Stolen Legacy, by George G. M. James, , at sacred-texts.com
p. 20 p. 21
History supports the fact that from the time of Thales. to the time of Aristotle, the Greeks were victims of internal disunion, on the one hand, while on the other, they lived in constant fear of invasion from the Persians who were a common enemy to the city states.
Consequently when they were not fighting with one another they found themselves busy fighting the Persians, who soon dominated them and became their masters. From the 6th century B.C. the territory from the coast of Asia Minor to the Indus Valley became united under the single power of Persia, whose central territory Iran has survived as a national unit to the present day. Persian expansion was like a nightmare to the Greeks who dreaded the Persians on account of their invulnerable navy, and organized themselves into Leagues and Confederacies in order to resist their enemy. (C. 12 P. 195; Sandford's Mediterranean World). There are three sources which throw light on the chaotic and troublesome conditions of this period in Greek history. (A) The Persian Conquests (B) The Leagues and (C) Peloponnesian wars.
A. The Persian Conquests
After the Persians had conquered the Ionians (possibly ancient Hittites), and made them their subjects, Polycrates (539–524 B.C.) seized the Island of Samos and made it a famous city. (Sandford's Mediterranean World c. 9). Between
[paragraph continues] 499 and 494 B.C. the Ionians revolted against the Persians, who defeated them at Lade, while Cyprus and Miletus were also captured. (Sandford's Mediterranean World c. 12). In the summer of 490 B.C. Greek and Persian forces met at Marathon, but after a hand to hand fight, both belligerents withdrew, only to prepare stronger forces in order to renew the conflict. Accordingly, after ten years had elapsed a Hellenic League was organized against the Persians, and the Spartan King Leonides was sent with an army to hold the pass at Thermopylae, until the fleet should win a decisive victory. (C. 12, P. 202; Sandford's Mediterranean World). Accordingly, during the month of August 481 B.C. Persian ships under the command of Xerxes anchored in the gulf of Pagasae, while the Greeks anchored off Cape Artemisium. Both sides awaited a favorable opportunity to attack. The Persians began to force the pass while simultaneously one of their detachments was secretly aided by a Greek traitor, along a steep mountain pass to the rear of the Greek position. Having been taken by surprise, the Greek guards immediately withdrew without resistance. The Spartans who were guarding Thermopylae were all slain and the pass captured by the Persians. (Sandford's Mediterranean World C. 12 P. 202). Having been defeated at Thermopylae, the Greeks withdrew to Salamis, where again they encountered a naval engagement with the Persians. It was late in September 481 B.C., and the result was a wanton destruction of ships on both sides, without any decision. Both belligerents withdrew: The Persians to Thessaly, and the Greeks to Attica. (Sandford's Mediterranean World C. 12 P. 203).
With the persistent aim of freedom from Persian domination, Athens, together with the island and coast cities (of the Aegean and Ionia) renewed their resistance of Persian rule. This was the confederacy of Delos, which undertook several naval engagements, but with little or no success. In 467 B.C. the battle of Eurymedon River was fought and lost with a great number of ships. Eighteen years later (449 B.C.)
another naval engagement took place off the island of Cyprus, but again without decision, and consequently Persian sovereignty over the Greeks remained. (Sandford's Mediterranean World C. 12 P. 205). In the meantime Sparta, under the terms of the Treaty of Miletus (413 B.C.) obtained subsidies from Persia, for naval construction, on condition that she recognize Persian sovereignty over the Ionians and their allies. This was done by Sparta as a threat to Athenian ambitions.
However, it was not long after the Treaty of Miletus, that the Greeks themselves submitted to the authority and dominance of the Persians. During the winter 387–386 B.C., the individual Ionian cities, signed the peace terms of the Persian King, and finally accepted Persian rule. This Treaty was negotiated by a Spartan envoy who was authorized by the Persian King to enforce its provisions. (Sandford's Mediterranean World C. 13 and 15, P. 225 and 255).
B. The Leagues
Apart from the resistance of a common foe, the Persians, a study of the function of the Leagues, reveals the enmity and spirit of aggression which were characteristic of the relationship which existed between the Greek city states themselves.
Accordingly in 505 B.C., the Peloponnesian states signed treaties among themselves, pledging warfare against Sparta who had absorbed them under her influence. Meanwhile, Aristogoras revived the Ionian League (499–494 B.C.) to resist Persian aggression, and friendship between Athens and Aegina was restored by the Hellenic League (481 B.C.) which was afterward converted into the Confederacy of Delos (478 B.C.) as mentioned elsewhere. In like manner, Thebes also fell in line with the general temper of the age and organized the Boeotian League, a federation of city states, for self-protection and aggression. (Sandford's Mediterranean World C. 9, P. 150; C. 12, P. 201).
