Athens After the Persian Wars


The Rise of Athens

The tyranny of the Pisistratids ended with the assassination of Hipparchus in 514/3 and the expulsion of Hippias in 511/0. The victor in the ensuing rivalry between aristocratic leaders was Cleisthenes, of the Alcmaeonid family. He reorganised the Athenians on a local basis in ten tribes, thirtytrittyes (‘thirds ‘of tribes) and 139 demes, and this new organisation became the basis of the whole of Athens’ public life, including the army, the council (now of five hundred) which prepared the business for the assembly of citizens, and the generalship and many other offices (cf. p. 5). Whatever his own intentions may have been, this reorganisation had a democratising effect, as numerous offices had to be manned and meetings had to be attended, at local as well as at city level: since the system did not grind to a halt, the Athenians evidently took to working it, and working it gave them a taste for and an education in political involvement.

At the end of the seventh century Athens had been somewhat backward and isolated, with enough territory in Attica to free it from the need to play a large part in the colonising movement of the archaic period. By the end of the sixth century it had become a major trading state (and the leading producer of fine painted pottery), and a state eager to be a major actor in the wider Greek world. In 498, perhaps seeing itself as the mother city of the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor, it sent help to the Ionians at the begining of their revolt against the Persians. It was therefore one of the targets of the Persians when they first invaded Greece, in 490, and with support from its neighbour Plataea it then defeated them at Marathon. In the war of 480–479 Athens was sacked by the Persians, but it provided more than half of the Greek navy, and after the Persians had been driven out of Greece it was ready and willing to take over the lead when the Spartan Pausanias made himself unpopular with the other Greeks, (cf. pp. 17–21). The navy’s ships were rowed by the poorer citizens, and, although it is wrong to think of sailors and soldiers as men with different interests and different political standpoints, it is not surprising that a city which in the first half of the fifth century was growing in power and whose power depended to a significant extent on its sailors should be one in which the view that all citizens mattered to the state and all citizens should be involved in the running of the state found many supporters.

Themistocles and Others

It was Themistocles (cf. ill. 2: he had been archon in 493/2) who in 483/2 persuaded the Athenians to spend the profits from their silver mines on the ships which were to be so important in 480. In 480 he commanded Athens’ forces against the Persians; and, it is alleged, when the Greek generals voted to choose a ‘man of the campaign’, everybody voted for himself first and Themistocles second, and in Sparta he was honoured like no other foreigner (Hdt. VIII. 123–5). Yet in 479 Themistocles is not heard of, but the Athenians at Plataea were commanded by Aristides and the Athenians in the Greek navy by Xanthippus: perhaps the Athenian attitudes to competition and taking turns had led to the conclusion that other men should be given their chance to do well.

Xanthippus is not heard of again: he was presumably dead when his son Pericles, born in the 490’s , acted as choregos, the rich citizen given the duty of overseeing and financing the dramatic production, for Aeschylus’ tragedies in 473/2 (cf. p. 44). Ostraka reveal the existence of another son of Xanthippus, Ariphron (named after Xanthippus’ father, but perhaps not the eldest son), who is otherwise attested only as a guardian in the 430’s (PI. Prt. 320 A).

For Themistocles after the war we have a number of stories in which he falls foul of Sparta. The story of rebuilding Athens’ walls is to be found inThucydides (I. 90–93 . ii) as well as the later sources. Sparta urged that, in case the Persians returned, it would be better to have no fortified cities north of the Isthmus of

Ill. 2 Bust of Themistocles. ©TopFoto


Corinth; Themistocles had himself sent to Sparta to temporise, while Athens’ walls were rebuilt as quickly as possible; when rumours reached Sparta, Spartans were sent to Athens to see what was happening but the Athenians did not let them return; when the walls had reached a sufficient height, Themistocles was joined by colleagues (one of whom was Aristides), and informed the Spartans that Athens was safely fortified and was fully capable of judging what was the best policy for itself and for all. Themistocles was also responsible for fortifying the harbour at Piraeus, whose building he had instigated earlier. Elsewhere we read of a plan of Themistocles to burn the Spartan fleet (at different locations in different sources), and of his opposing a Spartan plan to exclude from the Delphic Amphictyony states which had supported the Persians (cf. p. 29); the motif of his having a plan which cannot be made public but is revealed to Aristides floats suspiciously between stories. AsThucydides remarks (I. 93. ii), and as the surviving remains confirm, Athens’ walls were certainly rebuilt in great haste; how much of that story is true and how much is an improvement on the truth, it is hard to tell. A plan by Sparta to reform and to give itself a stronger position in the Delphic Amphictyony is easier to accept than a plan by Themistocles to destroy the Spartan fleet (on which cf. p. 50).

