The Growth of the Athenian Empire

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The Growth of the Athenian Empire  479-462 BC

A Greek BoatThe history of this time with its rush of events and its startling changes exhibits on the Athenian side a picture of astonishing and almost preternatural energy.  The transition from the Athenian hegemony to the Athenian empire was doubtless gradual, so that no one could determine precisely where the former ends and the latter begins: but it had been consummated before the thirty years’ truce, which was concluded fourteen years before the Peloponnesian War, and it was in fact the substantial cause of that war.  Empire then came to be held by Athens, partly as a fact established, resting on acquiescence rather than attachment or consent in the minds of the subjects, partly as a corollary from necessity of union combined with her superior force: while this latter point, superiority of force as a legitimate title, stood more and more forward, both in the language of her speakers and in the conceptions of her citizens.  Nay, the Athenian orators of the middle of the Peloponnesian War venture to affirm that their empire had been of this same character ever since the repulse of the Persians: an inaccuracy so manifest, that if we could suppose the speech made by the Athenian Euphemus at Camarina in 415 B.C., to have been heard by Themistocles or Aristides fifty years before, it would have been alike offensive to the prudence of the one and to the justice of the other.

The imperial state of Athens, that which she held at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, when her allies, except Chios and Lesbos, were tributary subjects, and when the AEgean Sea was an Athenian lake, was of course the period of her greatest splendour and greatest action upon the Grecian world.  It was also the period most impressive to historians, orators, and philosophers, suggesting the idea of some one state exercising dominion over the AEgean, as the natural condition of Greece, so that if Athens lost such dominion, it would be transferred to Sparta, holding out the dispersed maritime Greeks as a tempting prize for the aggressive schemes of some new conqueror, and even bringing up by association into men’s fancies the mythical Minos of Crete, and others, as having been rulers of the AEgean in times anterior to Athens.

Even those who lived under the full-grown Athenian empire had before them no good accounts of the incidents between 479-450 B.C.; for we may gather from the intimation of Thucydides, as well as from his barrenness of facts, that while there were chroniclers both for the Persian invasion and for the times before, no one cared for the times immediately succeeding.  Hence, the little light which has fallen upon this blank has all been borrowed – if we except the careful Thucydides – from a subsequent age; and the Athenian hegemony has been treated as a mere commencement of the Athenian empire: credit has been given to Athens for a long-sighted ambition, aiming from the Persian War downwards at results which perhaps Themistocles may have partially divined, but which only time and successive accidents opened even to distant view.

Excerpt from The Historians’ History of the World by Henry Smith Williams – 1907

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Further Reading and External Links

iTunes U – FREE Video – Ancient Greek History

More on Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece for History-World.org

Making of the Athenian Empire

THE MAKING OF THE ATHENIAN EMPIRE (479 BC – 445 BC)

The Long Walls of AthensThe Rebuilding of Athens; the Fortifications of the Piraeus.

After the battle of Plataea and the expulsion of the barbarians from Greece, the Athenians who had found an asylum at Salamis, AEgina, and other places returned to Athens.  They found only a heap of ruins where their city had once stood. Under the lead of Themistocles, the people with admirable spirit set themselves to the task of rebuilding their homes and erecting new walls.

The rival states of the Peloponnesian League watched the proceedings of the Athenians with the most jealous interest.  The Spartans sent an embassy to dissuade them from rebuilding their walls, hypocritically assigning as the ground of their interest in the matter their fear lest, in case of another Persian invasion, the city, if captured, should become a stronghold for the enemy.  But the Athenians persisted in their purpose, and soon had raised the wall to such a height that they could defy interference.

At the same time that the work of restoration was going on at Athens, the fortifications at Piraeus were being enlarged and strengthened.  That Athens’ supremacy depended upon control of the sea had now become plain to all.  Consequently the haven town was surrounded with walls even surpassing in strength the new walls of the upper city.  The Piraeus soon grew into a bustling commercial city, one of the chief centers of trade in the Hellenic world.

1 (478-477 B.C.) . 1A few years after this Themistocles fell into disfavor and was ostracized (471 BC).  He finally bent his steps to Susa, the Persian capital.  King Artaxerxes appointed him governor of Magnesia in Asia Minor and made provision for his wants by assigning to three cities the duty of providing for his table: one was to furnish bread, a second wine, and a third meat.    Piutarch relates that one day as the exile sat down to his richly loaded board he exclaimed, “How much we should have lost, my children, if we had not been ruined I” He died probably about 460 BC.

