Another example of the emulation of artistic ideas can be found in the Erechtheum on the Athenian acropolis. It was built after the Parthenon, between 425 and 409 BCE, during the war against Sparta. For the present purpose, we are interested in only one part of this complex sanctuary: the caryatids.
In one of the wings of the Erechtheum, these female figures carry the roof on their heads. They are not the first examples of thus type of column in Greece: the caryatids of the Siphnian treasury at Delphi were, according to some art historians, erected after the Greek victory over the Persians in 479 BCE.
The issue is how and from where these women were introduced into Greek art. One explanation is offered by Vitruvius, a Roman architect who published a textbook On architecture. He writes:
Should any one wish for information on the origin of those draped matronal figures [...] called caryatids, I will explain it by the following story. Carya, a city of Peloponnese, joined the Persians in their war against the Greeks. These in return for the treachery, after having freed themselves by a most glorious victory from the intended Persian yoke, unanimously resolved to launch a war against the Caryans. Carya was taken and destroyed, its male population extinguished, and its matrons carried into slavery. To ensure that these circumstances might be better remembered, and the nature of the triumph perpetuated, the victors represented the matrons draped, and apparently suffering under the burden with which they were loaded, to expiate the crime of their native city. Thus, in their edifices, did the ancient architects, by the use of these statues, hand down to posterity a memorial of the crime of the Caryans.
[Vitruvius, On architecture 1.1.5]
In other words, caryatids are not only statues with the function of columns, but express an idea: you were not supposed to collaborate with the enemy, because you would be subdued, humiliated, and punished.
The Naqš-i Rustam relief
This motif is also known from Persia. In the second half of the sixth century BCE, the great king had assembled a great many conquered nations. These people, or rather their subjection, became part of the royal imagery.
To express the idea that others were subjected, the Persians used no human but animal figures. For example, the imposts of the columns in the palaces (the top of a column which connects it with the supporting beams of the roof) often have the shape of of a bull or a winged feline. The analogy is obvious: like a griffin or a wild bull under a yoke, the nations were kept under control by the king.
Sometimes, humans are depicted as carriers of a great weight: for example, on the royal tombs at Naqš-i Rustam, we see the king, standing on two large platforms. These platforms are carried by men, who probably resemble the subject nations. Another example is the representation of the king on the tripylon-gate at Persepolis, where the king is sitting on a throne, supported by three levels of humans.
The Athenian caryatids do not resemble Athenian women: their hair cuts are uncommon and resemble Peloponnesian hair cuts. This is something we can say with certainty. It is tempting to look for a Persian antecedent for the caryatids, because there are no obvious antecedents in Greek art. But when we try to establish a Persian influence, we have to be more speculative. Why didn't the Athenians copy the animal figures and did they use women instead?
Relief from Persepolis
If we ignore the possibility that the Athenian men treated their women like animals -which is certainly a possible interpretation- the solution may be that the Athenians only emulated the general idea behind the representation. In the Persian context, yoked animals or people are carrying a great weight, which was apparently seen as the essence of subjection. The same element can be found in the Greek situation: the caryatids are carrying a heavy load. This time, they are not animals but women, but this has a reason: as we have seen in the example of the Parthenon frieze (above), the Athenians adapted a general idea to a specific situation. They used a concrete example, the shameful subjection of the women of Carya, to show that they were prepared to subject people, as the Persians did.
This was not merely an intention, but the Athenians put it into practice. In the next section, we will deal with their imperialist policy. In the years after the Persian Wars, Athens expanded its empire and controlled a great part of the Greek world with its superior navy. This created new problems in the management of the empire, and the Athenians wanted to deal with them as efficiently as possible. Probably, they looked abroad how the Achaemenid empire had solved the same problems. Of course it is possible that the Athenian leaders were original and creative thinkers, but, as we shall see in the next parts of this article, there are indications that they copied Persian solutions.
As we have seen above, Athens brought the war against the Persians to a good ending and discovered the opportunities offered by the Delian League. As long as the war against Persia had been going on, its members had had every reason to remain united, but now that the immediate cause was removed, Athens had to look for a tool to keep its nascent empire together.
Member states that wanted to segregate from the League, were brutally attacked. The smaller city states, which could use some help and protection, were inclined to side with Athens, but others, which hated to pay tribute and the increasing Athenian involvement in their internal affairs, were visited by the Athenian navy and forced into surrender (e.g., Naxos in 470 and Thasos in 465 BCE). These towns, which had been forced to remain in the League, had another status than the cities that obeyed Athens. They had to disband their navies, had to pay tribute in cash, and lost much of their autonomy. If they were not democratic, they were forced to change their constitution.
At a later stage, towns that had always paid their tribute in cash were equaled with the subject cities. The number of autonomous cities diminished. When the Peloponnesian War broke out in 431 BCE, only Chios and Lesbos had retained some of their former independence.
But it was not only military power that helped Athens become the master of a great part of Greece; its economic power was a source of strength as well. The Athenian port was the center of interregional commerce and the city had commercial treaties with many towns and nations inside and outside the League. It controlled the monetary system and ordered that only the famous Athenian 'owl'-coins and weights were to be used in commercial transactions.
Athens also founded colonies (cleruchies). These were meant to repopulate subject towns from which a part of the population had been expelled. This gave the Athenians a stronghold in potentially unquiet areas, because the colonists retained their Athenian citizenship and did not have to pay tribute. After 450 BCE, Athens started to station garrisons throughout its empire.
Every town in the Athenian empire, whatever its precise status, was supervised by an episcopus or overseer. This Athenian magistrate kept an eye on the town where he resided. He controlled the payment of the tributes, was supposed to prevent insurrections and had to investigate evils and report them to the government at home.
All in all, the Delian League was a complex organization. We will now investigate whether the organization of the Achaemenid empire served as a model to the Athenian empire, and we will concentrate on the following aspects:
the organization of the League, and its resemblances with and its differences from the structure of the Persian state, and especially the way tribute was paid.
the function and origin of the office of the episcopus.