Cleon: Wikis

  
  

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Cleon (Greek: Κλέων, sometimes Kleon) (d. 422 BC) was an Athenian statesman and a Strategos during the Peloponnesian War. He was the first prominent representative of the commercial class in Athenian politics, although he was an aristocrat himself. Contemporaries Thucydides and Aristophanes represented him as a warmonger and a demagogue; modern historians provide a more balanced view.

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Opposition to Pericles

Cleon first came to notice as an opponent of Pericles in the late 430s through his opposition to Pericles' strategy of refusing battle against the Peloponnesian League invaders in 431 BC. As a result, he found himself acting in concert with the Athenian aristocratic parties, who also had no liking for Pericles. During 430 BC, after the unsuccessful expedition by Pericles to the Peloponnesus, and when the city was devastated by the plague, Cleon headed the opposition to Pericles' rule. At this time, Pericles was accused by Cleon of maladministration of public money, with the result that Pericles was found guilty and removed from office (see Grote's History of Greece, abridged ed., 1907, p. 406, note 1). However, Pericles' setback was temporary and he was soon reinstated.

Rise in popularity

The death of Pericles from the plague in 429 BC left the field clear for new leadership in Athens. Hitherto Cleon had only been a vigorous opposition speaker, a trenchant critic and accuser of state officials, but he now came forward as the professed champion and leader of the democracy and, as a result, dominated Athenian politics. Although rough and unpolished, he was charismatic, being gifted with natural eloquence and a powerful voice, and he knew how to work upon the emotions of the Athenian populace. He strengthened his support amongst the poorer citizens of Athens by increasing the pay of the jurymen, which provided many of the poorer Athenians with a means of livelihood.

The fondness of the Athenians for litigation increased his power; and the practice of "sycophancy" (raking up material for false charges), enabled him to remove those who were likely to endanger his ascendancy. In 426 BC, Cleon brought an unsuccessful prosecution against Laches based on his generalship in the unsuccessful first Sicilian expedition. This is one of the very few times that an Athenian general escaped civil punishment for a defeat. Having no further use for his former aristocratic associates, he broke off all connection with them, and thus felt at liberty to attack the secret combinations for political purposes, the oligarchical clubs to which they mostly belonged. Whether he also introduced a property-tax for military purposes, and even held a high position in connection with the treasury, is uncertain.

War against Sparta, subsequent death

Cleon's ruling principles were an inveterate hatred of the nobility, and an equal hatred of Sparta. It was mainly through him that the opportunity of concluding an honourable peace (in 425) was lost, and in his determination to see Sparta humbled he misled the people as to the extent of the resources of the state, and dazzled them by promises of future benefits.

In 427 Cleon gained an evil notoriety by his proposal to put to death the whole male population of Mytilene, which had put itself at the head of a revolt. His proposal, though at first accepted, was soon rescinded, though about 1000 chief leaders and prominent men of Mytilene were executed. In 425, he reached the summit of his fame by capturing and transporting to Athens the Spartans who had been blockaded at the Battle of Sphacteria. Much of the credit was probably due to the military skill of his colleague Demosthenes (not the orator); but it must be admitted that it was due to Cleon's determination that the Ecclesia sent out the additional force which was needed.

It was almost certainly due to Cleon that the tribute of the "allies" was doubled in 425. In 422 he was sent to recapture Amphipolis, but was out-generalled by the Spartan Brasidas. However, both Brasidas and Cleon were killed at Amphipolis and their deaths removed the chief obstacle to peace. Thus, in 421 the peace of Nicias was concluded.

Aristophanes and Thucydides on Cleon

The character of Cleon is represented by Aristophanes[1] and Thucydides[2] in a very unfavourable light, both describing him as a warmonger and a demagogue. But both have been suspected of being prejudiced witnesses: The poet had a grudge against Cleon, who may have accused him before the Council of having ridiculed (in his lost play Babylonians) the policy and institutions of his city in the presence of foreigners and at the time of a great national danger. Thucydides, a man of strong oligarchical inclinations, had also been prosecuted for military incapacity and exiled by a decree proposed by Cleon. It is therefore possible that Cleon has had injustice done to him in the portraits handed down by these two writers.[3]

Authorities

For the literature on Cleon see Karl Friedrich Hermann, Lehrbuch der griechischen Antiquilaten, i. pt. 2 (6th ed. by V. Thumser, 1892), p. 709, and Georg Busolt, Griechische Geschichte, iii. pt. 2 (1904), p. 988, note 3.

