A Smaller History of Greece
From The Earliest Times To The Roman Conquest
By William Smith D.C.L., LL.D.
FROM THE END OF THE PERSIAN WARS TO THE BEGINNING OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR, B.C. 479-431.
The Athenians, on their return to Attica, after the defeat of the Persians, found their city ruined and their country desolate. They began to rebuild their city on a larger scale than before, and to fortify it with a wall. Those allies to whom the increasing maritime power of Athens was an object of suspicion, and especially the AEginetans, to whom it was more particularly formidable, beheld her rising fortifications with dismay. They endeavoured to inspire the Lacedaemonians with their fears, and urged them to arrest the work. But though Sparta shared the jealousy of the allies, she could not with any decency interfere by force to prevent a friendly city from exercising a right inherent in all independent states. She assumed therefore the hypocritical garb of an adviser and counsellor. Concealing her jealousy under the pretence of zeal for the common interests of Greece, she represented to the Athenians that, in the event of another Persian invasion, fortified towns would serve the enemy for camps and strongholds, as Thebes had done in the last war; and proposed that the Athenians should not only desist from completing their own fortifications, but help to demolish those which already existed in other towns.
The object of the proposal was too transparent to deceive so acute a statesman as Themistocles. Athens was not yet, however, in a condition to incur the danger of openly rejecting it; and he therefore advised the Athenians to dismiss the Spartan envoys with the assurance that they would send ambassadors to Sparta to explain their views. He then caused himself to be appointed one of these ambassadors; and setting off straightway for Sparta, directed his colleagues to linger behind as long as possible. At Sparta, the absence of his colleagues, at which he affected to be surprised, afforded him an excuse for not demanding an audience of the ephors.
During the interval thus gained, the whole population of Athens, of both sexes and every age, worked day and night at the walls, which, when the other ambassadors at length arrived at Sparta, had attained a height sufficient to afford a tolerable defence. Meanwhile the suspicions of the Spartans had been more than once aroused by messages from the AEginetans respecting the progress of the walls.
Themistocles, however, positively denied their statements; and urged the Spartans to send messengers of their own to Athens in order to learn the true state of affairs, at the same time instructing the Athenians to detain them as hostages for the safety of himself and colleagues. When there was no longer any motive for concealment, Themistocles openly avowed the progress of the works, and his intention of securing the independence of Athens, and enabling her to act for herself. The walls being now too far advanced to be easily taken, the Spartans found themselves compelled to acquiesce, and the works were completed without further hindrance.
Having thus secured the city from all danger of an immediate attack, Themistocles pursued his favourite project of rendering Athens the greatest maritime and commercial power of Greece. He erected a town round the harbour of Piraeus, distant between four and five miles from Athens, and enclosed it with a wall as large in extent as the city itself, but of vastly greater height and thickness. Meanwhile an event occurred which secured more firmly than ever the maritime supremacy of Athens, by transferring to her the command of the allied fleet.
In the year after the battle of Plataea a fleet had been fitted out and placed under the command of the Spartan regent, Pausanias, in order to carry on the war against the Persians. After delivering most of the Grecian towns in Cyprus from the Persians, this armament sailed up the Bosporus and laid siege to Byzantium, which was garrisoned by a large Persian force. The town surrendered after a protracted siege; but it was during this expedition that the conduct of the Spartan commander struck a fatal blow at the interests of his country.
The immense booty, as well as the renown, which Pausanias had acquired at Plataea, had filled him with pride and ambition. After the capture of Byzantium he despatched a letter to Xerxes, offering to marry the king's daughter, and to bring Sparta and the rest of Greece under his dominion. Xerxes was highly delighted with this letter, and sent a reply in which he urged Pausanias to pursue his project night and day, and promised to supply him with all the money and troops that might be needful for its execution. But the childish vanity of Pausanias betrayed his plot before it was ripe for execution.
Elated by the confidence of Xerxes, and by the money with which he was lavishly supplied, he acted as if he had already married the Great King's daughter. He assumed the Persian dress; he made a progress through Thrace, attended by Persian and Egyptian guards; and copied, in the luxury of his table and the dissoluteness of his manners, the example of his adopted country. Above all, he offended the allies by his haughty reserve and imperiousness. His designs were now too manifest to escape attention. His proceedings reached the ears of the Spartans, who sent out Dorcis to supersede him. Disgusted by the insolence of Pausanias, the Ionians serving in the combined Grecian fleet addressed themselves to Aristides, whose manners formed a striking contrast to those of the Spartan leader, and begged him to assume the command.
