Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kimon and the Sea Raids of the Delian League

I am continuing to listen to the Teaching Comapany's lecture series "The Greek and Persian Wars" by Professor John Hale and today Professor Hale spent an entire lecture discussing the campaigns of the Delian League. For some reason, after listening to a number of other lectures about ancient Greek history, I had gotten the impression that, although the Delian League was formed to protect the Ionian Greek world from any new attacks by the Persians following the Persian defeats at Platea and Mycale, no such attacks subsequently occurred. So, Athens, as hegemon of the league, used the "protection" money to grow rich and become the Athenian empire.

However, this was apparently a misconception on my part. The Delian League lead by Kimon was quite active and went on the offensive against Persia after the formal battles of the Persian Wars had been won. Although these raids had the appearance of piracy, they were targeted specifically at Persian-controlled cities and actually garnered a large amount of booty that was split between the participating Ionian city-states and Athens with a further portion deposited in the League treasury on Delos.

Furthermore, Persia did begin to assemble another invasion fleet at the mouth of the Eurymedon River near the city of Cnidus on the southwest shore of Asia Minor. Kimon heard of these preparations and took the Delian fleet there and not only captured the Persian fleet and defeated the fleeing Persians on land but turned around and, using the captured Persian vessels, duped an oncoming Phoenician fleet into thinking the approaching ships were just welcoming them to the invasion force, and captured them as well.

I wonder why we seem to hear so much about the victories at Salamis and Platea but this astounding double victory by the Delian League seems to be virtually ignored by so many Greek scholars? I had also not heard of (or don't remember - I get older every day!) the battle at Mount Mycale either, for that matter, until I listened to this lecture series. It just seems that most authors focus on the "big four" - Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Platea when writing about the Persian Wars. Likewise, we often hear about Miltiades, Leonidas, Themistocles, and Pausanias but seldom (if ever) about the equally impressive exploits of Leotychides, Xanthippos, Aristides the Just, and Kimon.

Another thing I found interesting was that the "protection" money paid by members of the Delian League was essentially money that was diverted from previous Persian tribute. Aristides the Just, chosen to organize the Delian League, ruled that cities could contribute either money or men and/or ships so cash-strapped cities would not have to further impoverish their citizens. I realize Athens later took advantage of these arrangements but the League did initially serve its members well and enriched them with spoils. It was not (at least in the beginning) engineered to simply exploit its non-Athenian members.