TYRANTS IN ANCIENT GREECE
Solon bas-relief in the
U.S. House of Representatives chamber The first Greek "tyrants" were not tyrants as we think of them today. They were rulers who ousted local oligarchies with the support of the people. On one level they raised expectations of accountability but on other they were often corrupted by power and evolved in despots, who themselves were overthrown with the support of the people.
“Cylon, a former Olympic champion and a nobleman, led a failed coup in the 7th century B.C. that was detailed in the accounts of ancient historians Herodotus and Thucydides. According to AFP: Cylon sought to rule Athens as a tyrant. But Athenians opposed the coup attempt and he and his supporters were forced to seek refuge in the Acropolis. Cylon managed to escape, but the people who backed him were killed. “The conspirators eventually surrendered after winning guarantees that their lives would be spared. But Megacles, of the powerful Alcmaeonid clan, had the men massacred — an act condemned as sacrilegious by the city authorities. Historians say this dramatic chapter in the story of ancient Athens showed the aristocracy's resistance to the political transformation that would eventually herald in 2,500 years of Athenian democracy. [Source: AFP, April 15, 2016]
Herodotus wrote in “The Histories,” Book V: “Sosicles the Corinthian exclaimed: "Surely the heaven will soon be below, and the earth above, and men will henceforth live in the sea, and fish take their place upon dry land, since you, Lacedaemonians, propose to put down free governments in the cities of Greece, and to set up tyrannies in their stead. There is nothing in the whole world so unjust, nothing so bloody, as a tyranny....If you knew what tyranny was as well as ourselves, you would be better advised than you now are in regard to it. The government at Corinth was once an oligarchy, and this group of men, called the Bacchiadae, held sway in the city, marrying and giving in marriage among themselves....Eventually, Cypselus, the son of Aetion, [one of the Bacchiadae] became master of Corinth. Having thus got the tyranny, he showed himself a harsh ruler — many of the Corinthians he drove into banishment, many he deprived of his fortune, and a still greater number of their lives. His reign lasted thirty years, and was prosperous to its close; insomuch that he left the government to Periander, his son....Where Cypselus had spared any, and had neither put them to death nor banished them, Periander complete what his father had left unfinished. One day he stripped all the women of Corinth stark naked, for the sake of his own wife Melissa.” [Source: Herodotus, “Histories”, translated by George Rawlinson, New York: Dutton & Co., 1862]
Plutarch wrote in “The Life of Solon,'' 29-31: “When Solon was gone, the citizens began to quarrel; Lycurgus headed the Plain; Megacles, the son of Alcmaeon, those to the Seaside; and Pisistratus the Hill-party, in which were the poorest people, the Thetes, and greatest enemies to the rich; insomuch that, though the city still used the new laws, yet all looked for and desired a change of government, hoping severally that the change would be better for them, and put them above the contrary faction. Affairs standing thus, Solon returned, and was reverenced by all, and honored; but his old age would not permit him to be as active, and speak in public, as formerly; yet, by privately conferring with the heads of the factions, he endeavored to compose the differences, Pisistratus appearing the most tractable; for he was extremely smooth and engaging in his language, a great friend to the poor, and moderate in his resentments; and what nature had not given him, he had the skill to imitate; so that he was trusted more than the others, being accounted a prudent and orderly man, one that loved equality...Thus he deceived the majority of people. [Source: Plutarch, “Plutarch’s Lives,”(The "Dryden Plutarch"), (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1910]
“Now when Pisistratus, having wounded himself, was brought into the market-place in a chariot, and stirred up the people, as if he had been thus treated by his opponents because of his political conduct, a great many were enraged and cried out. After this, the people were eager to protect Pisistratus, and met in an assembly, where one Ariston making a motion that they should allow Pisistratus fifty club-bearers for a guard to his person, Solon opposed it. But observing the poor bent to gratify Pisistratus, and tumultuous, and the rich fearful and getting out of harm's way, he departed...Now, the people, having passed the law, took no notice of the number of his club-bearers, until he seized the Acropolis. When that was done, and the city was in an uproar, Megacles, with all his family, fled.”
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Websites on Ancient Greece: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Illustrated Greek History, Dr. Janice Siegel, Department of Classics, Hampden–Sydney College, Virginia hsc.edu/drjclassics ; The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization pbs.org/empires/thegreeks ; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Ancient-Greek.org ancientgreece.com; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Ancient City of Athens stoa.org/athens; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Ancient Greek Sites on the Web from Medea showgate.com/medea ; Greek History Course from Reed web.archive.org; Classics FAQ MIT rtfm.mit.edu; 11th Brittanica: History of Ancient Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ;Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu;Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu
Draco and His Law Code
Draco produced a code of laws for Athens in which some relatively minor crimes were punished with death. His form of absolutism gave birth to the term "Draconian." Draco was popular however. In 590 B.C., so many well wishers showed up to see him in an Athens stadium he was smothered under a mountain of cloaks and hats thrown in by fans.
Around 632 B.C., Kylon, an aristocrat and former winner at the Olympic games, tried to wrest power from the aristocratic party that ruled Athens and become a sole tyrant in part by fomenting a rebellion of farmers and small land owners, many of whom had lost their land to wealthy landlords due to debts. At that time Athens had no written laws and the poor had no formal way of having injustices addressed. In an attempt to deal with these problems aristocrats asked Draco to create the First Law Code of Athens. This occurred around 620 B.C. and was preserved only by Aristotle in his book The Athenian Constitution. The laws remained in place until they were replaced by Solon’s laws.
Below are some examples from The Athenian Constitution: 1) political rights (in Athens) can only belong to those that carry weapons. These rights are especially for lower rank lords whereas in order for someone to be elected as a general or head of cavalry he should have a fortune of over 100 mnes and have a legitimate Athenian wife and children over 10 years old. [Source: translated by Antonios Loizides, Ancient History Encyclopedia, June 12, 2015]
“2) He who kills another Athenian, without a purpose or by accident should be banished from Athens for ever. If the killer apologizes to the family of the murdered man and the family accepts the apology, then the murderer may stay in Athens.
“3) A relative of a murder victim, can hunt and take into custody the murderer and thus hand him to the authorities where he will be judged. If a relative kills the murderer he will not be allowed to enter the Athenian Forum (agora), or participate in competitions or set foot into sacred places.”
Solon (638-559 B.C.) is credited with codifying Greek laws and laying the foundation for Athenian democracy. A poet and a statesman, he became the ruler of Athens and replaced a dictatorial form government controlled by the aristocracy with a limited democracy made of wealthy citizens. He passed laws to prevent debtors from being enslaved, helped establish a sort of constitution and made it possible for all citizens to become members of the assembly.
Solon Paul Cartledge of the University of Cambridge wrote in for BBC: “The origin of the Athenian democracy of the fifth and fourth centuries can be traced back to Solon, who flourished in the years around 600 B.C. . Solon was a poet and a wise statesman but not - contrary to later myth - a democrat. He did not believe in people-power as such. But it was Solon's constitutional reform package that laid the basis on which democracy could be pioneered almost 100 years later by a progressive aristocrat called Cleisthenes. [Source: Professor Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]
After an Athenian nobleman named Cylon tried unsuccessfully to seize power in Athens in 632 B.C., Solon, according to Plutarch, was given temporary autocratic powers by Athenian citizens on basis of his “wisdom” to addresse Athens problems in a peaceful and equitable manner. Although the laws that Solon created did last long in the short run, his ideas endured and provided as a basis for Athenian democracy.