This request was made precisely at the time when Pausanias was recalled; and accordingly, when Dorcis arrived, he found Aristides in command of the combined fleet (B.C. 478).
This event was not a mere empty question about a point of honour. It was a real revolution, terminated by a solemn league, of which Athens was to be the head. Aristides took the lead in the matter, for which his proverbial justice and probity eminently qualified him. The league obtained the name of "the Confederacy of Delos," from its being arranged that deputies of the allies belonging to it should meet periodically for deliberation in the temple of Apollo and Artemis (Diana) in that island. Each state was assessed in a certain contribution, either of money or ships, as proposed by the Athenians and ratified by the synod. The assessment was intrusted to Aristides, whose impartiality was universally applauded. Of the details, however, we only know that the first assessment amounted to 460 talents (about 106,000L sterling), that certain officers called Hellenotamiae were appointed by the Athenians to collect and administer the contributions, and that Delos was the treasury.
Such was the origin of the Confederacy of Delos. Soon after its formation Aristides was succeeded in the command of the combined fleet by Cimon, the son of Miltiades.
Pausanias, on his return to Sparta, seems to have been acquitted of any definite charges; but he continued his correspondence with Persia, and an accident at length afforded convincing proofs of his guilt. A favourite slave, to whom he had intrusted a letter to the Persian satrap at Sardis, observed with dismay that none of the messengers employed in this service had ever returned. Moved by these fears, he broke the seal and read the letter, and finding his suspicions of the fate that awaited him confirmed, he carried the document to the ephors. But in ancient states the testimony of a slave was always regarded with suspicion.
The ephors refused to believe the evidence offered to them unless confirmed by their own ears. For this purpose they directed him to plant himself as a suppliant in a sacred grove near Cape Taenarus, in a hut behind which two of their body might conceal themselves. Pausanias, as they had expected, anxious at the step taken by his slave, hastened to the spot to question him about it. The conversation which ensued, and which was overheard by the ephors, rendered the guilt of Pausanias no longer doubtful. They now determined to arrest him on his return to Sparta. They met him in the street near the temple of Athena Chalcioecus (of the Brazen House), when Pausanias, either alarmed by his guilty conscience, or put on his guard by a secret signal from one of the ephors, turned and fled to the temple, where he took refuge in a small chamber belonging to the building.
From this sanctuary it was unlawful to drag him; but the ephors caused the doors to be built up and the roof to be removed, and his own mother is said to have placed the first stone at the doors. When at the point of death from starvation, he was carried from the sanctuary before he polluted it with his corpse. Such was the end of the victor of Plataea. After his death proofs were discovered among his papers that Themistocles was implicated in his guilt. But in order to follow the fortunes of the Athenian statesman, it is necessary to take a glance at the internal history of Athens.
The ancient rivalry between Themistocles and Aristides had been in a good degree extinguished by the danger which threatened their common country during the Persian wars. Aristides had since abandoned his former prejudices, and was willing to conform to many of the democratical innovations of his rival. The effect of this was to produce, soon after their return to Attica, a still further modification of the constitution of Clisthenes. The Thetes the lowest of the four classes of Athenian citizens, were declared eligible for the magistracy, from which they had been excluded by the laws of Solon. Thus not only the archonship, but consequently the Council of Areopagus, was thrown open to them; and, strange to say, this reform was proposed by Aristides himself.
Nevertheless party spirit still ran high at Athens. Cimon and Alcmaeon were violent opponents of Themistocles, and of their party Aristides was still the head. The popularity of Aristides was never greater than at the present time, owing not only to the more liberal spirit which he exhibited, but also to his great services in establishing the Confederacy of Delos. Themistocles had offended the Athenians by his ostentation and vanity. He was continually boasting of his services to the state; but worse than all this, his conduct was stained with positive guilt. Whilst, at the head of an Athenian squadron, he was sailing among the Greek islands for the ostensible purpose of executing justice, there is little room to doubt that he corrupted its very source by accepting large sums of money from the cities which he visited. Party spirit at length reached such a height that it was found necessary to resort to ostracism, and Themistocles was condemned to a temporary banishment (B.C. 471). He retired to Argos, where he was residing when the Spartans called upon the Athenians to prosecute their great statesman before a synod of the allies assembled at Sparta, on the ground of treasonable correspondence with Persia. Accordingly joint envoys were sent from Athens and Sparta to arrest him (B.C. 466).