It can be accepted that Themistocles envisaged a future for Athens in which Sparta would be a rival rather than an ally; and in that he stands in contrast to Cimon, son of the Miltiades who had commanded the Athenians at Marathon in 490. Cimon in the 470’s and 460’s was to command a Delian League with which the Spartans were content; he gave the name Lacedaemonius to a son born in the 470’s ; against the opposition of Ephialtes he took forces to help the Spartans against the Messenians at the end of the 460’s (cf. pp. 31–2).

In various other respects too Themistocles and Cimon can be seen as opponents or rivals. By the time ofThucydides (I. 20. ii, VI. 53. iii-59) it had become a matter of controversy whether the ending of the Pisistratid tyranny in Athens was due to the murder of Hipparchus by Harmodius and Aristogiton (in fact, in 514) or to the expulsion of Hippias by the Spartans prompted by the Alcmaeonid family (in 511/0). Cimon married an Alcmaeonid c.480; but statues of Harmodius and Aristogiton were set up in 477/6, allegedly as a replacement for earlier statues taken to Susa by the Persians (to be returned in the fourth century by Alexander the Great, or in the third century by Seleucus I and Antiochus I), and the epigram on the base may have been by the poet Simonides, who can be linked with Themistocles. Another matter for controversy was which was Athens’ greater achievement against the Persians, the battle of Marathon, won by the hoplites and Cimon’s father Miltiades, or the battle of Salamis, won by the navy and Themistocles (cf. PI.Leg. TV. 707 A-D): Aeschylus’ Persians is, among other things, a play championing Themistocles in that controversy (cf. below).

Themistocles had interpreted a Delphic oracle as encouraging the abandonment of Athens and fighting at Salamis (Hdt. VII. 140–3): Cimon was to interpret an oracle and bring back the alleged bones of Theseus from Scyros (Plut. Cim. 8. v-viii). Themistocles and Cimon are both associated with building projects: Themistocles (in addition to his involvement with the city walls) with a sanctuary belonging to his family, the Lycomidae, and with a temple of Artemis Aristoboule, ‘of best counsel’; Cimon not only with the Theseum but also with the walls of the acropolis (Plut. Cim. 13. v, Paus. I. 28. iii) and with the Painted Stoa, where one of the paintings depicted the battle of Marathon (Plut. Cim. 4. vi-vii). We should not make too much of these things; and we should remember, for instance, that in the early campaigns of the Delian League Cimon was commanding naval forces; but there is enough evidence to justify a view of Themistocles and Cimon as rivals, and Cimon as the more successful of the two. After the rebuilding of Athens’ walls we do not hear much more about Themistocles before his ostracism. He was choregos for the tragedian Phrynichus in 477/6 (cf. p. 44); he went to the Olympic games, probably in 476, and is alleged to have received a hero’s welcome, to have urged the exclusion of the tyrant Hieron of Syracuse (but that suspiciously prefigures Lysias’ urging of the exclusion of Dionysius, a century later: cf. p. 321) - and to have rivalled Cimon in the lavishness of his lifestyle (Plut. Them. 17. iv, 25. i, 5. iv).

Aristides is harder to place. The main tradition makes Aristides and Themistocles opponents, with Aristides aristocratic where Themistocles was democratic, and upright where Themistocles was wily. But there are traces of an alternative version in which both were on the same side - for instance the stories of Aristides’ involvement with Themistocles’ anti-Spartan plans - and after organising the Delian League and its first assessment of tribute Aristides like Themistocles disappears from prominence, though he seems to have lived until the mid 460’s . The ostracisms of the later 480’s are best seen as a three-cornered battle, as a result of which Xanthippus and Aristides were ostracised but Themistocles was not; after the Persian Wars, despite the main tradition, Aristides and Themistocles were probably on the same side, in opposition to Cimon.

