I wrote a book! An introduction to the Ancient Romans, including hearing from the Romans themselves! Check it out!

Cimon – Athenian Expansion

Obscure and under-rated, Cimon gives us a personal look at the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, also called the Pentecontaetia.

Important People

  • Aristides – The Athenian politician and general famous for his integrity. Main political rival of the cunning Themistocles.
  • Themistocles – Mastermind strategist behind the tactics of Salamis and the abandonment of Athens
  • Pericles – Athenian politician who will lead Athens into the Peloponnesian War and then die of the plague only a few years later.

Important Places

  • River Strymon – Thrace (7.1)
  • Scyros (8.3) (Dolopians? Thessalians?)
  • Pamphylia (12.2) Chelidonian Islands; Cnidus and Triopium
  • Phaselis (12.3) Chians (Chios)
  • Ithome (17.2)
  • Tanagra (17.3)
  • Citium (18.1, 5)

Parallel – Lucullus

C. 1 – Chaeronea’s Dark Origins

  1. How the Greeks originally settled in Chaeronea/Boeotia
  2. Damon, an orphan descended from the seer who led the Greeks into Boeotia, is solicited for sexual favors by a Roman cohort commander.
  3. Because of Damon’s refusal, he fears being taken by force, so he kills the cohort commander and flees.
  4. Chaeronea’s magistrates condemn the act; Damon kills them too.
  5. Lucullus arrives in Greece, realizing Chaeronea not at fault, so Lucullus removes the Roman occupation.
  6. Eventually, Chaeronea convinces Damon to calm down and return, which he does, only to be murdered in the baths which he now haunts (they close up one of the doors).
Cyprus, Larnaca, Beach

C. 2 – Chaeronea on Trial

  1. Orchomenus, a rival to Chaeronea, charges the whole polis of Ch. with murder and brings the case before a Roman magistrate.
  2. Lucullus acts as witness via letter. The city is spared “capital punishment” (how would this be inflicted on a whole city?). For this, Lucullus earns a statue in the Chaeronean Agora.
  3. And so, Plutarch will delineate his life and character as the statue delineated his form and features.
  4. What to do with slight imperfections? Neither omit nor emphasize. Rounding out truth with both the good and the bad.
  5. Mistakes and crimes committed by passion or political necessity should be seen as shortcomings in some particular excellence rather than as the vile fruit of inward baseness.

C. 3 – Why Cimon and Lucullus?

  1. Both men of war, AND helpful statesmen. Won victories without Civil War…
  2. Went to more remote lands than any Greek or Roman before them, particularly if we leave out the early heroes.
  3. Each man crushed without killing his main adversary—Persian and Pontian.

C. 4 – Cimon’s Life Begins – Origins

  1. Son of Miltiades, descendant of King Olorus; Thucydides later descended from the same line.
  2. Thucydides said to have been murdered in Thrace, but his bones brought back to Athens and he is now buried among Cimon’s family, but this doesn’t add up when the demes are taken into account.
  3. Miltiades paid a 50-talent fine and died in prison, so Cimon orphaned at an early age. He earns an early reputation for drinking.
  4. No literary education or liberal or Hellenic distinction. Not clever and fluent like normal Athenians. Seemed more like a Peloponnesian (read: Dorian?) “plain and unadorned” with a spirit of “nobility and truthfulness”
  5. Accused of incest, and perhaps his sister did have untoward affairs with the painter Polygnotus.
  6. Polygnotus, however, not an artisan painting the stoa for pay but for the welfare of the city.
  7. How Cimon’s sister gets married in spite of their father’s fine still hanging over their heads.
  8. Cimon famous later for seducing/winning at least two other women, Asteria and Mnestra.
  9. His lawful wife, Isodice (granddaughter of Megacles) he was too attached to as well because we have a poet trying to assuage his strong grief.

C. 5 – Cimon’s Character and Public Entry

  1. Equal to Miltiades in daring and Themistocles in cunning while being juster than both men and so superior as a statesman.
  2. Cimon the first to respond to Them’s bold scheme to abandon Athens, happily leading a group of friends up the Acropolis to leave his horse’s bridle behind (symbolically “hanging up his stirrups”).
  3. He exchanges the bridle for a shield, and is the first to walk down to the sea. Physical description: tall, stately, abundant curly hair. Fought well at Salamis
  4. Cimon rises in politics as an alternative to Themistocles, helped by his gentleness and artlessness, but also by Aristides, using him against Themistocles.

