Ancient History Delian League



Born c.484 at Halicarnassus, died c.418 at Thurii.

Exiled by Persian nominated tyrant Lygdamis in c.465, supposedly over Persian corruption.

Heavily influenced by the Graeco-Persian Wars & the ongoing power of the Persian Empire.

Traveled widely throughout Mediterranean & beyond for his research, e.g. Egypt, Lydia & possibly Babylon.

Wrote a nine book Histories on the Graeco-Persian Wars of 500-479 BC. This included ethnographic digressions on the various non-Greek peoples around the Mediterranean.

Nicknamed Father of Lies as he took eye witness accounts of things they could not have seen.

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Old Oligarch

Old Oligarch Constitution of the Athenians
Called Old Oligarch as he has conservative perspective & favoured oligarchic rule over democracy. Probably wealthy Athenian who was disgruntled, but accepting of his polis.
Gives different view to Athenian rule but is similar to Thucydides in that they both disagree/frown upon with how Athens deals with her allies & how they run League/Empire.

can be dated to c.420s BC.

  • meant to entertain & explain (probably to a fellow oligarch) why democracy operates in Athens & why people have so much influence.
    Explains how naval power is key factor in Athens’ democratic/imperial rule, pointing out military, economic & cultural benefits of being “rulers of the sea”.

  • Points out island poleis find it difficult to unite against superior sea power due to island’s dependence on imports/exports.

  • As he is an Oligarch may exaggerate to prove how democracy is bad.

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  • Aristophanes’ The Birds
    The Birds produced in 414 sees two Athenians (Peisetairos & Euelpides), disgruntled at constant arguing over laws, seek new life outside Athens.Peisetairos is angry/violent towards Inspector & Decree-Seller as: they try to impose rules on him. This shows us that passing & implementation of decrees is irritating for citizens & makes life awkward.

    Good things

  • must be quite true for audience to relate to it.

    Bad things

  • written to entertain audience.

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<!-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->Good things

  • Eye-witness sources he “checked with as much thoroughness as possible” - Empiricist

  • Alive during Delian League, was naval strategos (strength of League), may have been at some debates.

Bad things

  • Influence of Homer/tragedy. May exaggerate to get sympathy for him/Athenians or create tragic image of Athens in chaos

  • Tells us himself due to his exile he could gain info/other perspectives, trying not to give his opinion, but a neutral account (Book 5.26).

  • Rhetoric – nearly ¼ of work is speeches, Book 1.22 - also may write with hindsight

  • Opinion of individuals shine through, e.g. Nicias/Alcibiades. May alter what they say to make his audience see them in his view.

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Chalcis Decree

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Near-complete decree on marble stele.

Chalcis in Euboea which revolted with rest of Euboea, they had peace settlements forced on them including cleruchies.
Decree dated to either 446/5 or 424/3, so either after 1st Peloponnesian War or during main Peloponnesian War.
Decree tells of oath sworn by Athenian boule & jury-courts to treat Chalcis fairly if it remained loyal & that all Chalcidians would swear to remain loyal to “the people of Athens”.

May be athens flexing muscles on or before main pelleponnesian war.

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Cleinias Decree

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Four fragments of marble stele from Athens tell us about tightening-up of tribute payments.Cleinias died in battle in 446, so date of decree may be 447/446.proposes use of seals for delivery of tribute, pointing to concerns of fraud, will also help to make sure allies are paying the right amount. Decree says envoys sent to chase late-paying poleis.

May just be created to tighten grip on allies not ensure fairness of tribute

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Methone Decree

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Athens sends envoys to King of Macedon, Perdikkas, urging him not to restrict Methone’s land & sea communications. Methone gave privilege of importing 1000 units Black Sea grain from Byzantium. Fact that Athens gives Methone this privilege shows her concern about keeping this polis within League.

May just be propoganda to show Athens control of sea and grain trade.

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Athenian Standards Decree

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Dated to between 445 & 414 BC, 7 fragments of copies of decree from around Empire indicate how decisions of ecclesia were communicated around League.Decree ordered allies to use only Athenian weights, measures & silver coinage.Decree would aid Athenians as they won’t have expense of money-changing. Gives Athens monopoly on production allowing Athens’ symbols to circulate more in Empire.

