A map shows the Mediterranean region during the Persian Wars, from 490 to 479 B C.
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When the Persian empire attacked Greece, the Greek city-states briefly joined forces for defense. Describe the routes of the Persian army and navy toward Athens.

Athens Leads the Delian League

Victory in the Persian Wars increased the Greek sense of their own uniqueness. The gods, they felt, had protected their superior form of government—the city-state—against invaders from Asia.

Athens emerged from the war as the most powerful city-state in Greece. To meet continued threats from Persia, it organized with other Greek city-states an alliance, or a formal agreement between two or more nations or powers to cooperate and come to one another's defense. Modern scholars call this alliance the Delian League after Delos, the location where the league held meetings.

From the start, Athens dominated the Delian League and slowly used its position of leadership to create an Athenian empire. It moved the league treasury from the island of Delos to Athens and forced reluctant allies to remain in the league against their will. It even used money contributed by other city-states to rebuild its own city. Yet, while Athens was enforcing its will abroad, Athenian leaders were championing political freedom at home

Pericles, Democracy, and War

The years after the Persian Wars were a golden age for Athens. Under the able statesman Pericles (PEHR uh kleez), the economy thrived and the government became more democratic. Because of his wise and skillful leadership, the period from 460 B.C. to 429 B.C. is often called the Age of Pericles.

Democracy in Athens

By the time of Pericles, the Athenian assembly met several times a month. A Council of 500, selected by lot, conducted daily government business. Pericles believed that all male citizens, regardless of wealth or social class, should take part in government. Athens therefore began to pay a stipend, or fixed salary, to men who participated in the Assembly and its governing Council. This reform enabled poor men to serve in government.

Under Pericles, Athens was a direct democracy, or a system of government in which citizens take part directly in the day-to-day affairs of government. By contrast, in most democratic countries today, citizens participate in government indirectly through elected representatives. In both the assembly and the Council of 500, Athenians discussed issues of importance to them.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments