I have included only a few items concerning the history of this empire. A good source for more details can be
found on Wikipedia or in history books.
Ancient Greeks accepted the world map of Herodotus, which emphasized
the central importance of Greece. The city-state of Athens centered around a citadel called the Acropolis.
Circa 1412 BC, Athens was a center of the Mycenaean civilization.
Its judicial Council originally met on the Areopagus. In 594 BC, the Council
appointed Solon to create a new constitution, which was the foundation for
WARS WITH PERSIA:
From 499 to 493 BC, Ionian Cities revolted against the
Persian Empire and received military support from Athens and
Eretria in 498 BC. King Darius
defeated their forces in the Battle of Ephesus and at other locations, quashed the revolt
and mustered an army to punish the mainland Greeks. In 492 BC, Mardonius (son-in-law to Darius) reconquered
Thrace and made Macedon
a client state. A storm near Mount Athos
destroyed many of the Persian ships, which halted the campaign.
Darius sent warning to the Greek city-states in 491 BC, but Athens and Sparta
executed the ambassadors. A large naval force under admiral Datis and troops under Artaphemes succeeded in enslaving people
from many Greek islands and razed Eretria. Although they landed in the bay of Marathon,
Athenian and troops from Plataea soundly routed the Persians at the Battle of Marathon
in August/September 490 BC (see Picture).
In 480 BC, Persian king Xerxes I personally led a large army and naval
force against Greece. They crossed the Hellespont unopposed. Greeks originally planned
to stop the Persians at the Vale of Tempe, but reconsidered that
Thermopylae was better suited. The main Spartan army
delayed due to a religious ceremony, but king Leonidas I led his personal guard of 300
men, who all died in the Battle of Thermopylae.
Simultaneously, Greek naval forces defeated Persian ships in the Battle of Artemisium.
These actions allowed Greek city-states to prepare a defense. Athenians abandoned their city for safety on
During the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, the Persian admiral
(Ariabignes) died and a combined Greek naval fleet defeated the
forces of King Xerxes. Although Xerxes departed for home, he left
a powerful army behind, under the command of general Mardonius. In August 479 BC, a combined Greek force under Spartan
command defeated and killed Mardonius in the Battle of Plataea.
On the same day a Greek fleet under Spartan king Leotychides routed a
Persian army of 60,000 men at
Mount Mycale and destroyed their ships.
Athens formed the Delian League in 478 BC. The 150-173 member
city-states pledged to fight the Persian empire. The League's official headquarters was on the island of
Delos. In 454 BC, Pericles moved
the League's treasury from Delos to Athens, ostensibly to protect it after Persian general Megabyzus defeated Athenian
forces that aided a revolt in Egypt. Athens also
exercised increasing control over League members, which led to several unsuccessful revolts on
Naxos and Thasos.
EMPIRE AND PELOPONNESIAN WAR: (454-404 BC)
In 431 BC, a three-phase war started between Athens and the Spartan-led Peloponnesian League.
This ended in collapse of the Athenian Empire and Spartan conquest of Athens.
Phase One: Archidamian War
In 440 BC, Samos revolted against Athens and received immediate support from Persia.
Sparta considered aiding the rebels, but Corinth vetoed the idea. Athens crushed
the revolt and peace remained between the two Leagues. Conflict loomed after Athens aided the island of
Corcyra against Corinth in the Battle of Sybota (433 BC). Athens also provoked Megara, a Spartan ally, with stringent trade
sanctions. Corinth pressured Sparta, under King Archidamus II, to resist Athenian actions. Spartan land forces invaded
Athenian territory but could not triumph over naval forces, and the populous found refuge within the
Sparta lost battles at Pylos and
Sphacteria in 425 BC.
This phase ended in March 421 BC with a Peace of Nicias (aka Fifty-Year Peace).
Phase Two: Sicilian Expedition
In 415 BC, Athens sent a large expeditionary army
and naval force to attack Syracuse in
Sicily. Rationale was to support their
Sicilian allies, who were Ionian people similar to those of Athens. Sparta and Syracuse were allied Dorians.
Athens actually planned to use Sicily as a staging area for attacks on Carthage
and Magna Graecia.
Alcibiades led the ill-fated expedition, but defected to
Spartans at Syracuse when enemies in Athens plotted for his arrest on false charges.
General Nicias landed a force of 5,000 infantry but procrastinated his attack on Syracuse, which allowed
Sparta to send aid. In 414 BC, general Gylippus defeated the Athenians in a series of battles. Nicias also lost
a sea battle, failed to withdraw, and his entire force died or became slaves. Alcibiades returned to Athens
and, surprisingly, led the military in regaining much of the empire's lost territory.
Phase Three: Decelean or Ionian War
Sparta, with support from Persia, undermined Athens by aiding rebellions in
Ionia and the Aegean. In 406 BC, Spartan commander Lysander
defeated an Athenian fleet at Notium (near Claros). Spartan forces
also closed a crucial silver mine, freed 20,000 slaves and encouraged Ionian allies to abandon the Delian League.
Lack of support from Sparta and its allies resulted in Athens quashing the rebellion. Athens defeated
Spartan fleets at Cyzicus (410 BC) and Arginusae (406 BC). A foolish
decision to censure triumphant Athenian commanders allowed Lysander to capture the source of
Athens' grain, which resulted in starvation and Athenian surrender. He also defeated the Athenian fleet
at Aegospotami in 405 BC.