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Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4

Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4 Discussion of Term 2 Lecture 3: Imperialism in the 4th century

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  1. •What do you think Athens was trying to achieve in terms of foreign policy in the first half of the 4th century? •To what extent was the Second Athenian League successful? •How do you think Athens’ foreign policy affected its democratic development and operation in the 4th century?
  2. With regard to the Second Athenian League, the crucial inscription on this matters is the Aristoteles stele (377BC; IG II² 43). The original text can be summarised as follows: ( ) 16ff (summarised): (20) The allies are to be free and autonomous. (20f) The allies are to govern according to their nomoi. (21-3) There are to be no garrisons or governors exacting tribute on the allies. (25-31) On entering an alliance with the Athenians, any Athenians living in that territory are to hand over their goods as insurance. (35-46) It shall not be permitted for Athenians to own property in allied territory. If this occurs, it is to be reported to the synedroi, who will auction the property and give a half to the in-former and the rest as common to the allies. (46-51) The Athenians will give aid to any ally under attack. (51-63) If anyone tries to usurp the contents of this decree by proposing a motion in Athens, he is to lose his civic rights and property. This decree specifies the conditions for membership to the Second Athenian League, and they are radically different to the practises exercised in the 5th century. It should be noted that it is a historical controversy whether or not these promises were betrayed or kept. Hammond (1967, pp.503; IG I2 123) has pointed out that Athenian troops were later stationed in the island of Andros – an Athenian inscription testifies to this: “So th[a]t And[ros] may b[e] sa[fe] for the d[emos] of (the) Athe[ni]ans [and] for the demos of (the) Andrians, and (that) th[e] garrison troops on A[ndro]s [may] have (their) p[a]y out of the syntaxeis ac[cord]in[g to t]h dog[mat]a of t[h]e allies, and (that) the guard may] not be terminated, a ge[n]era[l] is to be chosen [ou]t of those having been elected, [w]h[o], having been [cho]s[en], is to collect the [mo]ney from (the) is[lands] which [is] ow[ed] to [t]he soldiers [on Andros a]nd to turn (it) over to th[e governor on] Andros, so that [the soldiers] may [hav]e (their) pa[y…]” He uses this inscription to support his view of the Second Athenian League as a kind of ‘empire strikes back’, but it is important to realise that the Andros inscription makes a fundamental distinction. That the Athenians are there ‘by the dogmata of the allies’; this is not the case of Athens doing whatever it wants, the other league members wanted Andros to be garrisoned probably for its own protection (cf. Cargill, 1981, pp. 155 ff.) In my view Athens was probably looking to rectify the diplomatic quagmire that it created in the 5th century; alienation of Sicily and Egypt led to reduced grain supplies and economic stagnation. Athens had neither the funds nor the will to fund an ‘empire’, what she was trying to was convince the Greek world of her sincerity to encourage investment. In this light we should also see the ‘honorific sales’ and a greater focus of the Athenians in exploiting local resources i.e. the Laurium mines.
  3. • What do you think Athens was trying to achieve in terms of foreign policy in the first half of the 4th century? The international standing of Athens had significantly decreased following the humiliating and crippling defeat in the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC and the aftermath of subservience to Sparta. Subsequently Athens was now looking to return to its place as the most powerful city in Greece, but it was a long way to the top. Thebes had come out of left field and, following the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC, was the new ‘power’ city in place of Sparta. Athens needed to get back in the game of foreign policy, and this would require strong resources, as well as a strong ideology (hence the new hard-line approach to democracy) to keep the city of Athens united within itself. • To what extent was the Second Athenian League successful? Despite its huge membership of 75, the second Athenian League of 378 BC seems to me to have been rather unsuccessful, although it did seem to serve Athens as a method by which the city could at least vaguely associate itself with other powers, especially the dark horse Thebes. The wording of the treaty seems to carry little meaning in practice, other than its attempt to stay within the bounds of the King’s Peace. Although the league was officially disbanded in 338 BC, long before this (soon after its establishment!) its very nature – that is, anti-Spartan – was contradicted when in 369 BC Athens teamed up with Sparta against Thebes, which was still a member of the league. Thebes betrays the league in 366 by encouraging members to leave; and in 362 at the Battle of Mantinea Athens yet again fights Thebes. This league can hardly be called a success because, despite its initial popularity, this is quickly shown to be thin support as within three years the ‘social war’ begins, and several members launch a rebellion against their very own league. • How do you think Athens’ foreign policy affected its democratic development and operation in the 4th century? As I have mentioned, I think the hard-line approach to democracy which Athens adopted was in light of the requirement for immediate unity, at least from an outside perspective. Athens does present a united front, albeit rather flawed within as we have seen, and is able to return to some of its former glory in foreign policy.
