Page:15 decisive battles of the world Vol 1 (London).djvu/91

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Peloponnesian confederacy attacked her, was undoubtedly very great. With a few trifling exceptions, all the islands of the Ægæn, and all the Greek cities, which in that age fringed the coasts of Asia Minor, the Hellespont, and Thrace, paid tribute to Athens, and implicitly obeyed her orders. The Ægæn sea was an Attic lake. Westward of Greece her influence, though strong, was not equally predominant. She had colonies and allies among the wealthy and populous Greek settlements in Sicily and South Italy, but she had no organized system of confederates in those regions; and her galleys brought her no tribute from the western seas. The extension of her empire over Sicily was the favourite project of her ambitious orators and generals. While her great statesman, Pericles, lived, his commanding genius kept his countrymen under control, and forbade them to risk the fortunes of Athens in distant enterprises, while they had unsubdued and powerful enemies at their own doors. He taught Athens this maxim; but he also taught her to know and to use her own strength, and when Pericles had departed, the bold spirit, which he had fostered, overleaped the salutary limits which he had prescribed. When her bitter enemies, the Corinthians, succeeded, in 431 B.C., in inducing Sparta to attack her, and a con-