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The Rebellion of Thasos

Since Athens supplied the largest number of warships in the fleet of the Delian League, the balance of power in the League came firmly into the hands of the Athenian assembly,1 whose members decided how Athenian ships were to be employed. Members of the League had no effective recourse if they disagreed with decisions made for the League as a whole under Athenian leadership. Athens, for instance, could compel the League to send its ships to force reluctant allies to go on paying dues if they stopped making their annual payments. The most egregious instance of such compulsion was the case of the city-state of the island of Thasos2 which, in 465 B.C, unilaterally withdrew from the Delian League after a dispute with Athens over gold mines on the neighboring mainland. To compel the Thasians to keep their sworn agreement to stay in the League, the Athenians led the fleet of the Delian League, including ships from other member states, against Thasos. The attack turned into a protracted siege, which finally ended after three years' campaigns in 463 B.C. with the island's surrender. As punishment, the League forced Thasos to pull down its defensive walls, give up its navy, and pay enormous dues and fines. As Thucydides observed, rebellious allies like the Thasians “lost their independence,” making the Athenians as the League's leaders “no longer as popular as they used to be.”3

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