaching revolution was stirring.

Crisis had bred reform, reform had bred crisis. Here were the birth pangs, so it was to prove, of a radical and startling new order. Yet increasingly, the Athenians wanted more, and there were certain aristocrats, rivals of the Pisistratids, who found themselves so resentful of their own exclusion from the rule of their city that they were prepared to take the ultimate sanction and see power handed over to the people.

In revolution broke out. Hippias, the son of Pisistratus, was sent into exile. A great and noble experiment was embarked upon: a state in which, for the first time in Attic history, a citizen could feel himself both engaged and in control, a state, perhaps, that might indeed be worth fighting for. Such men were no giddy visionaries but rather hard-nosed pragmatists whose goal, quite simply, was to profit as Athenian aristocrats by making their city strong.

They had calculated that a people no longer divided among themselves might at last be able to present a united front to their neighbors, by taking their place not in the train of some great clan lord but as the defenders of an ideal, of isonomia, of Athens itself. As would happen millennia later, in response to the French, the Russian, and the Iranian revolutions, attempts by rival powers to snuff out the alarming new cuckoo in the nest were comprehensively, indeed triumphantly, rebuffed.

In , a series of uprisings across Ionia succeeded in toppling the tyrants who for decades had been serving the Persians in the role of quislings; democracies were established in their place; one year later, an Athenian task force joined the rebels in putting Sardis to the torch. Yet panicky though they undoubtedly felt at the notion that the far-seeing and pitiless eye of the King of Kings might soon be fixed upon them, they would surely have been even more so had they only appreciated the precise nature of the beast whose tail they had opted so cavalierly to tweak, for nothing could have been more calculated to rouse the fury of the most powerful man on the planet.

To Darius, of course, it went without saying that the Ionian insurgency needed urgently to be suppressed, and that the terrorist state beyond the Aegean had to be neutralized if the northwestern flank of the empire were ever to be rendered fully secure. The longer the punishment of Athens was delayed, the greater was the risk that similar nests of rebels might proliferate throughout the mountainous and inaccessible wilds of Greece—a nightmare prospect for any Persian strategist.

Stronghold of terrorists Athens might be, but it had also stood revealed as a peculiarly viperous stronghold of the Lie. It was for the good of the cosmos, then, as well as for the future stability of Ionia that Darius began to contemplate carrying his divinely appointed mission, his war on terror, to Attica. Staging post in a necessary new phase of imperial expansion and a blow struck against the demonic foes of Ahura Mazda: the burning of Athens promised to be both. Yet if the Athenians had little understanding of the motives and ideals of the superpower that was now ranged against them, the Persians in turn were fatally ignorant of what they faced in the democracy.

To the strategists entrusted with the suppression of the Ionian revolt, there seemed nothing exceptional about the new form of government; if anything, it seemed only to have intensified the factionalism that for so long had made fighting the Yauna akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Yet on this occasion, as events were to prove, they had miscalculated—and fatally so.

For their intelligence was worse than useless; it was out of date.

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Here and then

The Athenian army that confronted the invaders on the plain of Marathon, blocking the road that led to their city some twenty miles to the south, did not, as the Ionian fleet at Lade had, disintegrate. The battle line at Marathon, in short, could not be bought. It was to the credit of Datis that he eventually came to recognize this, but still he would not abandon his conviction that every Greek city ultimately had its price. In due course, after a stand-off of several days, he resolved to put this to the test.

Against all expectations, moving against a foe widely assumed to be invincible, crossing what many of the Athenians themselves must have dreaded would prove to be a plain of death, they charged an enemy that no Greek army had ever before defeated in open battle. The reward for their courage was a glorious, an immortal victory.

Fearful still of treachery, however, the exhausted and blood-streaked victors had no time to savor their triumph. For a few hours they lay stationary beyond its entrance; then, as the sun set at last, they raised anchor, swung around, and sailed away. The threat of invasion was over—for the moment, at any rate. To be sure, there was no doubt that what had saved Athens on the battlefield of Marathon was first and foremost the prowess of its own citizens: not merely their courage but also the sheer pulverizing impact of their charge, the heavy crunching of spears and shields into opponents wearing, at most, quilted jerkins for protection and armed, perhaps, many of them, only with bows and slings.

