The Athenian Hegemony refers to the lands controlled by the city-state of Athens and the network of alliances and influence it possessed. Emerging in 479 BC after the Battle of Mycale and the liberation of the Ionian Greeks from Lydia, the Athenian Hegemony is typically referred to as the first Classical Greek state not defined as a single city.
While at first formed as a defensive league in order to protect Greek city-states from a second Lydian invasion, the Hegemony quickly became a means for Athens to extend its political and economic control over both other Greeks and foreign lands. Persia itself was attacked by Athenian forces in both Cyprus and Egypt, indicating that the League was no longer just a defensive organization.
As a result, several city-states that had previously submitted to the Hegemony began to chafe at its rules and grabs of power and wealth for the benefit of Athens. This, combined with Athens' aggressive foreign policy, eventually attracted the ire of Sparta, and in two separate Peloponnesian Wars Sparta and Athens battled to be the dominate power in the Greek world.After a disastrous campaign to Sicily and a Spartan alliance with Lydia, giving Sparta a powerful navy to challenge the primary aspect of Athenian power, Athens was forced to surrender in 404 BC. Athenian democracy was temporarily suspended by the Spartans, who installed the Thirty Tyrants to facilitate Athens into a Spartan puppet state. While this was ultimately unsuccessful, the Athenian Hegemony was forever broken and would never emerge again, although it provided considerable influence amongst other Greek city-states like Sparta and Thebes who tried to emulate the Hegemony. It also helped spread Greek culture and ideology to other areas and is considered to be the first major example of Greek statehood.