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The Cambridge Ancient History
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Book description

The fifth century BC was not only the first Classic age of European civilisation. It was the first and last period before the Romans in which great political and military power was located in the same place as cultural importance. This volume therefore is more narrowly focused geographically than its predecessors and successors, and hardly strays beyond Greece. Athens is at the centre of the picture, both politically and culturally, but events and achievements elsewhere are assessed as carefully as the nature of our sources allows. Two series of narrative chapters, one on the growth of the Athenian empire and the development of Athenian democracy, the other on the Peloponnesian War which brought them down, are divided by a series of studies in which the artistic and literary achievements of the fifth century are described. This new edition has been completely replanned and rewritten in order to reflect the advances in scholarship and changes in perspective which have been taking place in the sixty years since the publication of its predecessor.

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"The distinguished contributors...write authoritatively, with surprisingly few inconsistencies or disagreements.... In short: a splendid book, essential for every collection on ancient history...." Classical World

"It sums up some of the best scholarship since 1927." The Classical Journal

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Contents

  • 1 - Sources, chronology, method
    pp 1-14
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The source material of the first Classic age of European civilization, the fifth century BC, falls into three sections. For the period from 435 to 411 BC, Thucydides provides a firm framework. For the period from 478 to 435, he gives some relatively full narrative on special points and a sketchy narrative from 477 to 440; the only connected narrative of any size is that by Diodorus Siculus. For 411 to 404, there are two connected narratives, by Xenophon and Diodorus. Xenophon's own attempts at chronological accuracy are sporadic and inefficient. There are events in the Peloponnesian War for which very close dates in the Julian calendar can be plausibly argued on the basis of the inter-relationship between the two Athenian calendars and on epigraphic evidence. Problems do multiply after the end of Thucydides, because of the nature of the sources.
  • 2 - Greece after the Persian Wars
    pp 15-33
  • View abstract

    Summary

    To identify the Greek world as a cultural system is at first sight fairly easy. For all the divergences of phonology and vocabulary among and within the four major dialect groupings, Attic/Ionic, Arcado-Cypriot, Aeolic, and Doric/North-west Greek, the dialects were mutually intelligible. If one now thinks of the Greek world of the 470s not as a cultural system but as an economic system, its unity is much less perspicuous. Developments of a rather different kind were affecting the public, intellectual, and social life of the 470s and were exposing the strains and contradictions inherent in the very institution which had shaped Greek political life for so long, the republican polis. To diagnose crisis, at a moment when the Persian Wars had just been fought in defence of and in terms of the polis and when their outcome had to all appearance vindicated it as a system of government.
  • 3 - The Delian League to 449 b. c.
    pp 34-61
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In its early years, the Delian League was both a body fighting against Persia on behalf of the Greeks and a body through which Athens found opportunities to extend her own power. Friendship between Sparta and Athens came to an end as a result of the Messenian War which followed the great earthquake of 464. In Greece Athens' new alliances, and the desire to conquer Aegina at last, drew her into the First Peloponnesian War. War against the Persians continued in Athens. A fleet of two hundred Athenian and allied ships was sent to Cyprus. This force in Cyprus received an appeal for help from the Libyan king Inaros, who had incited Egypt to revolt against Persia, and it was decided to help. Greeks had fought for Egyptian kings and had settled in Egypt in the seventh and sixth centuries, and many Greeks still lived there in the fifth century.
  • 4 - The Athenian revolution
    pp 62-95
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Themistocles was responsible for the rebuilding of Athens' walls after the Persian Wars. Themistocles and Cimon were rivals as individuals, and stood for different views of Athens' recent history and different views of the foreign policy which Athens ought to pursue. In the sixth century, the archonship had been the most important office of the Athenian state. The new organization given to the Athenian state by Cleisthenes required a considerable degree of participation by the citizens, both at polis level and at local level. The core of the Athenian state was the Athenian demos, the body of Athenian citizens, and under the democracy the state was run by the demos. Athens was the paradigm of a democratic state. Athens and Sparta came to be regarded as the leading exponents of democracy and oligarchy respectively. Constitutional government was an achievement of which the Greeks were justly proud.
  • 5 - Mainland Greece, 479–451 b. c.
    pp 96-120
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Spartans had commanded at the two great victories of 479, Plataea and Mycale. These victories pointed forward to the two main directions in which they could be followed up, the punishment of the medizers of northern Greece and the liberation of the eastern Greeks. Tegea, the first substantial community to come into contact with Sparta will always have had a focus in the cult of Athena Alea which goes back to Mycenaean times. The main evidence about Spartan troubles in the Peloponnese after 479 lies in a list of five battles. The first is Plataea, the second at Tegea against the Tegeates and the Argives, the third at Dipaea against all the Arcadians except the Mantineans, the fourth against the Messenians at Isthmus, the fifth at Tanagra against the Athenians and Argives. According to Thucydides, Themistocles, though living at Argos, had been making visits to the rest of the Peloponnese.
  • 6 - The Thirty Years' Peace
    pp 121-146
  • View abstract