Yet something more had been in conflict on that fateful day than flesh and metal alone: Marathon had also been a testing of the stereotypes that both sides had of the other. Simultaneously, the superpower that for so long had appeared invincible had been shown to have feet of clay.

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The Persians might be defeated, after all. It was a word that perfectly evoked their dread of what they had been forced to confront on the day of their great victory, an alien, milling numberless horde, jabbering for their destruction. A self-assurance, in short, more than fit to go nose to nose with that of a superpower.

Nor, as the Athenians themselves never wearied of pointing out, had the victory been won on behalf of their city alone. In its wake, even those Greeks who loathed the democracy could walk that little bit taller, confident that the qualities that distinguished them from foreigners might, just perhaps, be the mark of their superiority. So it was that, rather than leading a strike force such as Cyrus would have recognized, capable of descending on the lumbering infantrymen of the enemy with the same murderous speed that had always proved so lethal to the Greeks of Ionia, he opted instead to summon a tribute of contingents from all the manifold subject peoples of his empire, a coalition if not of the willing then of the submissively dutiful, at any rate.

Naturally, this swelling of his army with a vast babel of poorly armed levies represented a fearsome headache for his harassed commissariat, but Xerxes judged that it was necessary to the proper maintenance of his dignity. After all, to what did the presence in his train of the full astounding diversity of his tributaries give glorious expression if not his rank as the lieutenant on earth of Ahura Mazda?


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Nor was that all. The rumor of his approach, assiduously fanned by Persian agents, promised fair to overwhelm the Greeks with sheer terror—or else, at the thought of all the potential pickings on offer, with greed. But it did not. At the mountain pass of Thermopylae, for instance, their achievement in dislodging a force of five thousand heavy infantry from a nearly impregnable position, in wiping out hundreds of the supposedly invincible Spartans, and in killing one of their kings was a thumping one.

Clearly, then, for any Greek resolved to continue the fight, it was essential to transmute the disaster at the Hot Gates into a display of heroism sufficiently glorious to inspire the whole of Greece to continued defiance. Indeed, in the immediate wake of Thermopylae, with their city defenseless before the Persian juggernaut, the Athenians had, if anything, an even greater stake than the Spartans in casting the dead king and his bodyguards as martyrs for liberty.

Perhaps, then, it is an index of their success that the Peloponnesians, in the wake of the capture of Athens and the burning of the temples on the Acropolis, did not withdraw their fleets as they had previously withdrawn their land forces but were prepared instead to join with the Athenian ships and make a stand in the straits of Salamis. By doing so they demonstrated that the spin of the Greek propagandists had indeed been something more than spin: that the bloody defeat at Thermopylae had been, precisely as they had claimed, a kind of victory.

It was to prove a decisive one as well. At Salamis and at Plataea, on sea and then on land, the Greek allies crushingly repulsed the amphibious task force that had been ranged against them and ensured that the Pax Persica would not be extended to Greece. Most wounding of all, however, for the bloodied King of Kings was surely the way in which his own strengths had been used against him: his hitherto unchallenged mastery of espionage and self-promotion.

At Salamis, for instance, the Athenian admiral, displaying an almost Persian grasp of psychology, had lured the imperial fleet into an ambush by assuring Xerxes that he wished to come over to his side, a lie that the Great King and his advisers, remembering Lade, had been predisposed to believe. This, as a theme, was one that would never cease to inspire the Greeks.

It would help to inspire incomparable drama, history, and architecture. As a result, for as long as Aeschylus continues to be watched, Herodotus read, or the Parthenon admired, it will never be forgotten. Two and a half thousand years on, and the men who fought at Marathon and Thermopylae, at Salamis and Plataea, remain secure in their victory. Seen in that light, the future of human conflict is likely to prove no less Persian than Greek. F u rt h e r R e a d in g The fons et origo of information on the Greco-Persian Wars is, of course, Herodotus, the first and most readable of historians.

