6. Kleon and Tribute: Re-Examining the Import of Financial Expertise in Athenian Statesmanship

  Hershkowitz, Aaron. 2023. “Kleon and Tribute: Re-Examining the Import of Financial Expertise in Athenian Statesmanship.” In “The Athenian Empire Anew: Acting Hegemonically, Reacting Locally in the Athenian Arkhē,” ed. Aaron Hershkowitz and Michael McGlin, special issue, Classics@ 23. https://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HLNC.ESSAY:103490532.


This piece tackles the “financial expertise” theory that Kleon and politicians like him (subsequent to Perikles) were defined in large part by their appeal to the dēmos on the basis of their ability to manipulate financial systems to the profit of Athens. However, the posited connections between Kleon and such financial measures as the initiation of an eisphora tax and the Kleonymos and Thoudippos decrees are unsupported by the evidence. The only connection between Kleon and the eisphora tax comes from comedy, which lampoons not his creation or imposition of the tax but rather his zeal in applying it. Kleon’s putative relationship with the Kleonymos Decree derives merely from the fact of its dealing with tribute collection and occasional references to Kleonymos and Kleon with a similar tenor in Aristophanes. Although more detailed arguments have been made tying Kleon to the Thoudippos decree, these too turn out to be illusory: the contents of the decree which could be characterized as “harsh” are aimed not at the allies or at opponents of the war with Sparta, but at Athenian corruption (of the very character with which Aristophanes associates Kleon). The timing of the decree does fall shortly after Kleon’s great success at Pylos, but the decree itself stipulates waiting for the return of the army with Nikias, the man usually cast as Kleon’s opponent in the passage of the decree. Finally, F. Bourriot has decisively laid to rest a possible family connection between Kleon and Thoudippos. Indeed, the portrait of Kleon that emerges from a close reading of Aristophanes is not that of a financial wizard, but that of a corrupt warmonger, who may have exploited one or another aspect of public opinion. Allies of Athens faced a twofold challenge in maneuvering around self-interested or venal political actors and in divining and responding to general attitudes about Athenian and allied finances.

In 1962, Antony Andrewes, in an attempt to understand the reality of late-fifth-century [1] Athenian politics lurking behind the powerfully influential opinions of Thucydides, formulated a theory that has come to be known as the theory of “indispensable experts,” or, alternatively, “financial expertise.” Andrewes put it thus:

The Athenian empire was not just a moral problem about aggression—Thucydides’ obsession with this aspect has imposed itself to an unreasonable extent—but a large administrative problem too. Athens needed, in numbers large relative to her size, a regular supply of reasonably competent hellenotamiai, archontes, episkopoi, and the rest … and the inevitable influx of new men doubtless came, as the comic poets allege, from business families. Kleon and his like were not simply the people’s leaders on the comparatively narrow political front which Thucydides examines: a large part of the point is their mastery of finance and administration. [2]
Andrewes 1962:83

W. R. Connor [3] incorporated the “financial expertise” theory into his own notion of “new” politicians in post-Periklean Athens who eschewed the traditional political course of friendships, alliances, and office-holding by appealing directly to the dēmos for support. For him, “financial expertise” became a selling-point for these ambitious politicians, born and raised in the world of the arkhē: “The growing need for specialization, I believe, provided the politicians with a new way of appealing for support. They could represent themselves as the masters of the complexities of public affairs. That Cleon did this is perhaps suggested by Aristophanes, Knights 75, and Eupolis frs. 290–292, which perhaps echo Cleon’s oratory.” [4]