Personalities were an issue in the 470’s ; attitudes to Sparta were an issue; recent history could be slanted in different ways. But there is no good evidence that how Athens should be governed had yet become an issue. There are stories about Aristides - that he hushed up an oligarchic plot at the time of the battle of Plataea; that after the war he proposed that the constitution should be made ‘common’ and officials appointed from all Athenians (Plut. Arist. 13, 22. i): the first may have a basis in truth if we regard the plotters as pro-Persian rather than oligarchic; it is hard to know what to make of the second beyond the fact that somebody thought it appropriate to attribute democratic sympathies to him. When the constitutional issue did surface, Cimon was on the antidemocratic side and men who can be linked with Themistocles were on the pro-democratic - but by then Themistocles himself was no longer in Athens.

The Ostracism and Exile of Themistocles

The men who had been ostracised in the 480’s were recalled at the time of Xerxes’ invasion: Hipparchus did not return, and was condemned as a traitor (Lycurg. Leocrates 117), but the others did, and Aristides and Xanthippus were generals in 479. In the 470’s the practice of ostracism (cf. ill. 3) was resumed: the Alcmaeonid Megacles was ostracised a second time (cf. Lys. XrV. Alcibiades i. 39); there were some votes against Ariphron, apparently an elder brother of Pericles, who presumably soon died; and Themistocles, who had survived in the 480’s , was now ostracised.

As with the rebuilding of Athens’ walls, we have a story which looks as if it had already undergone embellishment before it was recorded by Thucydides (I. 135. ii—138). First Themistocles was ostracised, and went to Argos (cf. p. 27). After the downfall of Pausanias, the Spartans alleged that

Ill. 3 Athens: ostraka inscribed for voting against Aristides, Themistocles, Cimon and Pericles. American School of Classical Studies at Athens: Agora Excavations


Themistocles had been involved in medism with him, and persuaded Athens to recall him to stand trial (further embellishments in the later sources include a first stage in which he defended himself in letters and/or was acquitted, and a suggestion that he should be tried not by the Athenians but by the Greeks). Without waiting for the summons to reach Argos he fled - first to Corcyra, off the north-west coast of Greece, of which he was a benefactor (there are a few other signs that he was interested in the west); when Corcyra was afraid to harbour him, to king Admetus of the Molossi on the mainland opposite (holding on to the king’s young son in an act of supplication). After that he crossed northern Greece and the Aegean (where he had to avoid the Athenian navy) to Asia, wrote to the Persian King, and, after taking time to learn ‘Persian’ (Aramaic?), went to the court and was greatly honoured. He was given three cities in Asia Minor, Magnesia for his bread, Myus for his sauce and Lampsacus for his wine - a reflection of the Persian custom of paying subordinates in kind rather than in cash - and seems actually to have lived in Magnesia. Coins were issued in Magnesia bearing his name and afterwards his son’s name.

The downfall of Themistocles is bound up with several of the chronological problems of the 470’s and 460’s , and a great deal of effort has been devoted to the search for solutions. Diodorus narrates the whole story under 471/0 (XI. 54. ii—59. iv), but in this period he assigns one major story to each year and his assignments cannot be relied on. If Aeschylus’ Persians, of 473/2, is among other things a defence of Themistocles, defending him cannot yet have become a lost cause; but the play could have been performed either before his ostracism or between that and his condemnation. According to Thucydides (I. 137. iii) the King whom he met was Artaxerxes, who had recently succeeded after the death - in August 465 - of Xerxes. Plutarch (Them. 27. i-ii) says that some fourth-century writers had him meet Xerxes, the King whom he had defeated at Salamis; but that would be so much more effective dramatically that, if it were true, the less effective story would hardly have been invented. We should accept that Themistocles did not arrive in Asia before c.465.

Some scholars have tried to exploit Themistocles’ flight across the Aegean. According to Thucydides (I. 137. ii) he set out in a merchant ship from Pydna in Macedon; he was travelling incognito, but when they came close to Naxos while the Athenians were besieging it he revealed himself to the captain and asked to be kept safe; and he eventually reached Ephesus. Plutarch (Them. 25. ii—26. i) claims to be following Thucydides, but takes Themistocles from Pydna past Thasos (probably: the manuscripts are divided between Thasos and Naxos) to Cyme. If we knew which siege Themistocles had to avoid, that would help us to date his crossing of the Aegean - but I suspect that the two versions of the story are rival embroideries on the fact that, when crossing the Aegean, he had to take care not to fall into the Athenians’ hands. It will fit what we can reconstruct of Peloponnesian history if Themistocles was out of Athens by c.470; his ostracism may well have preceded his flight to Asia by several years, and the Thasos version of the story is chronologically the more plausible - but that does not mean that it must be true.