Diodorus and Plutarch provide valuable, though late, supplementary information. No Persian is known even so much as to have mentioned the invasion of Greece. That does not mean, however, that there are no relevant sources for this period from the Persian side. Proceedings of a Seminar in Memory of Vladimir G. Lukonin London: British Museum Press, The literature on the Greco-Persian Wars themselves is voluminous. Essential studies include A. The best military study is J. Cyrus himself entered Babylon two and a half weeks later.

The titles used by the Persian kings were not original to them but were derived from an assortment of Near Eastern kingdoms, Babylon included. Hicks, 2 vols. Despite the Assyrian reference, the poem is almost certainly a reflection of the growth of Persian power. Pericles, Thucydides, and the Defense of Empire Donal d K aga n B y the middle of the fifth century, when Pericles became the leading figure in Athens, defense of its empire was of the highest importance, because the empire was the key to the defense of Athens itself.

It represented security against a renewal of the Persian threat, and it provided the means for warding off any future challenge from Sparta. The glory it reflected was an essential part of his vision for Athens. Pericles and his Athenians regarded their empire as necessary, but it also raised serious questions. Could an empire limit its growth and ambition and maintain itself in safety?

Or did rule over others inevitably lead the imperial power to overreach and bring about its own ruin? Was empire, especially by Greek over Greek, morally legitimate? Or was it evidence of hubris, the violent arrogance that was sure to bring on the justified destruction of those who dared to rule over others as though they were gods?

It fell to Pericles, as leader of the Athenian people, to guide their policy into safe channels and to justify the empire in the eyes of the other Greeks as well as their own. In both tasks Pericles broke a sharply new path. He put an end to imperial expansion and moderated Athenian ambitions. He also put forward powerful arguments, by word as well as deed, to show that the empire was both legitimate and in the common interest of all the Greeks.

First and foremost was the fear and expectation that the Persians would come again to conquer the Greeks. The Persians had attacked them three times in two decades, and there was no reason to believe they would permanently accept the latest defeat. Second, the Athenians had hardly begun to repair the damage done by the latest Persian attack; they knew another would surely make Athens a target again. In addition, the Aegean and the lands to its east were important to Athenian trade.

Their dependence on imported grain from Ukraine, which had to travel from the Black Sea, meant that even a very limited Persian campaign that gained control of the Bosporus or the Dardanelles could cut their lifeline. Finally, the Athenians had ties of common ancestry, religion, and tradition with the Ionian Greeks, who made up most of the endangered cities.

Athenian security, prosperity, and sentiment all pointed toward driving the Persians from all the coasts and islands of the Aegean, the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmora, the Bosporus, and the Black Sea. The new alliance was one of three interstate organizations in the Greek world, alongside the Peloponnesian League and the Hellenic League formed against Persia, which had by no means lapsed when the Spartans withdrew from the Aegean. After the founding of the Delian League, the Hellenic League had an increasingly shadowy existence and collapsed at the first real test.

The important, effective, and active alliances were the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta, on the mainland and the Delian League, led by Athens, in the Aegean.

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From the first, the Delian League was very effective because it was entirely and enthusiastically voluntary, its purposes were essential to its members, and its organization was clear and simple. Athens was the leader: all the members, about in the beginning, swore a perpetual oath to have the same friends and enemies as Athens, in this way forming a permanent offensive and defensive alliance under Athenian leadership.

Hegemony, however, was not domination. From the beginning, then, Athens was in the happy position of controlling the Delian League without the appearance of illegality or tyranny. The early actions of the league must have won unanimous and enthusiastic support: the allies drove the Persians from their remaining strongholds in Europe and made the sea lanes of the Aegean safe by expelling a nest of pirates from the island of Scyros. As victory followed victory and the Persian threat seemed more remote, some allies thought the league and its burdensome obligations were no longer needed.

