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History (1)

Classical period (480-323 BC)

DEKELIA (Ancient demos) ACHARNES

The Decelean War

The aftermath of the defeat in Sicily
Alcibiades' desertion turned out to cause Athens more trouble after the catastrophic end of the Sicilian expedition in 413. While at Sparta he advised the Spartan commanders to establish a permanent base of operations in the Attic countryside. In 413 they acted on his advice. Taking advantage of Athenian weakness in the aftermath of the enormous losses in men and equipment sustained in Sicily, they installed a garrison at Decelea in northeastern Attica, in sight of the walls of Athens itself only a few miles distant. Spartan forces could now raid the Athenian countryside year around instead of only for a limited time, as in the earlier years of the war when the annual invasions dispatched from Sparta could never linger longer than forty days in Athenian territory. The presence of the garrison made agricultural work in the fields of Attica too dangerous and forced Athens to rely on food imported by sea even more heavily than in the past. The damage to Athenian fortunes increased when twenty thousand slaves owned by the state and who worked in Athens' silver mines ran away to seek refuge in the Spartan camp. The loss of these slave miners put a stop to the flow of revenue from the veins of silver ore. So immense was the distress caused by the crisis that an extraordinary change was made in Athenian government: a board of ten officials was appointed to manage the affairs of the city, virtually supplanting the council of five hundred
War and the finances of Athens
The financial health of the city-state of Athens suffered during the Peloponnesian War from the many interruptions to agriculture and from the catastrophic loss of income from the state's silver mines that occurred after the Spartan army took up a permanent presence in 413 B.C. Work could thereafter no longer continue at the mines, especially after the desertion of thousands of slave mine workers to the Spartan fort at Decelea. Some public building projects in the city itself were kept going, like the Erectheum temple to Athena on the acropolis, to demonstrate the Athenian will to carry on and also as a device for infusing some money into the crippled economy. But the demands of the war depleted the funds available for many non-military activities. The scale of the great annual dramatic festivals, for example, had to be cut back. The financial situation had become so desperate by the end of the war that Athenians were required to turn in their silver coins and exchange them for an emergency currency of bronze thinly plated with silver. The regular silver coins, along with gold coins that were minted from golden objects borrowed from Athens' temples, were then used to pay war expenses.

This text is from: Thomas Martin's An Overview of Classical Greek History from Homer to Alexander, Yale University Press. Cited July 2005 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


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