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Early Athens iippt - Early Athens by maclaren1


									 Early Athens

To the time of Draco
The Age of Tyranny finally passed
   Tyranny died out by 500.
   Many of the reasons for stasis in the seventh and sixth
    centuries faded by then.
   Tyranny or the threat of tyranny may have “tamed” the
    volatile aristocratic rivalries.
   A taste of expanded powers for non-aristocrats over
    several generations may have prevented a return to the
    “good old days” for the aristocrats.
   Let’s see how this pattern of Greek tyranny affected the
    development of Athenian democracy.
   Athens is in the district of Attica.
   Attica is about 1000 square miles with several extensive
    plains areas.
   Attica has extensive shorelines, which would suggest the
    inhabitants’ connection to the sea.
   In the southeast area is Laurium, where rich silver
    deposits were mined.
   There is little remarkable here to explain Athens later
    uniqueness among Greek poleis.
           A Large Unified Polis
   The second largest polis in area, Attica was
    unified at an early date.
   All free men of Attica were considered Athenian
    whether they lived in Marathon or Eleutherae or
   There was no Athenian equivalent to the perioiki
    or the helot of Sparta.
   Athenians knew they were unique and pointed to
    a civic myth that explained how Attica was
    unified (συνοικίσμος): the myth of Theseus.
An Athenian Civic Myth

 Minos, Daedalus, and Theseus:
     Story of re-foundation.
The Minotaur
     Minos, Minotaur, and Athens
   While Minos was struggling for the throne of
    Crete, he prayed to Poseidon to send him a
    snow-white bull as a sign of approval from the
    gods. He would sacrifice it.
   When a beautiful white bull arose from the sea,
    Minos changed his mind and sacrificed a bull
    from the herd.
   This angered Poseidon, who made MInos’ wife,
    Pasipha, fall madly in love with the bull, which
    became mad. Pasipha ordered Daedalus to
    construct a hollow wooden cow for her, she
    crawled in and had relations with the white bull.
    The offspring was the Minotaur, head and tail of
    bull on man’s body.
The Labyrinth
                  Enter Daedalus
   When the beast wrecked havoc on Crete, Minos called
    upon Daedalus to construct the Labyrinth, an intricate
    maze in which the beast would wander, but never find its
    way out.
   Daedalus later lost MInos’ favor and was locked in a
   One of Minos’ sons, Androgeos, was competing in the
    Panathenaeic games sponsored by Aigeus, the Athenian
    king. After winning fairly, Aigeus gave him the task of
    traveling to Marathon to fight a bull that Heracles had
    captured on the island of Crete. Yes, it was the self-
    same mad bull, father of Androgeos’ half-brother, and it
    killed him.
Theseus and Ariadne
          Theseus and the Minotaur
   Minos declared war on Athens and besieged the city. The
    Athenians defended bravely, but finally agreed to pay tribute.
   Each year, Athens had to provide seven maidens and seven
    boys as tribute. They were dropped into the Labyrinth as
    Minotaur food.
   Theseus, Aegeus’ son, returned to Athens when this had been
    going on for eight years, and was disgusted. He volunteered
    to go as one of the victims.
   When MInos’ daughter, Ariadne, saw Theseus, she fell madly
    in love with him and sneaked a sword and ball of thread to
   Theseus killed the Minotaur, then escaped using the thread.
    He took Ariadne with him, but Athene ordered him to abandon
    her her on an island, Naxos, on the way.
                  A tragic return
   Another version of the story says that Dionysius
    cooperated with Athene to get Theseus out of the way
    because he loved Ariadne.
   When their ship finally sailed to Athens, Theseus was
    unaware that the ship had two sets of sails: a black one
    and a white one. The black sails were used as a sign of
    mourning whenever the tribute ship returned from Crete.
   Aegeus knew that Theseus was going to attempt to
    rescue the youths, so looked anxiously for the ship’s
    arrival. But Theseus mistakenly raised the black sails
    instead, so when Aegeus saw the sails, he killed himself.
   Theseus became the king of Athens now.
                The myths of Theseus
   Reportedly born in the late
    Bronze Age before the
    traditional time of the Trojan
    War, Theseus was son of
    Aegeus, king of Athens and
    Aethra a princess of Troezen.
   Theseus led the Athenian
    forces in their victory over the
    Amazons and married the
    Amazon queen, Hippolyta.
    Shakespeare celebrated their
    wedding in Midsummer Night’s
   The ideal of Athenian
    manhood, Theseus is the
    thinking person’s Heracles
    (Hercules), who held Helen as
    a prisoner and is credited with
    unifying the villages of Attica.
