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Monday, May 15, 2017

044 - Democracy under Pericles

In this episode, we discuss the democratic machinations of Classical Athens in the mid-to-late 5th century BC; including the role that the Athenian statesman Pericles had on the radicalization of Athenian democracy, the magistracies, the ekklesia, the boule and prytaneis, the law courts and jurors, contemporary critiques of Athenian democracy, and the economics of running the democracy (through a system of public donations known as the liturgies)

Primary Sources:
Text/Aristotle's The Athenian Constitution

Monday, May 8, 2017

043 - Imperial Athens

In this episode, we discuss the years spanning 454-446 BC, covering Athens' increasingly imperialistic behavior and the final years of the First Peloponnesian War

Following the disastrous Egyptian expedition, numerous cities from the Delian League revolted, including Erythrae and Miletus. At the same time, a famine rocked Attica. This led the Athenians to change their stance in a significant way. When Cimon returned from his ten years of ostracized exile,  he and Pericles reconciled with the understanding that he would lead the army and make war with Persia, while Pericles went about implementing his domestic policies. So a five years’ peace with Sparta was agreed upon, and Cimon led a fleet to Cyprus, where he died while besieging Kition. His fleet, though, trounced the Persian navy on both sea and land near Salamis on Cyprus. This lead to the so-called Peace of Callias, effectively bringing the Persian wars to a close. Athens now began to act as an openly imperial city. A Panhellenic Congress was called by Pericles in which it was decided that money from the league’s treasury will be used to rebuild the temples throughout Attica that had been sacked by the Persians, kicking off the so-called Periclean building program. A considerable number of cities stopped sending tribute, including Colophon and Miletus, and so the Athenians put down their revolts with the use of force. The Athenians also enforced the use of standard Athenian coins, weights, and measures throughout the empire and laid down a strict procedure for the transport of tribute to Athens. Meanwhile, the Spartans engaged in a “sacred war” to remove control of the Oracle of Apollo from the Phocians and give it back to the Delphians and then returning home, along the way spreading anti-Athenian propaganda among the Boeotian cities. Athens responded by taking the oracle away from the Delphians and giving it back to their allies, the Phocians, but they soon found that oligarchic uprisings were happening throughout Boeotia. Tolmades’ army was ambushed and annihilated at Coronea, effectively bringing a collapse to the Athenian Land Empire in central Greece. This defeat, however, triggered rebellions at Megara and Euboea. Sparta sought to take advantage of the situation and the Spartan king, Pleistoanax, marched an army towards Attica. When both sides met near Eleusis, though, Pleistoanax and Pericles had a meeting and then the Spartans marched home. Then, although Megara was lost for good, the Athenians crushed the Euboeans and brought them back into the empire. Upon returning home, Pleistoanax was charged with bribery by the Spartan hawks and his fine was so large that he was forced into exile. However, even if money hadn’t changed hands, the Spartans came to the realization that their exiled king was being wise, and so the Athenians and Spartans agreed to the Thirty Year’s Peace, thus bringing an end to the First Peloponnesian War.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

042 - The Undeclared War

In this episode, we discuss the years spanning 461-454 BC, covering the early part of the First Peloponnesian War / "The Undeclared War" 

The balance of power shifted towards Athens, when Megara flipped sides, creating a wall between the Peloponnese and Attica. When the Spartans peacefully settled with the helots at Mt Ithome, Athens settled them in Naupactus, angering the Spartans and causing further alarm for the Corinthians, who saw Athenian encroachment on their western trade routes. War began on land and sea around the Saronic Gulf between Athens and Argos against the Corinthians, Epidaurians, and Aeginetans. At the same time, the Athenians sent a force to aid the Egyptians in revolt against the Persians. After an initial victory, the Persian garrison was held up in Memphis and placed under siege. Artaxerxes ordered Themistocles to lead an army to put down the revolt but he refused to fight against his fellow Athenians and so he committed suicide. Meanwhile, the Athenians continued to fight against the Corinthians on land, until finally the Spartans entered the fray. The Spartans, after linking up with the Thebans in Boeotia, won a narrow victory over the Athenians at Tanagra, but suffered heavy casualties in the process, causing them to head back to Sparta. The Athenians rebounded and won a decisive victory over the Boeotians at Oenophyta, with the result that most of Boeotia, Phocis, and Locris fell under their dominion. That same year, the Athenians forced the Aeginetans to surrender and become a subject ally. The Athenians followed this up with a series of raids all along the Peloponnesian coast and gained greater naval control of Corinthian Gulf. Athens’ remarkable string of successes came to a crashing halt in Egypt, as the Persian army finally responded to the revolt and utterly destroyed the Athenian and rebel forces. As a consequence, there was a whole rash of rebellions in the Delian League, and the Athenians moved the league treasury from Delos to the Athenian Acropolis.