Source Exercise 1: The Athenian Empire

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View from the Acropolis Athens

Credit: Natasa Pavic, Pixabay

Athens and Persia

Not as many students study Ancient History and Classical Civilisation at A Level (or equivalent courses) as do Modern History. However, our paper on Ancient Greece and Rome is a very popular part of the Cambridge History Tripos – lots of students opt to take it. The departments of Classics and of History also share some courses in Cambridge, so we wanted to give you an introduction to a thriving part of what we can offer at Cambridge.

Although you may not formally have studied the Ancient world at A Level (or equivalent), you may know more than you think at first. Perhaps you have seen depictions of it in television programmes and films? Perhaps you have read novels such as I, Claudius by Robert Graves, or more recent work by writers such as Robert Harris and Lindsey Davis, which provide a light introduction to the classical world? Even if you haven’t seen much Ancient History on television or in novels, don’t be afraid of tackling the following documents if you are unfamiliar with this period; they are designed to be accessible to everyone, without any prior knowledge. If you enjoy working through these sources, which we hope you will, and wish to know more about the Cambridge Classics course as a result, please visit: If you would like to take a look at Ancient History options in the Cambridge History course, please visit and click on Tripos Papers to see lists of papers and descriptions of their content.

The sources here focus on the period of the Athenian Empire, also known as the Delian League, an association of approximately 150 fifth century B.C. Greek city states originally formed to provide mutual protection and support for the Athenians and those Greeks worried about the threat from Persia. This alliance came under the domination of Athens making it clear that the Athenians were in charge of an empire, not just the leading city in an alliance of equals.

Bearing this in mind read the first extract carefully and try to answer the questions which follow using only the internal evidence of the source.