chapter  15
9 Pages

ATHENIAN FOREIGN POLICY IN THE FIRST PELOPONNESIAN WAR, 462/1-446/5

The two main sources for this period of Greek history are Thucydides (1.102-115.1; AE1 pp. 8-13) and Diodorus (11.71-12.7). Thucydides’ narrative is very sketchy due to the fact that it is part of his digression on the so-called ‘Pentecontaetia’ (‘The Fifty-Years’), which is in itself a brief and highly selective account of Athens’ rise to power between the Persian War (480-479) and the Peloponnesian War (431-404). Although it can be reasonably assumed that most of the events are recorded in chronological sequence, Thucydides gives no specific dates; instead he makes use of phrases such as ‘after this’, ‘soon after’, ‘about the same time’, ‘in the third year’. Furthermore, he makes no attempt to explain the foreign policy options available to the Athenians and the reasons for their choice at different times in the war. Instead, Thucydides has given us an account of Athenian military campaigns – recording some very important ones briefly (e.g. battle of Oenophyta) but other less important ones in detail (e.g. the defeat of the Corinthians at Megara) – and thus leaving it to the modern historian to attempt to deduce Athenian foreign policy from these campaigns. The other major weakness is the omission of important events, such as the transfer of the Delian League treasury to Athens, the proPersian allied revolts in the eastern Aegean during the 450s and 440s, the (formal or informal) peace with Persia in 449, and the intensification of Athenian control over their allies, all of which had an important bearing upon or reflected Athenian foreign policy.