Themistocles was one of a series of distinguished Greeks who ended their lives as exiles in the Persian empire. The expelled Athenian tyrant Hippias had accompanied the Persians when they invaded Greece in 490, and so had the deposed Spartan king Demaratus in 480; but there was never another invasion in which Themistocles could accompany the Persians. Ironically, he was guilty of medism after the Athenians condemned him but not, as far as we know, before. Thucydides considered him with Pausanias to have been one of the most distinguished Greeks of his generation (cf. p. 31).

Ephialtes’ Reform of the Areopagus

Cimon’s supremacy remained unchallenged until the war against Thasos of 465/ 4–463 /2 (cf. p. 22), at the end of which he was accused of taking bribes not to attack Macedon. On this occasion public prosecutors were appointed: one of them was the young Pericles, and it is alleged that he was persuaded by Cimon’s sister Elpinice not to press the case hard (Plut. Cim. 14. iii-15. i, Per. 10. vi). Cimon was acquitted. When Sparta asked for help against the Messenians (cf. p. 31), he wanted to help, Ephialtes did not, and again Cimon was successful (Plut. Cim. 16. viii-x). It was probably while he was away (cf. Plut. Cim. 15. ii) that Ephialtes gained a winning position in Athens and enacted his reforms. The Spartans, suspicious of their Athenian allies, sent them away; Cimon on his return tried to reverse the reforms, but he was unsuccessful, and was ostracised, his opponents objecting both that he was pro-Spartan, philolakon, and that he was anti-democratic, misodemos (Plut. Cim. 15. iii, 17. iii, Per. 9. v), and Athens turned to an anti-Spartan foreign policy.

This was clearly an important turning-point in Athenian history, but our sources tell us disappointingly little about it. Thucydides mentions Cimon’s help for Sparta and Athens’ change in foreign policy but not the internal reform. Diodorus records the reform under the year 460/59 (XL 77. vi): it is not his main episode for the year, but if it comes from his chronological source that source was on this occasion mistaken: there is no other reason to doubt the slightly earlier date of 462/1 given by Ath. Pol.

Ath. Pol. and Plutarch seem respectively to give favourable and unfavourable accounts of the reform (see box).

For about seventeen years after the Persian Wars the constitution in which the Areopagus was dominant persisted, though it gradually declined. As the masses increased, Ephialtes son of Sophonides became champion of the people, a man who appeared to be uncorrupt and upright in political matters. He attacked the council of the Areopagus. First he eliminated many of its members, bringing them to trial for their conduct in office. Then in the archonship of Conon he took away from the council all the accretions which gave it its guardianship of the constitution, giving some to the council of five hundred and some to the people and the jury-courts. (Athenian Constitution, 25. i-ii)


When [Cimon] sailed out on campaign again, finally the many were unleashed, and overturned the established order of the constitution and the traditional observances which they had previously followed; and with Ephialtes as leader they took away from the council of the Areopagus all but a few of its judgments; and, making themselves masters of the lawcourts, they pitched the city into undiluted democracy. Pericles was already powerful and thinking on popular lines. (Plutarch, Cimon, 15. ii: cf. Pericles, 9. v)

The council of the Areopagus (named after the hill on which it met, south of the agora and west of the acropolis) was the body of which those who had served each year as the nine archons became members for the rest of their lives: when Ephialtes ‘brought its members to trial for their conduct in office’, he perhaps prosecuted archons on their retirement, to discredit the council which they were to join. Powers taken away from the Areopagus might well have been represented as ‘accretions’, additions to its original and proper powers, by the reformers and as part of the established order by their opponents.

But what were those powers? They were clearly, at least in part, judicial; and they gave the Areopagus a ‘guardianship of the constitution’, already alluded to in connection with its punishment of offenders in earlier chapters of Ath. Pol. Probably the expression referred to the Areopagus’ general position in Athens rather than to some specific power; possibly (and this would explain the rival campaigning slogans) the Areopagus had at times taken to guarding the constitution in new ways, perhaps by instituting new judicial processes, without being explicitly authorised to do so by a decree of the assembly.

