Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ The Beginning of Conflict with the Democrats.
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 31, 2003
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Plutarch praises Cimon for his opposition to the democratic reforms of Themistocles and Ephialtes (Plut. Cim. 10.7). The beginnings of this opposition, as far as we can tell, arose from an incident on one of Cimon’s military campaigns in the north. While the Persians had been mostly driven from the Aegean sea, they remained in the Chersonese, a peninsula in the northern Aegean, and allied themselves with some of the people of Thrace; the Athenians dispatched Cimon to wage war against them (Plut. Cim. 14.1). Cimon won a victory in Thrace, which allowed him, had he wished to, to invade Macedonia. When he failed to do this, he was brought to trial in Athens, accused of accepting bribes to leave Macedonia alone; one of the prosecutors at his trial was Pericles (Plut. Cim. 14.2-3). Cimon spoke well in his own defense (Plut. Cim. 14.3) and was acquitted, but this trial, at least as Plutarch narrates Cimon’s career, marked the beginning of a period of confrontation between him and the democratic reformers (Plut. Cim. 15.1-2; Plut. Cim. 10.7).
Cimon was the proxenos (πρόξενος) or “official representative” of Sparta in Athens, a position similar to that of an ambassador, except that the proxenus was a citizen of the foreign city, not of the city he represented (Plut. Cim. 14.3; Paus. 4.24.6). Cimon’s relationship with Sparta was close; he cited that relationship, as evidence of his good character, in his own defense at his trial (Plut. Cim. 14.3), and even named one of his sons Lacedaemonius, or “Spartan” (Thuc. 1.45.2; Plut. Cim. 16.1; Aristotle makes some unflattering comments about Cimon’s children at Aristot. Rh. 1390b). This relationship was helpful to Athens, and reflected well on Cimon in the eyes of his fellow citizens, while Sparta and Athens were allies in the struggle against Persia, but as the two cities became rivals, Sparta’s proxenus came to be regarded with some suspicion (Plut. Cim. 16.4-6).
Read about the evidence
Plutarch (Plut. Cim.).
Andocides (Andoc. 4).
Andocides (Andoc. 3).
Plutarch (Plut. Per.).
Plot on a Map
Ephialtes opposed sending help to Sparta, but Cimon argued in favor of doing so and persuaded the Athenians (Plut. Cim. 16.8). After this successful intervention, the Spartans called for help from Athens a second time, in
When Plutarch describes Cimon’s ostracism at Plut. Cim. 17.2, he suggests that it was motivated by Athens’ anger at their humiliating dismissal by the Spartans—Cimon, the proxenus of Sparta would have been a natural target for that anger. But there may have been more to it than that. We have reason to think that while Cimon was away in Messenia with an Athenian army, the people in Athens, under the leadership of Ephialtes and Pericles, enacted a radical democratic reform by limiting the powers of the Court of the Areopagus.
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