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Related to Cleisthenes: Pisistratus, Peisistratus


Cleisthenes, fl. 510 B.C., Athenian statesman. He was the head of his family, the Alcmaeonidae, after the exile of Hippias, 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.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Lycurgus in Sparta and Solon and Cleisthenes in Athens), while the Roman commonwealth 'was not shaped by one man's talent but by that of many; and not in any person's lifetime, but over many generations'.
To use a historical analogy, ere Cleisthenes was able to establish the world's first true democracy in ancient Athens he had to demolish the tribes into which the population was divided.
Significantly, the connections between military service and performance were institutionalized by the democratic reforms of Cleisthenes in the late sixth century.
(116) Its foundation is erotic: once arrived in their homeland, the Ephesian population disappears from the scene and the protagonists are joined only by the faithful lovers Leucon and Rhode, and Hippothous and Cleisthenes. This event demonstrates that in the Ephesiaca the description of the world mirrors the protagonists' progression to a new erotic ideal.
Fredal's book is organized chronologically, beginning with Solon and proceeding through the tyranny of the Peisistratids, democracy under Cleisthenes, the Peloponnesian War, and the ascendance of Demosthenes.
Scholars fit the flourishing of tragoidia into the context of Athens' relatively rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented transition to democracy that began in 510 BCE with the overthrow of the Peisistratid tyranny, took decisive impetus shortly thereafter from the democratic reforms of Cleisthenes (which included reorganization of the tribal bases of Athenian identity), proceeded with Ephialtes' demotion of the aristocratic Court of Areopagus (462/1) and culminated in Pericles' lowering of the property requirement for the highest political office (458/7) and his institution of paid jury service (around 454).