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Cleon(klē`ən), d. 422 B.C., Athenian political leader. The son of a tanner, he had little education; nevertheless, he was a gifted speaker. He began his political career with a series of relentless attacks on PericlesPericles
, c.495–429 B.C., Athenian statesman. He was a member of the Alcmaeonidae family through his mother, a niece of Cleisthenes. He first came to prominence as an opponent of the Areopagus (462) and as one of the prosecutors of Cimon, whom he replaced in influence.
..... Click the link for more information. . He was antagonistic to Sparta and successfully opposed (425 B.C.) Sparta's peace proposals. In the same year he was given command of the Athenian force blockading Sphacteria (an island at the mouth of the Bay of Pylos) and was brilliantly successful against the Spartans. Three years later he was given another command against the Spartans at AmphipolisAmphipolis
, ancient city of Macedonia, on the Strymon (Struma) River near the sea and NE of later Thessaloníki. The place was known as Ennea Hodoi [nine ways] before it was settled and was of interest because of the gold and silver and timber of Mt.
..... Click the link for more information. , but he failed and was killed in action. His reputation as a vulgar and unprincipled demagogue is chiefly due to accounts by his enemies ThucydidesThucydides
, c.460–c.400 B.C., Greek historian of Athens, one of the greatest of ancient historians. His family was partly Thracian. As a general in the Peloponnesian War he failed (424 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. and AristophanesAristophanes
, c.448 B.C.–c.388 B.C., Greek playwright, Athenian comic poet, greatest of the ancient writers of comedy. His plays, the only full extant samples of the Greek Old Comedy, mix political, social, and literary satire.
..... Click the link for more information. .
Died 422 B.C. Greek political figure of antiquity, leader of the most radical wing of the Athenian slaveholding democrats. He came from the trade and craftsman strata of the demos (he owned a leather enterprise).
As a politician Cleon came to the fore in 430 B.C., heading the opposition to Pericles. After Pericles’ death in 429, he opposed Nicias, the leader of the moderate democratic group. He attained political predominance with policies that were popular among the radical democrats, including increasing the pay for jurors to three obols; introducing the eisphora (an extraordinary war tax levied on wealthy citizens); doubling the tax tribute levied on the allies; establishing cleruchy (colonies) on the lands of the allies (for example, on Lesbos); strengthening Athens’ role in the Delian League; and cruelly suppressing discontent among the allies (the reprisals againt Mytilene, which had revolted against Athens in 428). Cleon was the champion of military operations against Sparta and its allies, and he himself participated in the Peloponnesian War of 431–404 as a strategos. In 425, with Demosthenes, he seized the island of Sphacteria. In 422 he directed military operations against the Spartan general Brasidas in Thrace but was defeated and killed in battle before Amphipolis.
The classical authors who provide information on Cleon come from the camp of his political opponents.
S. S. SOLOV’EVA