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Further Reading and External Links

iTunes U – FREE Video – Ancient Greek History

More on Themistocles

An Exhausted Volcano

 

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AN EXHAUSTED VOLCANO – 1780-1788
CHAPTER XX

John Wilkes – Porcelain Figure in British MuseumIN the summer that followed the melancholy visit to Bath, when Wilkes had sat and sighed in Mrs. Stafford’s empty home, he was once more in the midst of a political tumult that affected his reputation more considerably than any event since his release from prison.  After having caused the rising of a hundred mobs, he was obliged at last to take his share in quelling the fiercest riot that the capital had ever seen.  A woeful object lesson showed him the fallacy of the convenient doctrine that “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”  For the first time since the accession of George the Third, he found himself on the side of the Government.  It was the outbreak of the Gordon Riots that caused this remarkable tergiversation, and he played his new role as resolutely as he had played the demagogue.  

One of the periodical epidemics of religious intolerance had swept over the kingdom.  All the legions of rabid Protestantism were ablaze with wrath because Parliament had put an end to the persecution of Catholics by allowing them the right to worship in their own faith and by removing the penalties under which their property had been liable to forfeiture.  With Lord George Gordon as their hysterical leader, the most combative of the fanatics began a fierce agitation against “Popery,” and it was resolved that a procession of twenty thousand malcontents should march to St. Stephen’s with a petition for the repeal of the Relief Act.  On the appointed day a turbulent mob, three times as large as was expected, surged around the walls of Westminster Palace.  The demonstration speedily became a riot.  Maddened by religious bigotry the crowd was determined that Parliament should obey its commands.  Every member, as he made his way through Palace Yard, was obliged to assume the blue cockade, and to promise that he would vote for the repeal of the obnoxious laws.  All who were suspected of sympathising with the Catholics were seized and beaten, some of them being grievously hurt before they could be rescued.  With wild shouts of “No Popery,” a multitude forced its way into the lobbies, where Lord George Gordon addressed them in an incendiary speech, denouncing his fellow-members as the emissaries of Rome.  For several hours both the Lords and the Commons were kept prisoners in their respective Houses, waiting, sword in hand, for the onslaught of the rioters, who were expected every moment to burst through the locked doors.  It was not until the arrival of the Guards that Parliament was rescued from its humiliating position, when the mob withdrew without any attempt at resistance, manifesting its zeal for the Protestant faith by burning two Catholic chapels near Golden Square and Lincoln’s Inn Fields before it dispersed into the slums.

Excerpt from Life of John Wilkes by Horace Bleackley – 1907

Chapter 20 –  An Exhausted Volcano

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Further Reading and External Links

The National Archives – The second half of the 18th century saw a flowering of ideas concerning popular rights. In the 1760s, many of these concern John Wilkes MP.

Remember John Wilkes
The radical, journalist and politician, John Wilkes, is remembered by a statue on Fetter Lane in the City of London.

John Wilkes on Google Books

Battle of Marathon

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The Battle of Marathon (490 B.c.).

Battle of Marathon The Athenians made surpassing efforts to avert from their city the impending destruction.  Instead of awaiting behind their walls the coming of the Persians, they decided to offer them battle in the open field at Marathon.  Accordingly they marched out ten thousand strong.

While the Athenians were getting ready for the fight, a fleet runner, Phidippides by name, was hurrying with a message to Sparta for aid.  The practical value of the athletic training of the Greeks

1 It is impossible to reach any certainty as to the size of the Persian army. The lowest figures given by any ancient authority is 210,000, while the estimates of modern military experts and historians vary from 200,000 to 20,000. This last number is the estimate of Eduard Meyer.

was now shown.  In just thirty-six hours Phidippides was in Sparta, which is one hundred and thirty-five or forty miles from Athens.  Now it so happened that it lacked a few days of the full of the moon, during which interval the Spartans, owing to an old superstition, dared not set out upon a military expedition. 1  Nevertheless, they promised aid, but marched from Sparta only in time to reach Athens after all was over.

The Plataeans, however, firm and grateful friends of the Athenians on account of the protection accorded them by Athens against the Thebans, no sooner had received their appeal for help than they responded to a man, and joined them at Marathon with a thousand heavy-armed soldiers.

The Athenians and their faithful allies took up their position just where the hills of Pentelicus sink into the plain of Marathon, thus covering the road to Athens.  The Persian army occupied the low ground in their front, while the transports covered the beach behind.