C. 6 – Cimon Rises in the Hellenic League

  1. Cimon sent out under Pausanias in Hellenic League leading more zealous and more disciplined soldiers.
  2. Pausanias treasonously talking to the Persians and treating the allies pridefully, Cimon stands in contrast by treating humanely and mildly the allies and earning the leadership of Hellas through VIRTUE, not ARMS.
  3. Most allies hate Pausanias, and side with Cimon and Aristides. Pausanias recalled in shame and the Greeks look to Athens for leadership.
  4. Girl from Byzantium summoned to Pausanias for personal gratification, tries to sneak up on him at night (presumably to kill him?) but stumbles on the lamp stand, waking him up.
  5. Pausanias awakens in a fright and stabs her to death in the dark. Her ghost gives him no peace, reminding him of his lust and the allies, enraged, demand Pausanias leave Byzantium.
  6. Pausanias calls her ghost up and tells her to stop bothering, she implies that she’ll stop soon enough (i.e. he’ll be dead soon).

C. 7 – Cimon in Command, First Victory (Eion)

  1. Cimon sails to the Strymon River (Thrace) to defend the Greek polis of Eion from Persian bullying.
  2. Cimon defeats the Persians in battle and besieges them in the city of Eion so successfully that Butes, the Persian commander, sets fire to the city destroying himself and everyone else in it.
  3. Cimon hands over the fertile farmland (not much left in the burnt city) to the Athenians. In return, he is allowed to set up Hermai stones with inscriptions glorifying the Athenians.
  4. The final inscription takes a Homeric epithet for the Thracians and applies it to the Thebans.

C. 8 – Athenian Honor Increased; Theseus Returns!

  1. These inscriptions greater than what either Themistocles or Miltiades received. Anecdotal response to Miltiades’s request for an olive crown “When you have fought alone, ask to be honored alone.”
  2. Why are the Athenians so pleased? Cimon the first to go on the offensive and win things instead of just defend against enemies.
  3. Scyros taken from Dolopian pirates who had imprisoned some Thessalians who had stopped at their port.
  4. Thessalians go to the Amphictyonic Assembly for justice and Scyros told to repay the merchants. Scyros then gives their city up to Cimon (?)
  5. Cimon drives out the Dolopians and finds out that Theseus had been betrayed, murdered, and buried in Skyros.
  6. The Athenians had received an oracle demanding they bring back Theseus and honor him as a hero but they didn’t know where he was. Cimon finally finds them and brings them home in person with great show. Theseus is buried after 400 years back in his own country. This makes the Athenians LOVE Cimon.
  7. Cimon and his fellow ten generals selected as judges (normally selected by lot) between Sophocles and Aeschylus.
  8. The contest more heated than ever because of the special circumstance of the judges: Sophocles won, Aeschylus leaves shortly thereafter for Sicily, where he dies.

C. 9 – Cimon’s Shrewdest Stratagem

  1. Ion, the poet, visited Athens as a young man and recalls that Cimon was cultured and could sing well. Recall Themistocles’s response from the Life of Them.
  2. Over the wine, they began to talk about Cimon’s exploits and he told his favorite story. Having taken prisoners at Sestos and Byzantium, he separated the lots into persons and things.
  3. He let the allies choose which lot they wanted, the people or the stuff. The allies chose the stuff, leaving Cimon with the people. Athenians a bit annoyed…
  4. Later, the friends and family of the captives ransom all of them and Cimon ends up with more money than the allies received.

C. 10 – Cimon’s Wealth & Generosity

  1. Allows anyone to gather fruit from his fields and orchards; provides. Dinner daily for many of the poor in Athens (or, Aristotle says, just the poor in his deme).
  2. Kept a retinue of men in fine clothes around him so that they could exchange clothes with elderly citizens in need.
  3. This same retinue also had money on hand to give to “poor men of finer quality.” One poet’s thoughts
  4. Cimon = best of all Hellenic men; missed him though
  5. Gorgias claim: Cimon makes money to spend it and spend money to gain honor. His generosity had never been seen before.
  6. Even though the Athenians first introduced cultivation of fields and the skill of kindling fire, Cimon surpasses these gifts and bring back the golden age of Kronos.
  7. Those who called him a demagogue were wrong; he opposed Themistocles who gave in too often to the democracy and resisted Ephialtes’s attempts to bring down the power of the Areopagus.
  8. He, Aristides, and Ephialtes seemed to be the only politicians of their time exempt from bribes and venery through the end. The two platters of money story.
  9. If I’m your friend, keep your money as I’ll be able to use it when I need it.