Solon Chosen to Make Laws
Plutarch wrote in “Life of Solon”: “Solon could not rise to that in his polity, being but a citizen of the middle classes; yet he acted fully up to the height of his power, having nothing but the good-will and good opinion of his citizens to rely on; and that he offended the most part, who looked for another result, he declares in the words. “Formerly they boasted of me vainly; with averted eyes Now they look askance upon me; friends no more, but enemies." And yet had any other man, he says, received the same power: "He would not have forborne, nor let alone, But made the fattest of the milk his own." Soon, however, becoming sensible of the good that was done, they laid by their grudges, made a public sacrifice, calling it Seisacthea, and chose Solon to new-model and make laws for the commonwealth, giving him the entire power over everything, their magistracies, their assemblies, courts, and councils; that he should appoint the number, times of meeting, and what estate they must have that could be capable of these, and dissolve or continue any of the present constitutions, according to his pleasure. [Source: Plutarch, “Life of Solon,” A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden]
“First, then, he repealed all Draco's laws, except those concerning homicide, because they were too severe, and the punishment too great; for death was appointed for almost all offences, insomuch that those that were convicted of idleness were to die, and those that stole a cabbage or an apple to suffer even as villains that committed sacrilege or murder. So that Demades, in after time, was thought to have said very happily, that Draco's laws were written not with ink but blood; and he himself, being once asked why be made death the punishment of most offences, replied, "Small ones deserve that, and I have no higher for the greater crimes."
“Next, Solon, being willing to continue the magistracies in the hands of the rich men, and yet receive the people into the other part of the government, took an account of the citizens' estates, and those that were worth five hundred measures of fruit, dry and liquid, he placed in the first rank, calling them Pentacosiomedimni; those that could keep an horse, or were worth three hundred measures, were named Hippada Teluntes, and made the second class; the Zeugitae, that had two hundred measures, were in the third; and all the others were called Thetes, who were not admitted to any office, but could come to the assembly, and act as jurors; which at first seemed nothing, but afterwards was found an enormous privilege, as almost every matter of dispute came before them in this latter capacity. Even in the cases which he assigned to the archon's cognisance, he allowed an appeal to the courts. Besides, it is said that he was obscure and ambiguous in the wording of his laws, on purpose to increase the honour of his courts; for since their differences could not be adjusted by the letter, they would have to bring all their causes to the judges, who thus were in a manner masters of the laws. Of this equalisation he himself makes mention in this manner: “Such power I gave the people as might do, Abridged not what they had, now lavished new, Those that were great in wealth and high in place My counsel likewise kept from all disgrace. Before them both I held my shield of might, And let not either touch the other's right." And for the greater security of the weak commons, he gave general liberty of indicting for an act of injury; if any one was beaten, maimed, or suffered any violence, any man that would and was able might prosecute the wrong-doer; intending by this to accustom the citizens, like members of the same body, to resent and be sensible of one another's injuries. And there is a saying of his agreeable to his law, for, being asked what city was best modelled, "That," said he, "where those that are not injured try and punish the unjust as much as those that are."
“When he had constituted the Areopagus of those who had been yearly archons, of which he himself was a member therefore, observing that the people, now free from their debts, were unsettled and imperious, he formed another council of four hundred, a hundred out of each of the four tribes, which was to inspect all matters before they were propounded to the people, and to take care that nothing but what had been first examined should be brought before the general assembly. The upper council, or Areopagus, he made inspectors and keepers of the laws, conceiving that the commonwealth, held by these two councils, like anchors, would be less liable to be tossed by tumults, and the people be more quiet. Such is the general statement, that Solon instituted the Areopagus; which seems to be confirmed, because Draco makes no mention of the Areopagites, but in all causes of blood refers to the Ephetae; yet Solon's thirteenth table contains the eighth law set down in these very words: "Whoever before Solon's archonship were disfranchised, let them be restored, except those that, being condemned by the Areopagus, Ephetae, or in the Prytaneum by the kings, for homicide, murder, or designs against the government, were in banishment when this law was made; and these words seem to show that the Areopagus existed before Solon's laws, for who could be condemned by that council before his time, if he was the first that instituted the court? unless, which is probable, there is some ellipsis, or want of precision in the language, and it should run thus:- "Those that are convicted of such offences as belong to the cognisance of the Areopagites, Ephetae, or the Prytanes, when this law was made," shall remain still in disgrace, whilst others are restored; of this the reader must judge.
Plutarch wrote in “Life of Solon”: Amongst his “laws, one is very peculiar and surprising, which disfranchises all who stand neuter in a sedition; for it seems he would not have any one remain insensible and regardless of the public good, and securing his private affairs, glory that he has no feeling of the distempers of his country; but at once join with the good party and those that have the right upon their side, assist and venture with them, rather than keep out of harm's way and watch who would get the better. It seems an absurd and foolish law which permits an heiress, if her lawful husband fail her, to take his nearest kinsman; yet some say this law was well contrived against those who, conscious of their own unfitness, yet, for the sake of the portion, would match with heiresses, and make use of law to put a violence upon nature; for now, since she can quit him for whom she pleases, they would either abstain from such marriages, or continue them with disgrace, and suffer for their covetousness and designed affront; it is well done, moreover, to confine her to her husband's nearest kinsman, that the children may be of the same family. Agreeable to this is the law that the bride and bridegroom shall be shut into a chamber, and eat a quince together; and that the husband of an heiress shall consort with her thrice a month; for though there be no children, yet it is an honour and due affection which an husband ought to pay to a virtuous, chaste wife; it takes off all petty differences, and will not permit their little quarrels to proceed to a rupture. [Source: Plutarch, “Life of Solon,” A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden]
“In all other marriages he forbade dowries to be given; the wife was to have three suits of clothes, a little inconsiderable household stuff, and that was all; for he would not have marriages contracted for gain or an estate, but for pure love, kind affection, and birth of children. When the mother of Dionysius desired him to marry her to one of his citizens, "Indeed," said he, "by my tyranny I have broken my country's laws, but cannot put a violence upon those of nature by an unseasonable marriage." Such disorder is never to be suffered in a commonwealth, nor such unseasonable and unloving and unperforming marriages, which attain no due end or fruit; any provident governor or lawgiver might say to an old man that takes a young wife what is said to Philoctetes in the tragedy-
“"Truly, in a fit state thou to marry! and if he find a young man, with a rich and elderly wife, growing fat in his place, like the partridges, remove him to a young woman of proper age. And of this enough. Another commendable law of Solon's is that which forbids men to speak evil of the dead; for it is pious to think the deceased sacred, and just, not to meddle with those that are gone, and politic, to prevent the perpetuity of discord. He likewise forbade them to speak evil of the living in the temples, the courts of justice, the public offices, or at the games, or else to pay three drachmas to the person, and two to the public. For never to be able to control passion shows a weak nature and ill-breeding; and always to moderate it is very hard, and to some impossible. And laws must look to possibilities, if the maker designs to punish few in order to their amendment, and not many to no purpose.
