Essay Example on The international political scene with the Persian Wars









The classical age opened on the international political scene with the Persian wars and with the decisive contribution of Athens for the victory over the barbarian The first signs of the conflict were in Asia Minor where the Persians in 494 tamed a revolt in the blood of the cities of Ionia after the war on two occasions it was brought to the Hellenic soil In 490 Darius after destroying Eretria landed his army in Attica but was stopped by the Athenians in the plain of Marathon In 480 Xerxes involved all the cities of Greece in a single conflict which with few exceptions resisted in arms united in a great Panhellenic League led by Sparta Defeated at Thermopylae the Greeks succeeded in eradicating the enemy at Salamis and at Plataea The battle of Salamina marked the decisive stage of the victory the success was the sole merit of Athens and of the naval armaments policy desired by Temistocle From that moment Athens could rightly claim to have opposed alone to the barbarian for the liberty of all Greece and could exploit the prestige conquered to develop a policy that in the fifty years between the Persian conflict and the Peloponnesian war determined the rise of the city In this period which is defined by the name of pentecontety 478 431 

Athens reached its peak and was able to ideologically propagate a double ideal of struggle against Persia in the name of the principles of freedom against Sparta in name of the principles of democracy It was at that time that Athens thanks to some great men like Ephialte and Pericles elaborated a democratic constitution with a direct character that remained a model of perfection in all times for it basically any citizen even the less wealthy could reach the maximum public offices and theoretically at least once in his life to aspire to the presidency of the State for the duration of twenty four hours At the same time Athens united the main poleis of the Aegean and the Ionian coast together in a single defensive confederation the Lega Delio Attica developing a highly effective instrument of war of which it alone held the command The confederation born as a function of the struggle against the barbarian soon became an instrument of power and imperialist aggression by the dominant city which increasingly tended to consider its allies as subjects At the height of its splendor Athens achieved the utmost expression of a democratic structure while outside it carried out an imperialist and anti democratic policy towards brother peoples this contradiction marked the limits of his power the increasingly pronounced imbalance between citizens and allied subjects was the first cause of its decadence Indeed the contrast between 

Athens and the allies offered Sparta the right for the frontal collision and to triumph over the rival Thus came the Peloponnesian War 431 404 which wiped out the two main cities of Greece for thirty years and ended with Sparta s victory Athens was the victim of its own contradictions but also in the hour of danger of the inevitable demagogic degeneration of its democratic institutions The historical map of classical Greece is on page 221 of the 11th volume For classical Greece see the map at the end of the 10th volume The following decades were marked by an ephemeral Spartan hegemony over Greece but the imposition of Spartan garrisons and oligarchic governments soon raised the main Greek cities against Sparta Athens rising from its prostration following the Peloponnesian War still opposed Sparta with Thebes Argo and Corinth in the Corinthian war 395 386 After the general peace imposed by the king of the Persians to Greece under the control of Sparta Peace of Antalcida 386 Athens succeeded in reconstituting on new bases the Naval League 379 but found no more internal energy and external political space to regain that role of hegemonic power which in the decade 371 362 was assumed by Thebes

This with Pelopida with Epaminondas succeeded in bringing his victorious weapons to the heart of Thessaly and the Peloponese causing such a sudden rupture of international equilibrium to even push Athens towards a rapprochement with Sparta But the Theban hegemony was solely linked to the military success and political genius of its two great leaders dead the city was unable to exploit and impose the new role of great power In the political crisis that the main cities of Greece were now shaking the idea of constituting a Panhellenic confederation of a supercittadin character became increasingly common The Greeks had now reached the antithesis of the polis projected towards an unattainable ideal without renouncing the municipal conception of the city state But precisely this unitary instance this propagandistic formula vainly stirred up by contemporary publicity offered the right to Macedonia to interfere with increasing insistence on Greek issues up to overwhelm in arms in 338 the last league of Greece of the poleis in the plain of Cheronea The Panhellenic ideal was formally realized in the League of Corinth presided over by Philip II offering however in the holocaust to the foreigner the municipal autonomy and national freedom

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