21471531911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 6 — CimonJohn Malcolm Mitchell

CIMON [Κίμων] (c. 507– 449), Athenian statesman and general, was the son of Miltiades (q.v.) and Hegesipyle, daughter of the Thracian prince Olorus. Miltiades died in disgrace, leaving unpaid the fine imposed upon him for his conduct at Paros. Cimon’s first task in life, therefore, was to remove the stain on the family name by paying this fine (about £12,000). In the second Persian invasion, especially at Salamis, and in the consolidation of the Delian League, he won a high reputation for courage and integrity. At first with Aristides, and afterwards as sole commander, he directed the Athenian contingent of the fleet; on the disgrace of Pausanias he practically commanded the entire Greek fleet and drove Pausanias from his retreat in Byzantium. Having captured Eion (at the mouth of the Strymon), he expelled the Persian garrisons from the entire seaboard of Thrace with the exception of Doriscus, and, having defeated the piratical Dolopians of Scyros (470), confirmed his popularity by transferring thence to Athens the supposed bones of the Attic hero Theseus. The bones were buried in Athens, and over the tomb the Theseum (temple) was erected. In 466 Cimon proceeded to liberate the Greek cities of Lyda and Pamphylia, and at the mouth of the Eurymedon he defeated the Persians decisively by land and sea.

The Persian danger was now over, and the immediate purpose of the Delian League was achieved. Already, however, Athens had introduced the policy of coercion which was to transform the league into an empire, a policy which, after the ostracism of Themistocles and the death of Aristides, must be attributed to Cimon, whose fundamental idea was the union of the Greeks against all outsiders (see Delian League). Carystus was compelled to join the league; Naxos (c. 469) and Thasos (465 – 463), which had revolted, were compelled to accept the position of tributary allies. In 464 Sparta was involved in war with her Helots (principally of Messenian origin) and was in great difficulties. Cimon, then the most prominent man in Athens, persuaded the Athenians to send assistance, on the ground that Athens could not “stand without her yoke-fellow” and leave “Hellas lame.” The expedition was a failure, and Cimon was exposed to the attacks of the democrats led by Ephialtes. The history of this party struggle is not clear. The ordinary account is that Ephialtes during Cimon’s absence in Messenia destroyed the powers of the Areopagus (q.v.) and then obtained the ostracism of Cimon, who attempted to reverse his policy. Without going fully into the question, which is full of difficulty, it may be pointed out (1) that when the Messenian expedition started Cimon had twice within the preceding year triumphed over the opposition of Ephialtes, and (2) that presumably the Cimonian party was predominant until after the expedition proved a failure. It is therefore unlikely that, immediately after Cimon’s triumph in obtaining permission to go to Messenia, Ephialtes was able to attack the Areopagus with success. The probability is that when the expedition failed, Cimon was ostracized, and that then Ephialtes defeated the Areopagus, and also made a change in foreign policy by making alliances with Sparta’s enemies, Argos and Thessaly. This hypothesis alone explains the absence of any account of a third struggle between Cimon and Ephialtes over the Areopagus. The chronology would thus be: ostracism of Cimon, spring, 461; fall of the Areopagus and reversal of Philo-Laconian policy, summer, 461.

A more difficult question is involved in the date of Cimon’s return from ostracism. The ordinary account says that he was recalled after the battle of Tanagra (457) to negotiate the Five Years’ Truce (451 or 450). To ignore the unexplained interval of six or seven years is an uncritical expedient, which, however, has been adopted by many writers. Some maintaining that Cimon did return soon after 457, say that the truce which he arranged was really the four months’ truce recorded by Diodorus (only). To this there are two main objections: (1) if Cimon returned in 457, why does the evidence of antiquity connect his return specifically with the truce of 451? and (2) why does he after 457 disappear for six years and return again to negotiate the Five Years’Truce and to command the expedition to Cyprus? It seems much more likely that he returned in 451, at the very time when Athens returned to his old policy of friendship with Sparta and war in the East against Persia (i.e. the Cyprus expedition). Thus it would appear that from 453 onwards there was a recrudescence of conservative influence, and that for four years (453 – 449) Pericles was not master in Athens (see Pericles); this theory is corroborated by the fact that Pericles, in the alarm caused by the Egyptian failure of 454, was induced to remove the Delian treasury to Athens and to abandon his anti-Spartan policy of land empire.

Cimon died in Cyprus before the walls of Citium (449), and was buried in Athens. Later Attic orators speak in glowing terms of a “Peace” between Athens and Persia, which is sometimes connected with the name of Cimon and sometimes with that of one Callias. If any such peace was concluded, it cannot have been soon after the battle of the Eurymedon as Plutarch assumes. It can have been only after Cimon’s death and the evacuation of Cyprus (i.e. c. 448). It is only in this form that the view has been maintained logically in modern times. Apart from the fact that the peace is ignored by Thucydides and that the earliest reference to it is the passage in Isocrates (Paneg. 118 and 120), there are weighty reasons which render it improbable that any formal peace can have been concluded at that period between Athens and Persia (see further Ed. Meyer’s Forschungen, ii.).

Cimon’s services in connexion with the consolidation of the Empire rank with those of Themistocles and Aristides. He is described as genial, brave and generous. He threw open his house and gardens to his fellow-demesmen, and beautified the city with trees and buildings. But as a statesman he failed to cope with the new conditions created by the democracy of Cleisthenes. The one great principle for which he is memorable is that of the balance of power between Athens and Sparta, as respectively the naval and military leaders of a united Hellas. It has been the custom to regard Cimon as a man of little culture and refinement. It is clear, however, from his desire to adorn the city, that he was by no means without culture and imagination. The truth is that, as in politics, so in education and attitude of mind, he represented the ideals of an age which, in the new atmosphere of democratic Athens, seemed to savour of rusticity and lack of education.

The lives of Cimon by Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos are uncritical; the conclusions above expressed are derived from a comparison of Plutarch, Cimon, 17, Pericles, 10; Theopompus, fragm. 92; Andocides, de Pace, §§ 3, 4; Diodorus xi. 86 (the four months’ truce). See histories of Greece (e.g. Grote, ed. 1907, 1 vol.); also Pericles; Delian League, with works quoted.  (J. M. M.)