Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ Democratic Reforms Behind Cimon’s Back.
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 31, 2003
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First there is the question of why the Spartans, after summoning the Athenians to help, suddenly changed their minds and dismissed them. Plutarch says that the Spartans saw the Athenians as “revolutionaries” (νεωτεριστάς) (Plut. Cim. 17.2). Thucydides expands on this, saying that the Spartans, “apprehensive of the enterprising and revolutionary character of the Athenians, and further looking upon them as foreigners, began to fear that if they remained, they might be tempted by the besieged in Ithome to attempt some political changes. They accordingly dismissed them alone of the allies, without declaring their suspicions, but merely saying that they had now no need of them” (δείσαντες τῶν Ἀθηναίων τὸ τολμηρὸν καὶ τὴν νεωτεροποιίαν, καὶ ἀλλοφύλους ἅμα ἡγησάμενοι, μή τι, ἢν παραμείνωσιν, ὑπὸ τῶν ἐν Ἰθώμῃ πεισθέντες νεωτερίσωσι, μόνους τῶν ξυμμάχων ἀπέπεμψαν, τὴν μὲν ὑποψίαν οὐ δηλοῦντες, εἰπόντες δὲ ὅτι οὐδὲν προσδέονται αὐτῶν ἔτι) (Thuc. 1.102).
Second, there are several passages from ancient authors that say that democratic reforms were passed in Athens while Cimon was away. Plutarch suggests this, in very general terms, in his biography of Pericles. Once Aristides was dead, Plutarch says, and Themistocles was banished and Cimon was generally absent on campaigns, “Pericles decided to devote himself to the people, espousing the cause of the poor and the many instead of the few and the rich, contrary to his own nature, which was anything but popular” (Plut. Per. 7.2). In his biography of Cimon he is more specific, saying that after Cimon’s trial and acquittal, he opposed any democratic reforms, “but when he sailed away again on military service, the People got completely beyond control. They confounded the established political order of things and the ancestral practices which they had formerly observed, and under the lead of Ephialtes they robbed the Council of the Areopagus of all but a few of the cases in its jurisdiction” (Plut. Cim. 15.1).
Third, there is evidence to suggest that democratic reforms, and particularly a reform of the Court of the Areopagus, were enacted specifically by the People generally, the dēmos (δῆμος), in the absence of Cimon and the wealthier Athenians. Diodorus says that it was the Assembly (ἐκκλησία), the most democratic institution in Athens, that reformed the Court of the Areopagus (Diod. 11.77.6). More interesting still, Aristotle attributes the democratic reforms after the Persian Wars, and particularly the changes to the Court of the Areopagus, to the “naval multitude” (ὁ ναυτικὸς ὄχλος) (Aristot. Pol. 1304a 20). This “naval multitude” refers to the citizens who were not wealthy enough to provide themselves with bronze armor, but could nevertheless serve as rowers on warships.
Fourth, and finally, Plutarch’s biography of Pericles, unlike his biography of Cimon, explicitly connects Cimon’s ostracism with Ephialtes’ reform of the Court of the Areopagus, which he calls here the “Council of the Areopagus”: “ Not only was the Council robbed of most of its jurisdiction by Ephialtes, but Cimon also, on the charge of being a lover of Sparta and a hater of the people, was ostracized” (Plut. Per. 9.4).
If we put these four categories of evidence together, we might (tentatively) reconstruct events as follows: In
It is important to note that the preceding paragraph is one possible interpretation of a few pieces of evidence. The evidence, by itself, does not give a full, or consistent, picture of events.
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