“He is likewise much commended for his law concerning wills; before him none could be made, but all the wealth and estate of the deceased belonged to his family; but he by permitting them, if they had no children to bestow it on whom they pleased, showed that he esteemed friendship a stronger tie than kindred, affection than necessity; and made every man's estate truly his own. Yet he allowed not all sorts of legacies, but those only which were not extorted by the frenzy of a disease, charms, imprisonment, force, or the persuasions of a wife; with good reason thinking that being seduced into wrong was as bad as being forced, and that between deceit and necessity, flattery and compulsion, there was little difference, since both may equally suspend the exercise of reason.
“He regulated the walks, feasts, and mourning of the women and took away everything that was either unbecoming or immodest; when they walked abroad, no more than three articles of dress were allowed them; an obol's worth of meat and drink; and no basket above a cubit high; and at night they were not to go about unless in a chariot with a torch before them. Mourners tearing themselves to raise pity, and set wailings, and at one man's funeral to lament for another, he forbade. To offer an ox at the grave was not permitted, nor to bury above three pieces of dress with the body, or visit the tombs of any besides their own family, unless at the very funeral; most of which are likewise forbidden by our laws, but this is further added in ours, that those that are convicted of extravagance in their mournings are to be punished as soft and effeminate by the censors of women.
“Observing the city to be filled with persons that flocked from all parts into Attica for security of living, and that most of the country was barren and unfruitful, and that traders at sea import nothing to those that could give them nothing in exchange, he turned his citizens to trade, and made a law that no son be obliged to relieve a father who had not bred him up to any calling. It is true, Lycurgus, having a city free from all strangers, and land, according to Euripides-"Large for large hosts, for twice their number much," and, above all, an abundance of labourers about Sparta, who should not be left idle, but be kept down with continual toil and work, did well to take off his citizens from laborious and mechanical occupations, and keep them to their arms, and teach them only the art of war. But Solon, fitting his laws to the state of things, and not making things to suit his laws, and finding the ground scarce rich enough to maintain the husbandmen, and altogether incapable of feeding an unoccupied and leisured multitude, brought trades into credit, and ordered the Areopagites to examine how every man got his living, and chastise the idle. But that law was yet more rigid which, as Heraclides Ponticus delivers, declared the sons of unmarried mothers not obliged to relieve their fathers; for he that avoids the honourable form of union shows that he does not take a woman for children, but for pleasure, and thus gets his just reward, and has taken away from himself every title to upbraid his children, to whom he has made their very birth a scandal and reproach.
Solon’s Laws on Women, Wells and Oil
Plutarch wrote in “Life of Solon”: “Solon's laws in general about women are his strangest; for he permitted any one to kill an adulterer that found him in the act- but if any one forced a free woman, a hundred drachmas was the fine; if he enticed her, twenty; except those that sell themselves openly, that is, harlots, who go openly to those that hire them. He made it unlawful to sell a daughter or a sister, unless, being yet unmarried, she was found wanton. Now it is irrational to punish the same crime sometimes very severely and without remorse, and sometimes very lightly, and as it were in sport, with a trivial fine; unless there being little money then in Athens, scarcity made those mulcts the more grievous punishment. In the valuation for sacrifices, a sheep and a bushel were both estimated at a drachma; the victor in the Isthmian games was to have for reward an hundred drachmas; the conqueror in the Olympian, five hundred; he that brought a wolf, five drachmas; for a whelp, one; the former sum, as Demetrius the Phalerian asserts, was the value of an ox, the latter, of a sheep. The prices which Solon, in his sixteenth table, sets on choice victims, were naturally far greater; yet they, too, are very low in comparison of the present. The Athenians were, from the beginning, great enemies to wolves, their fields being better for pasture than corn. Some affirm their tribes did not take their names from the sons of Ion, but from the different sorts of occupation that they followed; the soldiers were called Hoplitae, the craftsmen Ergades, and, of the remaining two, the farmers Gedeontes, and the shepherds and graziers Aegicores. [Source: Plutarch, “Life of Solon,” A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden]
“Since the country has but few rivers, lakes, or large springs, and many used wells which they had dug, there was a law made, that, where there was a public well within a hippicon, that is, four furlongs, all should draw at that; but when it was farther off, they should try and procure a well of their own; and if they had dug ten fathoms deep and could find no water, they had liberty to fetch a pitcherful of four gallons and a half in a day from their neighbours'; for he thought it prudent to make provision against want, but not to supply laziness. He showed skill in his orders about planting, for any one that would plant another tree was not to set it within five feet of his neighbour's field; but if a fig or an olive not within nine; for their roots spread farther, nor can they be planted near all sorts of trees without damage, for they draw away the nourishment, and in some cases are noxious by their effluvia. He that would dig a pit or a ditch was to dig it at the distance of its own depth from his neighbour's ground; and he that would raise stocks of bees was not to place them within three hundred feet of those which another had already raised.
“He permitted only oil to be exported, and those that exported any other fruit, the archon was solemnly to curse, or else pay an hundred drachmas himself; and this law was written in his first table, and, therefore, let none think it incredible, as some affirm, that the exportation of figs was once unlawful, and the informer against the delinquents called a sycophant. He made a law, also, concerning hurts and injuries from beasts, in which he commands the master of any dog that bit a man to deliver him up with a log about his neck, four and a half feet long; a happy device for men's security. The law concerning naturalizing strangers is of doubtful character; he permitted only those to be made free of Athens who were in perpetual exile from their own country, or came with their whole family to trade there; this he did, not to discourage strangers, but rather to invite them to a permanent participation in the privileges of the government; and, besides, he thought those would prove the more faithful citizens who had been forced from their own country, or voluntarily forsook it. The law of public entertainment (parasitein is his name for it) is also peculiarly Solon's; for if any man came often, or if he that was invited refused, they were punished, for he concluded that one was greedy, the other a contemner of the state.
“All his laws he established for an hundred years, and wrote them on wooden tables or rollers, named axones, which might be turned round in oblong cases; some of their relics were in my time still to be seen in the Prytaneum, or common hall at Athens. These, as Aristotle states, were called cyrbes.”