  4. •What do you think Athens was trying to achieve in terms of foreign policy in the first half of the 4th century? Whenever a powerful state such as Athens loses power, the natural feeling within the polis would be to try and restore itself to its previous position. However, the 4th century saw the rise of other poleis to prominence, mainly Thebes, and therefore this would be more difficult, as in the 5th century, Sparta was, when considering Greek states, effectively their only major threat. Therefore, the idea behind their foreign policy was to secure relations with other states, and try and return to a more prominent position in the heirachy of the Greek poleis. •To what extent was the Second Athenian League successful? It depends on what scale you measure success; initially, and in terms of popularity, the 75 states that joined certainly suggest that there was a lot of interest in having the Athenians as allies. Particularly considering only a century before had a similar league commissioned by the Athenians led to their Empire, it does seem surprising that so many poleis wanted to join. However, I suppose that this is down to the change in attitude; the inscriptions from last lecture offer a similar interpretation, as they seem to denote that there would have existed a level of equality and choice between Athens and the other states. However, if you measure success on preventing conflict, fulfilling aims, and longevity, the league is less successful, as the Theban threat reduces the member count, and inevitably leads to battles. There is also the alliance that takes place between the Athenians and the Spartans, who were one of the antagonists of the League, and demonstrates a Greek poleis short-term views, as well as short-term memory. •How do you think Athens’ foreign policy affected its democratic development and operation in the 4th century? There does seem to have been an increase in democratic participation; whether this is due to better record-keeping or simply more interest the second time around is difficult to tell. Certainly, in times of conflict, cities can be liable for perhaps sacrificing their initial plans in favour of survival and victory, but it does appear that Athens' democracy does seem to grow during the formation of the 2nd Athenian League, so it seems to have affected it positively. There is always the speculation though that Athens may have become even stronger had they focused on themselves rather than concerned themselves with other poleis (i.e. the 'Spartan' way of doing things), but it seems the Theban and Spartan threats wasn't going away, so I understand their decision to re-ally themselves with other poleis.
  5. *What do you think Athens was trying to achieve in terms of foreign policy in the first half of the 4th century? * Athenian foreign policy at the beginning of the 4th century appears to have revolved around preventing another polis from becoming the dominant power in Greece (as they were for a vast portion of the 5th century.) Essentially their alliance with Argos, Corinth and Boiotia and the Second Athenian League aimed to diminish Sparta’s power and influence. Their reluctance for one dominant polis to govern Greece is evident in their refusal to fight in the battle of Leuctra and their disregard for the Theban victory. Despite this aversion to a dominant power they did not wish to impose upon other places as before and actually sought peace and were very welcome to foreigners in Athens and were keen for non-Athenians to hold leadership positions. * * *To what extent was the Second Athenian League successful? * What the primary aim of the Second Athenian League was and whether they achieved this aim must first be understood in order to debate how successful it was. I would argue that the League was a tool to for Athens to maintain peaceful relationships with the other poleis. As a result of this they did not impose garrisons and governors or demand payment of tribute but simply asked for defensive aid if necessary. In this sense the league was very successful as it had over 70 members who were willingly in alliance with Athens and Athens successfully managed to avoid conflict with Persia or Greek cities battling for dominance. * * *How do you think Athens’ foreign policy affected its democratic development and operation in the 4th century? * Without an empire to govern and manage the Athenians would be able to focus solely on their own domestic issues. For example in the 5th century Athens sent governors and garrisons to their subjects, certain men had to go round the islands to check that the correct amount of tribute was paid and others went to impose democracy on the members of the empire. Moreover there were fewer men remaining in Attica to focus on the governing of their own political system, and some of those who were in Attica were preoccupied with foreign policy such as organising the tribute from the subjects. Without the burden of an active empire, the Athenians could pay more attention to their own domestic needs.

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