Themistocles avoided the impending danger by flying from Argos to Corcyra. The Corcyraeans, however, not daring to shelter him, he passed over to the continent; where, being still pursued, he was forced to seek refuge at the court of Admetus, king of the Molossians, though the latter was his personal enemy. Fortunately, Admetus happened to be from home. The forlorn condition of Themistocles excited the compassion of the wife of the Molossian king, who placed her child in his arms, and bade him seat himself on the hearth as a suppliant. As soon as the king arrived, Themistocles explained his peril, and adjured him by the sacred laws of hospitality not to take vengeance upon a fallen foe.
Admetus accepted his appeal, and raised him from the hearth; he refused to deliver him up to his pursuers, and at last only dismissed him on his own expressed desire to proceed to Persia. After many perils, Themistocles succeeded in reaching in safety the coast of Asia. Artaxerxes, the son of Xerxes, was now upon the throne of Persia, and to him Themistocles hastened to announce himself. The king was delighted at his arrival, and treated him with the greatest distinction. In a year's time, Themistocles, having acquired a sufficient knowledge of the Persian language to be able to converse in it, entertained Artaxerxes with magnificent schemes for the subjugation of Greece. Artaxerxes loaded him with presents, gave him a Persian wife, and appointed Magnesia, a town not far from the Ionian coast, as his place of residence. after living there some time he was carried off by disease at the age of sixty-five, without having realised, or apparently attempted, any of those plans with which he had dazzled the Persian monarch.
Rumour ascribed his death to poison, which he took of his own accord, from a consciousness of his inability to perform his promises; but this report, which was current in the time of Thucydides, is rejected by that historian.
Aristides died about four years after the banishment of Themistocles. The common accounts of his poverty are probably exaggerated, and seem to have been founded on the circumstances of a public funeral, and of handsome donations made to his three children by the state. But whatever his property may have been, it is at least certain that he did not acquire or increase it by unlawful means; and not even calumny has ventured to assail his well-earned title of THE JUST.
On the death of Aristides, Cimon became the undisputed leader of the conservative party at Athens. Cimon was generous, affable, magnificent; and, notwithstanding his political views, of exceedingly popular manners. He had inherited the military genius of his father, and was undoubtedly the greatest commander of his time. He employed the vast wealth acquired in his expeditions in adorning Athens and gratifying his fellow- citizens. It has been already mentioned that he succeeded Aristides in the command of the allied fleet. His first exploits were the capture of Eion on the Strymon, and the reduction of the island of Scyros (B.C. 476). A few years afterwards we find the first symptoms of discontent among the members of the Confederacy of Delos. Naxos, one of the confederate islands, and the largest of the Cyclades, revolted in B.C. 466, probably from a feeling of the growing oppressiveness of the Athenian headship. It was immediately invested by the confederate fleet, reduced, and made tributary to Athens. This was another step towards dominion gained by the Athenians, whose pretensions were assisted by the imprudence of the allies.
Many of the smaller states belonging to the confederacy, wearied with perpetual hostilities, commuted for a money payment the ships which they were bound to supply; and thus, by depriving themselves of a navy, lost the only means by which they could assert their independence.
The same year was marked by a memorable action against the Persians. Cimon at the head of 200 Athenian triremes, and 100 furnished by the allies, proceeded to the coast of Asia Minor. The Persians had assembled a large fleet and army at the mouth of the river Eurymedon in Pamphylia. After speedily defeating the fleet, Cimon landed his men and marched against the Persian army which was drawn up on the shore to protect the fleet. The land- force fought with bravery, but was at length put to the rout.
The island of Thasos was the next member of the confederacy against which the Athenians directed their arms. After a siege of more than two years that island surrendered, when its fortifications were razed, and it was condemned to pay tribute (B.C. 463).
The expedition to Thasos was attended with a circumstance which first gives token of the coming hostilities between Sparta and Athens. At an early period of the blockade the Thasians secretly applied to the Lacedaemonians to make a diversion in their favour by invading Attica: and though the Lacedaemonians were still ostensibly allied with Athens, they were base enough to comply with this request. Their treachery, however, was prevented by a terrible calamity which befel themselves. In the year B.C. 461 their capital was visited by an earthquake which laid it in ruins and killed 20,000 of the citizens. But this was only part of the calamity. The earthquake was immediately followed by a revolt of the Helots, who were always ready to avail themselves of the weakness of their tyrants.