Solon and Croesus from Herodotus’ Histories
Here, Herodotus's “Histories” tells a famous story about the encounter between Solon, the great wise Athenian, and the Lydian King Croesus, regarded as one of the richest men in the world at that time. Herodotus wrote in “Histories” (430 B.C.): “When all these conquests had been added to the Lydian empire, and the prosperity of Sardis was now at its height, there came thither, one after another, all the sages of Greece living at the time, and among them Solon, the Athenian. He was on his travels, having left Athens to be absent ten years, under the pretence of wishing to see the world, but really to avoid being forced to repeal any of the laws which, at the request of the Athenians, he had made for them. Without his sanction the Athenians could not repeal them, as they had bound themselves under a heavy curse to be governed for ten years by the laws which should be imposed on them by Solon. [Source: Herodotus “The History of Herodotus” Book VI on the Persian War, 440 B.C.E, translated by George Rawlinson, MIT]
“On this account, as well as to see the world, Solon set out upon his travels, in the course of which he went to Egypt to the court of Amasis, and also came on a visit to Croesus at Sardis. Croesus received him as his guest, and lodged him in the royal palace. On the third or fourth day after, he bade his servants conduct Solon. over his treasuries, and show him all their greatness and magnificence. When he had seen them all, and, so far as time allowed, inspected them, Croesus addressed this question to him. "Stranger of Athens, we have heard much of thy wisdom and of thy travels through many lands, from love of knowledge and a wish to see the world. I am curious therefore to inquire of thee, whom, of all the men that thou hast seen, thou deemest the most happy?" This he asked because he thought himself the happiest of mortals: but Solon answered him without flattery, according to his true sentiments, "Tellus of Athens, sire." Full of astonishment at what he heard, Croesus demanded sharply, "And wherefore dost thou deem Tellus happiest?" To which the other replied, "First, because his country was flourishing in his days, and he himself had sons both beautiful and good, and he lived to see children born to each of them, and these children all grew up; and further because, after a life spent in what our people look upon as comfort, his end was surpassingly glorious. In a battle between the Athenians and their neighbours near Eleusis, he came to the assistance of his countrymen, routed the foe, and died upon the field most gallantly. The Athenians gave him a public funeral on the spot where he fell, and paid him the highest honours."
“Thus did Solon admonish Croesus by the example of Tellus, enumerating the manifold particulars of his happiness. When he had ended, Croesus inquired a second time, who after Tellus seemed to him the happiest, expecting that at any rate, he would be given the second place. "Cleobis and Bito," Solon answered; "they were of Argive race; their fortune was enough for their wants, and they were besides endowed with so much bodily strength that they had both gained prizes at the Games. Also this tale is told of them: There was a great festival in honour of the goddess Juno at Argos, to which their mother must needs be taken in a car. Now the oxen did not come home from the field in time: so the youths, fearful of being too late, put the yoke on their own necks, and themselves drew the car in which their mother rode. Five and forty furlongs did they draw her, and stopped before the temple. This deed of theirs was witnessed by the whole assembly of worshippers, and then their life closed in the best possible way. Herein, too, God showed forth most evidently, how much better a thing for man death is than life. For the Argive men, who stood around the car, extolled the vast strength of the youths; and the Argive women extolled the mother who was blessed with such a pair of sons; and the mother herself, overjoyed at the deed and at the praises it had won, standing straight before the image, besought the goddess to bestow on Cleobis and Bito, the sons who had so mightily honoured her, the highest blessing to which mortals can attain. Her prayer ended, they offered sacrifice and partook of the holy banquet, after which the two youths fell asleep in the temple. They never woke more, but so passed from the earth. The Argives, looking on them as among the best of men, caused statues of them to be made, which they gave to the shrine at Delphi."
“When Solon had thus assigned these youths the second place, Croesus broke in angrily, "What, stranger of Athens, is my happiness, then, so utterly set at nought by thee, that thou dost not even put me on a level with private men?" "Oh! Croesus," replied the other, "thou askedst a question concerning the condition of man, of one who knows that the power above us is full of jealousy, and fond of troubling our lot. A long life gives one to witness much, and experience much oneself, that one would not choose. Seventy years I regard as the limit of the life of man. In these seventy years are contained, without reckoning intercalary months, twenty-five thousand and two hundred days. Add an intercalary month to every other year, that the seasons may come round at the right time, and there will be, besides the seventy years, thirty-five such months, making an addition of one thousand and fifty days. The whole number of the days contained in the seventy years will thus be twenty-six thousand two hundred and fifty, whereof not one but will produce events unlike the rest. Hence man is wholly accident. For thyself, oh! Croesus, I see that thou art wonderfully rich, and art the lord of many nations; but with respect to that whereon thou questionest me, I have no answer to give, until I hear that thou hast closed thy life happily. For assuredly he who possesses great store of riches is no nearer happiness than he who has what suffices for his daily needs, unless it so hap that luck attend upon him, and so he continue in the enjoyment of all his good things to the end of life. For many of the wealthiest men have been unfavoured of fortune, and many whose means were moderate have had excellent luck. Men of the former class excel those of the latter but in two respects; these last excel the former in many. The wealthy man is better able to content his desires, and to bear up against a sudden buffet of calamity. The other has less ability to withstand these evils (from which, however, his good luck keeps him clear), but he enjoys all these following blessings: he is whole of limb, a stranger to disease, free from misfortune, happy in his children, and comely to look upon. If, in addition to all this, he end his life well, he is of a truth the man of whom thou art in search, the man who may rightly be termed happy. Call him, however, until he die, not happy but fortunate. Scarcely, indeed, can any man unite all these advantages: as there is no country which contains within it all that it needs, but each, while it possesses some things, lacks others, and the best country is that which contains the most; so no single human being is complete in every respect- something is always lacking. He who unites the greatest number of advantages, and retaining them to the day of his death, then dies peaceably, that man alone, sire, is, in my judgment, entitled to bear the name of 'happy.' But in every matter it behoves us to mark well the end: for oftentimes God gives men a gleam of happiness, and then plunges them into ruin."
“Such was the speech which Solon addressed to Croesus, a speech which brought him neither largess nor honour. The king saw him depart with much indifference, since he thought that a man must be an arrant fool who made no account of present good, but bade men always wait and mark the end.
“Themistocles (c. 514-449 B.C.), an Athenian soldier and statesman, was both a major figure during the Persian Wars and major player in Athenian politics at a time when democracy was being crafted there. According to Encyclopædia Britannica: “He was the son of Neocles, an Athenian of no distinction and moderate means, his mother being a Carian or a Thracian Hence according to the Periclean law he would not have been a free Athenian at all. Thucydides properly brings out the fact that, though he lacked that education which was the peculiar glory of the Periclean age, he displayed a marvellous power of analysing a complex situation together with a genius for rapid action. Plutarch similarly enlarges on his consuming ambition for power both personal and national, and the unscrupulous ability with which he pursued his ends. In all these points he is the antithesis of his great rival Aristides. Of his early years little is known. He may have been strategus of his tribe at Marathon and we are told that he deeply envied the glory which Miltiades earned...The death of Miltiades left the stage to Aristides and Themistocles. It is sufficiently clear that their rivalry, terminated in 483-82 by the ostracism of Aristides. [Source: Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition, Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece, Fordham University]
“Themistocles was an advocate of a policy of naval expansion. This policy was unquestionably of the highest importance to Athens and indeed to Greece. Athens was faced by the equal if not superior power of Aegina, while the danger of a renewed Persian invasion loomed large on the horizon. Themistocles therefore persuaded his countrymen to put in hand the building of 200 triremes, and — what was of even greater importance-to fortify the three natural harbours of Peiraeus in place of the open roadstead of Phalerum. For the building of the ships Themistocles persuaded the Athenians to allocate 100 talents obtained from the new silver mines at Laurium. One hundred of the proposed 200 were built.