The Athenians, however, rightly saw that the Persian threat was not gone and that it would increase to the degree that Greek vigilance waned. The Athenians held them strictly to account and were no longer equally pleasant as leaders. They no longer behaved as equals on campaigns, and they found it easy to reduce states that rebelled. The blame for this belonged to the allies themselves: for most of them had themselves assessed in quotas of money instead of ships because they shrank from military service so that they need not be away from home.

As a result, the Athenian fleet was increased by means of the money they paid in, while when the allies tried to revolt, they went to war without the means or the experience. This decisive Persian defeat intensified the restlessness of the allies and the harshness and unpopularity of the Athenians. The rebellion and siege of Thasos from to , which arose from a quarrel between the Athenians and the Thasians and had no clear connection with the purposes of the league, must have had a similar effect.

The first Peloponnesian War ca. The destruction of the Athenian expedition to Egypt in the mids provided the shock that hastened the transformation from league to empire. To many, it must have seemed the beginning of the collapse of Athenian power, so it provoked new rebellions. The Athenians responded swiftly and effectively to put them down, and then took measures to ensure they would not be repeated. In some places they installed democratic governments friendly to and dependent on themselves. Sometimes they posted military garrisons, sometimes they assigned Athenian officials to oversee the conduct of the formerly rebellious state, and sometimes they used a combination of tactics.

All were violations of the autonomy of the subject state. The Athenians tightened their control of the empire even more in the s. They imposed the use of Athenian weights, measures, and coins, closing the local mints and so depriving the allies of a visible symbol of their sovereignty and autonomy. They tightened the rules for collection and delivery of tribute payments, requiring that the trials for those accused of violations be held in Athens. They used military force against states that rebelled or refused to pay tribute. Sometimes the Athenians confiscated territory from the offending state and gave it as a colony to loyal allies or Athenian citizens.

When such a colony was composed of Athenians it was called a cleruchy. Its settlers did not form a new, independent city but remained Athenian citizens. When the Athenians suppressed a rebellion, they usually installed a democratic regime and made the natives swear an oath of loyalty. And I will love the people of the Athenians and I will not desert. And I will not destroy the democracy at Colophon, either myself or in obedience to another, either by going off to another city or by intriguing there.

I will carry out these things according to the oath truly, without deceit and without harm, by Zeus, Apollo, and Demeter. And if I transgress may I and my descendants be destroyed for all time, but if I keep my oath may great prosperity come to me. The association took a critical step in the transition from league to empire in the year —, when the treasury was moved from Delos to the Acropolis in Athens.

The formal explanation was the threat that the Persians might send a fleet into the Aegean, following a catastrophic Athenian defeat in Egypt and confronted with a war with Sparta. We do not know whether that fear was real or merely a pretext, but the Athenians did not waste time in turning the transfer to their advantage. From that year until late in the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians took one-sixtieth of the tribute paid by the allies as first fruits for the goddess Athena Polias, patroness of the city and now of the reconstituted league.

Changes so important and so radical that they transformed a voluntary league of allies into a largely involuntary empire ruled by Athens demanded justification in the ancient world of the Greeks. In most respects the Greeks resembled other ancient peoples in their attitudes toward power, conquest, empire, and the benefits that came with them. They viewed the world as a place of intense competition in which victory and domination, which brought fame and glory, were the highest goals, while defeat and subordination brought ignominy and shame.

The Melian complaint may refer to the specific actions taken or contemplated by the Athenians, but it would have struck a deep vein of sympathy among the Greeks. The Greeks were free from the modern prejudice against power and the security and glory it could bring, but their own historical experience was different from that of other ancient nations.

Their culture had been shaped not by great empires but by small, autonomous, independent poleis, and they came to think that freedom was the natural condition for men raised in such an environment. Citizens should be free in their persons and free to maintain their own constitutions, laws, and customs, and their cities should be free to conduct their own foreign relations and to compete with others for power and glory. The Greeks also believed that the freedom made possible by the life of the polis created a superior kind of citizen and a special kind of power.