One name has recurred in these two formulations of the theory of “financial expertise”: Kleon. This prominence rests on several factors that make him critical to the validity of the entire theory. He is the first politician to hold significant power at Athens after Perikles, [5] and he is the first, and almost certainly the most successful, politician from outside of the established elite in the fifth century, a type specimen of the Attic novus homo. [6] He is also, as we shall see below, often connected by ancient sources to money. If, for all this, he shows no signs of having evinced and traded upon his capacity for expert financial manipulation in service of the polis, all that remains of the “financial expertise” theory is that various Athenian politicians—some early, some late, some of elite background, and some whose fortune was more recent—showed capability with finance and administration, and that some extent of their influence with the dēmos was rooted in the perception and appreciation of that capability. Indeed, far from originating with the expanding arkhē or after the death of Perikles, the recognition that successful management of monetary revenues and expenditures was key to the success of the polis is a through-line in Athenian activity of the fifth century, going back at least to Themistokles and the lucky strike at Laureion in 483.
The question of Kleon’s role in the financial administration of Athens is of long tenure in scholarship. Already in 1924 Allen West could confidently proclaim that “it is no exaggeration to say that Cleon, by common consent, soon took over Pericles’ position as the director of finances of the state.” [7] West essentially makes of Kleon the financier for what he sees as a “radical war party” at Athens, and connects him to the institution of the eisphora, as well as to assessment and collection of tribute. [8] A. W. Gomme responded to West by pointing out that the notion of a “position as the director of finances of the state” “misunderstands the nature of Athenian administration,” and he repeatedly expressed caution about the grounding in the sources for the connections between Kleon and Athenian financial administration. [9] In subsequent scholarship, however, Kleon has been viewed as at least a party to, and often the driving force behind, nearly every financial maneuver made by Athens during the period between Perikles’ death and his own. [10] Thus, it is necessary to consider the evidence for Kleon’s involvement with the three major innovations in financial policy during that period: the already mentioned eisphora, the Kleonymos decree of ca. 426/5, [11] and the Thoudippos decree of 425/4. As part of this effort we shall consider the other evidence for Kleon and finance (much of which survives in the contemporary or nearly contemporary work of Aristophanes) and attempt to paint a coherent picture of how Kleon presented himself as interacting with matters of finance, and how such interactions were perceived by the Athenian dēmos.

Our knowledge about the institution of the eisphora, a property tax, comes from Thucydides 3.19 (summer 428 BCE): “The Athenians, requiring money for the siege [of Mytilene], even though they themselves had paid then for the first time an eisphora of two hundred talents, also sent out to the allies twelve money-levying ships and five generals including Lysikles.” [12] Gomme notes that “Kleon, who may have been a member of the boule in this year, 428–427 …, is generally held to have been responsible for this special tax on the well-to-do,” [13] and Alec Blamire reiterates this judgment. [14] Let us deal first with the question of Kleon as a bouleutēs or hellēnotamias. Leaving aside the association with the eisphora levied in 428/7 to avoid circular argument, the case for Kleon serving on the boulē in 428/7 is so weak that Develin does not even mention it in his survey of Athenian officials from 684 to 321: “Ar. Knights 774 suggests [Kleon] was [bouleutēs ] before 425/4; does Acharn. 379-81 suggest 427/6? There may be some connexion with the eisphora of 428 (Thuc. 3.19.1), but what is suggested in Acharnians could be in the wake of that rather than exactly at that time.” [15] Knights 774 is strong evidence that Kleon served as bouleutēs before its production in 424, but it cannot be used to specify a more exact year, and it suggests not the introduction of an innovative and successful financial maneuver but the kind of frequent and ruthless recourse to the courtroom for which he was otherwise famous:

Paphlagonian: Just how could there be a citizen who cherishes you more than I do, Demos? First of all, when I was a Councillor, I showed record profits in the public accounts by putting men on the rack, or throttling them or demanding a cut, without regard for anyone’s personal situation, so long as I could gratify you. [16]
Aristophanes Knights 773–776, trans. Henderson 1998a

