- Biographical Archive of the Middle Ages
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Initially, each city in the League would contribute ships and soldiers to a common army, but in time Athens allowed and then compelled the smaller cities to contribute funds so that it could supply their quota of ships. Secession from the League could be punished. Following military reversals against the Persians, the treasury was moved from Delos to Athens, further strengthening the latter's control over the League.
The Delian League was eventually referred to pejoratively as the Athenian Empire. After some inconclusive fighting, the two sides signed a peace in BC. That peace was stipulated to last thirty years: instead it held only until BC, with the onset of the Peloponnesian War.
The war began over a dispute between Corcyra and Epidamnus. Corinth intervened on the Epidamnian side. Fearful lest Corinth capture the Corcyran navy second only to the Athenian in size , Athens intervened. It prevented Corinth from landing on Corcyra at the Battle of Sybota , laid siege to Potidaea , and forbade all commerce with Corinth's closely situated ally, Megara the Megarian decree. There was disagreement among the Greeks as to which party violated the treaty between the Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues, as Athens was technically defending a new ally.
The Corinthians turned to Sparta for aid. Fearing the growing might of Athens, and witnessing Athens' willingness to use it against the Megarians the embargo would have ruined them , Sparta declared the treaty to have been violated and the Peloponnesian War began in earnest. The Athenian general Pericles recommended that his city fight a defensive war, avoiding battle against the superior land forces led by Sparta, and importing everything needful by maintaining its powerful navy. Athens would simply outlast Sparta, whose citizens feared to be out of their city for long lest the helots revolt.
This strategy required that Athens endure regular sieges , and in BC it was visited with an awful plague that killed about a quarter of its people , including Pericles. With Pericles gone, less conservative elements gained power in the city and Athens went on the offensive. It captured — Spartan hoplites at the Battle of Pylos.
This represented a significant fraction of the Spartan fighting force which the latter decided it could not afford to lose. Meanwhile, Athens had suffered humiliating defeats at Delium and Amphipolis. The Peace of Nicias concluded with Sparta recovering its hostages and Athens recovering the city of Amphipolis.
Biographical Archive of the Middle Ages
Those who signed the Peace of Nicias in BC swore to uphold it for fifty years. Initially, Sparta was reluctant, but Alcibiades , the Athenian general who had argued for the Sicilian Expedition, defected to the Spartan cause upon being accused of grossly impious acts and convinced them that they could not allow Athens to subjugate Syracuse. The campaign ended in disaster for the Athenians.
Athens' Ionian possessions rebelled with the support of Sparta, as advised by Alcibiades. In BC, an oligarchical revolt in Athens held out the chance for peace, but the Athenian navy, which remained committed to the democracy, refused to accept the change and continued fighting in Athens' name. The navy recalled Alcibiades who had been forced to abandon the Spartan cause after reputedly seducing the wife of Agis II , a Spartan king and made him its head. The oligarchy in Athens collapsed and Alcibiades reconquered what had been lost. The Spartan general Lysander , having fortified his city's naval power, won victory after victory.
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Following the Battle of Arginusae , which Athens won but was prevented by bad weather from rescuing some of its sailors, Athens executed or exiled eight of its top naval commanders. Lysander followed with a crushing blow at the Battle of Aegospotami in BC which almost destroyed the Athenian fleet.
Athens surrendered one year later, ending the Peloponnesian War.
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The war had left devastation in its wake. Discontent with the Spartan hegemony that followed including the fact that it ceded Ionia and Cyprus to the Persian Empire at the conclusion of the Corinthian War — BC ; see Treaty of Antalcidas induced the Thebans to attack. Macedon quickly forced the city states into being united by the League of Corinth which led to the conquering of the Persian Empire and the Hellenistic Age had begun. Although the establishment of Roman rule did not break the continuity of Hellenistic society and culture, which remained essentially unchanged until the advent of Christianity , it did mark the end of Greek political independence.
During the Hellenistic period, the importance of "Greece proper" that is, the territory of modern Greece within the Greek-speaking world declined sharply. See Hellenistic civilization for the history of Greek culture outside Greece in this period. Athens and her allies revolted against Macedon upon hearing that Alexander had died, but were defeated within a year in the Lamian War. Meanwhile, a struggle for power broke out among Alexander's generals, which resulted in the break-up of his empire and the establishment of a number of new kingdoms see the Wars of the Diadochi. Ptolemy was left with Egypt , Seleucus with the Levant , Mesopotamia , and points east.
