How Athens became the capital of the Greek world

Today the city is the capital of Greece, a European independent state, but this was not always the case. In ancient times, all city-states were autonomous (with some exceptions), and it is unlikely that other Greek cities of that time, such as Corinth or Sparta, wanted to give priority to Athens. But this is exactly what happened as a result of the Greco-Persian wars, which lasted from the beginning to the middle of the 5th century. BC e., the victory in which led to the absolute power of the Athenians, albeit for a short time.

As a result of these wars, an alliance of the Greek city-states was formed against the Persian invaders. In 478 BC. e. The Peloponnesian fleet under the command of Pausanias took part of Cyprus and Byzantium from the Persians. So the Athenians became in the eyes of the Greeks of the East saviors from the Persians, and Sparta, which refused to extend the union to the coastal Ionian cities, lost popularity among the Ionians. The position of the Spartan general Pausanias among the disgruntled Ionians was painful, especially when he began to conduct ambiguous negotiations with Persia and haughtily treat his allies.

His orders were refused; command was offered to the Athenians (477 BC). The Spartans recalled Pausanias and their ships. The Athenian generals Aristides and Cimon took the first places in the new alliance. Not opposing the establishment of Athenian hegemony at sea, the Spartans could not allow Athens to gain influence on the mainland. The Athenians, in order to protect themselves from attacks, decided, on the advice of the ruler Themistocles, to enclose the city with a strong wall. The Spartans protested against the construction of the "long walls", but the creative genius of Themistocles and his resourcefulness brought the matter to the end and turned Athens into a strong fortress.

The Athenian alliance, which separated from the general Greek alliance for the further war against the Persians, received a clear organization. This was the first attempt to unite almost the entire Greek world into one state under the auspices of the main polis - Athens. The treasury of the union was located on Delos, therefore, it was originally called the Delos, and only then, when the power of Athens became undeniable, it became the Athenian union. All the cities liberated from the Persian yoke joined the union, and, in addition, the island of Euboea and the islands of the Western Cyclades. A vigorous cleaning of the southern coast of Thrace (north of the Balkans) from the Persians began.

The Persians were soon driven out of all positions in Europe. Despite the double glorious victory of the Greeks at Salamis, Athens had to abandon offensive actions against Persia, because they had to solve difficult tasks within the state and already began a fatal enmity for Athens with Sparta, which would lead to the destructive Peloponnesian War.

However, the Greco-Persian wars were of great importance for Athens in particular and for Greece in general. They accelerated the development of Greek culture, instilled in the Greeks a national consciousness of their greatness. In their successes, the Greeks saw the victory of freedom over slavery. The people's independence and social freedom associated with the developing democracy were saved. Since the advantage was on the side of Athenian democracy, after the Greco-Persian wars, almost all Greek states were embraced by the democratic movement. Athens developed into a great maritime power and became the center of Greece - cultural, political, intellectual and economic.