Aristophanes is mocking Kleon here for constantly harping on his service to the dēmos, so that the concern, frequently discussed in attempts to use Aristophanes to establish chronology, about comedy requiring a recent enough target for it to draw a response from the audience, is not applicable here: Kleon could easily have continued to brag about his “successful” time as a bouleutēs for many years after so serving, and, given the tendency in Athenian oratory to recall offices held and services rendered to the polis, it would almost be more surprising had he not done so. [17] Furthermore, the actions that he undertakes to “fill the public coffers” (σοι χρήματα πλεῖστ’ ἀπέδειξα ἐν τῷ κοινῷ) are brutal acts of enforcement and extortion (στρεβλῶν … ἄγχων … μεταιτῶν); while these actions could be standing in hyperbolically for instituting the eisphora, it is equally if not more probable that they refer to the solicitousness with which he carried out the many responsibilities of review and examination reserved to the boulē. [18]

For West, Kleon’s financial career was indicated and epitomized by his tenure of office as a hellēnotamias: “as Cleon became Hellenotamias in 427, it is very probable that he worked his way up to this position by the attention he gave to imperial affairs.” [19] Georg Busolt, on whom this hellēnotamia depends, [20] uses it to justify dating Kleon’s year in the boulē to 428/7: “He began to take an official interest in matters of state, for he must have sat on the council in 428/7, for other reasons as well as because he was, in all probability, Hellenotamias in the year 427/6.” [21] However, the subsequent redating of the inscription (IG I3 371) [22] which Busolt had restored for evidence of this hellēnotamia has removed all evidence for it, [23] and with it Busolt’s dating of Kleon as bouleutēs and the pinnacle of West’s vision of Kleon as “director of finance.” Rudi Thomsen, in his monograph on the eisphora, considers Knights 923–926, Wasps 31–41, and Eupolis F 300 K. – A. in addition to Knights 774, and he concludes that:

[n]one of these passages in Aristophanes, however, prove that Kleon was the originator of the motion on levying eisphora in 428/7. The first two passages [Knights 923–926 and Wasps 31–41] only show Kleon’s eagerness regarding the collection of the tax. Even less convincing is the last passage [Knights 774], which does not refer to the eisphora at all.
Thomsen 1964:169.

About the fragment of Eupolis, he concludes that even its attachment to Kleon “is mere guesswork, based on the unproved assumption that he was responsible for the introduction of the eisphora.” [24] Thomsen ultimately finds neither direct nor circumstantial evidence for Kleon’s instituting the eisphora in 428/7 compelling, and concludes that Lysikles [25] or another, unknown figure could just as easily be responsible.

Before we move on from the eisphora, Knights 923–926 and its context are worth briefly considering for their resemblance to Knights 774 and because, as we shall see, they fit the emerging picture of Kleon’s involvement with finance:

Paphlagonian: I’ll put you in command of a trireme at your own expense, an ancient hulk that you’ll never stop pouring money into and refitting, and I’ll fix it so you get rotten sails! … You’ll pay me a fine penalty for this, when I crush you with tax bills; because I’ll fix it so you’re registered among the rich! [26]
Aristophanes Knights 923–926, trans. Henderson 1998a

The Paphlagonian, Aristophanes’ stand-in for Kleon, is threatening that, to get revenge on his personal opponent, the Sausage-Seller, he will misuse his position (1) to assign him a trierarchy, (2) to ensure that the trireme to which he is assigned is in the worst possible condition, and (3) to enroll him among the rich for the purposes of the eisphora (an action by no means the same as initiating the eisphora). It would be a stretch in the extreme to interpret any of this as financial wizardry on behalf of the state treasury: it is vindictive pettiness on the part of one politician abusing the tools at hand to ruin a competitor for the favor of the dēmos. [27] Kleon is not an expert here, he is simply corrupt. We shall return to the Sausage-Seller’s riposte, which provides important evidence for the nature of Kleon’s involvement with the tribute of the allies. First, however, Kleon’s putative involvement with the Kleonymos and Thoudippos decrees needs to be reviewed and addressed.