Being joined by the Messenians, they fortified themselves in Mount Ithome in Messenia. Hence this revolt is sometimes called the Third Messenian War (B.C. 464). after two or three years spent in a vain attempt to dislodge them from this position, the Lacedaemonians found themselves obliged to call in the assistance of their allies, and, among the rest, of the Athenians. It was with great difficulty that Cimon persuaded the Athenians to comply with this request; but he was at length despatched to Laconia with a force of 4000 hoplites. The aid of the Athenians had been requested by the Lacedaemonians on account of their acknowledged superiority in the art of attacking fortified places. As, however, Cimon did not succeed in dislodging the Helots from Ithome the Lacedaemonians, probably from a consciousness of their own treachery in the affair of Thasos, suspected that the Athenians were playing them false, and abruptly dismissed them, saying that they had no longer any occasion for their services.
This rude dismissal gave great offence at Athens, and annihilated for a time the political influence of Cimon. The democratical party had from the first opposed the expedition; and it afforded them a great triumph to be able to point to Cimon returning not only unsuccessful but insulted. That party was now led by Pericles. A sort of hereditary feud existed between Pericles and Cimon; for it was Xanthippus, the father of Pericles, who had impeached Miltiades, the father of Cimon. The character of Pericles was almost the reverse of Cimon's. Although the leader of the popular party, his manners were reserved. He appeared but little in society, and only in public upon great occasions. His mind had received the highest polish which that period was capable of giving. He constantly conversed with Anaxagoras, Protagoras, Zeno, and other eminent philosophers. To oratory in particular he had devoted much attention, as an indispensable instrument for swaying the public assemblies of Athens.
Pericles seized the occasion presented by the ill success of Cimon, both to ruin that leader and to strike a fatal blow at the aristocratical party. He deprived the Areopagus of its chief functions, and left it a mere shadow of its former influence and power. He rendered the election to magistracies dependent simply upon lot, so that every citizen however poor, had an equal chance of obtaining the honours of the state.
Other changes which accompanied this revolution--for such it must be called--were the institution of paid DICASTERIES or jury-courts, and the almost entire abrogation of the judicial power of the Senate of Five Hundred. It cannot be supposed that such fundamental changes were effected without violent party strife. The poet AEschylus, in the tragedy of the EUMENIDIES, in vain exerted all the powers of his genius in support of the aristocratical party and of the tottering Areopagus; his exertions on this occasion resulted only in his own flight from Athens. The same fate attended Cimon himself; and he was condemned by ostracism (B.C. 461) to a ten years' banishment. Nay, party violence even went the length of assassination. Ephialtes, who had taken the lead in the attacks upon the Areopagus, fell beneath the dagger of a Boeotian, hired by the conservative party to dispatch him.
It was from this period (B.C. 461) that the long administration of Pericles may be said to have commenced.
The effects of his accession to power soon became visible in the foreign relations of Athens. Pericles had succeeded to the political principles of Themistocles, and his aim was to render Athens the leading power of Greece. The Confederacy of Delos had already secured her maritime ascendency; Pericles directed his policy to the extension of her influence in continental Greece. She formed an alliance with the Thessalians, Argos, and Megara. The possession of Megara was of great importance, as it enabled the Athenians to arrest the progress of an invading army from Peloponnesus, AEgina, so long the maritime rival of Athens, was subdued and made tributary. The Athenians marched with rapid steps to the dominion of Greece. Shortly afterwards the battle of OEnophyta (B.C. 456), in which the Athenians defeated the Boeotians, gave Athens the command of Thebes, and of all the other Boeotian towns. From the gulf of Corinth to the straits of Thermopylae Athenian influence was now predominant.
During these events the Athenians had continued to prosecute the war against Persia. In the year B.C. 460 they sent a powerful fleet to Egypt to assist Inarus, who had revolted against Persia; but this expedition proved a complete failure, for at the end of six years the revolt was put down by the Persians, and the Athenian fleet destroyed (B.C. 455). At a later period (B.C. 449) Cimon, who had been recalled from exile, sailed to Cyprus with a fleet of 200 ships. He undertook the siege of Citium in that island; but died during the progress of it, either from disease or from the effects of a wound. Shortly afterwards a pacification was concluded with Persia, which is sometimes, but erroneously, called "the peace of Cimon."
