Classics Context

Key Historical Personalities

  • Hippias – last tyrant of Athens, whose expulsion in 510 paved the way for democracy
  • Harmodius and Aristogeiton – conspirators who killed Hippias’ brother in 514, often mentioned as ‘liberators’ though they provoked tyranny of Hippias
  • Cleisthenes – member of the eupatrid family of the Alkmaeonids, who reformed the tribes and introduced democracy
  • Miltiades – strategos and hero of Marathon in 490
  • Themistocles – ‘popular democrat’ and genius of Salamis in 480, later sought exile in Persia
  • Aristides – called ‘the Just’, played an important part at Salamis and organised the Delian League
  • Cimon – son of Miltiades, his campaign against the retreating Persians in Ionia made the Athenian empire possible
  • Ephialtes – radical who removed the remaining powers of the Areopagus and was murdered in 461
  • Lysicles  - a politician at the end of Pericles’ career, he died on active service in 428
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Key Historical Personalities cont'd

  • Pericles – an Alkmaeonid politician, came to power after the death of Ephialtes, dominated Athenian policy for 30 years.
  • Aspasia – Spartan mistress of Pericles
  • Cleon – demagogue who came to prominence after the death of Pericles.
  • Cleonymus – follower of Cleon, noted for greed and running away in battle
  • Theorus – follower of Cleon
  • Demosthenes – strategos credited with capture of Sphacteria in 424
  • Nicias – strategos noted for wealth and caution
  • Lamachus – strategos whose name appears on Peace of Nicias treaty.
  • Hyperbolus – successor to Cleon as demagogic politician.
  • Magnes,  Morsimus, Cratinus, Crates,  Connas, Arignotas, Ariphrades, Theognis and Chaeris – writers and performers noted (probably unfairly) for their awfulness
  • Pittalus – a well-known medical practitioner
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Timeline of Pelopenesian War

449 - Peace of Kallias

445 - 30 year treaty between Sparta & Athens

435 - Epidamnous coup

432 - Megarian Decree

431 - 1st Achridamian invasion

429 - Plauge; death of Pericles; no Archidamian invasion

428 - Revolt of Mytilene

425 - Acharians performed at Leneia; Pylos

424 - Knights performed

424 - Amphipolis - death of Cleon and Brasidas

421 - Peace of Nicias; Peace performed

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  • Athenian festival in honor of Dionysus
  • Held during the month of Anthesterion (Feb. – Mar.) 
  • Celebrated the beginning of spring and the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage
  • Lasted three days
  • Libations to the god from newly opened casks
  • Popular merrymaking
  • Secret ceremony of marriage between Dionysus and the wife of Archon Basillus
  • Underworld rites.
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  • October or November, in the season when
  • various phratries (clans) met to induct new members, register children born since the previous festival, and pay homage to the gods
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  •  hill of Ares
  • 370 ft (113 m) high
  • NW of the Acropolis of Athens,
  • sacred meeting place of the prime council of Athens.
  • This council represented the ancient council of elders, which usually combined judicial and legislative functions from the beginning
  • represented in the 5th and 6th cent. B.C.
  • stronghold of aristocracy
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  • The  ekklesia  was the principal assembly of Athens.
  • opened to all male citizens over the age of 18 by Solon in 594 BC 
  • all classes of citizens in Athens were able to participate. The ecclesia opened the doors for all citizens, regardless of class, to nominate and vote for magistrates - indirectly voting for the Areopagus - have the final decision on legislation, war and peace, and have the right to call magistrates to account after their year of office.
  • only wealthy enough to spend much of their time away from home would have been able to participate until Pericles' reforms in early 451-2 BCE
  • responsible for declaring war, military strategy, and electing strategoi and other officials.
  • agenda established by Boule,
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  •  ten tribes chosen by lot every year fifty of its members to serve on the boulē (‘council’).
  • Each group served as the executive committee of the boule for one-tenth of the year,  
  •  old boule consisted of 100 members of each of the four ancestral tribes.
  • Cleisthenes created ten new tribes and made the boule consist of fifty men from each of these tribes. 
  • served every day 
  • received ambassadors from foreign states and generally conducted the day to day business of the state.
  • They ate at public expense in the Tholos 
  •  one member was selected by lot to serve as the foreman for 24
  • He was the chief executive officer of Athens.
  • No man was allowed to hold this office more than once
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  • chief magistrate  magistrates in a city-state.
  • nine archons divided state duties: 
  •  archon eponymous headed the boule and Ecclesia,
  • polemarch commanded troops and presided over legal cases involving foreigners,
  • archon basileus headed state religion and the Areopagus
  • six others handled various judicial matters.
  • only elected aristocrats could serve, for a year.
  • chosen by a combination of election and lot.
  • In the 5th century BC the authority of the archons declined as elected generals assumed most of their powers.
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  • Ten generals elected under democracy and among these they were the most prominent.
  • One from each tribe
  • not selected by lot - needed to be experienced in war and capable of operating on the level of interstate relations,
  • generalship was open to any citizen, but only prominent upper class citizens were elected.
  • paid but only when on campaign. 
  •  received a share of the booty and
  • interstate diplomacy could involve lavish gift giving, legitimate or otherwise.
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  • Each year the Athenians were asked in the assembly whether they wished to hold an ostracism
  • Ostracism would be held two months later.
  • In a roped-off area of the agora, citizens scratched the name of a citizen they wished to expel on potshards, and deposited them in urns
  •  if a minimum of six thousand votes were reached then the ostracism took place:  the person receiving the highest number of votes was exiled for ten years.
  • The person nominated had ten days to leave the city — if he attempted to return, the penalty was death.
  • property of the man banished was not confiscated and there was no loss of status.
  • After the ten years he was allowed to return without stigma.
  • It was possible for the assembly to recall an ostracized person ahead of time;


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  • method of selection by drawing straws
  • It is used particularly to allot decision makers.
  • sortition was the primary method for appointing officials,
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