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Ostraka for Themistocles

Ostraka for Themistocles

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Athens After the Persian Wars

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 (&lsquothirds &lsquoof tribes) and 139 demes, and this new organisation became the basis of the whole of Athens&rsquo 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&ndash479 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&ndash21). The navy&rsquos 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&rsquo forces against the Persians and, it is alleged, when the Greek generals voted to choose a &lsquoman of the campaign&rsquo, everybody voted for himself first and Themistocles second, and in Sparta he was honoured like no other foreigner (Hdt. VIII. 123&ndash5). 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&rsquos , acted as choregos, the rich citizen given the duty of overseeing and financing the dramatic production, for Aeschylus&rsquo tragedies in 473/2 (cf. p. 44). Ostraka reveal the existence of another son of Xanthippus, Ariphron (named after Xanthippus&rsquo father, but perhaps not the eldest son), who is otherwise attested only as a guardian in the 430&rsquos (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&rsquo walls is to be found inThucydides (I. 90&ndash93 . 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&rsquo 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&rsquo 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&rsquos and 460&rsquos was to command a Delian League with which the Spartans were content he gave the name Lacedaemonius to a son born in the 470&rsquos against the opposition of Ephialtes he took forces to help the Spartans against the Messenians at the end of the 460&rsquos (cf. pp. 31&ndash2).

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&rsquo greater achievement against the Persians, the battle of Marathon, won by the hoplites and Cimon&rsquos father Miltiades, or the battle of Salamis, won by the navy and Themistocles (cf. PI.Leg. TV. 707 A-D): Aeschylus&rsquo 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&ndash3): 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, &lsquoof best counsel&rsquo 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&rsquo 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&rsquos welcome, to have urged the exclusion of the tyrant Hieron of Syracuse (but that suspiciously prefigures Lysias&rsquo 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&rsquo involvement with Themistocles&rsquo 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&rsquos . The ostracisms of the later 480&rsquos 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&rsquos 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 &lsquocommon&rsquo 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&rsquos were recalled at the time of Xerxes&rsquo 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&rsquos 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&rsquos , was now ostracised.

As with the rebuilding of Athens&rsquo walls, we have a story which looks as if it had already undergone embellishment before it was recorded by Thucydides (I. 135. ii&mdash138). 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&rsquos 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 &lsquoPersian&rsquo (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&rsquos name.

The downfall of Themistocles is bound up with several of the chronological problems of the 470&rsquos and 460&rsquos , 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&mdash59. iv), but in this period he assigns one major story to each year and his assignments cannot be relied on. If Aeschylus&rsquo 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&rsquo 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&mdash26. 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&rsquo 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&rsquo Reform of the Areopagus

Cimon&rsquos supremacy remained unchallenged until the war against Thasos of 465/ 4&ndash463 /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&rsquos 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&rsquos help for Sparta and Athens&rsquo 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 &lsquobrought its members to trial for their conduct in office&rsquo, 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 &lsquoaccretions&rsquo, 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 &lsquoguardianship of the constitution&rsquo, already alluded to in connection with its punishment of offenders in earlier chapters of Ath. Pol. Probably the expression referred to the Areopagus&rsquo 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 &lsquoimpeachment&rsquo, 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&rsquo 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 &lsquoprosecution for illegality&rsquo, 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&rsquo reforms the council of five hundred and the jury-courts were to become busier, and Athens&rsquo 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&rsquos ? Ath. Pol&rsquos 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&rsquos 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&rsquos 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&rsquos 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&rsquo 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&ndash5 , 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&ndash3). 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&rsquo 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&rsquo Suppliant Women is perhaps to be dated 464/3, shortly before Ephialtes&rsquo 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&hellip

(Aeschylus, Suppliant Women, 365&ndash75 , 600&ndash5)

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&rsquo 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&ndash710 , Athena&rsquos speech instituting the council: see box). Aeschylus&rsquo 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&rsquos 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&ndash710)


On Themistocles after the Persian Wars see W. G. Forrest, &lsquoThemistokles and Argos&rsquo, CQ 2 x 1960, 221&ndash41 at 232&ndash11 Lenardon, The Saga of Themistocles P. J. Rhodes, &lsquoThucydides on Pausanias and Themistocles&rsquo, Hist, xix 1970, 387&ndash400 . On ostracism the most up-to-date catalogue of surviving ostraka is by S. Brenne, in Siewert (ed.), Ostrakismos-Testimonien I, 43&ndash71 (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 CAH 2 v, ch. 4. ii the most recent presentation of the minimalist views of R. Sealey is his &lsquoEphialtes, Eisangelia and the Council&rsquo, in Classical Contributions &hellip M. F. McGregor, 125&ndash34 , reprinted in Rhodes (ed.),Athenian Democracy, ch. 13 see also T. E. Rihll, &lsquoDemocracy Denied: Why Ephialtes Attacked the Areopagus&rsquo, JHS cxv 1995, 87&ndash98 .

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&rsquo Magnesian coins see J. Nolle and A. Wenninger, &lsquoThemistokles and Archepolis&rsquo, JNG xlviii-xlix 1998&ndash9 , 29&ndash70 the bearded head on some coins is now thought to represent Zeus, not Themistocles himself.