It is stated that by this compact the Persian monarch agreed not to tax or molest the Greek colonies on the coast of Asia Minor, nor to send any vessels of war westward of Phaselis in Lycia, or within the Cyanean rocks at the junction of the Euxine with the Thracian Bosporus; the Athenians on their side undertaking to leave the Persians in undisturbed possession of Cyprus and Egypt. During the progress of these events, the states which formed the Confederacy of Delos, with the exception of Chios, Lesbos, and Samos, had gradually become, instead of the active allies of Athens, her disarmed and passive tributaries. Even the custody of the fund had been transferred from Delos to Athens. The purpose for which the confederacy had been originally organised disappeared with the Persian peace; yet what may now be called Imperial Athens continued, for her own ends, to exercise her prerogatives as head of the league. Her alliances, as we have seen, had likewise been extended in continental Greece, where they embraced Megara, Boeotia, Phocis, Locris, together with Troezen and Achaia in Peloponnesus. Such was the position of Athens in the year 448 B.C., the period of her greatest power and prosperity. From this time her empire began to decline; whilst Sparta, and other watchful and jealous enemies, stood ever ready to strike a blow.
In the following year (B.C. 447) a revolution in Boeotia deprived Athens of her ascendency in that country. With an overweening contempt of their enemies, a small band of 1000 Athenian hoplites, chiefly composed of youthful volunteers belonging to the best Athenian families, together with a few auxiliaries, marched under the command of Tolmides to put down the revolt, in direct opposition to the advice of Pericles, who adjured them to wait and collect a more numerous force. The enterprise proved disastrous in the extreme. Tolmides was defeated and slain near Chaeronea, a large number of the hoplites also fell in the engagement, while a still larger number were taken prisoners. This last circumstance proved fatal to the interests of Athens in Boeotia. In order to recover these prisoners, she agreed to evacuate Boeotia, and to permit the re-establishment of the aristocracies which she had formerly overthrown.
But the Athenian reverses did not end here. The expulsion of the partisans of Athens from the government of Phocis and Locris, and the revolt of Euboea and Megara, were announced in quick succession. The youthful Pleistoanax, king of Sparta, actually penetrated, with an army of Lacedaemonians and Peloponnesian allies, as far as the neighbourhood of Eleusis; and the capital itself, it is said, was saved only by Pericles having bribed the Spartan monarch. Pericles reconquered Euboea; but this was the only possession which the Athenians succeeded in recovering. Their empire on land had vanished more, speedily than it had been acquired; and they were therefore induced to conclude, at the beginning of B.C. 445, a THIRTY YEARS' TRUCE with Sparta and her allies, by which they consented to abandon all the acquisitions which they had made in Peloponnesus, and to leave Megara to be included among the Peloponnesian allies of Sparta.
From the Thirty Years' Truce to the commencement of the Peloponnesian war, few political events of any importance occurred. During these fourteen years (B.C. 445-431) Pericles continued to enjoy the sole direction of affairs. His views were of the most lofty kind. Athens was to become the capital of Greece, and the centre of art and refinement. In her external appearance the city was to be rendered worthy of the high position to which she aspired, by the beauty and splendour of her public buildings, by her works of art in sculpture, architecture, and painting, and by the pomp and magnificence of her religious festivals.
All these objects Athens was enabled to attain in an incredibly short space of time, through the genius and energy of her citizens and the vast resources at her command. No state has ever exhibited so much intellectual activity and so great a progress in art as was displayed by Athens in the period which elapsed between the Thirty Years' Truce and the breaking out of the Peloponnesian war. She was the seat and centre of Grecian literature. The three great tragic poets of Greece were natives of Attica. AEschylus, the earliest of the three, had recently died in Sicily; but Sophocles was now at the full height of his reputation, and Euripides was rapidly rising into notice. Aristophanes, the greatest of the Grecian comic poets, was also born in Attica, and exhibited plays soon after the beginning of the Peloponnesian war.
Herodotus, the Father of History, though a native of Halicarnassus in Asia Minor, resided some time at Athens, and accompanied a colony which the Athenians sent to Thurii in Italy. Thucydides, the greatest of Greek historians, was an Athenian, and was a young man at this period.