In 377 B.C. a second Athenian Confederacy was organized, but this was to frustrate the aims of the Lacedaemonians and
to compel them to respect the right of the Athenians and their allies (Sandford's Mediterranean World C. 15, P. 260). Likewise in 290 B C., the Aetolian League, made up of the States of central Greece, gained control of Delphi, and frequently violated Achaean rights in the Peloponnesus, while in 225 B.C. Antigonus Doson organized another Hellenic League, with the purpose of obstructing the ambitions of Sparta and her Aetolian allies. (Sandford's Mediterranean World C. 18, P. 317 and 319).
(W. H. Couch's Hist. of Greece, p. 206–209, c. 11. Botsford & Robinson's Hellenic Hist., p. 115–121; 127–142. T. B. Bury's Hist. of Greece, p. 216–229; 240–241; 259–269; 471472. The Tutorial Hist. of Greece by W. J. Woodhouse, c. 18, 20 and 21).
C. The Peloponnesian Wars 460–445 B.C. and 431–421 B.C.
Owing to the ambitions of Athens to dominate the Ionians and other neighboring peoples, Pericles launched a campaign of alliances and conquests extending from Thessaly to Argos, and from Euboea to Naupactus, Achaea and the chief islands of the Ionian Sea.
The net results were as follows: (a) Athens established alliances with Boeotia, Phocis and Locris, in spite of Sparta's opposition. (b) In 456 B.C. Aegina was captured and made tributary. (c) In 450 B.C. Athens failed in her attempt to invade Corinth. (d) In 451 friendship between Athens and Sparta was restored through the instrumentality of Cimon, on the condition that Athenian alliance with Argos was dissolved. (e) In 447 B.C. the exiled Oligarchs of Thebes defeated the Athenians at Coronea, and reestablished the Boeotian League under Theban leadership. (f) In 445 B.C. the 30 years peace was signed and after the revolt of Euboea and Megara, Sparta invaded Attica and Pericles sued for peace. Athens lost all her continental holdings. (Sandford's Mediterranean World C. 13, P. 220).
The second Peloponnesian war (431–421 B.C.) like that of
the first arose through a general spirit of rebellion among the Greek city states against Athenian imperialism, Sparta being the chief enemy.
The net results were as follows: (a) In 435 B.C. war between Corcyra and Corinth, Corcyra being aided by Athens.
(b) In 432 B.C.
(2) Megara was excluded from Greek Markets, in order to reduce her to subjection.
(3) The Peloponnesian League planned war against Athens and Boeotia. Phocis and Locris were to fight against Athens, Corcyra and a few Northern states.
(c) In 431 B.C.
(2) Pericles being unable to defend Attica adequately transferred the civil population every Spring to the area between the walls of Athens and the Peiraeus. In the meantime the Athenian fleet operated against Potidaea, the Peloponnesian coast and Corinthian commerce.
(d) In 428 B.C.
(2) A brutal massacre of Oligarchs took place at Corcyra.
(e) In 425 B.C.
(2) Cythera and other stations were fortified against the Peloponnesians.
(3) Amphipolis was captured by Brasidas a Spartan, who had instigated rebellion among the Athenian
It is obvious from a study of the causes and effects of the Peloponnesian wars that
(a) The Greek states were envious of each other and
(b) The desire for power and expansion led to constant aggression and warfare among themselves.
(c) The condition of constant warfare between the city states was unfavourable for the production of philosophers.
Before passing on to consider my next proposition I would like to say that it is an accepted truth that the development of philosophical thought requires an environment which is free from disturbance and worries. The period commonly assigned to Greek philosophy (i.e. Thales to Aristotle) was exactly the opposite to one of peace and tranquility, and therefore it could not be expected to produce philosophy. The obstacles against the origin and development of Greek philosophy, were not only the frequency of civil wars; and the constant defense against Persian aggression; but also the threat of extermination from the Athenian government, its worst enemy.
D. Philosophy Requires a Suitable Environment.
I must now add the following quotation which depicts this period. "For although the natural ills that beset mankind are many, we ourselves have added to them by wars and civil strife against one another, so that some have been unjustly put to death in their own cities, others driven into exile with their wives and children, and many have been compelled, for the sake of their daily bread, to die fighting against their own people, for the sake of the enemy". (Isocrates)
(Botsford & Robinson's Hellenic Hist., c. XIII. Couch's Hist. of Greece, c. XXII. Bury's Hist. of Greece, c. X. The Tutorial Hist. of Greece by W. J. Woodhouse, c. 27, 28 and 29).