    Summary

    A mission to Athens from the Persian commanders is followed by an Athenian embassy headed by Callias son of Hipponicus and by a settlement. In the years immediately following the Cyprus expedition, Thucydides reports only one pair of events, a Spartan expedition to Delphi, which entrusted the shrine to the Delphians, followed by an Athenian counter expedition handing it over to the Phocians. The Chersonese had been subject to a prolonged period of Thracian raids, and Pericles not only strengthened the cities population with his thousand Athenian settlers, but fortified the isthmus from sea to sea. Although Athens had made her attempt to bolster the Phocian position in Delphi, more effort was done to sustain her naval empire. The first event after the Thirty Years' Peace thought worthy of report by Thucydides is in 440, a war between Samos and Miletus about Priene.
  • 7 - Sicily, 478-431 b.c.
    pp 147-170
    • By D. Asheri, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The Concert of Greek Sicily was successfully orchestrated by Hiero until his major partner Theron died in 472. The fall of the Emmenids marked not only a radical constitutional change in the city state of Acragas, but also the dissolution of the entire Acragantine epicracy. The end of tyranny at Syracuse precipitated the immediate dissolution of the Deinomenid epicracy in eastern Sicily. The events of 459/8 can plausibly be viewed as the second phase in the growth of the Sicel movement as well as of Ducetius' personal leadership. The Sicel movement's most enduring result was the furtherance of Sicel assimilation into the cultural Siciliote koine of the late fifth century BC. The three decades following the fall of the tyrannies were crucial to Syracuse's constitutional and socio-economic development and its rise to the rank of a major hegemonic power in the West.
  • 8a - Art: Archaic to Classical
    pp 171-183
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The naturalism of the late Archaic period was distinctly untypical of the Greek artistic tradition as a whole. From the Geometric period onward every successive style of Greek art has regularly been disciplined by strict canons of formal order. The conflict with the Persians, as Herodotus and Aeschylus make clear, was as much a moral as a military one. The story of high classical Greek art is for the most part the story of Athenian art, and it is in the great monuments of the Periclean building programme that the emerging dual nature in the art of the time is most apparent. The clear, patterned forms of Archaic and the simple solidity of Early Classical drapery are replaced by irregular eddies, furrows and shadows. Capturing impressions seems to have become an end in itself in much of the art of the last three decades of the fifth century.
  • 8b - Classical Cities and Sanctuaries
    pp 184-205
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The Greek city was a creation of the Archaic period, in architectural form as in political, religious and social life. Next to the major temples, the city walls were the most impressive works of architecture. Marble was used on a bigger scale in the fifth century, for whole temples and occasionally other buildings. At Acragas in the course of the century a series of temples was built; at Athens a great building programme was carried out in the second half of the century. The Doric and Ionic orders, fully developed in the sixth century, attained perfection by the middle of the fifth. The greatest sanctuaries attained a complex form in course of time, without a formal plan. The stoa played a vital role in Greek life and architecture. The uses of the stoas cover the whole range of Greek political, religious and social life.
  • 8c - Rebuilding in Athens and Attica
    pp 206-222
  • View abstract

    Summary

    From about 460 the western part of the hill was dominated by Phidias' colossal bronze Athena Promachos. The prompt replacement of the statues of Harmodius and Aristogeiton by a new pair made by Critius and Nesiotes, may be seen in this light. In the sixth and early fifth centuries the Athenians had endeavoured to make modest provision for the instruments of government, especially in the time of Cleisthenes. The great Doric temple, which stands miraculously preserved on the hill overlooking the Agora from the west, was under construction at the same time as the Parthenon, probably in the middle 440s. Doric was the dominant order in fifth-century Athens, but in the latter part of the century Ionic was used to design buildings which offered a wonderful contrast. Incidentally an Attic type of column-base was developed, with a concave moulding between two convex.
  • 8d - Panhellenic Cults and Panhellenic Poets
    pp 223-244
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Many of the innumerable ancient Greek festivals included athletic and cultural contests. The four Panhellenic game festivals namely, the Olympian, Pythian, Isthmian and Nemean, were in origin very different in size and significance from each other. The Olympic Games, which were held in honour of Zeus, seem to have acquired a wider importance quite early in the Archaic period. The Pythian Games at Delphi began as a purely musical event. The Isthmian and Nemean Games also took their classical form in the early sixth century. The gods in whose honour these festivals were held were panhellenic deities, and in gathering at their sanctuaries the Greeks felt very strongly the bonds of a common religion and culture. The poems of Pindar and Bacchylides demonstrate in another important way the unifying force of these great festivals, in that so many of them were composed for Sicilian patrons.
  • 8e - Athenian Cults and Festivals
    pp 245-267
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The rituals of Greek polis festivals contain elements of great antiquity. Particular traits of animal sacrifice as found especially in the Athenian ceremony of ox-murder, Buphonia, have been traced to the Paleolithic period, and the women's festival of Thesmophoria has been credited with a Stone Age character, too. Much of the documentation still consists in the material remains of cults in the sanctuaries as recovered and analysed by archaeology. But the growth of literacy led to the greater regulation of religion including leges sacrae, were published in the form of inscriptions under the pressure of the democratic system. The Athenian year begins in summer after harvest, with the first month, Hekatombaion, roughly corresponding to July. Divination had played its part in overthrowing the tyrants. The mysteries became part of the prestige of Athens and retained their authority, and their identity, for about one thousand years.
  • 8f - Athenian Religion and Literature
    pp 268-286
  • View abstract

