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Periclean Foreign Policy

Once he had gained political prominence in the 450s at Athens, Pericles devoted his attention to foreign policy as well as domestic proposals. His intial foreign policy encompassed dual goals: 1) continuing military action against the Persian presence in Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean and 2) greater attention to Athenian relations and disputes with other Greek states. This latter part of his policy reflected above all the growing hostility between Athens and Sparta. Hostilities with Sparta and its allies1 had become more and more frequent following the rebuff of Cimon's expedition to Sparta in 462 B.C.2 The former part of the policy suffered a severe setback when a campaign to liberate Egypt from Persian control3 ended with the catastrophic loss of over two hundred ships and their crews in 454 B.C. The Delian League treasury was thereupon transferred to Athens from Delos 4 to move it farther away from a potential Persian raid. The decision to move the alliance's funds, apparently taken unilaterally, confirmed Athens' absolute superiority over the other allies. Even after the Egyptian disaster the Athenian assembly did not immediately renounce further action against the Persians. Cimon, now returned from the exile imposed by his ostracism, was in fact sent out in charge of a major naval expedition5 to the eastern Mediterranean to try to pry the large island of Cyprus from Persian control. When he was killed on this campaign in 450 B.C., however, the assembly apparently decided not to send out any further overseas expeditions against Persian territory. Rather, Athens would focus its military efforts on containing Spartan power in Greece and preventing the Delian League from disintegrating through revolts of allies. 6 When neither Sparta nor Athens was able to achieve a clear-cut dominance in Greece in the battles that followed in the early 440s, Pericles in 445 engineered a peace treaty with Sparta7 designed to freeze the current balance of power in Greece for thirty years and thus preserve Athenian dominance in the Delian League.

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