Themistocles & Ostracism

Kalispera, Patient Readers!

After a long absence I'm back, and as usual I assure you I am still writing about Themistocles and his amazing life. In fact, I'm happy to report that I am currently reading a book that may speed the process along, since it's helping me to better understand the events that took place in Themistocles' lifetime.

The book is called Exile, Ostracism, and Democracy: The Politics of Expulsion in Ancient Greece. In it, author Sara Forsdyke attempts to explain the peculiar institution known as ostracism, which was created to stop the never ending cycle of violence that plagued the polis (city-state) of Athens. For over a hundred years, Archaic Athens was constantly torn apart by civil strife between the warring factions of Athens' nobility. This resulted in either murder or entire families being permanently banished from the city, which led to more murder and exile in retaliation. Even with reforms introduced by Draco (a rather severe lawmaker), Solon (a much nicer lawmaker), and Pisistratus (an affable tyrant), the bickering continued. Finally around 508 BCE, a gentleman named Cleisthenes introduced a set of revolutionary reforms that transferred power from the war-loving nobles to the slightly less war-loving people of Athens. One of these reforms was the power to let the majority decide who should go and who should stay, as opposed to the wealthy minority. This was known as ostracism.

Ostracism comes from the word ostracon, or "potsherd." This is because whenever the people of Athens voted to banish someone from their city, they would cast "ballots" made from broken pieces of pottery with the names of potential candidates scratched on them. If these candidates received at least 6,000 votes against them, they were then asked to leave the city for ten years. After this they could return home and become a citizen again, and in the meantime were allowed to keep their property and any income they accumulated from it. These generous terms were incentive for the ostracized to return peacefully and leave their grudges behind them.

It was a clever system that broke the cycle of intra-elite conflict in Athens, but unfortunately it was also easily abused. Anyone able to turn a crowd against a particular individual -- whether they were a threat to the polis or not -- could use ostracism to their advantage. In fact, Themistocles is credited with a string of ostracisms between 490-480 BCE. Among those cast out of Athens during this time were Aristides (one of the generals at the battle of Plataea), Xanthippus (father of Pericles and one of the generals at the battle of Mycale) Megacles (a relative of Cleisthenes) and Hipparchus (a relative of Pisistratus). Ironically, Themistocles would get a taste of his own medicine around 470 BCE, when the people of Athens grew tired of their clever but boastful leader and sent him packing.

We know the story of Themistocles' ostracism is true, because we have a mountain of physical evidence left behind by the Ancient Athenians to prove it. As you can see from the pictures above and below, archeologists have discovered a myriad of potsherds with the name Themistocles son of Neocles written on them. What's interesting is that many of these ostraca are suspiciously intact, almost as if they were manufactured and then handed out. It wouldn't be surprising to learn that Themistocles had a rather wealthy enemy, one who, perhaps in revenge for once being banished himself, may have ordered up a large number of potsherds to use against Themistocles in the future. It's also possible that Themistocles was suggested for ostracism more than once over the years, which would explain why so many ostraca with his name on it survive. Whatever the case, it's clear that many considered him a danger to the polis.

But WHY did they consider him dangerous? He was the hero of Salamis after all, as well as the architect of Athens' powerful (and victorious) navy. Why would the people he saved from an invading Persian army want him banished? According to Herodotus, it was because they were simply tired of Themistocles boasting about his military accomplishments. This is certainly a possibility, but Sara Forsdyke offers up evidence that indicates it may have been more than just a few obnoxious boasts that got him into trouble:

"Themistocles ostracism. is explained by the literary sources as a result of [his] excessive power and honor. At least one voter, furthermore, seems to have been referring to Themistocles' prestige when he wrote on his ballet, 'This potsherd is for Themistocles, of the deme Phrearrhius, on account of his honor.' Another voter, however [wrote] on his ballot, 'Themistocles, son of Neocles, asshole. ' Yet another voter accused Themistocles of being a pollution in the land."

The latter quote about Themistocles "being a pollution to the land" is especially interesting. Why would somebody think him a "pollution"? Could it be that he was acting outside of social norms in his private life? Or were people blaming him for some catastrophic event? Say. the destruction of Athens by the Persians?

For me, the latter idea makes a lot of sense. In 480 BCE, Themistocles decreed that the people should abandon the city and head for their ships in order to escape the invading Persian forces. The populace was reluctant to leave their homes undefended, but he reminded them of an oracle which hinted that "wooden walls" would be their salvation against the Persians. He suggested that their newly-formed navy was what the oracle was referring to, and that they could evacuate the city with these ships, as well as confront the Persians with them. Sure enough, the oracle about wooden walls proved to be true. Not only were the people of Athens able to escape the marauding Persians, but a ship battle took place between the Greeks and the Persians in the windy straights of Salamis that summer, with the Athenians and their allies achieving a stunning victory over the larger Persian navy. This victory changed the tide of the war in the Greeks' favor, and allowed the Athenians to safely return home. Alas, when the Athenians sailed back into the port of Piraeus, they were horrified by what they saw. Houses were looted. Temples had been burned to the ground. Public buildings were destroyed. And those left behind had either been killed or captured. The sweet taste of victory turned bitter in their mouths as the Athenians saw their city reduced to ashes. It was gone. All gone. And so, it may be that they blamed their misfortune on the man who suggested they abandon the city to the Persians: Themistocles, son of Neocles.

