Making of the Athenian Empire


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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