Original Literary Sources for OCR Ancient History Greece - from Delian League to Athenian Empire






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Aristophanes (c.445375BC)
Comedy dramatist who is generally opposed to Athenian democracy and Imperialism he wrote for the purpose
of entertainment but because his works have survived for a long time and his enduring success implies that he must
have reflected popular public opinion of the time and he is thus a useful window into contemporary attitudes
towards Athenian Imperialism.
His play `The Knights' shows his main characters displaying an aristocratic contempt for the Demagogues.
In `The Birds' he parodies Athenian Tribute Collectors quoting them as `I will bring about your destruction and
indict you for 10,000 drachmas' encouraging debaters to respond with violence (metaphorical of revolts)
Xenophon (428BC ­ 354BC)
Disliked democracy and a disdain for the demagogues
Respects and praises Spartans oligarchic constitution he was subsequently exiled from Athens when he fought
against her after becoming friendly with the Spartan King Agesilaos during the latter part of the Peloponnesian War in
His bias is more evident in later conflicts between Sparta and Thebes, who he has a particularly strong antipathy for.
Describing aristocratic Athenian Alcibades: `was the best citizen they had got and he alone had been banished
not because he deserved it but because of the intrigues of people who were inferior to him in power, who
lacked his abilities to speak and whose only political principle was their own self interest'
Athenian victory at Arginusae in 406BC ­ `the Athenians were inferior seamanship. The Spartan ships on the
other hand, with their more skilful crews...' he later remarks the victory was `fortunate'
Athens lose Peloponnesian War ­ `They could see no future for themselves except to suffer what they had
made others suffer'
Peace negotiations between Sparta and Thebes ­ `Thebes opposed making any peace with Athens. The
Athenians, they said, should be destroyed. The Spartans, however, said they would not enslave a Greek
city which had done such great things for Greece at the time of her supreme danger.'
Plutarch (AD 45120)
He came from a wealthy family and was able to study in Athens but also spent much time in Rome which made him
want to write his `Parallel Lives' which is a series comparing famous Greek and Roman counterparts (i.e. Alexander
the Great and Caesar).
His work is riddled with selection, distortion and omissions and he claimed to be a moral guide rather than a
historian. His bias is evident in much of his work with admiration for many men in ancient Greece, much of his fact is
derived from Thucydides works.
More insight given into the 50 year period than Thucydides does
Athens leadership in Persian War ­ `the Athenians being agreeable to the Greeks because Aristeides was fair
and Cimon noble'

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More opinion expressed on Pausanias ­ `always met the allied commanders with a short temper and rough
treatment, and he punished the troops with beatings and making them stand holding an iron anchor all day.'
Admiration for Aristeides expressed ­ `he assessed the contributions not only justly but in a way that was kind
and fitting for everyone' (24.3)
Thucydides (c.455400BC)
He was an aristocratic Athenian experienced in Athenian political and military matters taking part in the war
personally.…read more


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