The free, autonomous polis, they thought, was greater than the mightiest powers in the world. The defeated enemy was not normally enslaved, nor was his land annexed or occupied. Since they had not been raised as free men in free communities but lived as subjects to a ruler, they were manifestly slaves by nature, so it was perfectly all right to dominate and enslave them in reality.

Greeks, on the other hand, were naturally free, as they demonstrated by creating and living in the liberal institutions of the polis. To rule over such people, to deny them their freedom and autonomy, would clearly be wrong. That was what the Greeks thought, but they did not always act accordingly. At a very early time the Spartans had conquered the Greeks residing in their own region of Laconia and neighboring Messenia and made them slaves of the state.

In the sixth century they formed the Peloponnesian League, an alliance that gave the Spartans considerable control over the foreign policy of their allies. But the Spartans generally did not interfere with the internal arrangements of the allied cities, which continued to have the appearance of autonomy. In the two decades after the Persian War, the Argives appear to have obliterated some towns in the Argolid and annexed their territory, yet such deviations from the pattern remained unusual and did not overcome the general expectation that Greeks should live as free men in autonomous poleis, not as subjects in great empires.

The Greeks shared still another belief that interfered with the comfortable enjoyment of great power and empire. They thought that any good thing amassed by men to an excessive degree led, through a series of stages, to what they called hubris. Such men were thought to have overstepped the limits established for human beings and thereby to have incurred nemesis, divine anger and retribution. His power filled him with a blind arrogance that led him to try to extend his rule over the Greek mainland and so brought disaster to himself and his people.

The advantages of empire to the Athenians, tangible and intangible, were many. The most obvious was financial. Revenues paid directly by the allies in the form of tribute, indemnities, and other unspecified payments came to talents annually at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. Of the additional talents of home income that came in each year, a large part also resulted from the empire, for import and other harbor duties at Piraeus and court fees paid by allied citizens whose cases were heard in Athens. Athenians also profited in the private sphere by providing services for the many visitors drawn to Piraeus and Athens by judicial and other imperial business and by the greatness of Athens itself, which the empire made possible.

The imperial revenues are sometimes thought to have been necessary for the maintenance of the democracy, providing the money to pay for the performance of public duties. But the evidence argues otherwise. Pay was introduced, after all, before the Athenians began to keep a sixtieth of the tribute for themselves. Even more telling is the fact that the Athenians continued to pay for these services even after the empire and its revenues were gone—and even introduced compensation for attendance in the Assembly in the early fourth century.

Apart from direct financial gain and, as they thought, the financial support for their democracy, the people of Athens also received benefits in what it is now fashionable to call quality of life. They hear all dialects, and pick one thing from one, another from another; the other Greeks tend to adhere to their own dialect and way of life and dress, but the Athenians have mingled elements from all Greeks and foreigners.

Slaves from Phrygia. Pagasae provides tattooed slaves, Paphlagonia dates and oily almonds, Phoenicia dates and fine wheat-flour, Carthage rugs and many-colored cushions. Perhaps the greatest attraction of the empire was less tangible than any of these things, appealing to an aspect of human nature common to many cultures across the centuries.

Most people prefer to think of themselves as leaders rather than followers, as rulers rather than ruled. Each Athenian took pride in the greatness of his state. The Old Oligarch, an anonymous writer who took a caustic view of Athenian self-aggrandizement, in explaining how the Athenians benefited from having allied citizens come to the courts in Athens for justice shows how the ordinary citizen enjoyed such feelings: If the allies did not come for trials, they would only respect those Athenians who go abroad—the generals, the trierarchs and the ambassadors; but as it is, each individual ally is compelled to flatter the common people of Athens, realizing that, having come to Athens, the penalty or satisfaction that he receives at law depends solely upon the common people; such is the law at Athens.

This situation has increased the subjugation of the allies to the people of Athens. Foremost among these advantages was freedom from Persian rule, the chief purpose for which the league had been formed, and the peace that the Athenian Callias, son of Hipponicus, had negotiated with the Persian Empire. Ionian cities had either been under barbarian rule or fighting to be free of it for well over a century, so these achievements were not insignificant. The success of the league and empire had also brought an unprecedented freedom to sail in the waters of the Aegean. In addition, the campaigns against Persia had brought a percentage of booty to the allies who had taken part in them, and the commercial boom that enriched Athens also brought wealth to many of its allies.

