Explain the methods used by the Athenians to transform the Delian League into the Athenian Empire.
The potential for the League’s conversion into an Athenian Empire existed on its establishment. Blinded by the Leagues’ original aims and with dissent suppressed by the vast military supremacy of the Athenians, the League would commence its march towards empire in the decades that followed its conception. Operating under the banner that league membership was permanent, Athens set out on a campaign of military subjugation and interference in affairs of other states. Their true goals however, were to expand their vast territory in an effort to maintain prestige and economic and military superiority.
On the Leagues’ establishment the potential for Empire was evident. She had considerable power from the outset and was the unanimous leader of the League holding Executive powers, as hegemon. Athenian Figures controlled both the League Naval Fleet, and Aristides assessed the level of tribute to be paid by member states. As the largest member of the league states, she had an unrivalled position at the head of the Synod and was able to privately influence the foreign policy decisions of smaller states. Although at this early stage of the Delian League’s existence the potential for Athens to further its power was existent, there is no evidence from archaeological or written sources to conclude that Athens’s people harboured imperial ambitions. Those aspirations would develop over the coming decades culminating in the realised dream.
The Radical democrats would cement themselves in Athenian decision making following Cimon’s ostracism in 461BC. In stark contrast to Cimon’s policies, the radical democrats would embark on an antagonistic imperial policy with three main pillars. Athen’s new course would see the continuation of her hostility towards the Persians but also see an aggressive stance towards the Spartans. The Athenian’s planned to exploit any Spartan weakness by creating a superior land empire in central Greece. The Radical policies would also see a continued dedication to the expansion of the League, and a shift to an egocentric outlook of its role.
465 BC would mark a distinct shift in Athens’ view of the League’s purpose. The revolt of Thasos would be the first occasion that Athen’s used the Delian Leagues resources for their own purposes. In the aftermath of a trading dispute, Thasos wished to secede from the League. Athens sieged Thasos with the intent of preventing the secession from occurring. It demonstrated that even though the Battle of Eurymedon had eliminated the Persian threat, and thus the reason of the League’s existence, Athens had no plans to allow member states to abscond from the league. Furthermore, increased pressure was placed in league members as relations between Athens and Sparta begun to deteriorate between 462-461
On the premise of a possible Phonecian raid in the Agean, the allied treasury at Delos was transferred to Athens. Prior to 454, the treasury was controlled by the Congress of Allies. However following the treasury’s move, it became assimilated into Athenian’s own treasury. The Athenians determined spending commitments without consulting other league members. This led to Pericles diverting funds into a building account. Essentially, Athen’s was reinforcing their city, and strengthening their army at the expense of their allies.
Athens power over its allies was cultivated under the influence of Cimon’s Pro Spartan Policy following his return from exile. A diverse array of techniques and methods were utilised to exert control and rebuild the loyalty of seditious allies. Athens involved herself in the domestic judicial affairs of league state. As early as 462, a decree existed establishing a judicial relationship between Athens and Phaselis. As time progressed the level of interaction amplified. The Erythrae Decree and finally the issuing of the Chalcis…