But if that's the case, why would the Athenians wait ten whole years before throwing him out of Athens? The answer isn't clear, but we do know that less than a year after the battle of Salamis Themistocles was already demoted from his position as Generalissimo of the Greeks, because he is conspicuously absent from the decisive Greek victories at the battles of Pleatea and Myclae. Nor is he mentioned as being a part of the founding of the Delian League in 478, a coalition of Greek city-states that was meant to act as a shield against the Persian empire. The most reasonable explanation for his absence (to me at least) is that perhaps he was ostracized earlier than was initially believed, say closer to 479 or 478 BCE.

Though scholars and history lovers may initially balk at this theory, it certainly makes it easier to explain why Themistocles was not part of several major events in the 470s. Thus I hope you don't mind if I change things around a bit in my Themistocles novel. I think an earlier ostracism will not only make writing my novel a lot easier, but who knows? Perhaps it will make it more interesting, too. ^_^

*Note: Of course I am aware of the various stories about Themistocles that are said to have taken place after the battle of Salamis. We hear of him shaking down allies for money, stalling the Spartans while Athens rebuilt its walls (Sparta was suspicious of Athens' new authority among the Greeks), fortifying the port of Piraeus, attending the Olympic games, and building a small shrine in his own honor. He was certainly busy, but it doesn't really explain why he wasn't a part of several significant events. Thus it seems easier to say these reported activities happened while he was ostracized. And once again, I AM writing historical fiction. So I hope it's OK to move things around!


"But afterwards, those who feared the eminence that [Themistocles] enjoyed, and others who were envious of his glory, forgot his services to the State, and began to exert themselves to diminish his power and to lower his presumption. First of all, they removed him from Athens, using against him what is called `ostracism', an institution which was adopted in Athens after the overthrow of the tyranny of Peisistratos and his sons [510 B.C.].

And the law is as follows: Each citizen wrote the name of the man who in his opinion had the greatest power to destroy the democracy and the man who got the largest number of ostraka was obliged to go into exile from his native land for a period of ten years.

The Athenians, it appears, passed such a law, not for the purpose of punishing wrongdoing, but in order to lower through exile the presumption of men who had risen too high. Now Themistocles, having been ostracized in the manner we have described, fled as an exile from his native city to Argos. "

THUCYDIDES, History of the Peloponnesian War Book I, chapter 135:

PLUTARCH, Life of Kimon Chapter 17:

THEOPOMPOS, Philippika Book 10 [F 88]

Theopompos in the Tenth Book of the Philippika says about Kimon: 'When five years had not yet gone by, a war having broken out with the Lacedaemonians, the People sent for Kimon, thinking that by his proxeny he would make the quickest peace. When he arrived at the City, he ended the war.

[from the scholia on Aelius Aristeides 'On the Four' 46.158. 13. See W. Robert Connor, Theopompus and Fifth Century Athens (1968), pp. 24 ff.]

Ostraka for Themistocles - History

Perhaps few people have heard the word “Ostraka”. Of course, some may know it well in detail, but, first of all, I would like to introduce reference materials for that question, "What is the "Ostraka? "

1. “The most prominent of the series of reforms passed down to with Cleisthenes ’ name and attributed to him, however, is probably the system of the Ostracism(“Ostrakismos” in Greek). This is also an unprecedented and invented product of ingenuity. Simply saying, it is a system that, based on the consensus of the citizens indicated by the vote, they deported influential people who possibly overturn democracy from the city for a certain period of time. - "Classic Athens Politics and Society" written by Sadao Ito, University of Tokyo Press.

2. “Ostrakismos(in Greek)” - ”Ostracism(in English): This is the exile system issued when Athenian democratic politics was established in the 6th century BC. The names of persons who would be exiled were written on a piece of ceramic, called “Ostrakon” in Greek, and voted. Its main purpose was to prevent the emergence of tyrants. If the number of the votes for someone exceeded 6,000, that person was exiled to another country for 10 years. – "Life and Culture of Ancient Greeks" written by J. P. Mahaffy.

3. First and foremost, the measures used by citizens to control the influence of talented individuals can be observed. It is the process of choosing the highest commander and the Ostracism(“Ostrakismos” in Greek). ・ ・ ・ The Ostracism(“Ostrakismos” in Greek) was implemented under the pretext of expulsing the lordship of tyrants forever. This was something like that every winter the Council should ask the public of whether ostracizing a certain citizen or not. The one who received more than 6000 exile votes had to be deported for ten years, at least five years. Staying in land outside the city of origin was quite dangerous, and exile was equated with the death penalty. . It was natural that the thoughts of influential people would be more humble considering the imminent exile. This is the source of concern that made even Pericles timid. Eternal hatred appears here. But that is not the hate of the lower class. Rather, this is the hatred of the thoughtless incompetent for the rare and incomparable. . If we explain that it wasn't out of jealousy toward to that person, rather it was out of a genuine concern for him, it means showing too much respect for this system. . Thus, as soon as publicly giving trust to someone had become obvious, the Ostracism(“Ostrakismos” in Greek) took place. . Citizens finally learned to blindly entrust this method to the agitated politicians. - "History of Greek Culture," Vol. 1, written by J. Burghart.

