Athenian Military

Chijioke Ugwulebo

Training and Education

  • The primary purpose of Athenian education was to produce thinkers, people well-trained in arts and sciences, people prepared for peace or war.
  • They were usually tutored at home until the age of 6 or 7 and then they were sent to neighborhood schools for primary education until they were 14 years of age.
  • In primary school, younger boys were often taught how to play balls and the older boys were taught more military-type activities such as running, boxing, and wrestling

Rise to power

  • Began its rise to power among Greek City-States during the second invasion of Greece by the Persian army in 480 B.C
  • were part of a Greek alliance that included Sparta and all the other city-states against Persia.
  • The Athenians led a fleet of allied Greek ships at the Battle of Salamis, where they scored a massive naval victory over the much larger Persian fleet.
  • After the Persians had been defeated and the Spartans had gone home, Athens and the other Greek city-states formed a new alliance at the Island of Delos in 477 BC
  • Athens began to dominate the Delian league and took advantage of its allies' desire to stop sending ships and men. As a result, the members of the Delian league contributed money to the league rather than ships. (This benefitted the Athenians greatly because it meant that they were increasing their military presence within the league)
  • In doing so, they were able to use the money contributed by League members to expand their own military and economy

Military Innovations

  • The Athenian army was no match for the size and effectiveness of the Spartan army they made up for it on sea with an innovation that completely changed the face of naval warfare.
  • The Athenian trireme was a superfast galley that was different from anything else at that time. At the time, naval warfare had primarily consisted of attempting to either board an enemy's ship, or set it on fire.
  • The trireme's special shape and construction allowed it to do things that other ships at the time could not do.
  • It's keel ran the length of the ship, as in most ships, but it also stuck out three meters in front, and was armored with bronze plates. This projection was the battering ram that became the ship's primary weapon.
  • ramming opposing ships was not done because of the extraordinary speed it required. But the trireme was long and narrow, which aided its speed. What aided it even more were the three rows of oars on each side
  • Using the oars, the trireme could reach a maximum speed of ten knots, or about 12 mph. This was more than fast enough to cause serious damage to any opposing ship.


  • resentment of Athens by the other members of the Delian League began to grow, and Athens would frequently have to quell rebellions within the league.
  • tensions between Athens and Sparta had finally escalated to the point of open war. As a result, the Athenians and their remaining Delian allies would battle the Spartans and the league.
  • they attempted to defeat Sparta by conducting naval raids on Spartan positions and settlements, and then retreating behind their city walls before the Spartan infantry could mass a counterattack.
  • This strategy proved successful for several years, as the Spartans, inexperienecd at siege warfare, would storm the city, the Athenians would hide inside their walls, and the Spartans would be left to raze the Athenian countryside.
  • this strategy mght have been successful, had a plague that came into the Athenians inside their city, killing thousands. Athens later would face rebellion from more of her allies.
  • the Athenians would fight for ten more years before they were eventually defeated by the Spartans. Later, Athens would regain control of their city and start to regain some of their old stregth, even beginning a second Athenian empire, but it soon crumbled in a series of rebellions and revolts.