“The year prior to the invasion of Xerxes found Themistocles the chief man in Athens if not in Greece. Though the Greek fleet was nominally under the control of the Spartan Eurybiades, it was Thennistocles who caused the Greeks to fight the indecisive battle of Artemisium, and still more it was he who, by his threat that he would lead the Athenian army to found a new home in the West, and by his treacherous message to Xerxes, precipitated the engagement at Salamis. The retirement of the Persians left the Athenians free to restore their ruined city. Sparta, nominally on the ground that it was dangerous to Greece that there should be any citadel north of the Isthmus which an invader might hold, urged that this should not be done, but Themistocles by means of diplomatic delays and subterfuges enabled the work to be carried sufficiently near to completion to make the walls defensible.
“After the crisis of the Persian invasion Themistocles and Aristides appear to have composed their differences. But Themistocles soon began to lose the confidence of the people, partly owing to his boastfulness (it is said that he built near his own house a sanctuary to Artemis Aristoboule "of good councei") and partly to his alleged readiness to both refer to some accusation leveled against him,1and some time between 476 and 471 B.C. he was ostracized. He retired to Argos, but the Spartans further accused him of treasonable intrigues with Persia, and he fled to Corcyra, thence to Admetus, king of the Molossians, and finally to Asia Minor. He was proclaimed a traitor at Athens and his property was confiscated, though his friends saved him some portion of it. He was well received by the Persians and was allowed to settle in Magnesia on the Maeander.
“Though his end was discreditable, though his great wealth can hardly have been obtained by loyal public service, there is no doubt that his services to Athens and to Greece were great. He created the Athenian fleet and with it the possibiLty of the Delian League (q.v.) which became the Athenian empire, and there are many indications (e.g. his wellattested plan of expansion in the west) that the later imperialist ideal originated in his fertile brain.
Cleisthenes Cleisthenes was a radical reformer who renounced tyranny and proclaimed democracy as a new form of government. To reduce the power of the oligarchies he organized the Athenian city-states into ten arbitrary tribes and called 50 representatives from each to tribe to form a boule (Senate) with 500 members.
Paul Cartledge of the University of Cambridge wrote in for BBC: “Cleisthenes was the son of an Athenian, but the grandson and namesake of a foreign Greek tyrant, the ruler of Sicyon in the Peloponnese. For a time he was also the brother-in-law of the Athenian tyrant, Peisistratus, who seized power three times before finally establishing a stable and apparently benevolent dictatorship. It was against the increasingly harsh rule of Peisistratus's eldest son that Cleisthenes championed a radical political reform movement which in 508/7 ushered in the Athenian democratic constitution. [Source: Professor Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]
Pericles (490-429 B.C.) ruled over what has been described as the world's first democracy. Although he never claimed the highest title, archon , and described himself simply as one of the ten generals elected each year by the citizenry he was firmly in control during his 27 year rule over Athens and owed his position to his will, charisma and oratory skills. He was the model for the tyrant Creon who condemns Antigone to death and for Oedipus the King.
Pericles instituted for public service, which expanded the realm of democracy, and looked after the welfare of the Athenian poor. But he also made Athens broke by diverted much of the money from the Delian League to finance the construction of Parthenon and other monumental structures.
Pericles was a nobleman with “the bluest blood” and came from one of the wealthiest Athens families. Despite this he was popular with ordinary Athenians and had the rhetorical skills to talk them in doing almost anything. He reportedly had big ears. Images of him show his big ears under a helmet. Pericles was Athens most brilliant statesmen and orator and he seemed know it. He said, "The admiration of the present and succeeding ages will be ours."
According to Encyclopædia Britannica: Pericles “was born about 490 B.C., the son of Xanthippus and Agariste. His father took a prominent part in Athenian politics, and in 479 held high command in the Greek squadron which annihilated the remnants of Xerxes' fleet at Mycale; through his mother, the niece of Cleisthenes, he was connected with the former tyrants of Sicyon and the family of the Alcmaeonidae. His early training was committed to the ablest and most advanced teachers of the day: Damon instructed him in music, Zeno the Eleatic revealed to him the powers of dialectic; the philosopher Anaxagoras, who l~ved in close friendship with Pericles, had great influence on his cast of thcught and was corrmonly held responsible for that calm and undaunted attitude of mind which he preserved in the midst of the severest trials. [Source: Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition, Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece, Fordham University]
“Of Pericles' personal characteristics we have a peculiarly full and interesting record. He was commonly compared to Olympian Zeus, partly because of his serene and dignified bearing, partly by reason of the majestic roll of the thundering eloquence, with its bold poetical imagery, with which he held friend and foe spellbound. The same dignity appeared in the grave beauty of his features, though the abnormal height of his cranium afforded an opportunity for ridicule of which the comedians made full use. In spite of an unusually large crop of scandals about him we cannot but believe that he bore an honourable character, and his integrity is vouched for by Thucydides in such strong terms as to exclude all further doubt on the question.”
“Pericles also incurred unpopularity because of his rationalism in religious matters; yet Athens in his time was becoming ripe for the new culture, and would have done better to receive it frorn men of his circle-Anaxagoras, Zeno, Protagoras and Meton -than from the more irresponsible sophists. The influence of Aspasia on Athenian thought, though denounced unsparingly by most critics, may indeed have been beneficial, inasmuch as it tended towards the emancipation of the Attic woman from the overstrict tutelage in which she was kept. As a patron of art Pericles was a still greater force. His policy in encouraging the drama has already been mentioned: among his friends he could count three of the greatest Greek writers-the poet Sophocles and the historians Herodotus and Thucydides. Pericles likewise is responsible for the epochmaking splendour of Attic art in his time, for had he not so fully appreciated and given such free scope to the genius of Pheidias, Athens would hardly have witncssed the raising of the Parthenon and other glorious structures, and Attic art could not have boasted a legion of firstrate sculptors of whom Alcamenes, Agoracritus and Paeonius are only the chief names.”
See Separate Article PERICLES AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF ATHENS AND GREECE factsanddetails.com
Pericles as Ruler of Athens
Pericles on a modern Greek coin According to Encyclopædia Britannica: “Pericles' policy towards the members of the Delian League, we find that he frankly endeavoured to turn the allies into subjects (see DELIAN LEAGUE). A special feature of his rule was the sending out of numerous cleruchies (q.v.), which served the double purpose of securing strategic points to Athens and converting the needy proletariate of the capital into owners of real property. The land was acquired either by confiscation from disaffected states or in exchange for a lowering of tribute.. [Source: Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition, Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece, Fordham University]
“In his home policy Pericles carried out more fully Ephialtes' project of making the Athenian people truly selfgoverning. His chief innovation was the introduction of payment from the public treasury for state service. Chief of all, he provided a remuneration of 1 tp 2 obols a day for the jurymen, probably in 451. Similarly he created a "theoricon" fund which enabled poor citizens to attend the dramatic representations of the Vionysia. To him we may also attribute the 3 obols pay which the soldiers received during the Peloponnesian War in addition to the old established provision money. The archons and members of the boule, who certainly received remuneration in 411, and also some minor magistrates, were perhaps paid for the first time by Pericles. In connection with this system of salaries should be mentioned a somewhat reactionary law carried by Pericles in 451, by which an Athenian parentage on both sides was made an express condition of retaining the franchise and with it the right of sitting on paid juries. The measure by which the archonship was opened to the third and (practically) to the fourth class of citizens (the Zeugitae and Thetes) may also be due to Periclcs; the date is now known to be 457 B.C..