4. This system was implemented in Athens in the 5th century BC. The law of this system regulated that a person who could become a tyrant or a person who became so powerful and dangerous that he could harm the state could be expelled from the country based on a citizen's vote for 10 years. No deprivation of citizenship and confiscation of property were required. It is said that this system was named "Ostrakismos" in Greek from the fact that a piece of ceramic(Ostraka), not a piece of shell, was used for voting and that it was founded by Kraysthenes in 508 BC. The first implementation was in 488 BC against Hipparchus, a relative of Peistrates. Once a year, the people's assembly voted on its implementation, and after passing the vote, each citizen engraved the name of the person to be exiled on a piece of ceramic(Ostraka) and voted it, and the one with the most votes was exiled. It is said that the voting result becomes effective when the total number of votes exceeds 6000 and when the number of votes of one person exceeds 6000. Approximately 20 cases of the Ostracism(“Ostrakismos” in Greek) are known, and prominent oligarchic politicians such as Kimon and Tucudydes (different from historians of the same name) were exiled. Later, it became more often used as a tool for political disputes, and stopped functioning after the Ostracism(“Ostrakismos” in Greek) of Hyperbolus in 418 BC. - Wtitten by Nobuyuki Maezawa. (c) 1998 Hitachi Digital Heibonsha, All rights reserved

As you can understand from the materials taken up above here, in Athens at that time, a system called “Ostrakismos” was devised in order to eliminate the rule by tyrants. And by using that system, such attempts had been made to protect democracy. The "porcelain piece" or "fragment of pottery" used at that time is said to be "ostraca". It comes from ancient Greek.

According to one record, human rule by humans began over 4200 years ago by Nimrod. It is said that the construction of the famous city of Babel (Babylon) and "Tower of Babel" was done under his leadership. 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus also said:

"[Nimrod] changed the situation little by little to make him to be a tyrant. He believed that the only way to keep people from fearing God was to constantly encourage people to rely on his own power. And if God wanted to flood the earth again, he threatened that he would take revenge on him by building a high tower that water would not reach, and avenging the destruction of their forefathers. People eagerly obeyed this counsel of [Nimrod], thinking that it was slavery to submit to God, so they embarked on the construction of the tower. And the tower was built much faster than expected.”—Jewish Antiquities, I, 114, 115 (iv, 2, 3).

Since then, various forms of human rule by humans have been created. The direct democracy cultivated in ancient Athens is one of the historical trends of human rule by humans. Human history tells us that politics by the rule that those who have a strong desire for power, such as Nimrod, and those who have attempted to make their names, have come to obtain their own political power, or politics by the rule that members of families who have come to be called aristocracy class, so called, coming from a noble family, and those who have come to belong to elite class because of their excellent abilities, have come to obtain their own political powers in the privilege, furthermore, politics by the rule that those, typically just like as represented by ancient Athens, who have insisted to reform political system, and then in which the group leaders were elected and became political rulers, have come to obtain their own political powers as the privilege. So human history talks about various forms of human rule by humans. Of course, human rule by humans cannot be explained only by each political element, rather human history has spoke to us that human rule by humans has come to down to our days having complicatedly been intertwined those elements with each other.

In ancient Athens, the system called "ostraca", which was said to have been invented by Cleisthenes , came into effect then. It must have been welcomed as a wonderful system of "a product of unrivaled innovation" for protecting democracy for the first time. But what was the ending? What happened to that expectation?

It's often said that history repeats itself, but what does “ostraka” tell us?

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Ostracism was a procedure in the Athenian democracy in which any citizen could be expelled from Athens for ten years. While some instances clearly expressed widespread anger at the citizen, ostracism was also often used preemptively. It was used as a way of neutralizing someone thought to be a threat to the state or a potential tyrant.

The name is derived from the ostraca (or ostraka), referring to the pottery shards that were used as voting tokens. Broken pottery was abundant and almost free the pottery shards served as a kind of scrap paper. Papyrus, which was imported from Egypt as a high-quality writing surface, was too expensive to be disposable.

Each year the Athenian citizens were asked in assembly whether they wished to hold an ostracism. If they voted “yes,” then the ostracism voting process would be conducted two months later. Citizens gave the name of those they wished to be ostracised to a scribe, as many of them were illiterate, and they then scratched the name on pottery shards and deposited them in urns. The officials then counted the ostraka and sorted the names into separate piles. The person whose collection contained the most ostraka would be banished, provided that there was a quorum of 6,000 ostraka.

