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Cimon of Athens

Cimon was an Athenian General of the 5th Century B.C.


Cimon's father, Miltiades, died in prison when he could not pay a fine of fifty talents. Cimon's mother, Hegesipyle, was the daughter of King Olorus of Thrace, and thus Cimon was related to Thucydides, according to Plutarch, who calls Olorus an ancestor of the historian.

As a young man, Cimon had a reputation for being a drunkard, and not too bright. He was also supposed to be having an affair with his sister Elpinice. However, when Cimon had to pay the fine levied on his late father or go to prison himself, Elpinice agreed to marry Callias, a rich mine-owner, on condition that he pay off the fine.

When Athens was abandoned before the battle of Salamis, Cimon was the first to dedicate his bridle to Athena and board the ships. He fought well in the battle (480), and after Salamis he was appointed admiral together with Aristides (478). He followed Aristides' example, and by fair dealing and kindness won over many of the Greek cities to support Athens rather than Sparta, whose leading position was undermined by Pausanias' harsh treatment of the other cities.

Cimon led Athenian forces against the Persians in Thrace (476-5), besieging them in the town of Eion, which the Persians burnt rather than surrender. He rooted out pirates who infested the island of Scyros, and bought back what was reputed to be the body of Theseus, who died there (470).

Cimon grew rich from ransoms for Persian prisoners of war, and opened up the grounds of his house to citizens, who could pick the fruit if they felt so inclined. He also gave public meals for the poor, and everywhere he went he was attended by well-dressed companions who would change clothes with any citizen unable to afford suitable clothing and slip money into the hands of the poor.

Cimon was one of those responsible for the policy of allowing the Athenians' allies pay to be excused military service against Persia. He defeated the Persian navy at the mouth of the Eurymedon on the coat of Pamphylia, sinking many ships and capturing 200. When the Persians fled, he followed them on land and won a second victory there, followed by a third against Phoenician naval reinforcements (467). After that, the Persians did not dare sail beyond the Chelidonian and Cyanean islands.

Next, Cimon drove the Persians out of the Chersonnese (466), but was prosecuted on a charge of having been bribed into not continuing the war by invading Macedon. He was acquitted (463).

In politics, Cimon was pro-Sparta and the aristocracy, and it was only during one of his absences from the city that Ephialtes and Pericles managed to have jurisdiction in most cases transferred from the court of the Areopagus to citizen juries.

Cimon persuaded the Athenians to assist the Spartans during a Helot uprising after a powerful earthquake (464). When they answered a second request for help from the Spartans, the Spartans rejected their help and sent the Athenian forces back home. The Athenians took their feelings of anger at this insult out on Cimon and ostracised him (461).

During his period of ostracism, however, relations between Athens and Sparta deteriorated to the point of war, Cimon was recalled after fighting on the Athenian side at Tanagra (457). He arranged a peace between the two cities, and then directed the Athenians' martial impulses towards fighting the Persians in Cyprus and Egypt. He died during the siege of Citium in Cyprus, possibly of illness or possibly from wounds (449). His death was kept secret for 30 days until the Athenian forces had returned home.

Ancient Sources
Plutarch's Life of Cimon
(http://nimispauci.free.fr/CorneliusNepos/corneliusNepos.htm) Cornelius Nepos' Life of Cimon

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