To many, Athenian intervention also brought democracy, but that was not its aim. Pericles and the Athenians, when they could, left the existing regime in place, even when it was oligarchic or tyrannical. Only when rebellions forced them to intervene did they impose democracies, and even then not always.

Nevertheless, over the years the Athenians instituted and supported many democracies against oligarchic or tyrannical opponents throughout the empire. Aristocrats and members of the upper classes in general regarded democracy as a novel, unnatural, unjust, incompetent, and vulgar form of government, and they were not alone in resenting the Athenian role in support of it. In many cities, probably in most, even members of the lower classes regarded Athenian intervention in their political and constitutional affairs as a curtailment of their freedom and autonomy, and would have preferred a nondemocratic constitution without Athenian interference to a democratic government with it.

There is no reason to doubt the ancient opinion that Greeks outside, and especially inside, the Athenian Empire were hostile to it. For the cities in the empire he provided justification by claiming a change in the concept behind the league. From the beginning, some league members were colonies that had been founded by Athens.

Among the Greeks, colonial status implied a proud familial relationship, not inferiority. Beyond that, the Athenians had long claimed to be the founders of the Ionian cities; the Ionians not only accepted the claim but had used it to persuade the Athenians to accept the leadership in the first place. It gave the colony the honor of participating in the grand procession to the sacred shrine of Athena on the Acropolis. Henceforth, all the allies of Athens would share the honor.

We need not believe that all were grateful for the honor or that they found the trappings of a colonial relationship a satisfactory reason for continuing their contributions in circumstances so different from what they had been. The Persian Wars were now truly over, and the Athenians could claim to have completed the victory left unfinished by the Spartans. It was a great moment, but it raised serious questions. Although Cimon, the indefatigable prosecutor of the war against Persia, was dead, his example, his memory, and his friends remained to raise doubts about a peace with what had become the traditional enemy.

If there was peace with Persia, moreover, would that mean the end of allied contributions, of the league, of Athenian hegemony? To the first problem, a question of Athenian politics, Pericles applied a skillful touch. The choice of Callias as the Athenian negotiator had been significant. He was the brother-in-law of Cimon, the husband of Elpinice. By various other connections Pericles had associated himself with the Cimonians, and he continued to do so throughout the years.

After their victory at Cyprus, the Athenians made a thanksgiving dedication of a tenth of the booty and commissioned the poet Simonides to commemorate the Persian defeat. At the same time, it was a monument to the whole Persian War, the inclination to which had been embodied in the person of Cimon. At the same time, the memorial to Cimon was a gesture meant to attract and conciliate his friends. For despite the peace, he had no thoughts of abandoning the league that had become an empire.

Nor did he wish to sacrifice the glory, the political and military power, and the money that went with it. Athens needed the empire to protect its own security and to support the creation and maintenance of the great democratic society Pericles had in mind. Part of that greatness would involve a vastly expensive building program that would need to draw on the imperial treasury for nonmilitary and purely Athenian purposes. Pericles and the Athenians therefore needed to justify the continuation of allied payments as well as their diversion to new purposes.

But already there was trouble in the empire. In —, cities appear on the tribute list and are assessed more than talents. Four years later, only cities are assessed at talents; but some made only partial payment, some paid late, and some surely did not pay at all. At the same time, the threat of Sparta loomed. The truce negotiated by Cimon would run out in a few years, but he was no longer there to calm Spartan fears.

Great differences remained between the two powers, and there was no certainty that they could be overcome without war. He introduced a bill to invite all Greeks, wherever they lived, whether in Europe or in Asia, whether small cities or large, to send representatives to a congress at Athens, to deliberate about the holy places that the barbarians had destroyed, and about the sacrifices that they [the Greeks] owed, having promised them to the gods when they fought against the barbarians, and about the sea, so that all might sail it without fear and keep the peace.