The person who was ostracised had ten days to leave the city. If they attempted to return, the penalty was death. Notably, the property of the man banished was not confiscated, and there was no loss of status. After ten years, they were allowed to return without stigma. It was also possible for the assembly to recall an ostracised person ahead of time during an emergency.

Some of the names scratched on these Ostraka in the picture include:

    • Sokrates Anargyrasios – 443 BC (4)
    • Hippokrates Anaxileou – 490 BC (5)
    • Hippokrates the Alkmeonid – 490 BC (6 – 8)
    • Xanthippos – 484 BC (9 – 11)
    • Perikles – 444 BC (15)
    • Kallixenos – 483 BC (23-29)
    • Themistokles – 460 BC (32 – 39)

    The two-month gap between voting for an ostracism process and the actual voting in the ostracism was a key feature in the institution of Ostracism. It prevented candidates for expulsion being voted out due to impulse anger. Secondly, it opened up a period for discussion and reconciliation, whether informally or through public speeches before the Athenian assembly or Athenian courts. In this process, a consensus might emerge. During that time of waiting, ordinary Athenian citizens felt a certain power over the more powerful members of their city. Conversely, the most prominent and powerful citizens, had an incentive to work towards making contributions to their society and city.

    The Development of Democracy in Ancient Athens

    Modern day democracy is described as a system of government in which the whole population is represented through elected officials. This idea of a democracy started in Athens, which is widely regarded as the birthplace of democracy with the Athenian democracy developing around the sixth century BC. While many other cities in ancient Greece tried to set up their own democracy modeled after the Athenian democracy, none have surpassed Athens. But how is it that Athens had established such a strong democracy, what factors have led to their success? The Athenians had used monuments, buildings, tools and symbols to create a long-lasting democracy.

    “The Pnyx” – Athens, Greece, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pnyx

    The Pnyx is one of the most important factors in the success of ancient Athens becoming the birthplace and the leader of democracy. The Pnyx is located on a hill in central Athens, that looks down on the ancient Agora, and towards the Parthenon two other important locations that influenced democracy in Athens. Since 507 BC, it has been used primarily as the official meeting place for the Athenian democratic assembly. At these assemblies, citizens would gather around the Bema, which was an elevated speaking podium, and would listen to the propositions of other citizens. These propositions would likely be political issues and decisions about the future of their city. The issues were then polled and citizens would then vote yes or no on them. Thus the Pnyx served as the location that citizens of Athens would talk on political issues and make decisions about their city. It was also first time that all citizens were deemed equal, where all citizens only includes men, and they all had an equal part in the decision making process of the city with a yes-no vote. This idea of equality and voting at central locations played an important role in democracy and it had developed through centuries which lead to the present day democratic ideas and philosophy.

    “The Western Metopes of the Parthenon” – Athens, Greece,

    The Parthenon is another important monument that was influential to Athens becoming the birthplace of democracy. The Parthenon is adorned with metopes, these continue around all four sides of the building, with each side having a unique theme, representing a fight. “The east end showed gods fighting giants, the south side Greeks fighting centaurs, the west end Greeks fighting Amazons, and the north side Greeks fighting Trojans” (Camp 78). The metopes serve the purpose of capturing the triumph of the Greeks over all their enemies. These victories shown on the Parthenon helped develop democracy in Athens because they have the ability to win against all their enemies rather than succumb to them, and it shows the power of the people of Athens, a principle of democracy. This also further shown because the Parthenon is meant to depict the Athenians’ success at defeating the Persians, “The theme that unites all four sides is the triumph of civilization over barbarians, and we are intended to see here a symbolic reference to the triumph of Athens over the barbarian Persians” (Camp 78). The fact that the Athenians defeated the Persians and that is adorned on the metopes of the Parthenon builds upon the fact that the Parthenon is a symbol of Athenian democracy.

    “Fragment of a Sarcophagus Lid Showing the Ransoming of Hector’s Body” – Kelsey Museum, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    The Fragment of a Sarcophagus Lid Showing the Ransoming of Hector’s Body at the Kelsey Museum is another piece that shows the development of Athenian democracy. This piece shows an episode of The Iliad by Homer. “Toward the end of the long and debilitating war between the Greeks and Trojans, the Greek Warrior Achilles kills the Trojan hero Hector and drags his body away from Troy” (Fragment of a Sarcophagus Lid Showing the Ransoming of Hector’s Body). This fragment shows another triumph of Greeks over their enemies, this time the Trojans. This is very similar to the northern metopes of the Parthenon, which also depicts the Greeks fighting against the Trojans. The triumph of the Greeks over the Trojans in this fragment also helped develop democracy in Athens because it showed the citizens of Athens that they were able to defeat their enemies and show the power of their people. This was an important principle of democracy and the fragment of a Sarcophagus Lid Showing the Ransoming of Hector’s Body showed it well.

