Founded in 477 BC, the Delian league in ancient Greece can be described as an association of the independent city-states of Greece led by Athens. The league was so named because it was formed by the meeting of the representatives of the city-states at Delos.
Delian League in Ancient Greece
The treasury of the league was also located in this city; hence the name. The number of members of the Delian league in ancient Greece varied between 150 and 173.
The formation and purpose of the Delian league in ancient Greece:
In order to understand the purpose and formation of the Delian league in ancient Greece, it is necessary to understand the Greco-Persian relationship at this time.
1. Persia conquered Asia Minor including the Greek cities of Ionia around 550 BC. However, the cities revolted and were supported by the Greek states of Athens and Eritrea. Persians crushed the revolt but king Darius the great decision to punish the two city-states and deal with the Greek threat once and for all. This resulted in the First invasion of Greece by Persia where Eritrea was vanquished.
2. In 490 BC Athens defeated the Persians in the battle of Marathon, thus ending the first invasion.
3. The Second invasion was led by Xerxes. Though the Greeks suffered severe reverses at first, they completely defeated the Persians at the battle of Plataea (479 BC).
4. The Greeks continued with their vengeance and even attacked Byzantion. At this time, the Greek army was led by the Spartan general Pausanias. Most other allies found him to be high handed. The importance of Sparta gradually began to decline.
5. In 478 BC the member states formed an alliance which was called the Delian league in ancient Greece. It was under the leadership of Athens probably because of her acknowledged maritime supremacy.
6. The purpose of the formation of the Delian league was threefold. The members wished to be prepared for any further threat of invasion; they wanted revenge on the Persians for their campaigns and finally, they needed to divide the spoils of war among themselves.
7. A common treasury was set up at Delos from which the alliance derives its name. The member states had to pay tax to this treasury. Either this tax was 460 talents in a year or warships.
8. The Delian league in ancient Greece functioned well to fight against Persia, liberate the regions of Thrace and the Aegean and against piracy.
The dissolution of the ancient Greek Delian league:
The Delian league in ancient Greece gradually began to be completely dominated by Athens. She began to demand taxes and warships to strengthen her army and navy even when there was no external threat.
So, Athens grew stronger while the other states became poorer and weaker. Those who tried to revolt like Naxos had to pay the penalty by tearing down its walls and losing its vote in the council.
In 454 BC, Pericles of Athens shifted the treasury of the league to Athens from Delos for security reasons. This made Athens highly unpopular. Conflicts intensified within the member states. Finally, the Delian league in ancient Greece was dissolved in 404 with the capture of Athens by Sparta.
More info on- Delian league and Peloponnesian league