Some allies still used own coinage, so may not have been enforced much.

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Athenian Tribute Lists

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Hellenotamiai took 1/60 of ally’s phoros & dedicate it to Athena.

Lists of offerings inscribed on stone of Acropolis

Fragmentary & only provides payments of individual poleis, but tells us whether state is current member of League & shows ups/downs of its tribute.

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Sicilian Expedition – 415-413 BC

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Sources: Thucydides


  • Egesta, polis in Sicily, requested help against Syracuse, alcabides wins vote in the assembly and thus a force of 134 triremes, 5,000 hoplites as well as 25,000 other men is sent. Alcibiades was recalled to stand trial over desecration of herms, so Nicias commanded expedition & was reinforced by Demosthenes. Syracuse reinforced by Spartan commander Gylippus.

  • In 415 Athenians successful, defeating Syracusans on land & sea & started to besiege Syracuse, but couldn’t break down organised. In 413 Syracusans defeat fleet by strengthening their ships. They defeated troops by surrounding them with cavalry so they were penned in & then attacked. Athens Flee.

    Thucydides is melodramatic, and being didactic- showing that being hubristic can lead to situations like this.

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Melian Dialogue – 416 BC

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Sources: Thucydides


  • Athens dispatched 38 ships & 2700 hoplites against Melos under 2 strategoi, Thucydides omits specific reason for invasion but: Melos could provide good base for attacks on Peloponnese, they may side with Sparta & don’t want to look weak to others. When negotiations fail, Melos resisted until Melos was betrayed. All Melian men killed & women/children enslaved. Cleruchy set up. Thucydides gives his version of negotiations; dialogue must be own construction as he’s in exile in 416 & all Melian males had been killed. Debate was on Melians’ 2 choices: accept peaceful incorporation into Athenian Empire or resist & be destroyed.

    Thucydides was exiled at the time so would have had no person to get info from.

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Mytilene Debate – 428 BC

<!-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->Sources: Thucydides,


  • After first assembly, citizens persuaded by Cleon to put to death male population & make women/children slaves. Trireme dispatched to Paches with orders. Ecclesia gathers again and changes 1st decision. Cleon (wealthy non-aristocratic politician) adopted aggressive position against Sparta & those who threatened Athens. Cleon portrayed negatively e.g. Aristophanes’ Wasps “great roarer” & Thucydides. Diodotus, lenient voice, argues against Cleon (only appearance in historical record).

    Thucydides’ may be putting speeches in key ppl’s mouths

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Revolt of Mytilene – 428 BC

<!-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->Sources: Thucydides


  • Lesbos major supplier of ships & tribute to Delian League, In 428 Lesbos’ poleis, except Methymna, prepare to revolt, Methymnians & Tenedos inform Athens of preparations & 40 ships sent to persuade them not to revolt. Mytilene sends two envoys: one to Athens & one in secret to Sparta. They ask for Sparta’s help, but Spartans can’t match promises & did not go to Lesbos until 427 (too late). After outbreak, Athens & allies dispatch larger naval force under command of strategos Paches, including 1000 hoplites; Mytilene blockaded by land & sea. citizens refuse to be sent to fight & Mytilene surrenders.

    He may have been around Athens at the time or know someone who was involved because he wasn’t exiled until C. 424 BC.

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Pericles’ Funeral Speech – 431 BC

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  • After start of Peloponnesian War, Pericles gave funeral speech for “citizens and foreigners” (2.36) at public ceremony for Athens’ war dead. Pericles deviates by praising: the deceased, Athens, ancestors, traditions, democracy & generosity.

    Thucydides become less reliable as he says himself that he puts words into peoples mouth

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Revolt of Samos – 440 BC

<!-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } --Sources: Thucydides, Plutarch’s Life of Pericles


Samos revolted as: wanted to set up a diff form of government, due to punishments Athens first enforced.