Two powers in particular seem likely candidates for removal from the Areopagus by Ephialtes. Eisangelia, often translated ‘impeachment’, a procedure for charges of major offences against the state (treason, attempting to overthrow the constitution), had been in the hands of the Areopagus in the time of Solon (Ath. Pol. 8. iv) but in later Athens was dealt with by the council of five hundred, the assembly and the jury-courts: here is a power which was taken from the Areopagus at some time, and this may well have been that time. Athenian officials were subject to various checks on their conduct: a validation, dokimasia, before they entered office; a vote of confidence each prytany during their term of office; and a financial/general accounting, logos/euthynai, at the end of their term. We are on less firm ground here, but there are indications that validation and accounting procedures already existed in Athens before Ephialtes’ reforms, and it is credible though not demonstrable that they had been in the hands of the Areopagus and were taken from it by Ephialtes. If this is right, the Areopagus will in eisangelia and in the procedures for scrutinising officials previously have possessed, and now have lost, powers of considerable political importance. It retained judicial powers in connection with homicide and wounding, and some religious offences (Ath. Pol. 57. iii-iv, 60. ii).

Some other changes which have been suggested ought to be mentioned. By the late fifth century there existed a ‘prosecution for illegality’, graphe para-nomon, which could be used to overturn a decree of the assembly as being either illegal or inexpedient (first securely attested in 415: Andoc. I. Myst. 17): it has been suggested that this was a democratic replacement for a right of the Areopagus to veto decisions of the assembly, but there is no evidence that such a right ever existed. One power was lost about this time not by the Areopagus but by the archons. Originally they had personally decided many lawsuits; Solon had created a right of appeal against their decisions, to a body probably called (h)eliaia, perhaps a judicial session of the assembly (Ath. Pol. 9. i, using the worddikasterion); by the later fifth century appeal had, as it were, become automatic, and the archon merely conducted a preliminary enquiry before referring a case to a jury-court (dikasterion), in which he presided (but he could still impose very small fines on his own authority). Here it is perhaps better to think of a gradual development, as men against whom archons ruled exercised their right of appeal increasingly often; but there may well have been legislation standardising the new procedures, and it may well have been enacted about this time. Philochorus (FGrH 328 F 64. b. a) seems to credit Ephialtes with the creation of a board of seven law-guardians,nomophylakes: there is no other reference to such officials before the late fourth century, and if they existed in the century of the Attic orators we should expect to hear of them, so probably Philochorus was wrong or has been misreported.

As a result of Ephialtes’ reforms the council of five hundred and the jury-courts were to become busier, and Athens’ increasingly active control of the Delian League was to make them busier still. In 453/2 the smaller private lawsuits were transferred to travelling justices (cf. p. 60). It is arguable that, although since its creation by Cleisthenes the council had comprised fifty members from each tribe, it was only after Ephialtes that the tribal contingents acted as the prytaneis, a standing committee of the council, each taking a tenth of the year. There is no clear evidence forprytaneis of this kind before Ephialtes, and the tholos, the circular building on the west side of the agora which was used by the prytaneis, was probably built about 460.

Why should the Areopagus have been deprived of power at the end of the 460’s ? Ath. Pol’s period of domination by the Areopagus after the Persian Wars looks like a fourth-century attempt to answer the question: the last major change in the constitution, that of Cleisthenes, had been in a democratic direction; if in the 460’s the Areopagus needed to be reformed, there must after Cleisthenes have been an Areopagite resurgence (Ath. Pol. 41. ii, cf. 23. i). But that resurgence is hard to credit. More importantly, Cleisthenes had created a political system which required and must have been eliciting a high degree of participation by the ordinary citizens; since 487/6 the archons, who were to become members of the Areopagus, had been appointed by lot, while increasingly the elected generals were becoming the most important officials in Athens. As a particular provocation, it was probably the Areopagus that had condemned Themistocles, on an eisangelia (eisangelia Craterus, FGrH 342 F 11 ~ Fornara 65. B. 11), and had acquitted Cimon, in his euthynai (euthynai Ath. Pol. 27. i). Citizens who were ready to take more control of the city’s affairs might well ask by what right a body of ex-archons, no longer necessarily the most respected men in Athens, but serving for life, who were consistently taking the side of Cimon, should enjoy such a powerful position.