    “Ostraka of Cimon, an Athenian statesman” – Athens, Greece,

    The Ostraka is an important tool to Athenian democracy. It was a potsherd, a broken piece of pottery, that was used to write down the name of a person to be exiled. The idea of ostracism was established after the Battle of Marathon in 490, when the Athenians realized the former tyrant, Hippias was fighting on the side of the tyrants. After that act, the citizens of Athens would vote every year to exile a person from the city, this would likely be a person who had gained too much power. This person would be exiled for ten years. Ostrakas were critical to the development of democracy in Athens because it was a method that allowed the citizens of Athens to keep the power of the leaders in check through voting. The citizens of Athens had used the ostraka on Themistocles in 472 because he was accused of bribery, sacrilege and for a strange association with the Spartan traitor Pausanias. The idea of the ostraka has been developed throughout the centuries to modern day democracy in the sense that citizens of a democracy have the power to vote people into a position and out of a position.

    “View of the ancient agora” – Athens, Greece, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Agora_of_Athens

    The Ancient Agora of classical Athens was an important location for ancient Athenian democracy. It was located northwest of the Acropolis and is bounded by a hill on the west and bounded by the hill of the Areopagus on the south. These boundaries are marked with boundary stones which mean that this area is public land and cannot be taken away. Initially the ancient Agora was used as an assembly, commercial and housing place, however as time progressed it became used for many more purposes, including democratic purposes. The Ancient Agora housed the Bouleuterion, where “Five hundred Athenian citizens were chosen by lot to serve for a year, and met in this building every day except during festivals to prepare legislation for the meetings of the ekklesia (assembly of all citizens), which met at the Pnyx every ten days” (Agora Monument Bouleuterion). The Ancient Agora also held a law court, a state prison, the “Prison of Socrates”, an office for standardizing measurements, as well as the Monument of the Eponymous Heroes. The Monument of Eponymous Heroes was a marble podium that displayed 10 bronze statues that represented the tribes of Athens, along with that it was used a area where proposed legislation, decrees and announcements were displayed. The Ancient Agora was important to Athenian democracy because it was not only a site for public gatherings, stores and the likes, but it was also a sanctioned government workplace where many of the facets of Athenian democracy were practiced.

    “Statue of Harmodius and Aristogeiton” Athens, Greece, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmodius_and_Aristogeiton

    The Tyrannicides, Harmodius and Aristogeiton, were also very important symbols of democracy in ancient Athens. Harmodius and Aristogeiton were two lovers who were famously known for carrying out the assassination of a member of the Athenian ruling class, Hipparchus. These two men also planned to kill Hippias, the tyrant of Athens but were unsuccessful. Harmodius and Aristogeiton were large influences in the development and the idea behind Athenian democracy as they were the first people to stand up against the ruling class. There act of standing up to the ruling class was seen as a shift in power in Athens from the ruling class having the most power and influence to the majority of the citizens of Athens having the power and influence. This is the core principle of democracy, which is a government where the whole population is represented rather than a few powerful individuals.

    “Aerial view of Areopagus” – Athens, Greece, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areopagus

    Lastly, Areopagus was an important location for the development of democracy in ancient Athens. The Areopagus is a prominent rocking jutting out located northwest of the Acropolis. In the ancient times this area was used as court to try homicides, attacks, religious matters, arson, cases involving olive trees and other matters. There is a famous myth that Ares was tried by the gods here for the murder of Poseidon’s son, Halirrhothius. The Areopagus helped form democracy in Athens by functioning as a place for fair trials. The right to a fair trial is critical in a true democracy and by setting the Areopagus as a place for that, Athenian democracy set the groundwork for future democracies to come.

    Ancient Athens had created the first known democracy in the world, where emphasis was taken away from the rich and focused more on the people as a whole. Through the uses of monuments, buildings, objects and symbols they were able to set the groundwork and frameworks for themselves and future democracies.

    “Agora Monument Bouleuterion.” ASCSA.net, agora.ascsa.net/id/agora/monument/bouleuterion.

    Camp, John. The Archaeology of Athens. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.

    Fragment of a Sarcophagus Lid Showing the Ransoming of Hector’s Body. 1979, Kelsey Museum, Michigan.

    How Did Vikings Get Their Horns?

    Hum. My quick google suggests Kirk Douglas didn't actually wear a horned helemt during this film. That's disappointing. Oh well, here's John Cleese

    Look at them! It's like they have eyes! AND EYEBROWS!

    What gives, archaeologists? Have you been lying to us THIS WHOLE TIME? Those are OBVIOUSLY VIKING HELMETS!

    Alas, no. These are from Denmark, Viking territory, but are from the Bronze Age. They were found in 1942 near Veksø, dating c. 1100- 800 BCE. There was also a hoard found at Grevensvænge, with seven figurines, thought to date to 800- 500 BCE. Thse are lost now, but here's a drawing of them by a chap called Schnabel.

    So. how did the Vikings come into it? Well. there's a tiny bit of overlap with the Viking Age (793-1066 CE) in Germany, but there's absolutely no reason to suppose that Vikings wore them.

    Well, my friend went to the National Museum of Denmark, and the tour guide was an archaeologist. You know what she said? "Vikings were cool, these helmets were cool. the 1940s archaeologists just thought: why not?"

    It's a proper academic discipline. Honest.