The following are the chief authorities:

  • Favourable to Cleon
    • C. F. Ranke, Commentatio de Vita Aristoprianis (Leipzig, 1845)
    • JG Droysen, Aristophanes, ii., Introd. to the Knights (Berlin, 1837)
    • G. Grote, History of Greece. chs. 50, 54
    • W. Oncken, Athen und Hellas, ii. p. 204 (Leipzig, 1866)
    • H. Muller Strubing, Aristophanes und die historisehe Kritik (Leipzig, 1873)
    • J. B. Bury, Hist, of Greece, i. (1902)
  • Unfavourable
    • J. F. Kortüm, Geschichtliche Forschungen (Leipzig, 1863), and Zur Geschichte hellenichen Statsverfassungen (Heidelberg, 1821)
    • F. Passow, Vermischte Schriften (Leipzig, 1843)
    • C Thirlwall, History of Greece, ch. 21
    • E Curtius, History of Greece (Eng. tr. iii. p. 112)
    • J. Schwartz, Die Demokratie (Leipzig, 1882)
    • H Delbrück, Die Strategie des Perikles (Berlin, 1890)
    • E. Meyer, Forschungen zur alten Geschichte, ii. p. 333 (Halle, 1899)
  • Balance between the two extreme views:
    • Karl Julius Beloch, Die attische Politik seit Perikles (Leipzig, 1884), and Griechische Geschichte, i. p. 537
    • A. Holm, History of Greece, ii. (Eng. tr.), ch. 23, with the notes.
    • H. Bengston, History of Greece: From the Beginnings to the Byzantine Era, Cleon p. 140

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

References

  1. ^ Cf. Aristophanes, chiefly The Knights (864-867: "You are like the fishers for eels; in still waters they catch nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their fishing is good; in the same way it's only in troublous times that you line your pockets.", etc.), The Wasps (esp. 664-712), and most mentions of Cleon in the other plays.
  2. ^ Cf. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, book III (36: "the most violent man at Athens", and 37-40 on the Mytilene affair), IV (21:"a popular leader of the time and very powerful with the multitude", 22, 27-29 on the Pylos affair), and V (16: "Cleon and Brasidas, who had been the two principal opponents of peace on either side--the latter from the success and honour which war gave him, the former because he thought that, if tranquillity were restored, his crimes would be more open to detection and his slanders less credited").
  3. ^ "Cleon" Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition vol IV, p. 495;

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CLEON (d. 422 B.C.), Athenian politician during the Peloponnesian War, was the son of Cleaenetus, from whom he inherited a lucrative tannery business. He was the first prominent representative of the commercial class in Athenian politics. He came into notice first as an opponent of Pericles, to whom his advanced ideas were naturally unacceptable, and in his opposition somewhat curiously found himself acting in concert with the aristocrats, who equally hated and feared Pericles. During the dark days of 430, after the unsuccessful expedition of Pericles to Peloponnesus, and when the city was devastated by the plague, Cleon headed the opposition to the Periclean regime. Pericles was accused by Cleon of maladministration of public money, with the result that he was actually found guilty (see Grote's Hist. of Greece, abridged ed., 1907, p. 406, note 1). A revulsion of feeling, however, soon took place. Pericles was reinstated, and Cleon now for a time fell into the background. The death of Pericles (429) left the field clear for him. Hitherto he had only been a vigorous opposition speaker, a trenchant critic and accuser of state officials. He now came forward as the professed champion and leader of the democracy, and, owing to the moderate abilities of his rivals and opponents, he was for some years undoubtedly the foremost man in Athens. Although rough and unpolished, he was gifted with natural eloquence and a powerful voice, and knew exactly how to work upon the feelings of the people. He strengthened his hold on the poorer classes by his measure for trebling the pay of the jurymen, which provided the poorer Athenians with an easy means of livelihood. The notorious fondness of the Athenians for litigation increased his power; and the practice of "sycophancy" (raking up material for false charges; see Sycophant), enabled him to remove those who were likely to endanger his ascendancy. Having no further use for his former aristocratic associates, he broke off all connexion with them, and thus felt at liberty to attack the secret combinations for political purposes, the oligarchical clubs to which they mostly belonged. Whether he also introduced a property-tax for military purposes, and even held a high position in connexion with the treasury, is uncertain. His ruling principles were an inveterate hatred of the nobility, and an equal hatred of Sparta. It was mainly through him that the opportunity of concluding an honourable peace (in 425) was lost, and in his determination to see Sparta humbled he misled the people as to the extent of the resources of the state, and dazzled them by promises of future benefits.