C. 11 – Allies Tire of War

  1. The allies no longer afraid of the Persian threat and would rather live at peace. Athenian generals continue to tax and punish those who don’t pay or serve.
  2. Cimon compelled no Hellene and thus saw them grow used to the comfort of tilling the soil and mercantilism, while hiring more Athenian citizens to replace them.
  3. This distinction between those who serve and those who pay soon created subject states paying tribute instead of allies. Athens naturally assumes leadership over this empire.

C. 12 – Cimon v. Persia

  1. Cimon chased Persia out of Hellas, freeing even Ionia (west coast of Anatolia) from Persian arms.
  2. Around 467 BC, Cimon approaches Pamphylia where the King has set an army and a navy to resist Athenian expansion in that direction (West?NorthWest?)
  3. Phaselis refuses to help Cimon or abandon the Persians, but the Chians help make Cimon friends with the Phaselians by conveying messages on arrows.
  4. Cimon asks them to pay ten talents and help his expedition against the Persians. Disagreement about leadership of Persian fleet and infantry.
  5. Cimon forces an engagement, preventing the Persians from fleeing upriver.
  6. Many abandon ship, but the Athenians capture 200 ships.

C. 13 – Cimon Follows Up to Peace

  1. Cimon hesitant to land his troops and take on a larger and well-rested enemy, but the spirit of his men longs for the fight and they hit the ground running.
  2. After a long struggle, the Athenians turn the Persians and capture their camp.
  3. Two victories in one day, surpassing Salamis and Plataea by combining the two in one day. He hears of 80 Phoenician ally ships nearby and sails towards them.
  4. All 80 Phoenician ships lost because of Cimon’s element of surprise. The King of Persia sues for peace, promising to stay at least one horse’s journey away from the Greek coastal cities and no further West than the Chelidonian Islands (or Cyanean).
  5. Callisthenes denies the treaty, claiming it was only fear that kept the Persian on the other side of those islands where both Pericles and Ephialtes later sailed.
  6. Craterus has a copy of the treaty in the decrees and the Athenians built an altar to Peace, distinguishing Callias as their ambassador. The Southern Wall of the Acropolis funded by the resources obtained from Cimon’s expedition.
  7. The Long Walls completed later, but he sets the foundations for them.
  8. He also converts the Academy from an arid area to a well-watered park for leisure and recreation.

C. 14 – Persians in the Chersonese

  1. Four ships (Cimon) vs. Thirteen (Persians). Cimon wins, opening the Chersonese for settlement to the Athenians.
  2. Thasos revolts! Cimon defeats them, captures 33 of their ships, takes their gold mines for Athens, and a good position for checking Macedonian power. Because he doesn’t directly attack Macedon, he is sued in court for accepting bribes from King Alexander.
  3. Cimon defends himself by saying he is more Spartan than Ionian, i.e. more thrifty than luxurious.
  4. Elpinice, his sister, goes to Pericles, one of the prosecutors, during the trial but was told she was “too old” to meddle. Pericles only speaks once in his trial, seemingly as a formality.

C. 15 – Cimon Acquitted

  1. When Cimon leaves, the democracy which he manages so well in-person, expands under the leadership of Ephialtes.
  2. Council of Areopagus authority limited and the lawcourts mostly in the hands of the democracy. Pericles rises to power. Cimon returns and tries to return to the original reforms of Cleisthenes (which Plutarch calls Aristocratic), but is shouted down.
  3. Bringing up the old slanders about his sister and accusing him of being a Spartan sympathizer, poems call him an incestuous drunkard. Plutarch’s defense is that he still took more cities and won more victories than any other Athenian.

