What group was driven out of Greece just before the golden age of Athens began?
The Persians were driven from Greece before the Golden Age, this was a result of the Greco-Persian war. This war was not just fought between the Persians and the Greeks, not even all the Greeks sided with Greece in the war.The conflict began before the start of the Persian Wars, the term Greco-Persian War spans a wider range of events including the invasions of Greece in 492 BCE to 448 BCE by two Achaemenid Persian Kings. The Persian kings Darius and Xerxes had tried before this to invade and gain control of Greece but failed.The Persian King Cambyses was able to extend the Persian Empire by absorbing Greek colonies that were around the Mediterranean coast. Greek colonies such as Thebes, Macedonia, and Thessaly and some non-greek colonies sided with the Persians during the war. Many of the Greek colonies who were under the leadership of Sparta, on land, and the dominance of Athens, on sea, sided with Greece during the war. Before the Persians invaded Greece they had been faced with revolts in the territory they control. These revolts continued in the Persian territories throughout the Persian War. The Greeks came to the aid of Egypt when it rebelled against Persian control.
Most consider the dates of the Persian Wars to be 492-448 BCE but the conflict between Persia and Greece started before 499 BCE. The Persians tried to invade the mainland of Greece twice once in 490 BCE and again in 480-479 BCE. The Persian Wars came to an end with the Peace of Callias in 449 BCE however by then Athens had formed its own empire and the tensions between Sparta and Athens were growing. Conflict between the two led to the Peloponnesian War, and the Persian would financially back the Spartans. The last battle of the war between Greece and Persian resulted in the death of Cimon, the Athenian leader, and the defeat of the Persians. It did not however result in one side or the other having decisive power in the Aegean. By the end of the war both sides were tired and negotiations were discussed in the Persian capital of Susa. The treaty was called the Peace of Callias and it gave the Greek colony of Ionia their autonomy and Athens agreed that they would no longer campaign against the Persian king.
The Greco-Persian War is a turning point in the history of Athens. Persia wanted further expansion into Asia Minor and that required the acquisition of Greek colonies on the Ionian Peninsula. It seemed like a natural extension of the empire geographically, but culturally, the colonies were identified as Greek. Athens instigated an uprising in Ionia and Darius took exception and vowed to destroy the city-state. The Persians advanced to Athens before being turned back at Marathon. After a fifty-year conflict with Persia which saw the cooperation of many of the Greek city-states, the Persians were defeated. By defeating the Persians and defending their homeland, Athens acquired a renewed vigor and confidence. Vowing to never be approached by the Persians at sea again, they built an unstoppable navy and created a lucrative alliance called the Delian League. This ultimately led to their golden age.