“The last yeas of his life were troubled by a new period of storm and stress whicn called for his highest powers of calculation and selfcontrol. A conflict between Corcyra and Corinth, the second and third naval powers of Greece, led to the simultaneous appearance in Athens of an embassy from either combatant (433). Pericles had, as it seems, resumed of late a plan of Western expansion by forming alliances with Rhegium and Leontini, and the favourable position of Corcyra on the trade-route to Sicily and Italy, as well as its powerful fleet, no doubt helped to induce him to secure an alliance with that island, and so to commit an unfriendly act towards a leading representative of the Peloponnesian League. Pericles now seemed to have made up his mind that war with Sparta, the head of that League, had become inevitable. After the dead from the first battles of the Peloponnesian War were brought home Pericles' gave his famous “Funeral Oration”. (See Peloponnesian War).
“At the same time, Pericles was being sorely hampered by his adversaries at home. The orthodox Conservatives and some democrats who were jealous of his influence, while afraid to beard the great statesman himself, combined to assail his nearest friends. The sculptor Pheidias (q.v.) was prosecuted on two vexatious charges (probably in 433), and before he could disprove the second he died under arrest. Anaxagoras was threatened with a law against atheists, and felt compelled to leave Athens. A scandalous charge against his mistress Aspasia, which he defeated by his personal intercession before the court, was taken very much to heart by Pericles. His position at home scarcely improved during the war. His policy of abandoning the land defence was unpopular with the landowning section of the people, who from the walls of Athens could see their own property destroyed by the invaders. At the end of the first year of war (early in 430) Pericles made a great appeal to the pride of his countrymen in his wellknown funeral speech. But in the ensuing summer, after a terrible outbreak of plague. had ravaged the crowded city, the people became thoroughly demoralized. Pericles led a large squadron to harry the coasts oI the Peloponnese, but met with little success. On his return the Athenians sued for peace, though without success, and a speech by Pericles had little effect on their spirits. Late in 430 they deposed him from his magistracy. In addition to this they prosecuted him on a charge of embezzlement, and imposed a fine of 50 talents. A revulsion of feeling soon led to his reinstatement, apparently with extraordinay powers. But the plague, which had carried off two of his sons and a sister, had, left its mark also on Pericles himself. In the autumn of 429 he died and was buried near the Academia,”
Pericles' Funeral Oration
Pericles' famous “Funeral Oration” was given after the first battles of the Peloponnesian war. Funerals after such battles were public rituals and Pericles used the occasion to make a classic statement of the value of democracy. The funeral was a public event that followed a prescribed set of rituals. “Thucydides wrote: “Three days before the ceremony, the bones of the dead are laid out in a tent. which has been erected; and their friends bring to their relatives such offerings as they please. In the funeral procession cypress coffins are borne in cars, one for each tribe; the bones of the deceased being placed in the coffin of their tribe. Among these is carried one empty bier decked for the missing, that is, for those whose bodies could not be recovered. Any citizen or stranger who pleases, joins in the procession: and the female relatives are there to wail at the burial. The dead are laid in the public sepulchre in the Beautiful suburb of the city, in which those who fall in war are always buried; with the exception of those slain at Marathon, who for their singular and extraordinary valour were interred on the spot where they fell. After the bodies have been laid in the earth, a man chosen by the state, of approved wisdom and eminent reputation, pronounces over them an appropriate panegyric; after which all retire. Such is the manner of the burying; and throughout the whole of the war, whenever the occasion arose, the established custom was observed. Meanwhile these were the first that had fallen, and Pericles, son of Xanthippus, was chosen to pronounce their eulogium. [Source: Thucydides (c.460/455-c.399 B.C.): Pericles' Funeral Oration from the “Peloponnesian War” (Book 2.34-46)
When the proper time arrived, he advanced from the sepulchre to an elevated platform in order to be heard by as many of the crowd as possible, and spoke as follows: "Most of my predecessors in this place have commended him who made this speech part of the law, telling us that it is well that it should be delivered at the burial of those who fall in battle. For myself, I should have thought that the worth which had displayed itself in deeds would be sufficiently rewarded by honours also shown by deeds; such as you now see in this funeral prepared at the people's cost. And I could have wished that the reputations of many brave men were not to be imperilled in the mouth of a single individual, to stand or fall according as he spoke well or ill. For it is hard to speak properly upon a subject where it is even difficult to convince your hearers that you are speaking the truth. On the one hand, the friend who is familiar with every fact of the story may think that some point has not been set forth with that fullness which he wishes and knows it to deserve; on the other, he who is a stranger to the matter may be led by envy to suspect exaggeration if he hears anything above his own nature. For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they can severally persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity. However, since our ancestors have stamped this custom with their approval, it becomes my duty to obey the law and to try to satisfy your several wishes and opinions as best I may.
“"I shall begin with our ancestors: it is both just and proper that they should have the honour of the first mention on an occasion like the present. They dwelt in the country without break in the succession from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the present time by their valour. And if our more remote ancestors deserve praise, much more do our own fathers, who added to their inheritance the empire which we now possess, and spared no pains to be able to leave their acquisitions to us of the present generation. Lastly, there are few parts of our dominions that have not been augmented by those of us here, who are still more or less in the vigour of life; while the mother country has been furnished by us with everything that can enable her to depend on her own resources whether for war or for peace....
Pericles Makes His Case for Democracy in His Funeral Oration
Pericles said, according to Thucydides:"Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighbouring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves. Its administration favours the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if no social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbour for doing what he likes, or even to indulge in those injurious looks which cannot fail to be offensive, although they inflict no positive penalty. But all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens. Against this fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws, particularly such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the statute book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace. [Source: Thucydides (c.460/455-c.399 B.C.): Pericles' Funeral Oration from the “Peloponnesian War”, Book 2.34-46]
“"Further, we provide plenty of means for the mind to refresh itself from business. We celebrate games and sacrifices all the year round, and the elegance of our private establishments forms a daily source of pleasure and helps to banish the spleen; while the magnitude of our city draws the produce of the world into our harbour, so that to the Athenian the fruits of other countries are as familiar a luxury as those of his own.
“"If we turn to our military policy, there also we differ from our antagonists. We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality; trusting less in system and policy than to the native spirit of our citizens; while in education, where our rivals from their very cradles by a painful discipline seek after manliness, at Athens we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter every legitimate danger. In proof of this it may be noticed that the Lacedaemonians (Spartans) do not invade our country alone, but bring with them all their confederates; while we Athenians advance unsupported into the territory of a neighbour, and fighting upon a foreign soil usually vanquish with ease men who are defending their homes. Our united force was never yet encountered by any enemy, because we have at once to attend to our marine and to dispatch our citizens by land upon a hundred different services; so that, wherever they engage with some such fraction of our strength, a success against a detachment is magnified into a victory over the nation, and a defeat into a reverse suffered at the hands of our entire people. And yet if with habits not of labour but of ease, and courage not of art but of nature, we are still willing to encounter danger, we have the double advantage of escaping the experience of hardships in anticipation and of facing them in the hour of need as fearlessly as those who are never free from them....”