Self-interest was involved, foreign policy was involved, personalities were involved; but members of Solon’s third class, the zeugitai, stood to gain as much as members of the fourth, the thetes, and although in general terms we may see the influence of Athens’ growing League and of the poorer men who rowed the ships, we should not see this specifically as a victory of the oarsmen over the hoplites. This can, however, be seen as a defining moment in Athenian history, when a constitutional change was made on democratic principle (cf. pp. 44–5 , on Aeschylus). Within a few years, a self-consciously democratic Athens would be encouraging and sometimes imposing democratic constitutions in the member states of the Delian League (cf. pp. 52–3). It is probably no accident that, soon after this reform, Athens took to inscribing on stone decrees of the assembly, accounts of expenditure and other public documents on an unparalleled scale: the leaders of the new democracy seem to have believed that, to do its job properly, thedemos should be kept well informed.

The reform is attributed to Ephialtes, of whom we know only that he had commanded an expedition to the south coast of Asia Minor (Plut. Clm. 13. iv) but is said by a late source to have been poor (Ael. V.H. XL 9). Plutarch mentions Pericles as a supporter of his, and the attribution of a subsequent reform of the Areopagus to Pericles (Aih. Pol. 27. i, with no details) is probably a garbled version of that. When his laws were repealed by the regime of the Thirty, in 404/3, Aih. Pol. 35. ii refers to the laws of Ephialtes and an unidentifiable Archestratus. Ephialtes himself was murdered not long afterwards - by Aristodicus of Tanagra according to Aih. Pol. 25. iv, but it was a notoriously unsolved crime according to Antiph. V. Herodes 68: perhaps it was assumed that there must have been Athenians behind Aristodicus but they were never identified.

Tragedy and Politics

Most surviving Athenian tragedies have plots set in the heroic past of Greece. It has become fashionable, however, to focus on the civic aspects of the festivals of Dionysus at which tragedies and comedies were performed, and on themes in the tragedies (such as the conflict between family andpolls, or between divine law and man-made law) which were of contemporary concern to citizens of a fifth-century polls. An older question, but one which still needs to be addressed, is how far particular plays are concerned with the particular political situation at the time of their first performance.

In fact some early tragedies took their plots from recent history. Perhaps in 493/2, when Themistocles was archon, Phrynichus produced a play on The Capture of Miletus by Persia at the end of the Ionian Revolt, which distressed the Athenians, who had helped the Ionians in the first year but not afterwards (Hdt. VI. 21. ii); and probably in 477/6, when Themistocles was his choregos (Plut. Them. 5. v), Phrynichus produced his Phoenician Women, which is said to have treated the recent defeat of the Persians. Those plays do not survive, but Aeschylus’ Persians does. It was produced in 4732, with Pericles as choregos, and it focuses on the Persian defeat at Salamis, or rather on the receipt first of the news and then of King Xerxes himself at the Persian court. At one level it is a patriotic Greek play, celebrating a Greek success; at another level it is a patriotic Athenian play, since the Athenian navy played the largest part in the victory. At yet another level, because it focuses on Salamis and on Themistocles, it can be seen as a play in support of Themistocles and in opposition to Cimon (cf. p. 39). Aeschylus’ Suppliant Women is perhaps to be dated 464/3, shortly before Ephialtes’ reforms. It is set in Argos in the heroic past, but the king of this Argos is a very unkingly king, and the play emphasises very strongly that the decision to receive the suppliants rests not with him but with the mighty hand of the citizen assembly lifted up to vote - demon kratousa cheir, juxtaposing the two halves of the word demokratia (1. 604). We do not have to suppose that Aeschylus was indulging in crude political propaganda, but he was at any rate engaging sympathetically with the democratic idea, about the time when that idea was first being explicitly formulated (see box).

KING OF ARGOS. DO not sit occupying the hearth of my house. If the city is defiled in public matters, the people must come together and work out a cure: I could not keep a promise to you even if I were present and made a public statement about these things to all the citizens.

CHORUS OF SUPPLIANTS. You are the city, you are the public authority, a chief not subject to judgment. You are master of the altar, the hearth of the land, giving the only vote with the nod of your head: on your throne with the only sceptre you bring every matter to pass. Guard against a curse.

DANAUS. Be of good cheer, children, the news from this place is good: all-powerful decrees of the people have been resolved.

CHORUS. Greetings, old man, bringing the most welcome news to me. Tell us: to what end has the purpose been ratified, how is the mighty hand of the people [demou kratousa cheir] fulfilled?