Macedonian control of the city-states was intermittent, with a number of revolts. Athens , Rhodes , Pergamum and other Greek states retained substantial independence, and joined the Aetolian League as a means of defending it and restoring democracy in their states, whereas they saw Macedon as a tyrannical kingdom because of the fact they had not adopted democracy.
The Achaean League , while nominally subject to the Ptolemies was in effect independent, and controlled most of southern Greece. Sparta also remained independent, but generally refused to join any league. The cities were defeated and Athens lost her independence and her democratic institutions. This marked the end of Athens as a political actor, although it remained the largest, wealthiest and most cultivated city in Greece.
Sparta remained hostile to the Achaeans, and in BC invaded Achaea and seized control of the League. The remaining Achaeans preferred distant Macedon to nearby Sparta, and allied with the former. In BC, the Macedonian army defeated the Spartans and annexed their city—the first time Sparta had ever been occupied by a different state. Philip V of Macedon was the last Greek ruler with both the talent and the opportunity to unite Greece and preserve its independence against the ever-increasing power of Rome.
Under his auspices, the Peace of Naupactus BC brought conflict between Macedon and the Greek leagues to an end, and at this time he controlled all of Greece except Athens, Rhodes and Pergamum. Rome promptly lured the Achaean cities away from their nominal loyalty to Philip, and formed alliances with Rhodes and Pergamum, now the strongest power in Asia Minor. In BC, Rome defeated Carthage, and was free to turn her attention eastwards. Luckily for the Greeks, Flaminius was a moderate man and an admirer of Greek culture.
Philip had to surrender his fleet and become a Roman ally, but was otherwise spared. But the freedom promised by Rome was an illusion. All the cities except Rhodes were enrolled in a new League which Rome ultimately controlled, and aristocratic constitutions were favoured and actively promoted.
Militarily, Greece itself declined to the point that the Romans conquered the land BC onwards , though Greek culture would in turn conquer Roman life. The Romans divided the region into four smaller republics, and in BC Macedonia officially became a province, with its capital at Thessalonica. The rest of the Greek city-states gradually and eventually paid homage to Rome ending their de jure autonomy as well. The Romans left local administration to the Greeks without making any attempt to abolish traditional political patterns.
The agora in Athens continued to be the centre of civic and political life. Caracalla 's decree in AD, the Constitutio Antoniniana , extended citizenship outside Italy to all free adult men in the entire Roman Empire , effectively raising provincial populations to equal status with the city of Rome itself.
The importance of this decree is historical, not political. It set the basis for integration where the economic and judicial mechanisms of the state could be applied throughout the Mediterranean as was once done from Latium into all Italy.
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In practice of course, integration did not take place uniformly. Societies already integrated with Rome, such as Greece, were favored by this decree, in comparison with those far away, too poor or just too alien such as Britain, Palestine or Egypt.
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Caracalla's decree did not set in motion the processes that led to the transfer of power from Italy and the West to Greece and the East, but rather accelerated them, setting the foundations for the millennium-long rise of Greece, in the form of the Eastern Roman Empire , as a major power in Europe and the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages.
The leading role of Constantinople began when Constantine the Great turned Byzantium into the new capital of the Roman Empire, from then on to be known as Constantinople , placing the city at the center of Hellenism, a beacon for the Greeks that lasted to the modern era. The figures of Constantine the Great and Justinian dominated during — Assimilating the Roman tradition, the emperors sought to offer the basis for later developments and for the formation of the Byzantine Empire.
Efforts to secure the borders of the Empire and to restore the Roman territories marked the early centuries. At the same time, the definitive formation and establishment of the Orthodox doctrine, but also a series of conflicts resulting from heresies that developed within the boundaries of the empire, marked the early period of Byzantine history. In the first period of the middle Byzantine era — , the empire was attacked both by old enemies Persians , Lombards , Avars and Slavs as well as by new ones, appearing for the first time in history Arabs , Bulgars.
The main characteristic of this period was that the enemy attacks were not localized to the border areas of the state but they were extended deep beyond, even threatening the capital itself.