Pericles leads 60 ships against Samos, supported by 40 additional ships from Athens & 25 from Lesbos & Chios. At start Pericles successfully defeats Samian fleet, & starts to blockade city. A Phoenician fleet draws Pericles away, and samians break blockade & defeat remaining Delian League force. Pericles returns & is reinforced by extra ships & troops. He besieges Samos which after 9 months surrenders.

Samos had to pull down walls, surrender hostages, & refund Athens for what was spent on suppressing revolt. Diodorus put this figure at 1,200 talents

Benefits of Thucydides: experienced naval general. However it is not very in-depth & he may is aiming to show the moral decline of Athens. Benefits of employing Plutarch: biography is Pericles so goes into great detail (can then cross-reference with Thucydides). However: he is focusing on an individual so he does miss out bigger picture themes that may be more important than the individual.

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Revolt of Euboea – 446 BC

Sources: Thucydides 1.114, Chalcis Decree


  • Pericles was in command, subduing whole island. Hestiaean inhabitants were drove out & their land occupied.

  • important for Athens to defeat Euboean Revolt because: other poleis may follow (e.g. Megara revolted just after), need to consolidate empire

  • Decree tells of oath sworn by Athenian boule & jury-courts to treat Chalcis fairly if it remained loyal & that all Chalcidians would swear to remain loyal to “the people of Athens”.

    Thucydides, names leader of Athenians as Pericles but is very short, no details of battle mechanics.

    Decree is only Near-complete.

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Peace of Callias – 449 BC

<!-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->sources: Theopompus’ History of Philip, Plutarch’s Life of Cimon, Diodorus


  • Callias made peace between athens and persia

  • Persian undertakings: freedom to Greek poleis on Ionian coastline and barred Persian activities elsewhere along Aegean coastline.

  • Greek undertakings: not to interfere in Persia’s rule of rest of Asia Minor, Cyprus & Egypt. Also agreed not fortify poleis on Ionian coastline.

  • Probably made this agreement because: increased threat of Sparta (and what happened at Egypt Exp.)
    Athenian benefits: can concentrate on Sparta, Ionian coastline free, trade with black sea, concentrate on DL.

    Source can be questioned as Theopompus says the treaty did not exist due to it being written in ionian greek and not attic greek, ionian greek was used after 403/2 on inscriptions.

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Transfer of Treasury – 454 BC

Sources: Plutarch’s Life of Pericles


  • Pericles moved treasury from Delos to Athens, to “guard it from the Persians”. It was used to rebuild the acropolis, Pericles will have benefited from it because: would gain kleos, suggested all workmanship was needed so would give employment for “practically the whole city” & would create prosperity at same time.

  • any were unhappy at moving of League’s treasury from Delos to Athens because: some Athenians said Athens would lose its good reputation & be criticised by allies. Showed the imperial nature of athens.

    Plutarch seems reliable on this account as he is studing Pericles and this is one of pericles major events, and thus his account will be detailed.

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First Peloponnesian War 460 – 446 BC

Sources: Thucydides


  • Greece could not remain united after Persian Wars due to differing values. Thucydides portrays outbreak of Peloponnesian War as: precursor to main war, shows Athens’ becoming empire. After Helot revolt, Athens becomes allied to Argos, Sparta’s arch enemy. Megara threatened by Corinth, so broke from Sparta & looked to Athens for help.

    Thucydides can be seen as unreliable as pro athenian agenda due to being a stragos.

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Delian League Expedition to Egypt – 460-454 BC

Sources: Thucydides, Inscription of Erekhtheis Tribe


  • Thucydides says Libyan King Inaros asked for help, League sent 200 ships, was initially successful, War breaks out between Athens & Sparta in around 460/459, so expedition sends many ships home. Egypt king sends ambassador Megabazus to Sparta with money & proposed Sparta invades Attica. Greeks retreat to island, hold out for 18 months, n Persians divert waters, Prosopitis is captured. Few months later 50 triremes arrive but surprised by Persian troops & Phoenician ships.

  • Inscription of Erekhtheis Tribe tell us: number of Athenians dead (in 1 tribe), where Athenians went, shows expansionist policy.