1 Such is the reason assigned by Herodotus (vi, 106) for their delay.  Modern historiarns are divided in opinion as to whether or not the alleged excuse was anything more than a subterfuge.  We shall be less likely to regard it as a mere pretext, if we recall that even an Athenian general, in the very heyday of Athens’ intellectual life, acted on a like superstition to his own tragic undoing and that of his city (sect. 261).

After a delay of a few days the battle was begun by the Greeks suddenly charging down upon the enemy’s lines.  These being broken and thrown into disorder by the onset, the Persians were driven with great slaughter to their ships.  A legend of later origin tells how straightway after the battle, Miltiades, the Athenian general who was in supreme command, dispatched a Courier to take news of the victory to Athens.  The messenger reached the city in a few hours, but so exhausted that, as the people pressed around him to hear the news he bore, “he breathed forth his life” with the words in which he announced the victory.

1 The modern “Marathon race” owes its origin to this picturesque story

Excerpt from Ancient History by Philip Van Ness Myers – 1916

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Further Reading and External Links 

iTunes U – FREE Video – Ancient Greek History

The Battle of Marathon from Livius.org

The Battle of Marathon from EyeWitnesstoHistory.com

The Rise of Athens

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Excerpt from Ancient History by Hutton Webster – 1913

The Rise of Athens (to 500 B.C.)

The World according to Hecataeus (500 BC)From the story of the growth of Sparta, we now turn to recount the development of her neighbor and rival, the city of Athens.   Athens, it has been said, is for us the history of Greece.  In art, in literature, in social and intellectual life, Athens was to represent the highest and best in Greek culture.  We shall deal, in later chapters, with these contributions of the Athenian genius to civilization.  For the present we must confine ourselves to the Athenian achievement in creating the first really democratic government in antiquity.

The district of Attica, though smaller than our smallest American commonwealth, was early filled with a number of independent city-states.  It was a great step in advance when, long, before the dawn of Greek history, these several communities were united with Athens.  The inhabitants of the Attic towns and villages gave up their separate governments and became members of the one city-state of Athens.  Henceforth a man was an Athenian citizen, no matter in what part of Attica he lived. 

At an earlier period, perhaps, than elsewhere in Greece, monarchy at Athens began to give way before the rising power of the nobles.  Kingly rule, which Oriental peoples never succeeded in abolishing, disappeared from Athens before its recorded history begins.

The rule of the nobility bore harshly on the common people.  Popular discontent was especially The World according to Homer (900 BC)excited at the administration of justice.  There were at first no written laws, but only the long-established customs of the community.  Since all the judges were nobles, they were tempted to decide legal cases in favor of their own class.  The people, at

We do not know anything about Lycurgus, but we do know that some existing primitive tribes, for instance, the Masai of East Africa, have customs almost the same as those of ancient Sparta.  Hence we may say that the rude, even barbarous, Spartans only carried over into the historic age the habits of life which they had formed in prehistoric times.  1 See page 138.

length, began to clamor for a written code. Every one then could know just what the laws were.

After much agitation, an Athenian named Draco was employed to write out a code for the state.  The laws, as published, were very severe.  The penalty for most offenses, even the smallest theft, was death.  The Athenians used to declare that the Draconian code had been written “not in ink, but in blood.”   However, its publication was a popular triumph, and the first step toward the establishment of Athenian democracy.

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Further Reading and External Links

iTunes U – FREE Video – Ancient Greek History

More on Draco and Solon Laws

The Athenian Court System

 

In The House

 

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IN THE HOUSE – 1774 – 1782

Houses of Parliament[1774]-[1782] WITH the close of [1774] the tide in the affairs of John Wilkes had reached its flood.  After a ceaseless struggle of more than five years his faithful followers had succeeded in giving him a place in the House of Commons…

…When Wilkes took his seat in the new House of Commons on the 2nd of December, the Opposition regarded him with little more favour than the ministry.  Like all who have repudiated the trammels of party discipline, he had committed a political offence almost as heinous and unforgivable as one who has deserted to the other side.  The recent dispute with Edmund Burke over the candidature for Westminster had increased the mistrust of the Rockingham faction.  With the exception of Sir George Savile none of the prominent Whig leaders would have any dealings with him.  In the Upper House there was no one but his fellow symposiast, “the wicked” Lord Lyttelton, who could be relied upon to give him assistance.  Despite their antagonism in city affairs Lord Shelburne was the only statesman with whose policy he was in sympathy, but the enmity of Oliver and Townsend made an alliance impossible.  So he stood alone with his little band of disciples, bearing the ominous badge of independence like “hay upon his horns,” and every party was on its guard against him.