Colonization, for which the genius and inclination of the Athenians had always been suited, was another method adopted by Pericles for extending the influence and empire of Athens. The settlements made under his auspices were of two kinds CLERUCHIES, and regular colonies. The former mode was exclusively Athenian. It consisted in the allotment of land in conquered or subject countries to certain bodies of Athenians who continued to retain all their original rights of citizenship. This circumstance, as well as the convenience of entering upon land already in a state of cultivation instead of having to reclaim it from the rude condition of nature, seems to have rendered such a mode of settlement much preferred by the Athenians. The earliest instance which we find of it is in the year B.C. 506, when four thousand Athenians entered upon the domains of the Chalcidian knights (see Ch.5). But it was under Pericles that this system was most extensively adopted. During his administration 1000 Athenian citizens were settled in the Thracian Chersonese, 500 in Naxos, and 250 in Andros.
The islands of Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros, as well as a large tract in the north of Euboea, were also completely occupied by Athenian proprietors.
The most important colonies settled by Pericles were those of Thurii and Amphipolis. Since the destruction of Sybaris by the Crotoniates, in B.C. 509, the former inhabitants had lived dispersed in the adjoining territory along the gulf of Tarentum, In B.C. 443 Pericles sent out a colony to found Thurii, near the site of the ancient Sybaris. The colony of Amphipolis was founded some years later (B.C. 437), under the conduct of Agnon.
But Pericles, notwithstanding his influence and power, had still many bitter and active enemies, who assailed him through his private connections, and even endeavoured to wound his honour by a charge of peculation.
Pericles, after divorcing a wife with whom he had lived unhappily, took his mistress Aspasia to his house, and dwelt with her till his death on terms of the greatest affection. She was distinguished not only for her beauty, but also for her learning and accomplishments. Her intimacy with Anaxagoras, the celebrated Ionic philosopher, was made a handle for wounding Pericles in his tenderest relations. Paganism, notwithstanding its licence, was capable of producing bigots: and even at Athens the man who ventured to dispute the existence of a hundred gods with morals and passions somewhat worse than those of ordinary human nature, did so at the risk of his life. Anaxagoras was indicted for impiety. Aspasia was included in the same charge, and dragged before the courts of justice. Anaxagoras prudently fled from Athens, and thus probably avoided a fate which in consequence of a similar accusation afterwards overtook Socrates. Pericles himself pleaded the cause of Aspasia.
He was indeed indirectly implicated in the indictment; but he felt no concern except for his beloved Aspasia, and on this occasion the cold and somewhat haughty statesman, whom the most violent storms of the assembly could not deprive of his self-possession, was for once seen to weep. His appeal to the jury was successful, but another trial still awaited him. An indictment was preferred against his friend, the great sculptor Phidias, for embezzlement of the gold intended to adorn the celebrated ivory statue of Athena; and according to some, Pericles himself was included in the charge of peculation. Whether Pericles was ever actually tried on this accusation is uncertain; but at all events, if he was, there can be no doubt that he was honourably acquitted.
The gold employed in the statue had been fixed in such a manner that it could be detached and weighed, and Pericles challenged his accusers to the proof. But Phidias did not escape so fortunately. There were other circumstances which rendered him unpopular, and amongst them the fact that he had introduced portraits both of himself and Pericles in the sculptures which adorned the frieze of the Parthenon. Phidias died in prison before the day of trial.
The Athenian empire, since the conclusion of the Thirty Years' Truce, had again become exclusively maritime. Yet even among the subjects and allies united with Athens by the Confederacy of Delos, her sway was borne with growing discontent. One of the chief causes of this dissatisfaction was the amount of the tribute exacted by the Athenians, as well as their misapplication of the proceeds. In the time of Aristides and Cimon, when an active war was carrying on against the Persians, the sum annually collected amounted to 460 talents. In the time of Pericles, although that war had been brought to a close, the tribute had nevertheless increased to the annual sum of 600 talents.
Another grievance was the transference to Athens of all lawsuits, at least of all public suits; for on this subject we are unable to draw the line distinctly. In criminal cases, at all events, the allies seem to have been deprived of the power to inflict capital punishment. Besides all these causes of complaint, the allies had often to endure the oppressions and exactions of Athenian officers, both military and naval, as well us of the rich and powerful Athenian citizens settled among them.
In B.C. 440 Samos, one of the free independent allies already mentioned, revolted from Athens; but even this island was no match for the Athenian power. Pericles, who sailed against the Samians in person, defeated their fleet in several engagements, and forced the city to capitulate. The Samians were compelled to raze their fortifications, to surrender their fleet, to give hostages for their future conduct, and to pay the expenses of the war.