As for the men who died on the battlefield: “Thus choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting, they fled only from dishonour, but met danger face to face, and after one brief moment, while at the summit of their fortune, escaped, not from their fear, but from their glory. So died these men as became Athenians. You, their survivors, must determine to have as unfaltering a resolution in the field, though you may pray that it may have a happier issue. And not contented with ideas derived only from words of the advantages which are bound up with the defence of your country, though these would furnish a valuable text to a speaker even before an audience so alive to them as the present, you must yourselves realize the power of Athens, and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts; and then, when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honour in action that men were enabled to win all this, and that no personal failure in an enterprise could make them consent to deprive their country of their valour, but they laid it at her feet as the most glorious contribution that they could offer. For this offering of their lives made in common by them all they each of them individually received that renown which never grows old, and for a sepulchre, not so much that in which their bones have been deposited, but that noblest of shrines wherein their glory is laid up to be eternally remembered upon every occasion on which deed or story shall call for its commemoration. For heroes have the whole earth for their tomb; and in lands far from their own, where the column with its epitaph declares it, there is enshrined in every breast a record unwritten with no tablet to preserve it, except that of the heart. These take as your model and, judging happiness to be the fruit of freedom and freedom of valour, never decline the dangers of war. For it is not the miserable that would most justly be unsparing of their lives; these have nothing to hope for: it is rather they to whom continued life may bring reverses as yet unknown, and to whom a fall, if it came, would be most tremendous in its consequences. And surely, to a man of spirit, the degradation of cowardice must be immeasurably more grievous than the unfelt death which strikes him in the midst of his strength and patriotism!
Aristogeiton and Harmodius, Gay Lovers Who Overthrew the Athenian Tyrrany
During the Peloponnesian War, an group of vandals went around Athens knocking the phalluses off Hermes - the steles with the head and phallus of the God Hermes which were often outside houses. This incident, which lead to suspicions of the Athenian general Alciabiades, provided Thucydides with a spring board to recount the story of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, two homosexual lovers credited by the Athenians with overthrowing tyranny.
Thucydides wrote in “The History of the Peloponnesian War,” 6th. Book (ca. 431 B.C.): ““Indeed, the daring action of Aristogiton and Harmodius was undertaken in consequence of a love affair, which I shall relate at some length, to show that the Athenians are not more accurate than the rest of the world in their accounts of their own tyrants and of the facts of their own history. Pisistratus dying at an advanced age in possession of the tyranny, was succeeded by his eldest son, Hippias, and not Hipparchus, as is vulgarly believed. Harmodius was then in the flower of youthful beauty, and Aristogiton, a citizen in the middle rank of life, was his lover and possessed him. Solicited without success by Hipparchus, son of Pisistratus, Harmodius told Aristogiton, and the enraged lover, afraid that the powerful Hipparchus might take Harmodius by force, immediately formed a design, such as his condition in life permitted, for overthrowing the tyranny. In the meantime Hipparchus, after a second solicitation of Harmodius, attended with no better success, unwilling to use violence, arranged to insult him in some covert way. Indeed, generally their government was not grievous to the multitude, or in any way odious in practice; and these tyrants cultivated wisdom and virtue as much as any, and without exacting from the Athenians more than a twentieth of their income, splendidly adorned their city, and carried on their wars, and provided sacrifices for the temples. For the rest, the city was left in full enjoyment of its existing laws, except that care was always taken to have the offices in the hands of some one of the family. Among those of them that held the yearly archonship at Athens was Pisistratus, son of the tyrant Hippias, and named after his grandfather, who dedicated during his term of office the altar to the twelve gods in the market-place, and that of Apollo in the Pythian precinct. The Athenian people afterwards built on to and lengthened the altar in the market-place, and obliterated the inscription; but that in the Pythian precinct can still be seen, though in faded letters, and is to the following effect: “Pisistratus, the son of Hippias,/ Sent up this record of his archonship/ In precinct of Apollo Pythias. [Source: Thucydides, “The History of the Peloponnesian War,” 6th. Book, ca. 431 B.C., translated by Richard Crawley]
“That Hippias was the eldest son and succeeded to the government, is what I positively assert as a fact upon which I have had more exact accounts than others, and may be also ascertained by the following circumstance. He is the only one of the legitimate brothers that appears to have had children; as the altar shows, and the pillar placed in the Athenian Acropolis, commemorating the crime of the tyrants, which mentions no child of Thessalus or of Hipparchus, but five of Hippias, which he had by Myrrhine, daughter of Callias, son of Hyperechides; and naturally the eldest would have married first. Again, his name comes first on the pillar after that of his father; and this too is quite natural, as he was the eldest after him, and the reigning tyrant. Nor can I ever believe that Hippias would have obtained the tyranny so easily, if Hipparchus had been in power when he was killed, and he, Hippias, had had to establish himself upon the same day; but he had no doubt been long accustomed to overawe the citizens, and to be obeyed by his mercenaries, and thus not only conquered, but conquered with ease, without experiencing any of the embarrassment of a younger brother unused to the exercise of authority. It was the sad fate which made Hipparchus famous that got him also the credit with posterity of having been tyrant.
“To return to Harmodius; Hipparchus having been repulsed in his solicitations insulted him as he had resolved, by first inviting a sister of his, a young girl, to come and bear a basket in a certain procession, and then rejecting her, on the plea that she had never been invited at all owing to her unworthiness. If Harmodius was indignant at this, Aristogiton for his sake now became more exasperated than ever; and having arranged everything with those who were to join them in the enterprise, they only waited for the great feast of the Panathenaea, the sole day upon which the citizens forming part of the procession could meet together in arms without suspicion. Aristogiton and Harmodius were to begin, but were to be supported immediately by their accomplices against the bodyguard. The conspirators were not many, for better security, besides which they hoped that those not in the plot would be carried away by the example of a few daring spirits, and use the arms in their hands to recover their liberty.
“At last the festival arrived; and Hippias with his bodyguard was outside the city in the Ceramicus, arranging how the different parts of the procession were to proceed. Harmodius and Aristogiton had already their daggers and were getting ready to act, when seeing one of their accomplices talking familiarly with Hippias, who was easy of access to every one, they took fright, and concluded that they were discovered and on the point of being taken; and eager if possible to be revenged first upon the man who had wronged them and for whom they had undertaken all this risk, they rushed, as they were, within the gates, and meeting with Hipparchus by the Leocorium recklessly fell upon him at once, infuriated, Aristogiton by love, and Harmodius by insult, and smote him and slew him. Aristogiton escaped the guards at the moment, through the crowd running up, but was afterwards taken and dispatched in no merciful way: Harmodius was killed on the spot.