Undoubtedly his programme was intolerable to the most progressive Whig.  He vociferated still that “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”  Among his followers the famous resolutions promulgated by the Supporters of the Bill of Rights three years before continued to be the test for all parliamentary candidates, who were required to sign a declaration, promising to support a drastic reform bill and other revolutionary measures.  Not only were the terms of the required pledge abhorrent to official Whiggism, but the principle itself was regarded with antipathy in the belief that it would reduce the representatives of the people to the position of delegates.  Yet the great families who cherished the dogmas of “the glorious revolution” failed to realise that their views were as retrogressive as those of the Wilkites were extreme, and that, while the spirit of the age demanded that the Member of Parliament should become more regardful of his constituents, the relations between them might be modified in harmony with the theory of the constitution. To Wilkes is due the credit (if such it is) of being the first to make the relationship between the representative and the electors a more intimate one.

Excerpt from Life of John Wilkes by Horace Bleackley – 1907

Chapter 17 In The House

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Further Reading and External Links

The National Archives – The second half of the 18th century saw a flowering of ideas concerning popular rights. In the 1760s, many of these concern John Wilkes MP.

Remember John Wilkes
The radical, journalist and politician, John Wilkes, is remembered by a statue on Fetter Lane in the City of London.

John Wilkes on Google Books

The Old Bridge at Mostar

The Old Bridge at Mostar

The Old Bridge at MostarMostar has long been celebrated for its beautiful bridge, “It is of a single arch, 95 feet 3 inches in span, and, when the Narenta is low, about 70 feet from the water, or, to the top of the parapet, 76 feet.  The river, at the season I visited it, being unusually high, it was only 44.9 from the water’s surface; but even then the beauty of its arch and the lightness of its proportions were not diminished, and I have seen none that can surpass it.  The depth of the water was said to be about 34 feet, and in summer not more than 10.  The breadth of the arch is only 14.2, the road over it 13.2, and, with the two parapets, 14.10.  

On its north side is a raised conduit of stone, looking like a footway, which conveys water over the bridge to the eastern part of the city, and is supplied from a source in the undulating valley to the west.  The bridge rises about 10 feet in the centre; but this does not appear to have been so originally; and, though the lightness of its appearance may have been increased by lowering the two ends, the convenience of the bridge is much diminished, as it abuts on the east against a rising ground.  On each bank is a tower, built to command it; and the passage may be closed by the gate of the guard-house at the west end, in case of need.  Tradition pretends that the towers are on Roman substructions, and that the one on the eastern side is the most ancient.  The building of the bridge is attributed to Trajan, or, according to some, to Adrian; and report speaks of an inscription that once existed upon it with the name of one of those emperors.  The Turks attribute its erection to Suleyman the Magnificent; but the Visir, in answer to my question respecting its date, said that, though they claim it as a work of that sultan, the truth is it was there long before his time, and was probably built by the Pagans.’

excerpt by Sir J Gardner Wilkinson from The Gentlemans Magazine Volume 31 1849

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The Old Bridge on Unesco World Heritage Site

Stari Most on Archnet

The Old Bridge – Stari Most – Location on Google Maps

Lord Mayor of London

 

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Lord Mayor of London

[1772]-[1775] DURING the next four years Wilkes was the most conspicuous figure in the turbulent arena of city politics.  Two powerful factions were arrayed against him all the while, disputing his progress step by step, the mercantile adherents of the Government and the party of Oliver and Townsend…

…It was Wilkes’s fate invariably to be badly served by those he trusted, being, in spite of all his shrewdness, absolutely without discretion when choosing a subordinate.  

During his shrievalty and for many years afterwards, the Supporters of the Bill of Rights continued to pay his debts and provide him with an annuity.  With happy tact, shortly after the great schism, he had persuaded the society to “take into consideration the state of his affairs,” declaring at the same time that he had no claim upon them.  The docile and opulent Bull was proud to act as treasurer, Sir Watkin Lewiswhile Brass Crosby and Watkin Lewis contended with each other for the chair.  Although the contributions of the faithful flowed in a less copious stream, the principal members of the club could afford to make up the deficiency.  Dr. Wilson and Sir Joseph Mawbey were wealthy men, and Humphrey Cotes, who remained a devoted slave, was always ready to canvass for the benefit of his leaders.  Many of the Whig magnates, including Lord Rockingham and the Dukes of Portland and Devonshire, contributed an annual sum of £100 for Wilkes’s benefit.   An occasional legacy swelled the balance-sheet.   And though his income was considerable, he supplemented it largely by credit.

