Persia after Xerxes

Aftermath - the Greeks

The Spartans defeated the Persian land forces at the battle of Plataea, but allowed them to retreat back to Asia. The Delian league was formed to free the cities of Ionia that are still under Persian control. The Spartans did not wish to lead it, and so leadership fell to Athens. Large cities contributed ships, smaller ones cash – and the policy of the league was vigorously pursued. All the Greek cities were freed, but soon Athens began treating them as her subjects – the Delian League had become the Athenian empire.
Though weaker, the Persian empire was still the regional super-power. Persia’s influence in the outcome of the 30 years war between Athens and Sparta (The Peloponnesian War) was ultimately decisive. After the death of the Persian king Darius II, Cyrus, his younger son, attempted to claim the throne, relying on a force of Greek mercenaries (the 10,000). When Cyrus was killed, the Greeks fought their way north from Babylon to the Black Sea, led by Xenophon, an Athenian aristocrat who wrote an account of the expedition (The Anabasis – usually called “The march of the 10,000 in English).  The vulnerability of the Persian empire was now obvious.

1/60th of every talent collected from league members was taken to Athens, as an offering for Athena. This money was available to the Athenians to finance their own ambitions – and eventually the war with Sparta. It's this proportion which is recorded on the Athenian Tribute lists. At hens' treatment of her allies, now virtually subjects, became increasingly brutal. The small island of Melos. (Thucydides 5.84) had never actually been a member of the league, but the Athenians claimed it had enjoyed their protection and demanded tribute. What the Melians could not or would not pay, the Athenians killed all the men and sold all the women and children into slavery. Their justification was that throughout history, the strong had forced their will upon the weak.

Plenty of detail on the website starting here: We actually know pitifully little about affairs in Persia during the reigns of Xerxes' successors, apart from Xenophon's Anabasis, and a late biography of Artaxerxes II by Plutarch (crammed with gory details to titillate his Roman readers).


Xenophon's story is an exciting adventure – it inspired the cult 1978 film 'The Warriors', set in New York (see its web site ). On the 10,000 see here:

The rise of Macedon is dealt with here:



1. Imagine you were a Greek mercenary soldier – one of the 10,000. What's the story you tell your children when you get back to Greece?

2. Write a speech by an an Athenian general sent to collect tribute from a reluctant ally, explaining why they should pay up. (Then perhaps compare their arguments with those used in Melian dialogue)

3. Devise some words or phrases for unusual animals, on the lines of Xenophon's 'big sparrow' for the ostriches which his men tried (unsuccessfully) to hunt in the desert.