        A footnote to the story…
   When Minos decided to attack Athens, he first had to
    subdue Megara, a city ruled by Nisos, who was thought
    to be immortal.
   His secret? A single lock of purple hair that grew, uncut,
    from his head, given to him by his father, Ares. Minos
    knew the purple hair had to go.
   So he wooed Nisos’ daughter, Skylla, and persuaded her
    to pluck the hair from her father’s head. She did.
   Minos then slew Nisos, but drowned Skylla.
   An alternate story says Nisos chased Skylla off a cliff,
    and while they were falling, Ares transformed them into a
    pair of birds, Nisos a raptor and Skylla a swift, and so
    Nisos chases her for eternity.
    Development of Archaic Athens
   So this is how Athenians accounted for their unusual
    acceptance of regional unity: It took the semi-divine
    Theseus to accomplish it. The ability to tackle the
    impossible was a characteristic of the Athenians and a
    sign of divine favor.
   However, except for their strange unity, Athens
    developed like other Greek poleis.
   Athens didn’t colonize at all, not even one (though they
    did invade and secure other cities to preserve their
   Large territory and cutting-edge industry provided
    economic outlets.
   Nevertheless, late archaic Athens could not escape the
    stasis that seemed to simmer throughout Greece.
        The first threat of tyranny
   A “eupatrid” (well-sired) Athenian named Cylon
    attempted to establish himself as tyrant in about 630.
   Despite classical accounts, he enjoyed considerable
    internal support.
   He was probably also supported by his father-in-law
    Theagenes, the tyrant of Megara.
   The coup failed and Cylon escaped.
   His followers were captured and given a safe conduct
    from the temple of Athena that was violated when a gang
    from the Alcmaeonid family, led by the eponymous
    (chief) archon Megacles, murdered them
   This brought a mythic curse on that family. They were
    exiled and the bodies of their ancestors were dug up and
    removed from the city. They were allowed back in 594.
           After the coup attempt
   Bad blood had been stirring between eupatrid families in
    Athens even before the coup.
   The murders probably brought things to a boiling point
    for almost a decade after despite exiling the
   This probably explains the emergence of the shadowy
    lawgiver Draco, who addressed the laws of murder and
    vendetta, among other things.
   Originally, he had been asked to transcribe the oral laws
    when ignorance of the law threatened to plunge the city
    into chaos. Later, he was appointed archon.
Draco and his code “written in blood”
   We know little about him except that he had authority to
    write code and his name has made it into English as
    byword for severity.
   Draco certainly removed prosecution of homicide from
    families and made it a “state” issue: death penalty for
    murder and exile for manslaughter.
   He also categorized different kinds of murder and
    required public trials for all homicide cases.
   Classical authors claimed he revamped the entire civic
    code and made death the penalty of choice even for
    petty crimes, but many historians think this is an
    aristocratic fabrication.
   Overhaul of the law codes was left to Solon. We turn to
    reform and tyranny in Athens next.
Reform and Tyranny in
                Solon as Archon
   The first undisputed documentation on legal codes for
    Athens appears in the ethical and political poetry of
   Solon was invited to make a legal code for Athens after
    he was appointed archon in 594.
   The legal code was needed to end a particularly
    troublesome period of stasis.
   The fact that he received appointment from the
    aristocracy shows that many of the Eupatrids were
    prepared to make concessions to their opposition.
                The Solonic Code
   Solon placed the responsibility for the social upheaval in
    Athens on the rapacity and insensitivity of the wealthy
   Solon had the text of his legal code inscribed on wooden
    tablets and placed in public view.
   A grateful underclass clamored for him to become tyrant;
    instead he left Athens.
                 Solon’s reforms
   Solon acted according to a policy of seisachtheia, a
    “shaking off of burdens,” addressing enslavement.
   Debts were cancelled; freedom was restored to debt
    slaves; Athenians sold into slavery abroad for debt were
    recovered; New law: people cannot be security for debt.
   Solon divided the populace into four groups according to
    their wealth.
   Solon allowed the general Assembly to have some
    authority to have appellate jurisdiction over the archons
    in lawsuits.
              Solon’s four classes
   First class restricted to men whose land produced at
    least 500 dry or liquid measures (750 bushels or 4250
    gallons). They could hold highest offices, like archon.
   Next two offices, including hoplites, were eligible for
    minor offices and service in the Council of 400.
