|d. 422 BC|
|Civilization:||Greek — Athens|
|statesman — Archon|
Cleon, an Athenian politician during the Peloponnesian War, was the son of Cleaenetus, from whom he inherited a lucrative tannery business. He was the first prominent representative of the commercial class in Athenian politics. He came into notice first as an opponent of Pericles, to whom his advanced ideas were naturally unacceptable, and in his opposition somewhat curiously found himself acting in concert with the aristocrats, who equally hated and feared Pericles.
In 427 Cleon gained an evil notoriety by his proposal to put to death indiscriminately all the inhabitants of Mytilene, which had put itself at the head of a revolt. His proposal, though accepted, was, fortunately for the credit of Athens,` rescinded, although, as it was, the chief leaders and prominent men, numbering about 1000, fell victims. In 425 B.C., he reached the summit of his fame by capturing and transporting to Athens the Spartans who had been blockaded in Sphacteria (see Pylos). Much of the credit was probably due to the military skill of his colleague Demosthenes; but it must be admitted that it was due to Cleon's determination that the Ecclesia sent out the additional force which was needed. It was almost certainly due to Cleon that the tribute of the "allies" was doubled in 425 (see Delian League). In 422 he was sent to recapture Amphipolis, but was outgeneralled by Brasidas and killed. His death removed the chief obstacle to an arrangement with Sparta, and in 421 the peace of Nicias was concluded (see Peloponnesian War).
The character of Cleon is represented by Aristophanes and Thucydides in an extremely unfavourable light. But neither can be considered an unprejudiced witness. The poet had a grudge against Cleon, who had accused him before the senate of having ridiculed (in his Babylonians) the policy and institutions of his country in the presence of foreigners and at the time of a great national war. Thucydides, a man of strong oligarchical prejudices, had also been prosecuted for military incapacity and exiled by a decree proposed by Cleon. It is therefore likely that Cleon has had less than justice done to him in the portraits handed down by these two writers.
—Excerpted from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Key events during the life of Cleon:
|Death of Pericles increases Cleon's political influence in Athens.|
|Recommends execution of all inhabitants of Mytilene, a colony that had revolted from the Delian League.|
|Leads an expedition to Pylos and took Spartan hostages.|
|Doubles the tribute required by members of the Delian League.|
|Killed during the attempt to recapture Amphipolis, which had bolted from the league.|Other Resources
|Soldier in||Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Alfred J. Church|
|Peace Maker in||Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Alfred J. Church|
|Sentence of Death in||The Story of Greece by Mary Macgregor|
|Spartans Surrender in||The Story of Greece by Mary Macgregor|
|Envoys of Life and Death in||Historical Tales: Greek by Charles Morris|
|Struggle Between Athens and Sparta in||The Story of the Greek People by Eva March Tappan|
|Athenian statesman during Golden Age of Athens. Made Athens cultural center of Greece.|
|Historian of Peloponnesian War. An Athenian general sent into exile after he failed a mission.|
|Greatest of Greek Comedian playwrights. Wrote Frogs, Clouds, Peace, Birds, and many others.|
|Eloquent Spartan general, turned tide of Peloponnesian War in Sparta's favor. Died at Amphipolis.|
|Important Athenian general in the Peloponnesian War. Perished at Syracuse.|
|After death of Pericles, emerged as leader of peace party. Led disastrous Sicilian Expedition.|