    Burns Throughout History #7

    Is this a burn? There were once two Athenian Politicians. Themistocles and Aristides. Themistocles was a bit of a wheeler dealer, and Aristides was referred to as "The Just". The Athenians had just discovered a silver seam, and were trying to decide what to do with the money they now had. Themistocles wanted to spend the money on warships and Aristides wanted to distribute it to the people.

    At this time, the ostracism vote came round. It was apparent to everyone that either Themistocles or Aristies would be exiled. It was a tipping point in Athens' history.

    The story goes that an illiterate farmer came up to Aristides, clutching his ostrakon (a sherd of pottery to be written on). He did not recognise the famous man, and said: "Here, can you write 'Aristides' on this pottery for me?"

    Aristides looked at him and said: "But why?"

    The man replied: "I'm sick of hearing him called "The Just" all the time".

    Aristides took it, dutifully wrote "Aristides" on it, and handed it back. Had it been Themistocles, he would have charged him three Obols, then written "Aristides" regardless of what the man had asked him.

    (In case you wondered, Aristides was exiled. The money was spent on a navy, which proved very useful in the Graeco-Persian wars)

    The Ostraca of the Kerameikos Excavation in Athens

    Through ostracism, the Athenians of the 5th century BC were able to banish citizens without further explanation. Each year in January, they decided whether a collection of ostraca (ostracophoria) was to take place or not. By simple majority, they set a day in March for voting. The time until then was used for political propaganda.

    In the Agora, the political centre, the citizens then wrote a name, usually with a sharp tool, on a shard (ostracon) before entering a delimited district. There, it was checked upon whether they were eligible to vote – and that they cast only one shard. A quorum of 6,000 votes was probably required. Those who received the simple majority had to leave Attica for ten years within ten days. Their property remained untouched, and upon their return, they were able to retake their place in public life.

    The first ostracism was performed in 487 BC It concerned Hipparchos, a relative of the banished tyrant Hippias. The following year Megakles from the family of the Alcmeonids had to leave the city. In 484 BC it was Xanthippos, Pericles’ father. In 482 BC, the ostracisation of Aristides decided his quarrel with Themistocles over building a fleet against the Persian threat. The ostracophoria of 471 BC led to the second exile of Megakles, to which many accused of a garish lifestyle. The main rival was again Themistocles, who then had to leave Athens the following year. The ostracisation of the conservative Kimon 461 BC marked the transition to more democracy, and the banishment of Thucydides Melesiou around 442 BC was a political decision, this time in favour of Pericles. Other ostracisms cannot be dated with certainty. The rivals Nikias and Alkibiades united their influence against the demagogue Hyperbolos in 416 BC. Because this result was apparently not wanted, and the process was thus discredited, no further ostracophoria were performed.

    Purpose of the ostracism

    Constitutional theorists interpreted the ostracism law as an emergency brake against potential tyrants in the 4th century BC, but the set course, the one-year restriction, and the lenient punishment did not make the ostracism a means that was a suitable remedy against an acute threat. It is much rather a political ritual, a sword of Damocles over all who strived to be more than the people allowed them to be.

    Importance of the Ostraca

    As immediate testimonies, the ostraca shed light on historical events and daily political discussions or enrich our knowledge of the persons who were in the public eye in the 5th century BC. The ostraca are also an important source for the prevalence of written language or the development of language and writing. Thus, some pronunciation rules are derived from spelling mistakes, and the evolution of the letters from Attic to Ionic forms can easily be traced. Archaeology benefits, among other things, when dating vessels of daily use.

    Aristeides, Themistokles, Megakles und Kimon - sie alle wurden in einem Zeitraum von 20 Jahren ostrakisiert. Diese Scherben aber passen aneinander an und stammen von 471 v. Chr., als Megakles zum zweiten Mal verbannt wurde.

    Ostraca in Kerameikos

    So far over 10,500 ostraca have been found, around 9,000 of which in the German Kerameikos excavation. Most of them stem from a backfilled cut-off meander of the Eridanos. They are closely connected through numerous adjustments and therefore constitute a closed complex. As a hoard, they are representative for the vote of 471 BC and shed light on the leading men, the political situation, and pottery at that time.

    Some things are only revealed at second glance: under the final writing there is a very fine preliminary sketch of the name and an unclear further note relating to the (land?) “on the other side.” Slide to cross-fade the photo and the sketch.

    Publications of the Kerameikos ostraca

    The hoard of 1966-1069 has only been published in part and under certain aspects, because its sheer volume and complexity, the never fully completed assembly of the roughly 20,000 individual fragments and the condition of the writing on the in part extremely weathered surfaces have repeatedly delayed the detailed presentation of the material.

    Franz Willemsen, the late excavator, was not able to present the publication himself. It was passed over to Stefan Brenne in 1995 and was almost completed in 2000 after a period of funding by the German Research Foundation in 2004, a project financed by the German Archaeological Institute in Giessen was launched to carry out the remaining work and print.

    Every ostracon bears an individual inscription and is therefore documented in such a way that further questions can be asked and answered based on the publication. Two volumes with 500 pages each are planned.

