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Summary.

Introduction: Cimon’s Family and Character.

Cimon’s Early Career.

Cimon’s Successes.

→ The Beginning of Conflict with the Democrats.

Democratic Reforms Behind Cimon’s Back.

The Reforms that Cimon Opposed.

Cimon’s Last Years and Death.

Secondary Works Cited.

Index of Citations

General Index

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Cimon 

Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 31, 2003

page 5 of 9

· The Beginning of Conflict with the Democrats ·

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Plutarch (Plut. Cim.).
 
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Chersonese.
Aegean.
Thrace.
Athens.
Macedonia.

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).

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Pausanias (Paus.).
Thucydides (Thuc.).
Aristotle (Aristot. Rh.).
Plutarch (Plut. Cim.).
 
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Athens.
Persia.
Sparta.

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).

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Plutarch (Plut. Cim.).
Pausanias (Paus.).
Aristophanes (Aristoph. Lys.).
 
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Peloponnese.
Sparta.
Athens.

In 464 BCE, an earthquake struck the Peloponnese in the area around Sparta, and the helots ( εἵλως , εἱλώτης ), a large population of serfs controlled by the Spartans, took the disaster as an opportunity to revolt from their masters; the Spartans send messages to Athens asking for help in putting down this rebellion (Plut. Cim. 16.4-7; Paus. 1.29.8; source for date: OHCW). Aristophanes makes a joking reference to this event in his play Lysistrata, where Lysistrata chides some Spartans, saying: “You must remember, not so long ago, you sent a man to Athens begging us, on bended knee and whiter than a ghost, to sent an army? All your slaves were up in arms when that big earthquake hit you. We send you help, four thousand infantry” (Aristoph. Lys. 1138)—“not so long ago” is misleading, since Lysistrata was produced in 411 BCE, fifty three years after the helot-uprising (source for date: OHCW).

Read about the evidence
Thucydides (Thuc.).
Pausanias (Paus.).
Plutarch (Plut. Cim.).
Andocides (Andoc. 4).
Andocides (Andoc. 3).
Plutarch (Plut. Per.).
 
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Sparta.
Ithome.
Messenia.
Athens.

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 462 BCE, when they were besieging a group of rebellious helots in the town of Ithome, in Messenia (source for date: OHCW). Again the Athenians sent a military force, under Cimon’s command, but once the army arrived in Messenia, the Spartans sent them back again (Plut. Cim. 17.2; Thuc. 1.102; Paus. 1.29.8). Plutarch says, “the army came back home in a rage, and at once took open measures of hostility against the pro-Spartan people, and above all against Cimon” (Plut. Cim. 17.2); Cimon was ostracized, a process by which the people of Athens voted to expel him from the city for a period of ten years (Plut. Cim. 17.2; Andoc. 4.33; Andoc. 3.3; Plut. Per. 9.4).

Read about the evidence
Plutarch (Plut. Cim.).
 
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Sparta.
Messenia.
Athens.

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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