C. 16 – Cimon and Sparta

5th-century BC Athenian ostrakon against Cimon, son of Miltiades.
Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, November 12 2009.
  1. He did love Sparta, giving at least two of his sons Spartan names.
  2. The Spartans preferred him, too. This helped the Athenian empire grow even faster.
  3. Athenians start to think he prefers Sparta to Athens.
  4. Devastating earthquake hits Sparta in 464 B.C. destroying the whole polis except five houses.
  5. Some boys in the gym chase a rabbit out of the gym just before the earthquake hits, the boys who stay behind are crushed and buried by the gym.
  6. Archidamas (Spartan King) gathers all the Spartans to himself in the immediate aftermath and the Helots rise up and fall on the city intent on killing any Spartans remaining alive.
  7. They find the Spartans armed and ready to meet them, so they return to their cities and start an official revolt, bringing many Perioikoi and the Messenians with them too. Sparta asks Athens for aid.
  8. Ephialtes thinks Sparta deserves no help; Cimon convinces the Athenians to send aid.

C. 17 – Cimon Ostracized…and Recalled

  1. Cimon passing through Corinth is corrected for not asking permission. He responds by pointing out the times Corinth has not asked for permission (hypocrisy). boldness
  2. Sparta asks for aid again; they arrive so promptly and so ready to fight they are sent back by the Spartans, who fear their power. Annoyed, they attack any “Laconizers” and Cimon becomes a scapegoat and is ostracized.
  3. Spartans camp at Tanagra (in Attica) on their way back from helping Delphi. The Athenians meet the Spartans armed and ready to fight, and Cimon tries to join his tribe in the Athenians phalanx.
  4. The Boule (500) hears of this and worries Cimon will infiltrate to sow confusion in the ranks. They tell the generals to reject Cimon
  5. Cimon accepts the decision but encourages all the Athenians to fight boldly against the Spartans. About 100 Athenians fall and the Spartans win, some lost Athenians were thought to be “Laconizers” and so the Athenians feel bad for exiling Cimon.
  6. The Athenians recall Cimon, knowing the Spartans will follow up on their victory. Pericles proposes bringing Cimon back. Spirits more easily constrained, then, for the common good. Ambition called the master passion…ἡ δέ φιλοτιμία πάντων ἐπικρατοῦσα τῶν παθῶν τοῖς τῆς πατρίδος ὑπεχώρει καιροῖς.

C. 18 – Cimon’s Final Foray

  1. Cimon reconciles Sparta and Athens on his return (450 B.C.) but he still sees that the Athenians are bent on military action, he mans 200 triremes but doesn’t want to use them against his fellow Hellenes.
  2. Wanted to go to Egypt and Cyprus, keeping the Athenians in top training against the Persians and giving them the benefit of added wealth. Cimon has a dream…
  3. Dream of a dog barking at him calling him a friend to herself and her puppies. Difficult to interpret: dog = Persia?
  4. Bad omens of ants and livers. Nonetheless, Cimon sends 60 ships to Egypt, takes the rest to Cyprus with himself.
  5. Cimon takes Cyprus and threatens Egypt, hearing a rumor that Themistocles would lead the Persians into war against the Greeks.
  6. Some say Themistocles committed suicide because Cimon had eclipsed his own former glory. (Not what Plutarch says in Themistocles’s life) Cimon sends men to the oracle at Ammon (cf. Life of Alexander).
  7. As the men approach the oracle, they are told to leave, since Cimon is already “with the gods.” When the men return to shore they learn that Cimon died on the day they reached the oracle.

C. 19 – Death, Burial, Assessment

  1. Cause of death: sickness, while besieging Citium (cf. Thus. 1.112). Others say he was wounded fighting the Persians. He hides his death even from his own men.
  2. No leader after Cimon able to take war as far against the Persians as Cimon had. Persian Empire rests; Greeks slowly destroy themselves.
  3. Agesilaus makes it to the coast of Asia but with less success than Cimon had experienced. Agesilaus withdraws leaving the Persians right there with his allies; Cimon had prevented the Persians from coming within 400 furlongs of the sea.
  4. His remains are in Athens but he is still worshipped as a hero in Citium.

External Sources

Thucydides Sections pertaining to Cimon – Book 1

  • 98 – Cimon leading the Hellenic League now
  • 100 – Cimon’s legendary victory at sea and on land in the same day against the Phoenicians and Persians
  • 102 – Cimon leads the aid to Sparta after the earthquake
  • 112 – Cimon dies besieging Cyprus

Leave a Comment