While war had brought the Greeks together originally, the maintenance of peace and security would cement their union from then on. Religious piety, pan-Hellenism, and the common good were now to justify continued loyalty and sacrifice. Was Pericles sincere? The temples burned by the Persians were almost all in Attica, and the fleet that would keep the peace would be chiefly Athenian. Pericles may therefore have expected the Spartans and their allies to reject his proposal and thus provide him with a new justification for consolidating the empire.

On the other hand, Pericles could honestly have been trying to achieve Greek freedom, security, and unity by this device. But the picture of Pericles as a disinterested devotee of pan-Hellenic cooperation neglects the great advantages to Athens if the congress should meet and approve his proposals. Pericles could well have thought there was a chance the Spartans would accept the invitation. The policy of its militant faction had brought disaster to Sparta and raised Athens to new heights.

If Sparta refused, nothing would have been lost and much gained. Athens would have shown its pan-Hellenic spirit, its religious devotion, and its willingness to lead the Greeks for the common benefit; it would thus have gained a clear moral basis for pursuing its own goals without hindrance or complaint from others. The Spartans declined the invitation to participate in the new plan for international cooperation, and the congress did not go forward. This episode announced to the Greek world that Athens was ready to take the lead in carrying out a sacred responsibility.

Pericles was now free to restore order to the empire, to continue collecting tribute on a new basis, and to use the revenue for the projects he had in mind. A mutilated papyrus now located in Strasbourg provides a good idea of these plans. The papyrus apparently reports a decree that Pericles proposed in the summer of , soon after the failure of the congress. Five thousand talents were to be taken from the treasury at once to be used for the construction of new temples on the Acropolis, with another two hundred transferred annually for the next fifteen years to complete the work.

The building program, however, would not interfere with the maintenance of the fleet, which justified the payment of tribute. The council would see to it that the old ships would be kept in good repair and ten new ships added annually. A few years after the new program had begun, Pericles found himself challenged by a formidable political faction led by Thucydides, son of Melesias, a brilliant orator and political organizer. He used the usual personal attacks to win support, alleging that Pericles was trying to establish himself as tyrant. This he cleverly combined with an assault on the use of imperial funds for the Periclean building program.


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Pericles has deprived it of the most fitting excuse that it was possible to offer to its accusers, that it removed the common funds to this place out of fear of the barbarian and in order to protect it. Hellas certainly is outraged by a terrible arrogance [hubris] and is manifestly tyrannized when it sees that we are gilding and adorning our city like a wanton woman, dressing it with expensive stones and statues and temples worth millions, with money extorted from them for fighting a war. It was not against the empire itself or the tribute derived from it, which would have alienated most Athenians.

Instead it complained, on the one hand, about the misdirection of funds to the domestic program of Pericles. This reminded the friends of Cimon who were now part of the Periclean coalition that the original Cimonian policy had been abandoned and perverted. On the other hand, it reached out to a broader constituency by taking a high moral tone. Employing the language of traditional religion and old-fashioned morality, it played on the ambiguity many Athenians felt toward their rule over fellow Greeks. In answer to the main complaint he offered no apology. The Athenians, he said, need make no account of the money they received from their allies so long as they protected them from the barbarian: They furnish no horse, no ship, no hoplite, but only money, which does not belong to the giver but to the receiver if he carries out his part of the bargain.

But now that the city has prepared itself sufficiently with the things necessary for war, it is proper to employ its resources for such works as will bring it eternal fame when they are completed, and while they are being completed will maintain its prosperity, for all kinds of industries and a variety of demands will arise which will waken every art, put in motion every hand, provide a salary for almost the entire city from which at the same time it may be beautified and nourished. The use of imperial funds for Athenian purposes was not analogous to tyranny, Pericles asserted, but to the untrammeled use of wages or profits by a man who has entered a contract.

If there was any moral breach, it must be on the part of any allies that shrank from paying the tribute while Athens continued to provide protection. The second part was aimed especially at the lower classes, who benefited from the empire most directly, and reminded them in the plainest terms what it meant to them.