In 427 Cleon gained an evil notoriety by his proposal to put to death indiscriminately all the inhabitants of Mytilene, which had put itself at the head of a revolt. His proposal, though accepted, was, fortunately for the credit of Athens,`rescinded, although, as it was, the chief leaders and prominent men, numbering about 1000, fell victims. In 425, he reached the summit of his fame by capturing and transporting to Athens the Spartans who had been blockaded in Sphacteria (see Pylos). Much of the credit was probably due to the military skill of his colleague Demosthenes; but it must be admitted that it was due to Cleon's determination that the Ecclesia sent out the additional force which was needed. It was almost certainly due to Cleon that the tribute of the "allies" was doubled in 425 (see Delian League). In 422 he was sent to recapture Amphipolis, but was outgeneralled by Brasidas and killed. His death removed the chief obstacle to an arrangement with Sparta, and in 421 the peace of Nicias was concluded (see Peloponnesian War).

The character of Cleon is represented by Aristophanes and Thucydides in an extremely unfavourable light. But neither can be considered an unprejudiced witness. The poet had a grudge against Cleon, who had accused him before the senate of having ridiculed (in his Babylonians) the policy and institutions of his country in the presence of foreigners and at the time of a great national war. Thucydides, a man of strong oligarchical prejudices, had also been prosecuted for military incapacity and exiled by a decree proposed by Cleon. It is therefore likely that Cleon has had less than justice done to him in the portraits handed down by these two writers.

Authorities

- For the literature on Cleon see C. F. Hermann, Lehrbuch der griechischen Antiquitciten, i. pt. 2 (6th ed. by V. Thumser, 1892), p. 709, and G. Busolt, Griechische Geschichte, iii. pt. 2 (1904), p. 988, note 3. The following are the chief authorities: - (a) Favourable to Cleon. - C. F. Ranke, Commentatio de Vita Aristophanis (Leipzig, 1845); J. G. Droysen, Aristophanes, ii., introd. to the Knights (Berlin, 1837); G. Grote, Hist. of Greece. chs. 50, 54; W. Oncken, Athen and Hellas, ii. p. 204 (Leipzig, 1866); H. MiillerStriibing, Aristophanes and die historische Kritik (Leipzig, 1873); J. B. Bury, Hist. of Greece, i. (1902). (b) Unfavourable. - J. F. Kortiim, Geschichtliche Forschungen (Leipzig, 1863), and Zur Geschichte hellenischen Staatsverfassungen (Heidelberg, 1821); F. Passow, Vermischte Schriften (Leipzig, 1843); C. Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece. ch. 21; E. Curtius, Hist. of Greece (Eng. tr. iii. p. 112; J. Schvarcz, Die Demokratie (Leipzig, 1882); H. Delbriick, Die Strategie des Perikles (Berlin, 1890); E. Meyer, Forschungen zur alien Geschichte, ii. p. 333 (Halle, 1899). The balance between the two extreme views is fairly held by J. Beloch, Die attische Politik seit Perikles (Leipzig, 1884), and Griechische Geschichte, i. p. 537; and by A. Holm, Hist. of Greece, ii. (Eng. tr.), ch. 23, with the notes.


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