    The text volume consists of three parts: A brief classification on the hoards and the characteristics and the problems of the material catalogue of the approximately 1,600 ostraca that belong together in more than 500 groups due to alignment, belonging to the same vessel or the handwriting individual catalogue with an illustration of the text as well as archaeological and epigraphic description. The volume with the illustrations contains characteristic vase profiles and sketched or photographed illustrations of all ostraca, sorted according to the groups or the individual catalogue. The volumes that have been long anticipated by experts will be published in the German Archaeological Institute’s series “Kerameikos. Excavation results” in 2016.

    - E. Vanderpool, Ostracism at Athens, in Semple Lectures II 6 (1973) 217-270.
    - D. J. Phillips, Athenian Ostracism, in G. H. R. Horsley (ed.), Hellenika (1982) 21-43.
    - M. L. Lang, Ostraka. Agora XXV (1990).
    - S. Brenne, Ostrakismos und Prominenz in Athen (2001).
    - S. Brenne, Die Ostraka, in: P. Siewert (ed.), Ostrakismos-Testimonien I (2002) 36-166.


    Ostracism in Athens in the 5th cent. bce was a method of banishing a citizen for ten years (cf. exile, Greek ). Each year in the sixth prytany the question whether an ostracism should be held that year was put to the ekklēsia. If the people voted in favour of holding an ostracism, it was held on a day in the eighth prytany in the agora under the supervision of the archontes and the boulē. Each citizen who wished to vote wrote on a fragment of pottery (ostrakon) the name of the citizen whom he wished to be banished. The voters were marshalled by phylai in an enclosure erected for the occasion, to ensure that no one put in more than one ostrakon. When all had voted, the ostraka were counted and, provided that there was a total of at least 6,000, the man whose name appeared on the largest number was ostracized. (An alternative view, attributed to Philochorus, FGrH 328 F30, is that the ostracism was valid only if at least 6,000 votes were cast against one man.) He had to leave the country within ten days and remain in exile for ten years, but he did not forfeit his citizenship or property, and at the end of the ten years he could return to live in Athens without any disgrace or disability.

    The date of the institution of ostracism has been a matter of dispute. According to the standard account ( Arist. Ath. Pol. 22 ) the law about it was introduced by Cleisthenes (2) in 508 / 7 , but the first ostracism was not held until 487 . Some modern scholars accept this account and offer various conjectural explanations of the twenty years' interval. Others maintain that the law cannot have been passed until shortly before the first ostracism in 487 , and that Cleisthenes therefore was not its author a statement attributed to Androtion ( FGrH 324 F6) has been adduced in support of this view, but its interpretation and value are doubtful. A third view, based on later sources, is that Cleisthenes introduced a different method of ostracism by the boulē and was himself ostracized by this method, which was subsequently replaced by the method first used in 487 .

    The man ostracized in 487 was Hipparchus son of Charmus, a relative of the ex-tyrant Hippias (1) . He was followed in 486 by Megacles, one of the Alcmaeonids (see alcmaeonidae), and in 485 by some other adherent of Hippias' family, probably Callias son of Cratius. No doubt these three had all become unpopular because it was thought that they favoured the Persian invaders and the restoration of the tyranny. Xanthippus was ostracized in 484 and Aristides (1) in 482 , but both of these returned from exile in 480 when an amnesty was declared in an attempt to muster the full strength of Athens to resist the invasion of Xerxes. Other prominent men known to have been ostracized are Themistocles about 470 , Cimon in 461 , and Thucydides (1) son of Melesias in 443 . Hyperbolus was the last victim of the system his ostracism is usually dated in 417 , though some scholars have placed it in 416 or 415 . Ostracism then fell out of use, although the law authorizing it remained in force in the 4th cent. The graphē paranomōn was found to be a more convenient method of attacking politicians.

    It is often hard to tell why a particular man was ostracized. Sometimes, as in the cases of Cimon and Thucydides (1), the Athenians seem to have ostracized a man to express their rejection of a policy for which he stood and their support for an opposing leader thus an ostracism might serve a purpose similar to that of a modern general election. But no doubt individual citizens were often actuated by personal malice or other non-political motives, as is illustrated by the story of the yokel who wished to vote against Aristides because he was tired of hearing him called ‘the Just’ ( Plut. Arist. 7. 7).

    Over 10,000 ostraka, dumped in the Agora or Ceramicus after use, have now been found. The names include not only men whom we know to have been actually ostracized but also a considerable number of others. Some are men quite unknown to us, and it may well be that they were not prominent politicians but merely had an odd vote cast against them by some malicious personal acquaintance. Particularly interesting is a find of 190 ostraka in a well on the north slope of the Acropolis (see athens, topography), all inscribed with the name of Themistocles by only a few different hands. Presumably they were prepared for distribution by his opponents. This suggests that he was the victim of an organized campaign, and it illustrates the importance of ostracism as a political weapon in 5th-cent. Athens. See also literacy.

    Watch the video: ΘΕΜΙΣΤΟΚΛΗΣ (June 2022).


  1. Norwin

    What words are necessary ... great, the sentence excellent

  2. Dierck

    Between us speaking, I have tried to decide this problem.

  3. Asher

    Sorry to interrupt you, there is a proposal to take a different path.

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