Assess the significance of the steps in Athens’ transformation of the Delian League into an Athenian Empire.
Athens gradually transformed the Delian League into an Athenian Empire, through its manipulation of the League’s aims and practices. Thucyidides’ Pentacontaetia outlines these steps to empire through paradigms. Thus, these individual steps are representative of other similar activities of Athens and the Delian League. Throughout this process of change, Athens held a grip on the moral validity of its actions, due to the aims and practices, especially the oath, of the Delian League. This enabled it to enforce its rule on the other members and use the League for its own purposes, and thus turn the Delian League into an Athenian empire.
NOTE that because Thuc thought these were significant, then they probably were!
The first of Thucyides’ paradigms is the siege and capture of Eion in 476-75BC. The League’s actions here removed a potentially dangerous base for the Persians. This act is a paradigm for the large number of cities taken by the Allies, alluded to in Aristophanes’ The Wasps. However, as a step towards Empire, the paradigm is not significant. Here, Athnes is working with the League in one of its aims, to ravage the lands of the Persian King (Thucydides). Thus, at least at its inception, Athens was willing to work within the League’s aims.
It is significant because until cities were freed from the Persians, Athens could not have it empire!
This cooperative spirit began to change with the conquest of Scyrus in 474-73BC. Plutarch states that Cimon captured Scyrus, in order to secure trade routes which passed there. Thus was economically sound, however, it is the first step towards Empire. Ensuring trade routes was not an aim of the League, and although it benefited all members, it is a paradigm for Athens using the fleet for its own purposes. Athens became the ‘commercial centre’ (Meier), and so benefited most from this trade. More...