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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 7 of 9

· The Reforms that Cimon Opposed ·

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Athens.

For a full description of the Court of the Areopagus (sometimes called the “Council of the Areopagus,” and sometimes simply “the Areopagus”, after the Hill of the Areopagus, where it convened) and the reforms of 462 BCE, see the entries under Court of the Areopagus and Ephialtes. What follows is a very condensed account, to illustrate the democratic changes to the government of Athens that Cimon opposed.

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Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
 
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Athens.

In the earliest stages of the Athenian government that our sources describe, the Court of the Areopagus was the most important governing body. It was also a very aristocratic body. Aristotle says that before the fifth century, “The Council of the Areopagus had the official function of guarding the laws, but actually it administered the greatest number and the most important of the affairs of state, inflicting penalties and fines upon offenders against public order without appeal; for the elections of the Archons went by birth and wealth, and the members of the Areopagus were appointed from them, owing to which this alone of the offices has remained even to the present day tenable for life” (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 3.6). In the time of Draco, who (according to legend) first gave Athens a code of laws, “The Council of the Areopagus was guardian of he laws, and kept a watch on the magistrates ( τὰς ἀρχάς ) to make them govern in accordance with the laws. A person unjustly treated might lay a complaint before the Council of the Areopagus, stating the law in contravention of which he was treated unjustly” (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 4.4). Both of these passages are rather vague as to the details of the functions of the Court of the Areopagus, but its importance is clear.

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Aristotle (Aristot. Pol.).
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
 
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Athens.
Salamis.
Peloponnese.

As Athens became gradually more democratic, in the years leading up to the Persian Wars (c. 481-479 BCE: source OHCW), the Areopagus seems to have lost some of its authority. Aristotle says in his Politics that Solon—the partly legendary, partly historical Athenian lawgiver of the early 6th century BCE (source: OCD3)—reformed the Athenian constitution by mixing democratic elements (the law-courts), aristocratic elements (the elected offices) and oligarchic elements (the Council of the Areopagus) (Aristot. Pol. 1273b). However, during the chaos of the Persian invasion in 480 BCE, the Council of the Areopagus took a leading role in organizing, and financing, the evacuation of all Athenians to Salamis and the Peloponnese, which raised the body’s status considerably (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 23.1).

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Aristotle (Aristot. Pol.).
 
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Salamis.
Athens.

While the evacuation of Athens raised the prestige of the Areopagus, the ensuing battle in the sea by Salamis may have helped bring about its later fall from power. The victory at Salamis was won by Athens’ fleet, which was manned by the general population who may have assumed that their role in the defense of Athens entitled them to a greater role in the city’s governance. Aristotle explicitly contrasts this “naval crowd” with the Council of the Areopagus: “…as for example the Council of the Areopagus having risen in reputation during the Persian Wars was believed to have made the constitution more rigid, and then again the naval multitude, having been the cause of the victory off Salamis and thereby of the leadership of Athens due to her power at sea, made the democracy stronger” ( οἷον ἐν Ἀρείῳ πάγῳ βουλὴ εὐδοκιμήσασα ἐν τοῖς Μηδικοῖς ἔδοξε συντονωτέραν ποιῆσαι τὴν πολιτείαν, καὶ πάλιν ναυτικὸς ὄχλος γενόμενος αἴτιος τῆς περὶ Σαλαμῖνα νίκης καὶ διὰ ταύτης τῆς ἡγεμονίας διὰ τὴν κατὰ θάλατταν δύναμιν τὴν δημοκρατίαν ἰσχυροτέραν ἐποίησεν ) (Aristot. Pol. 1304a 20).

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Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Plutarch (Plut. Cim.).
 
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Persia.
Macedonia.

In the years following the Persian Wars, we know of two events, particularly, that may have motivated the advocates of democracy to try to limit the authority of the Council of the Areopagus. First, Themistocles, who was a leader of those who favored democracy (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 28.2; Plut. Cim. 5.4; Plut. Cim. 10.6), was brought to trial before the Council of the Areopagus on charges that he had improper dealings with Persia (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 25.3). Second, Cimon, who as we have seen was an opponent of democratic reforms (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 28.2; Plut. Cim. 5.4; Plut. Cim. 10.6), was acquitted by the Areopagus when he was charged with failing to invade Macedonia (Plut. Cim. 15.1-2; Plut. Cim. 10.7).

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Plutarch (Plut. Cim.).
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Plutarch (Plut. Per.).
 
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Sparta.

The ancient sources are in agreement that in 462 BCE Cimon was the principle opponent of reform to the powers of the Council of the Areopagus (see, for example Aristot. Ath. Pol. 26.1; Plut. Per. 9.4; Plut. Cim. 15.1; source for date: OCD3). The sources do not agree, however, as to who initiated that reform. Plutarch says that it was Ephialtes who, “broke down the power of the Council of the Areopagus” (Plut. Per. 7.6). At one point in the Constitution of the Athenians Aristotle says “But as the population increased, Ephialtes son of Sophonides, having become head of the People and having the reputation of being incorruptible and just in regard to the constitution, attacked the Council of the Areopagus” (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 25.1). But elsewhere in the same work he says that the reform was organized by Ephialtes and Themistocles (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 25.3), and elsewhere still, he mentions Pericles attacking the Council of the Areopagus (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 27.1). Plutarch also mentions Pericles at Plut. Per. 9.3. We should probably conclude, although cautiously, that Ephialtes was the principle reformer, but that he acted with the advice and support of Pericles. Ephialtes is the name most often associated with the reforms, and the following passage from Plutarch suggests that, while Pericles was a leader of the democratic movement, it was Ephialtes who enacted this particular reform: “For this reason all the more did Pericles, strong in the affections of the people, lead a successful party against 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).

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Plutarch (Plut. Cim.).
Plutarch (Plut. Per.).
Lysias (Lys. 7).
Demosthenes (Dem. 23).
Apollodorus (Dem. 59).
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).

What were the reforms? They are discussed at length in the articles on Ephialtes and on the Court of the Areopagus, but they can be summarized briefly here. Plutarch says that the Council of the Areopagus lost jurisdiction over almost all kriseis, “judgements” ( κρίσεις ) (Plut. Cim. 15.2; Plut. Per. 9.5). Aristotle is vague, saying that the Council of the Areopagus was “deprived of superintendence of affairs” ( ἀπεστερήθη τῆς ἐπιμελείας ) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 26.1). Our best evidence for what authority remained in the hands of the Council of the Areopagus comes from subsequent trials that appeared before it. These include trials for homicide, assault and battery, certain religious offenses, and arson (Lys. 7.22; Dem. 23.22; Dem. 59.79; Aristot. Ath. Pol. 57.3; Aristot. Ath. Pol. 60.2).

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Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).

Immediately after describing the reform of the Court of the Areopagus, Aristotle mentions that Pericles first introduced pay for citizens who served on juries in the court of the Heliaia (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 27.2). This might indicate that, with many kinds of court cases no longer appearing before the Areopagus, there was greater need for citizen jurors.

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