    Sources can be seen as less reliable as thucydides omits details of expedition and inscription does also.

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Helot Revolt - 464-1 BC

<!-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->Sources: Thucydides, Plutarch Cimon


  • Thucydides says that the helots were the slave workers for the spartans, they revolted and sparta asked for athens help, when athens arrived they were rejected due to there revolutionary ideas such as democracy. Athens renounced old alliances and allied with argos, spartas enemy.

  • Plutarch concentrates on cimon and his exile.

    Sources less reliable and neither back up the other

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Revolt of Thasos – 465 BC

<!-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->Sources: Thucydides , Plutarch’s Life of Cimon


  • Thucydides said that Thasos had concerns about Athenians, dispute over markets and a gold mine nearby in Thrace. Athens wanted to found a colony along river, Thracians saw colony as a threat. In 3rd year of the siege, Thasos surrenders & submits to demolishing their walls, navy surrendered, had to pay tribute, lost rights to mines.

  • Plutarch said that Cimon leads successful fleet against Thasos – he took 33 ships and acquired the gold mines for Athens.

    Thucydides may have known about revolt of Thasos because he was stationed at Amphipolis and had gold mines around there.

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Battle of Eurymedon – 469 BC

<!-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->Sources: Thucydides , Plutarch’s Life of Cimon, Eurymedon Vase


  • Thucydides tells how naval & land forces defeated Persian troops & captured/destroyed 200 Phoenician warships

  • Plutarch said that Cimon led Greek fleet against Persians at Eurymedon, and he adapted 200 triremes of fleet to carry more hoplites. Triumph celebrated back in Athens, some plunder used to re-build part of Acropolis.

  • Euromedon vase shows Greeks feel Persians are feminine and easy to beat, that they were feared but not now.

    Thucydides account is brief as it is an overview, whereas Plutarch is focusing on one of Cimon’s achievements.

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Revolt of Naxos – 470/469 BC

<!-- @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->Sources: Thucydides

  • Content:

  • League moved against Naxos. As it wanted to leave League, but after siege, island persuaded to rejoin.
    Thucydides 1.98 states: “this was the first case when the original constitution of the League was broken and an allied city lost its independence…” Athens broke the const. because they used force on a allie.

  • Thucydides says Naxos wanted to leave because: didn’t want to give ships/tribute (wants independence) & Athens give out severe punishments for not meeting deadlines/requirements. Athens wanted Naxos back as: they lose tribute, damages unity of league and it is major route from Athens to Ionia.
    This account is so short & gives no detail of what actually happened, it is only a brief overview, not his agenda.
    Also writing with hindsight so probably showing how Athens gained control of League.

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Siege of Eion & Capture of Scyros – 477/476 BC & 4

  • Sources: Thucydides, Plutarch Life of Cimon


  • Thucydides said that Cimon led Greek fleet against Eion (still occupied by Persians). After lengthy siege, Eion captured & people enslaved, Cimon seized island of Scyros, populated by Dolopians. Thucydides says Cimon enslaved people & then colonized the island – rise of cleruchies (colonies).

  • Plutarch says states that they are pirates in Scyros. Cimon wanted to seize Eion & Scyros because: Persians at Eion & pirates at Scyros, would increase his kleos ( glory)

    Thucydides account is trying to demonstated his hypothesis ( that the peleponnesian war started because of the growth of athenian power) and thus may exaggerate the brutality to fit his argument, plutarch may also do the same as he is writing abouth the vices of the men.

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Formation of Delian League – 478/7 BC

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Sources: Herodotus,Plutarch Life of Aristeides, Thucydides, Diodorus, Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians.


  • Ten hellenotamiai set up to oversee treasury

  • first assessor was Aristides the just

  • Hellenotamiai oversaw tribute collections

  • Phoroi is important as it funds expeditions, can be used for athens gain and rebuilds naval power

  • Athens dominated leadership and administration

  • Athens’ executive & financial authority gave her huge influence – links to ASD and methone decree

    The sources are seen to be reliable as there are no contradictions between the 5 sources.

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