DANAUS. It was resolved by the Argives, not ambiguously…

(Aeschylus, Suppliant Women, 365–75 , 600–5)

It is therefore interesting to read that in 469/8, when the younger Sophocles was competing, allegedly for the first time and against Aeschylus, the archon called on Cimon and his fellow generals to take the place of the normal judges, and they awarded first prize to Sophocles (Plut. Cim. 8. vii-ix).The story may have been improved in transmission; Sophocles may have presented what were unquestionably better plays; but it looks as if we can link Aeschylus with democracy and its supporters, in opposition to Cimon.

Shortly after Ephialtes’ reforms, in 459/8, Aeschylus produced his Oresteian plays. The last of them, Eumenides, is centred on the trial of Orestes by the Areopagus for killing his mother Clytemnestra (N.B. 11. 681–710 , Athena’s speech instituting the council: see box). Aeschylus’ featuring the Areopagus, with a function which it retained, so soon after the reform cannot be unconnected with it; but, while some have seen him as endorsing the reform (as we should expect from his earlier record), others have seen him as regretting it, or at any rate fearing trouble in the future. The play also stresses unnecessarily the friendship between Athens and Argos, which by the time of the play had become allies. Aeschylus himself ended his life in Sicily; but it is not certain when or why he left Athens.

ATHENA. Hear now my proclaimed law, people of Attica, as you decide the first trial for the shedding of blood. Henceforth this shall always be the council-house of the judges for the host of Aegeus. This hill of Ares, seat of the Amazons, and place of their tents when they came in envy of Theseus, and built up this new high-towered citadel for the city, and sacrificed to Ares, here where are the rock and hill named after Ares: on it the awe of the citizens, and awe’s kinsman fear, shall restrain from doing wrong by day and by night alike, as long as the citizens themselves do not disturb the laws with evil fluxes; but if you defile the clear water with filth you will never find a drink. I counsel the citizens to uphold and revere neither what is ungoverned nor what is despotically ruled, and not to expel all dread from the city. For what mortal is just who fears nothing? If you justly respected this awe, you would have a bulwark for the land and salvation for the city, such as no mortal has among the Scythians or in the land of Pelops. I establish this council-house untouched by gain, reverend, sharp-spirited, a wakeful guardian of the land on behalf of the sleeping. I have stretched out my exhortation to my citizens for the hereafter. Now you must be upright, lift up your votes and decide the trial, in respect for your oath. My speech is done.

(Aeschylus, Eumenides, 681–710)


On Themistocles after the Persian Wars see W. G. Forrest, ‘Themistokles and Argos’, CQ2 x 1960, 221–41 at 232–11; Lenardon, The Saga of Themistocles; P. J. Rhodes, ‘Thucydides on Pausanias and Themistocles’, Hist, xix 1970, 387–400 . On ostracism the most up-to-date catalogue of surviving ostraka is by S. Brenne, in Siewert (ed.), Ostrakismos-Testimonien I, 43–71 (suggesting on p. 48 that Ariphron, though named after his grandfather, may not have been the eldest son); the most comprehensive study in English, now somewhat dated, is Thomsen, The Origin of Ostracism.

On the reforms of Ephialtes, the most recent presentation of my views is in CAH2 v, ch. 4. ii; the most recent presentation of the minimalist views of R. Sealey is his ‘Ephialtes, Eisangelia and the Council’, in Classical Contributions … M. F. McGregor, 125–34 , reprinted in Rhodes (ed.),Athenian Democracy, ch. 13; see also T. E. Rihll, ‘Democracy Denied: Why Ephialtes Attacked the Areopagus’, JHS cxv 1995, 87–98 .

On Athenian tragedy and politics in this period there is a convenient presentation of older views in Podlecki, The Political Background of Aeschylean Tragedy, esp. chs. 2, 4, 5. More recent approaches include Pelling, Literary Texts and the Greek Historian, ch. 9; Sommerstein, Aeschylean Tragedy, ch. 12; Carter, The Politics of Greek Tragedy.

On Themistocles’ Magnesian coins see J. Nolle and A. Wenninger, ‘Themistokles and Archepolis’, JNG xlviii-xlix 1998–9 , 29–70 ; the bearded head on some coins is now thought to represent Zeus, not Themistocles himself.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!