   Lowest were the Thetes, who produced under 200
    measures annually. They could serve in the Assembly.
               Solon Summation
   Solon left Athens because he feared added pressure to
    become tyrant or pressure from dissatisfied people to
    make greater concessions.
   Solon’s reforms acted like a “pressure valve” that
    relieved stasis for a time, but also increased competition
    for offices and power.
   Solon’s reforms created a new class of peasants, freed
    from debt, who became the foundation for Athenian
   Solon used the objective distinction between freedom
    and slavery to define citizenship.
              An Athenian tyrant
   In 560 Peisistratus carried out the first successful coup in
    Athens aided by poorer rural and urban populations.
   Peisistratus was twice driven off, but finally took over
    about 539 behind an army of mercenaries.
   He ruled as tyrant until 527.
   Interestingly, he was also a distant relative of Solon.
         Peisistratus’ Accomplishments
   Peisistratus maintained a constitutional tyranny where
    democracy was “guided” rather than abolished.
   Peisistratus was able to be the major influence on
    appointment of the archons.
   He maintained a standing mercenary army.
   He was not adverse to taking children of prominent
    families as hostages when he held them in suspicion.
   He divided vacant land and distributed it to the poor.
   He greatly increased the yields and exports of olives.
            Results of the tyranny
   This was a relatively peaceful time.
   Peisistratus conquered Salamis and established trading
    foothold on opposite shores of the Hellespont.
   Peisistratus increased interest in the Iliad by making
    Homeric recitations a feature of the Panathenaic Festival.
    (Possibly didn’t commission first editions of Iliad.)
   Peisistratus built a new temple to Dionysius and began
    the great Doric temple to the Olympian Zeus, which was
    only completed under the Romans (Hadrian).
   He increased and improved the water supply of Athens.
                First Free Athens
   The tyranny ended through the efforts of the Alcmaeonid
    family and the Spartans.
   The Alcmaeonids paid to remodel the temple of Apollo at
   Delphic priests influenced the Spartans, who sought
    advice of the oracle from time to time.
   The Delphic response to repeated Spartan requests?
    “First free Athens!”
   In 510, King Cleomenes forced Hippias, Peisistratus’
    son, to abdicate by holding his children as hostages.
    How the tyrant came to power
   The old class distinctions based on birth had been
    crumbling away, and had been replaced by parties.
   In Attica, the parties received their names from the
    places where their strongest support was based:
       Men of the Plain—wealthy landowners, conservative aristocrats
       Men of the Hill—small farmers and herdsmen, populists and
        democrats living in the highlands
       Men of the Shore—merchants and traders, moderates
   During Solon’s ten-year absence these parties were
    developing, gaining strength, and sparring with their
   Certainly this party strife contributed to the viability of
    tyranny in Athens, and into the gap stepped Peisistratus:
       Aristocrat, but espousing the cause of the people
       Brilliant politician, able military leader, more than adequate
    Looking back on Pesistratus’ career
   At first, used a self-inflicted wound to gain sympathy:
       Appeared in the Agora one day with blood oozing from wounds
       He claimed he was attacked for defending the peoples’ rights
       Enemies reminded them that Solon had warned the people
        about Pesistratus, but they were fooled and voted him a fifty-man
   Used the bodyguard to seize the Acropolis (and thus the
    treasury) and made himself ruler. It lasted five years,
    until 555.
   Second time he hired a woman to play the part of
    Athena, then rode into town with her in the chariot
    proclaiming her divine sanction! It lasted six years.
   Third time he used a band of Argive mercenaries to
    seize power and held it till his death.
   The Athenians were only done with him when they voted
    his son, Hippias, into perpetual exile with the help of
    Spartan king Cleomenes.
           Reforms of Cleisthenes
   Spartans were to remain in Athens until oligarchic
    government was restored.
   Sparta backed Isagoras as archon, but the Athenians
    defied the Spartans and invited Cleisthenes of the
    Alcmaeonid family to be archon.
   Cleisthenes’ policies attempted to break the power of the
    wealthy families, he divided Attica into de’mes and
    required citizens to identify themselves by de’me rather
    than by family.
   Each de’me provided representatives to the new Council
    of 500, all chosen by lot.
   The army was also reorganized with each de’me electing
    its own officers and high general, called the strategos.
              Before Cleisthenes
   Attica had been organized according to the old
    Ionian tribal system, made up of fratries and
   Political rights had been hereditary based on the
    clan from which one came.
   Solon’s reforms attempted to simplify these
    divisions, but his departure in some sense
    doomed his reforms.
