Cleisthenes


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Related to Cleisthenes: Pisistratus, Peisistratus

Cleisthenes,

fl. 510 B.C., Athenian statesman. He was the head of his family, the AlcmaeonidaeAlcmaeonidae
, Athenian family powerful in the 7th, 6th, and 5th cent. B.C. Blamed for the murder of the followers of the would-be tyrant Cylon (c.632 B.C.), which had been ordered by Megacles, an archon who was a member of the family, they were considered attainted and were
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, after the exile of HippiasHippias
, tyrant (527 B.C.–510 B.C.) of Athens, eldest son of Pisistratus. Hippias governed Athens after the death of his father. His younger brother Hipparchus was closely associated in office with him until Hipparchus was assassinated in 514 B.C.
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, and with Spartan help had made himself undisputed ruler of Athens by 506 B.C. He established a more democratic constitution by weakening the clan system and the local parties and by organizing the districts into political rather than social divisions. The Alcmaeonidae thus became leaders of a democratic party, a reorientation making them anti-Spartan instead of pro-Spartan as earlier. An attempt of his rival, Isagoras, to overturn the reforms of Cleisthenes after Cleisthenes had been sent into exile failed, and Cleisthenes was recalled.

Cleisthenes

 

Athenian lawmaker of the sixth century B.C. From the Alcmeonid clan.

Cleisthenes headed the movement against Peisistratus, which ended in the banishment in 510 B.C. of the tyrant Hippias, Peisistratus’ son, from Athens and the elevation of Cleisthenes to virtual head of state. He introduced democratic reforms that, in the words of F. Engels, constituted a revolution, destroying “the last remnants of the gentile constitution” (K. Marx and F. En-gels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21, p. 117). Ten territorial phylae were created to replace the four clan ones (each phyle was composed of three parts representing the urban, coastal, and interior regions of Attica). In this way the influence of the tribal nobility in the new phylae was significantly reduced. The territorial demes became the administrative, economic, cultural, and political units. Other reforms of Cleisthenes also were democratic in nature, including the replacing of the Council of 400, selected on the basis of the clan phylae, by one of 500 (boule), whose members were elected from each of the ten territorial phylae. He also introduced ostracism, which was directed against the danger of a tyrannical coup. Cleisthenes created a college of ten generals (strategoi) who had governing authority and headed the Athenian troops. His reforms consolidated the triumph of the Athenian demos over the clan aristocracy.

REFERENCES

Zel’in, K. K. Bor’ba politicheskikh gruppirovok v Attike v VI v. do n. e. Moscow, 1964.
Eliot, C. W. J. Coastal Demes of Attica: A Study of the Policy of Cleisthenes. Toronto, 1962.

I. V. POZDEEVA

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