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Persian influence on Greece (8)

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Map of the Delian League. Design Jona Lendering.
The Delian League
The ancient Persian and Greek cultures did not exist in isolation. There was cross-fertilization. The present article contains a description of Persia's influence on Greece.

This is the eighth part of the article; the first one can be found here.
 

Politics: Delian league

The most remarkable aspect of the Delian League is that it was a maritime empire. Earlier Greek (con)federations had all been land-based. A maritime empire demands another kind of organization, not in the least because the lines of communication can be threatened in the winter, whereas transport between the member states is much cheaper. This makes it unlikely that a Greek league was the model of the Athenian empire, and it is possible that the western part of the Achaemenid empire -with its maritime lines of communication and active navy- was the real source of inspiration.

The maritime organization of the western part of the Achaemenid empire was was a result of king Cambyses' conquest of Egypt (525 BCE), which was only possible after the building of a large imperial navy. (Without marine superiority, it was impossible for an army to cross through the Sinai desert, because any army marching to the west would be exposed to Egyptian naval actions.)

When Egypt was defeated and added to the Achaemenid empire, it was necessary to keep the navy to control the new region. Many men and lots of silver and gold were necessary for the upkeep, and the result was the monetarization of the tribute by king Darius I the Great (described in Book Three of the Histories by Herodotus of Halicarnassus). Although it was still possible to pay in kind, payments in cash were preferred.

The organization of the western Achaemenid empire was, therefore, largely based on the demands of the navy, and the Athenians copied certain aspects of this. For example, the ships of the Persian navy had a mixed crew: the rowers came from various parts of the empire. The Athenian ships were partly manned by Athenians, partly by the allies. Towns in the Achaemenid empire could pay their tribute by manning ships; the kings appreciated this type of tribute, because towns that had sent part of their manhood away, were less likely to revolt. The Athenians did the same.

But the main factor is the tribute system. After the Greeks had defeated the Persians, the Athenians took over the Persian fiscal organization of the Greek towns in Asia. After the Ionian revolt, the satrap of Lydia and Ionia, Artaphernes, had established the tribute that the Greek towns had to pay, and the Athenians did not change his system. Every four year, the Athenians and their subjects revised the tariff.

At least in theory, the subject towns could negotiate about the amount they owed to their masters, and it is tempting to link this fact to the remark by Herodotus that the Persians regarded king Darius as a merchant (kapelos) because he negotiated about everything (Histories 3.89). This is really remarkable, because a king was not supposed to make deals with his subjects about the prize of his reign.

The negotiations between the ruler -whether Persian or Athenian- suggest a voluntariness and an equality which probably did not really exist. But the illusion was kept intact in both empires.

Introduction
History
Architecture
Architecture: Odeon
Architecture: Prytaneum
Architecture: Parthenon frieze
Architecture: Erechtheum
Politics
Politics: Delian League
Politics: Episcopus
Conclusion
to part nine
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