By: Taylor-Rae Lint
The Beginning of Ancient Greece
Athens' Rise To Power
From this momentous conflict Athens emerged a blackened ruin yet the richest and most powerful city-state in Greece. It owed this position chiefly to the shrewd policies of the statesman Themistocles, who had seen that naval strength, not land strength, would in the future be the key to power. He persuaded his fellow Athenians to build a strong fleet—larger than the combined fleets of all the rest of Greece—and to fortify the harbor at Piraeus. The Athenian fleet became the instrument by which the Persians were finally defeated, at the battle of Salamis in 480 bc. The fleet also enabled Athens to dominate the Aegean area. Within three years after Salamis, Athens had united the Greek cities of the Asian coast and of the Aegean islands into a confederacy for defense against Persia.It was called the Delian League because the treasury was at first on the island of Delos. In another generation this confederacy became an Athenian empire. Almost at a stride Athens was transformed from a provincial city into an imperial capital. Wealth beyond the dreams of any other Greek state flowed into its coffers—tribute from subject and allied states, customs duties on the flood of commerce that poured through Piraeus, and revenues from the Attic silver mines. The population increased fourfold or more, as foreigners streamed in to share in the prosperity.