The triumphs and the power of Athens were regarded with fear and jealousy by her rivals; and the quarrel between Corinth and Corcyra lighted the spark which was to produce the conflagration. On the coast of Illyria near the site of the modern Durazzo, the Corcyraeans had founded the city of Epidamnus. Corcyra (now Corfu) was itself a colony of Corinth; and though long at enmity with its mother country, was forced, according to the time- hallowed custom of the Greeks in such matters, to select the founder of Epidamnus from the Corinthians.
Accordingly Corinth became the metropolis of Epidamnus as well as of Corcyra. At the time of which we speak, the Epidamnians, being hard pressed by the Illyrians, led by some oligarchical exiles of their own city, applied to Corcyra for assistance, which the Corcyraeans, being connected with the Epidamnian oligarchy, refused. The Epidamnians then sought help from the Corinthians, who undertook to assist them. The Corcyraeans, highly resenting this interference, attacked the Corinthian fleet off Cape Actium, and gained a signal victory (B.C. 435).
Deeply humbled by this defeat, the Corinthians spent the two following years in active preparations for retrieving it. The Corcyraeans, who had not enrolled themselves either in the Lacedaemonian or Athenian alliance, and therefore stood alone, were greatly alarmed at these preparations. They now resolved to remedy this deficiency; and as Corinth belonged to the Lacedaemonian alliance, the Corcyraeans had no option, and were obliged to apply to Athens.
The majority of the Athenians were ready to comply with their request; but in order to avoid an open infringement of the Thirty Years' Truce, it was resolved to conclude only a defensive alliance with Corcyra: that is, to defend the Corcyraeans in case their territories were actually invaded by the Corinthians, but beyond that not to lend them any active assistance. A small Athenian squadron of only 10 triremes was despatched to the assistance of the Corcyraeans. Soon after their arrival a battle ensued off the coast of Epirus, between the Corinthian and Corcyraean fleets. After a hard-fought day, victory finally declared in favour of the Corinthians. The Athenians now abandoned their neutrality, and did all in their power to save the dying Corcyraeans from their pursuers. This action took place early in the morning; and the Corinthians prepared to renew the attack in the afternoon, when they saw in the distance 20 Athenian vessels, which they believed to be the advanced guard of a still larger fleet. They accordingly sailed away to the coast of Epirus; but finding that the Athenians did not mean to undertake offensive operations against them, they departed homewards with their whole fleet. These events took place in the year B.C. 432.
The Corinthians were naturally incensed at the conduct of Athens; and it is not surprising that they should have watched for an opportunity of revenge. This was soon afforded them by the enmity of the Macedonian prince Perdiccas towards the Athenians. He incited her tributaries upon the coast of Macedonia to revolt, including Potidaea, a town seated on the isthmus of Pallene. Potidaea, though now a tributary of Athens, was originally a colony of the Corinthians, and received from them certain annual magistrates. Being urged as well by the Corinthians as by Perdiccas, the Potidaeans openly raised the standard of revolt (B.C. 432).
A powerful Athenian armament was despatched to the coast of Macedonia and laid siege to Potidaea.
Meanwhile the Lacedaemonians, urged on all sides by the complaints of their allies against Athens, summoned a general meeting of the Peloponnesian confederacy at Sparta. The Corinthians took the most prominent part in the debate; but other members of the confederacy had also heavy grievances to allege against Athens. Foremost among these were the Megarians, who complained that their commerce had been ruined by a recent decree of the Athenians which excluded them from every port within the Athenian jurisdiction. It was generally felt that the time had now arrived for checking the power of Athens. Influenced by these feelings, the Lacedaemonians decided upon war; and the congress passed a resolution to the same effect, thus binding the whole Peloponnesian confederacy to the same policy. This important resolution was adopted towards the close of B.C. 432, or early in the following year.
Before any actual declaration of war, hostilities were begun in the spring of B.C. 431 by a treacherous attack of the Thebans upon Plataea. Though Boeotians by descent, the Plataeans did not belong to the Boeotian league, but had long been in close alliance with the Athenians. Hence they were regarded with hatred and jealousy by the Thebans, which sentiments were also shared by a small oligarchical faction in Plataea itself. The Plataean oligarchs secretly admitted a body of 300 Thebans into the town at night; but the attempt proved a failure; the citizens flew to arms, and in the morning all the Thebans were either slain or taken prisoner.