   Cleisthenes was one of the greatest political
    reformers in ancient Greece, and his
    organizational structure laid a new foundation for
    the Athenian state.
The Deme
       The de’me was the
        smallest territorial district.
       It was very much like our
        present idea of a
       It had a town
        government, with town
        officers presiding over a
        town meeting.
       At left is pictured the town
        center of the de’me of
        Rhamnous, most
        northerly de’me of Attica,
        noted for being a center
        of the worship of
                      The Trittys
   Three (and sometimes four) de’mes made up a trittys.
    Some say seven or eight in the non “peri-to-astu”
    de’mes, while some urban de’mes may eventually have
    been trittyes in their own right.
   The trittys corresponds to our idea of a county.
   There were thirty of these trittyes in Attica. Ten around
    Athens proper, ten along the coast and ten in the interior.
   The heads of the trittyes were the trittyarchoi. They were
    to maintain roads, build defensive and retaining walls
    and ships, recruit soldiers, and administer certain local
   It is confusing to study these sometimes because the
    trittys usually took the name of the leading de’me in the
   The tribe is the largest of the three
   They were organized along a
    sister-trittys system.
   A city trittys, a shore trittys, and an
    interior trittys combined to form a
    tribe, even though the trittyes may
    not be contiguous.
   Each tribe also maintained five
    officials, called naukraria, who
    were responsible to build and
    maintain at least one ship under
    the ultimate command of the
   So Attica was divided into ten
    tribes, each providing fifty for the
    council of 500.
   This ingenious plan helped break
    down the old party spirit of rivalry
    between plain, hill, and shore.
         Old Ionian vs. New Attic
    4 Ionian tribes.            10 “Tribes.”
    12 fratries or              30 Trittyes, like
     brotherhoods.                counties.
    300+ clans or families      100+ de’mes, like

Cleisthenes would use the new territorial divisions of the
people to form a new government structure.
         The Assembly: Ekkle’sia
   The ekklesia was made up of all free males in
    the de’mes, though they may not attend all
   It became the real sovereign power of Athens.
   They deliberated upon questions of war and
    peace, and had to approve foreign policy.
   They also had to pass on questions related to
    revenue to run the government and taxation.
   It suggests the picture of Athenian democracy
    with which we will later become familiar.
    The Council of 500: Boule’
 Each tribe provided fifty representatives,
  chosen by lot.
 The Boule was a deliberative body. It
  created policies and bills that were
  submitted to the ekklesia for approval.
 The Boule was also a watchdog,
  supervising the administration of the
  Athenian state.
           Executive branch:
     Nine Archons and Ten Strategoi
   Now archons were chosen by lot from a list of
    candidates submitted by the de’mes.
   The archons selected a pole’march to act as
    commander-in-chief of the army.
   Now military generals would be elected. Each
    tribe had its own military division and elected its
    own strategos.
   Eventually, these strategoi would come to
    supercede the archons as the chief magistrates.
   This new organization provided checks and balances
    which protected the state against abuses by the
   Cleisthenes also wanted to have some effective means
    of preventing domination by a single person, or the
    return of tyranny.
   This power was vested in the ekklesia. An ostracism
    meeting could be called, and if 6000 citizens cast votes
    against any man, he had to endure an exile of ten years.
   The name came from the way in which the votes were
    cast: eah voter scratched the name of the offending man
    on a broken piece of pottery, an “ostraca,” ancient
    foolscap or post-it notes.
   It was seen as more of a precaution than a punishment,
    and often did not mean the complete ruin of a political
   Thus, ostracism was an honorable exile!
           Implications for Greece
   Can’t you see Athens moving not only away from the old
    monarchy, but away from aristocracy as well?
   These changes alarmed the Spartans, who had ridded
    the Athenians of tyranny, but now saw the new Athenian
    constitution as a threat to their cherished aristocratic
   Cleomenes returned to Attica to attempt to overthrow the
    constitution, but failed.
   Now the polarity of Athens and Sparta begins to take
    shape, the Athenians the advocates of democracy, the
    Spartans the reactionary defenders of aristocracy.
    Dark Clouds Brewing in the East
   All during this time of tyranny and reform in
    Athens, distant Ionian relatives in western Asia
    minor were facing multiple threats.
   After first caving in to the Lydians under
    Croesus, Ionians and Aeolians were subjugated
    by the Persians and the world thus came to
    Greece, which could no longer escape the
    world’s notice.
   How did the Persians come so far from their
    homes to threaten mainland Greece?

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