At the next election he stood for the mayoralty.  In order to prevent the return of a “ministerial alderman,” James Townsend was chosen as the other popular candidate, Lord Shelburne’s influence in the city being in a large measure responsible for his selection.  Having proclaimed publicly in his dispute with Oliver that “it was the duty of every gentleman to submit to the Livery the choice of his colleague,”  Wilkes could make no objection, although the enmity between Townsend and himself was more bitter than ever.  In the Court of Common Council they had accused one another respectively of committing perjury and uttering falsehoods, and everyone believed that sooner or later a duel must take place.  Wilkes headed the poll, as all had expected, followed closely by his enemy, who received only twenty-three votes less, and though their opponents demanded a scrutiny the election was confirmed.  During the contest Townsend disdained to appear on the hustings, proclaiming ostentatiously that he had “gone shooting.”

Excerpt from Life of John Wilkes by Horace Bleackley – 1907

Chapter 16 Lord Mayor of London

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Further Reading and External Links 

John Wilkes on Spartacus Educational

John Wilkes on Google Books

John Wilkes on Wikipedia

The Beginning of a New Chapter

Today marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one for us at Ultrapedia HQ – with the completion of our summer project to dramatically update and improve the library.

This involved major spelling corrections throughout the entire library and we’ve had a good stab at language modernisation (ie: replacing an old language word with the modern version of the word; a simple example is to replace ‘kinge’  with ‘king’).  We’re also experimenting with placing ‘hooks’ in dates by enclosing them in square brackets  [ ].  You will see them as you browse the text.

We’ve also expanded the library by an additional 44 years, by overcoming some system issues with speed and response times as well as ironing out a few bugs.

The Ultrapedia Library now contains over 100 years from 1820 to 1923;  with over 137,000 documents;  over 7 million pages, over 16 million different words and over 2.6 million distinct entities.

Today’s updates can be viewed here, or you might like to read some of our favourites:

  Diet of Worms   The Battle of Ticonderoga   The Witches of Warboys   Social Change and the Telegraph

Remember to use the search feature to get the best from the library, as the extracts here represent but a small fraction of what there is.

Social Change and Postage

Postage and Social Changes in the 19th Century

Penny BlackA strenuous campaign for penny postage was begun in [1837] by Rowland Hill.  The existing practice was to charge for postage in proportion to the distance covered.  To send a letter from one part of London to another cost a penny; to send one from London to Edinburgh cost more than a shilling.  Daniel O’Connell complained that an Irish labourer in England, writing to and hearing from his family weekly, would spend more than one-fifth of his wages in postage.

Payment was usually made on delivery, and Rowland Hill has told us how his mother sometimes dreaded the arrival of a letter, lest she should not have the money to pay for it.  It sometimes happened that the poor, to get intelligence of each other’s welfare, would agree to send only an addressed sheet of paper; this the receiver would refuse to accept from the postman, who would carry it off, but its coming would show that the sender was well.  While the poor felt the heavy burden of postage, peers, members of the House of Commons, and high officials had the “franking” privilege, by which their own and their friends’ letters addressed by the holders of the privilege were carried free of charge.

Large areas of England were wholly without a postal service.  Cobden had his print-works in Sabden, a town with 12,000 inhabitants, but without a post-office.  And the existing inadequate system was cumbrous and expensive.   Elaborate accounts were kept with each postmaster for the unpaid letters sent to him, and upon routine, rather than upon the carriage of letters, the revenue was spent.  Hill proved, indeed, that the average cost of carrying letters was much less than a penny for each, and he urged that it was fair to make a uniform charge for all letters.  But the official world arrayed itself against him.  The authorities would not allow Hill into the London Post-Office to examine its workings, and they declared that the postal service could never deal with the immense mass of correspondence which cheap postage would invite.  But the business world supported the proposal, and in [1839] Lord Melbourne’s government established the penny post.  As Mr. Gladstone said, the improvement “ran like wildfire through the civilized world,” and it has become one of the most important factors in modern civilization.

Excerpt from The British Nation by George McKinnon Wrong – 1903

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Further Reading and External Links

Rowland Hill – Postal Reformer on Wikipedia