Lysimachus, Archon of Athens, to his Council, 436 BCE

Map of Greece at the Beginning of the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.)

Serious commentators are worried about the possibility of a “Melexit”

Gentlemen of Athens:

I will dispense with the formalities. The Delian League is in financial trouble. We all know the trouble some of the smaller members and especially trading non-members are having. Now, the situation in Melos has deteriorated to the point that it’s time for us to formally consider the possibility of a fiscally disastrous situation wherein Melos is forced out of of the Delozone. Obviously, no one wants Melos to abandon the drachma. The single currency has been a boon to Athenian traders as well as traders throughout the Delozone, and an unruly exit would likely spread to other members, such as Naxos, Rhodes, or even Achaea.

We all know times are tough. The Melan Government, after committing to our program of austerity, has now fallen under the rule of a new king who claims the stress is too great. We have merely asked them to get their house in order with a series of difficult but achievable steps:

  1. Reduce spending on government salary
  2. Improve tax efficiency by accepting increased chicken payments rather than just bulls
  3. Save on unnecessary costs by eating less food. We’re all tightening our belts; some people just have to do it literally
  4. Reduce potency of sacrifices. Trust us, the Gods like rocks and grass as much as cattle.
  5. Most importantly, increase confidence by giving us lots of gold.

By following these steps, the people of Melos will simply sacrifice short-term happiness (and in some cases, short-term being alive) for long-term stability. Without firmly committing to these principles, it is impossible for traders here in Athens to be fully confident that investments in Melos will be repaid. Obviously, this instability could lead to disaster, and we must be vigilant to make sure that smaller nations remain committed to the league.

-EA Lysimachus


This is one of a very unusual breed of letter: one from which absolutely no lessons can be applied to our world today. There is simply no situation to compare to this “Delozone” (kind of a stupid term, if you ask us) of Ancient Greece, which died out along with the Ancient Greeks themselves. 

On the plus side, this letter does reveal some important information about Ancient Greek religion: namely, that the Ancient Greeks believed the gods liked rocks and grass as much as they liked cattle. This obvious mistake may have led to the downfall of the Greeks, as we can imagine the gods were not amused.

Or it could have been their unyielding commitment to austerity measures in a time that called for growth. Maybe that.


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