“When the news was brought to Hippias in the Ceramicus, he at once proceeded not to the scene of action, but to the armed men in the procession, before they, being some distance away, knew anything of the matter, and composing his features for the occasion, so as not to betray himself, pointed to a certain spot, and bade them repair thither without their arms. They withdrew accordingly, fancying he had something to say; upon which he told the mercenaries to remove the arms, and there and then picked out the men he thought guilty and all found with daggers, the shield and spear being the usual weapons for a procession.
“In this way offended love first led Harmodius and Aristogiton to conspire, and the alarm of the moment to commit the rash action recounted. After this the tyranny pressed harder on the Athenians, and Hippias, now grown more fearful, put to death many of the citizens, and at the same time began to turn his eyes abroad for a refuge in case of revolution. Thus, although an Athenian, he gave his daughter, Archedice, to a Lampsacene, Aeantides, son of the tyrant of Lampsacus, seeing that they had great influence with Darius. And there is her tomb in Lampsacus with this inscription: “Archedice lies buried in this earth,/ Hippias her sire, and Athens gave her birth; / Unto her bosom pride was never known.” Though daughter, wife, and sister to the throne. Hippias, after reigning three years longer over the Athenians, was deposed in the fourth by the Lacedaemonians (Spartans) and the banished Alcmaeonidae, and went with a safe conduct to Sigeum, and to Aeantides at Lampsacus, and from thence to King Darius; from whose court he set out twenty years after, in his old age, and came with the Medes to Marathon.”
Demosthenes Demosthenes (383-322 B.C.) is considered the greatest orator of the Golden Age of Greece although he actually arose after the Golden Age was over. Born into a wealthy family but orphaned at the age of seven, he had a misshapen shoulder and was cheated out of his family wealth by his guardians.
At a young age, Demosthenes began a concerted effort to improve his oratory skills. He used to fill his mouth with pebbles to improve his delivery and give speeches over pounding surf to train his voice to rise above the din of crowds. He entered public office in Athens at 25 and was involved in the negotiations that kept Alexander the Great's father from conquering Athens. In his famous speech, On the Crown he spoke eloquently about the relationship between government and the people.
Demosthenes was a Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by studying the speeches of previous great orators. He delivered his first judicial speeches at the age of 20, in which he argued effectively to gain from his guardians what was left of his inheritance. For a time, Demosthenes made his living as a professional speech-writer (logographer) and a lawyer, writing speeches for use in private legal suits. [Source: Wikipedia +]
Demosthenes grew interested in politics during his time as a logographer, and in 354 BC he gave his first public political speeches. He went on to devote his most productive years to opposing Macedon's expansion. He idealized his city and strove throughout his life to restore Athens' supremacy and motivate his compatriots against Philip II of Macedon. He sought to preserve his city's freedom and to establish an alliance against Macedon, in an unsuccessful attempt to impede Philip's plans to expand his influence southward by conquering all the other Greek states. +
Some of Demosthenes decisions were unpopular. After an attempt to oust the Macedonians after Alexander the Great's death failed he was chased into a Poseidon temple. According to legend, when he was caught, he asked if he could write one last letter and then bit into his pen, which was filled with poison, and died. Before he passed on he said, “If I had foreseen the evils, anxieties, envious persecutions, slanders and feuding of political life, I would rather have taken the short cut to death."
Hyperides and the Archimedes Palimpsest
Hyperides was one of the great foundational figures of Greek democracy and the golden age of Athenian democracy. He lived from 390 or 389 B.C. until 322 B.C. and was an orator who made speeches at public meetings of the citizen assembly. A contemporary of Aristotle and Demosthenes, he wrote speeches for himself and for others and spoke at important political trials. In 322 B.C. Hyperides was executed by the Macedonians for participating in a failed rebellion. [Source: Felicia R. Lee, New York Times, November 27, 2006]
New insights about Hyderides and the period in which he lived have been gleaned Archimedes Palimpsest, a prayer book created by Byzantine monks in the 13th century and from pages of several older texts that were washed and scraped, to remove their writing. Felicia R. Lee wrote in the New York Times, “The Archimedes Palimpsest is best known for containing some of the oldest copies of work by the great Greek mathematician who gives the manuscript its name. But there is more to the palimpsest than Archimedes’ work, including 10 pages of Hyperides, offering tantalizing and fresh insights into the critical battle of Salamis in 480 B.C., in which the Greeks defeated the Persians, and the battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C., which spelled the beginning of the end of Greek democracy." The Archimedes Palimpsest was sold at auction at Christie's for $2.2 million in 1998.
The new Hyperides revelations include two previously unknown speeches, effectively increasing this renowned orator's body of work by 20 percent, said Judson Herrman, a 36-year-old professor of classics at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. He is one of a handful of classicists who have written doctoral dissertations on Hyperides. “This helps to fill in critical moments in ancient classical Greece," said William Noel, the curator of manuscripts and rare books at the Walters Art Museum here and the director of the Archimedes Palimpsest project.
“It's a spotlight shining on an important moment in history," said Mr. Herrman, currently a fellow at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Until the new leaves were found in the palimpsest, most scholars believed only fragments of Hyperides survived beyond the Classical period. The mystery of Archimedes’ treatise on combinatorics, the Stomachion, was solved in 2003 by deciphering the palimpsest. Now W. Robert Connor, the president of the Teagle Foundation, which provides education and financial resources for education, called the discovery of new Hyperides text a “tour de force of the first order."
A combination of high-tech imagery and old-fashioned deciphering, sometimes letter by letter, was used to resurrect the older text, revealing a slice of Athenian history in the days after its devastating defeat by Philip II, king of Macedonia and the father of Alexander the Great, Mr. Connor said. “The number of times you get a new text is very small," Mr. Connor, a former professor of classics at Princeton said. “It's like hearing an old violin played at a superb level."
In one recently discovered speech, Hyperides talks about the number of boats (220) — a number not previously clear — belonging to the Greek side in the Salamis battle, Mr. Judson said. In another speech, after the Battle of Chaeronea, he argues that the tragic defeat was the result of chance, not bad policy. In a political case Hyperides supports the Demosthenes policy that led to the Athenian defeat.
“For we chose the noblest policy and we believed it necessary to free the Greeks by taking on the risks ourselves, just like before," Hyperides argues in a passage translated by Mr. Herrman and transcribed by Natalie Tchernetska of Riga, Latvia, a project scholar and specialist in Greek palimpsests, whom Mr. Herrman credits with first identifying the material. “One must assign the start and the suggestion of every risk to those who make the motion, but the outcome of these things is to be assigned to chance," Hyperides argues in the speech. “Diondas proposes the opposite happen: not that Demosthenes be praised for his policy but that I give a defense because of chance."
Professor Herrman said the material also gives new information about inheritance laws in Athens and suggests a different timing for the Demosthenes case. Historians had always believed that the trial of Demosthenes took place before the battle of Chaeronea, which Athens lost to the Macedonians, but the newly discovered speech shows that it was after the battle, Mr. Herrman said. “We had no idea of what the content of the trial was," he said. “Now we have an Athenian view of their own defeat."
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated October 2018