    Summary

    For the fifth-century Athenian audience the dominant literary phenomenon was the drama. Drama emerged from a context of ritual celebration and remained even in its developed form an act of worship, honouring the god in his precinct. The relation between religion and literature was a phenomenon unique in the history of the West. There are some aspects of the religious element in Sophoclean tragedy which seem to stem from sources darker and deeper than the final Aeschylean vision of civic order based on divine reconciliation. The focus of his tragedy is often not the community but the lonely, stubborn protagonist who defies it, recalcitrant to the end, impervious to persuasion or threat. Comedy was first included in the programme of the Dionysia in 486 BC. From fear and reverence for the gods, even for Dionysus himself, comedy brought the worshipper a momentary dispensation.
  • 8g - Society and Economy
    pp 287-305
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The only statement which can be made with security about Athenian society and economy in the Periclean period is that they were evolving rapidly but unsystematically. Settlement and landholding patterns are being seen to have generated specific aspects both of the economy and of public finances. The conceptual distinctions between economy, society and polity are being used more confidently. Fiscal demands emerge as generating a system of economic and social interactions. The more the study of the Athenian legal system emancipates itself from presuppositions derived from Roman law to take seriously the role of juries in forming and reflecting social norms. An eventual systematic treatment of the female-male relationship as a component of Athenian society will probably obliterate much current Athenian social history, but its chronological focus will have to be the semi-visible century from 430 to 320 rather than the near-darkness of the Periclean period.
  • 8h - Athens as a Cultural Centre
    pp 306-369
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The contributions to fifth-century Athenian culture by non-Athenian poets and prose writers were immeasurably greater than the surviving remains indicate. Anaxagoras, Diogenes and probably also Democritus brought the fruits of rational explorations of the physical universe, and the sophists had accompanied their teaching of rhetoric by far-reaching rational analyses and criticisms of the structure of human society and the problems besetting it. All layers of Athenian society will have been beneficiaries of the stimulus which the influx of foreigners brought to the economic life of the city. But their impact on its cultural life will have been most immediately felt by the upper classes. The doctrines of the Ionian physicists as popularized by the rationalism of the sophists were thought to be doing precisely that and were regarded by many as a threat to the established Greek religion.
  • 9 - The Archidamian War
    pp 370-432
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Open warfare between Athens and the Peloponnesian League began in 431. Thucydides oscillates between two beginnings of the war, the Theban attack on Plataea in the spring and the Spartan invasion of Attica eighty days later. Archidamus analysis of the strengths of the Athenian position is hardly different from that of Pericles. During the Archidamian War there were five invasions, only hampered by Athenian cavalry who kept the light-armed away from the city itself. The longest invasion, in 430, lasted forty days, the shortest, in 425, lasted fifteen days. The invasions of 430 and 427 were said to be particularly damaging. National characters and institutions played their part in the way in which war policies were formed. The name of Plataea meant much for Spartan sentiment, and Archidamus made some attempt at a settlement on the basis of a Plataean return to neutrality.
  • 10 - The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition
    pp 433-463
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Argos had done well out of her neutrality in the Archidamian War, and the prospect of leadership in a new alliance appealed to a people conscious of their heroic past. Mantinean democracy was a further bond with Argos. Many historians have blamed Athens for not supporting her Peloponnesian allies with larger forces in 418, attributing this to indecision between the policies of Nicias and Alcibiades. Thucydides comments on the fact that Sparta did not treat an Athenian raid from Pylos in summer 416, which took much booty, as releasing them from the Peace of Nicias. Athens' interest in the west was not new. It had been clear to Thucydides, still in Athens, that the expedition of 427 was to explore the possibility of gaining control over all Sicily, and the generals who assented to the Peace of Gela had been punished for not pursuing that objective more resolutely.
  • 11 - The Spartan Resurgence
    pp 464-498
  • View abstract

    Summary

    At Sparta envoys from Chios and Erythrae were supported by one from Tissaphernes, satrap of Sardis. At the end of summer a major Athenian force reached Samos under Phrynichus. Near the end of winter the Athenian conference with Tissaphernes took place, at which Pisander and his colleagues first agreed to surrender all Ionia but at the third session they baulked at the demand that the King should be allowed to build and sail as many ships as he wished along his Aegean coast. In the spring of 407 the Athenian envoys on their way up-country met a Spartan embassy on its way down, under one Boeotius, claiming to have obtained all that they could wish from the King, together with Cyrus the King's younger son coming as satrap of Lydia, Great Phrygia and Cappadocia, and commander of all Persian forces in the west.

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