The classic example of the stimulating effect of a blow is the reaction of Hellas in general, and Athens in particular, to the onslaught of the Achaemenian Power – the Syriac universal state – in 480-479 B.C.
“The vastness of the forces employed in the expedition of Xerxes King of Persia against Hellas cast the shadow of a terrible danger over the Hellenic Society. The stakes for which the Hellenes were called upon to fight were slavery or freedom, while the fact that the Hellenic communities in Asia had already been enslaved created a presumption in every mind that the communities in Hellas itself would experience the same fate. When, however, the war resulted, contrary to expectation, in its amazing issue, the inhabitants of Hellas found themselves not only relieved from the dangers which had threatened them but possessed, in addition, of honour and glory, while every Hellenic community was filled with such affluence that the whole World was astonished at the completeness with which the situation had been reversed.
“During the half century that followed this epoch, Hellas made vast strides in prosperity. During this period, the effects of the new affluence showed themselves in the progress of the arts; and artists as great as any recorded in history, including the sculptor Pheidias, flourished at the time. There was an equally signal advance in the intellectual field, in which philosophy and public-speaking were singled out for special honour throughout the Hellenic World and particularly at Athens. In philosophy there was the school of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle; in public-speaking there were such figures as Pericles, Isocrates and Isocrates’ pupils; and these were balanced by men of action with great military reputations like Miltiades, Themistocles, Aristides, Cimon, Myronides and a long array of other names too numerous to mention.
“In the forefront of all, Athens achieved such triumphs of glory and prowess that her name won almost world-wide renown. She increased her ascendancy to such a point that, with her own resources, unsupported by the Lacedaemonians and Peloponnesians, she broke the resistance of powerful Persian forces on land and so humbled the pride of the famous Persian Empire that she compelled it to liberate by treaty all the Hellenic communities in Asia.” [Footnote: Diodorus of Agyrium: A Library of Universal History, Book XII, chs. 1-2. [Translation presumably by Toynbee.]]
A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934