The decree of Kleonymos will be considered first, both because it continues our chronological movement through Kleon’s career (eisphora in 428/7, Kleonymos decree probably in 426/5, Thoudippos decree in 425/4) and because there is far less evidence and scholarship tying it to Kleon, much of which is either the same as that for the Thoudippos decree or relies on a narrative including both decrees. There are six central aspects to the Kleonymos decree: [28] (1) each of the allied cities are to choose collectors (eklogeis) of the tribute to ensure its collection, and those collectors are possibly to be liable to scrutiny; [29] (2) lists of cities that have fully paid their tribute, cities that have partially paid, and cities that have defaulted are to be compiled and published; [30] (3) five men are to be sent to each city still owing tribute to collect on the debt; [31] (4) an amendment stipulates hastily bringing the proposal before the people to aid the war effort; [32] (5) the generals are to be involved in dealings with those cities that are in debt; [33] (6) anyone contravening the decree is to be prosecuted, and procedures for this prosecution are included. [34] Kleon shows up nowhere in the decree itself, nor is he explicitly connected to it by any ancient source, so what evidence is marshalled by modern scholarship to support his involvement?

Russell Meiggs and David Lewis, in their commentary on this inscription, note that “Kleonymos is one of Aristophanes’ favourite targets, a coward, a glutton, and liar (for references see PA 8680, i. 580). His politics were probably those of Cleon (see especially Wasps, 592 f.).” [35] In the Athenian Empire, Meiggs reiterates that Kleon “was supported by Cleonymus, Hyperbolus, and probably Thudippus”; [36] in defense of this “party-lite” view of Athenian politics he asserts that “[i]t would be naïve to believe that Cleon had no associates, and that the views he expressed in the Assembly were not shared by associates.” [37] Be this as it may, a similarity of views and even the possibility of mutual support in the ekklēsia are not evidence for Kleon as the driving force behind the Kleonymos decree, nor does the passage from Wasps really support a notable association between Kleonymos and Kleon:

Philokleon: Then Euathlus and Toadyonymus here, the weighty shield-shedder, swear that they’ll never betray us, that they’ll fight for the masses. And no one ever carries a motion before the People unless he’s proposed to adjourn the courts after the very first case tried. And even Cleon, the scream champion, takes no bites out of us! No, he puts his arm around us and swats away the flies. [38]
Aristophanes Wasps 592–597, trans. Henderson 1998b

All that we see here is Kleonymos, Euathlos, and Kleon acting as prosecutors and swearing their allegiance to the people of Athens. There is not even any policy connection suggested by Aristophanes between the figures. Note, however, the further connection between Kleon and prosecutorial zeal.

Nevertheless, Ostwald (and Meiggs) both push the connection between Kleon and the Kleonymos decree further: “there are indications that Cleon was behind two decrees that tried to squeeze the last drop of tribute from the allies … That Cleonymus and Thudippus acted as friends and agents of Cleon can be inferred from the severe and impatient tone of their decrees, and especially of Thudippus’s.” [39] Thus, for Ostwald, Kleon and Kleonymos have moved beyond “associates” who had similar beliefs and/or goals with respect to policy; now we have Kleon “behind” the decree(s), and Kleonymos acting as an “agent” of Kleon. In a note presumably supporting the association of Kleon and Kleonymos, Ostwald cites only Meiggs and Lewis 1988:188 and Meiggs 1972:317, both of which we have seen before provide little reason to think of the relationship as one in which Kleon dominated and gave direction. The notion of “tone” is, as Ostwald states, even more prominent in scholarship on the Thoudippos decree, but before we turn to that decree it is worth quoting at length from Meiggs, who provides a perfect example of the “narrative” into which Kleon, Kleonymos, Thoudippos, and the decrees concerning tribute have often been placed:

It is tempting to believe that the associates of Cleon had wished to raise the tribute again but had been successfully opposed by Nicias and his group who consistently followed a more moderate policy towards the empire. A decree standing in the name of Cleonymus may represent something of a compromise … The new radicals, having perhaps failed to secure a new assessment, were at least determined to see that the current assessment was actually realized, and the pinning of responsibility on collectors, who would naturally be selected from the rich, is typical of their methods … It was some advance to improve the machinery of collection in the cities, but, if we are right, Cleon and Cleonymus would have preferred a new assessment. This they were not able to secure in the Assembly in 426, for the opposition of the moderates was too strong. Twelve months later they had their opportunity and seized it.
Meiggs 1972:322–323

Meiggs is slightly more cagey about the relationship between Kleon and Kleonymos than is Ostwald, but he clearly connects Kleon with both the Kleonymos decree and the Thoudippos decree. For him, both decrees represent a partisan struggle at Athens in which “new radicals” who support the war with Sparta attempt to extract funds for the war effort from the allies over the opposition of a “moderate” party headed by Nikias. [40] Meiggs infers this partisan clash from “the polemical tone” specifically of the Thoudippos decree. [41] I add this emphasis because, to the best of my knowledge, Ostwald is the only scholar to associate severity of tone with the Kleonymos decree, as opposed to the Thoudippos decree. In this connection it is worth noting that the Kleonymos decree lacks most of the penalties in the Thoudippos decree which have been used to argue for the severity of that decree.

Let us turn, then, to the Thoudippos decree, and let us begin with the “tone” of the inscription before moving to other arguments for connecting it to Kleon. Meiggs gives the fullest statement of the camp who associate the decree with Kleon, and he is echoed by Ostwald and Meiggs-Lewis:

More important is the language of the decree, which displays the violence associated with Cleon and his associates. Penalties are threatened at every turn, and in the clause insisting on regular assessments in the years of the Great Panathenaea there is a strong suggestion of polemic. The general tone is reminiscent of the decrees of the early forties, which also threatened the executive with penalties on a liberal scale, and the two periods have something in common. In both there were sharp divisions of opinion and sharp feelings. [42]
Meiggs 1972:326

The focus is on penalties [43] and required regular assessments, which are connected to “the violence associated with Cleon and his associates” and “the bullying tone that gives Aristophanes so much scope in the Knights.” Looking back to Meiggs’ earlier narrative of the back-and-forth over war and tribute in the 420s, we can see Kleon as pro-war aligning with a pro-war funding decree. And the Thoudippos decree is certainly clear that it aims to support the army (lines 37–38; cf. Kleonymos decree 27–30) by requiring a swift reassessment (lines 8–12, 18–20, 33–38), which will increase the amount of the tribute (lines 16–22). However, the decree also directs considerable space to reorganizing the system of tribute assessment so as to regularize it and place it more firmly under the control and oversight of the dēmos. The clause insisting on regular, Great Panathenaic assessments (lines 31–33) fits better here than it does in the context of immediate wartime funding concerns, and we see in addition the taktai being required to assess in accordance with tribute adjudications in the hēliaia (lines 13–16), the establishment of a dikasteric court to review assessments along with the boulē (lines 16–18), direct and explicit rules about how tribute is to be assessed and under what circumstances tribute decreases are permissible (lines 19–20), the prytanies being required to introduce the question of assessment to the ekklēsia every Panathenaia, as well as carrying out other requisite actions related to tribute assessment (lines 27–31), and the routes and proclamations of the heralds being strictly controlled (lines 40–44). Loren J. Samons has astutely pointed out that these concerns are a common theme running through Athenian financial decrees in the 420s: “Developments in the bureaucracy of tribute-collection and the hike in tribute assessments of 425/4 obviously presented motives and opportunities for fraud in the system. So much is clear from the decrees of Kleonymos, Thoudippos and Kleinias.” [44] It is easy to associate Kleon with the pro-war position, since Thucydides 4.22 makes clear his opinion of peace in May 425 when Spartan peace overtures were being considered. However, should it be quite so easy a task to determine how much of the public control and oversight about tribute ought to be attributed to him?

To answer this question, let us look at our ancient sources and see exactly what kind of behavior Kleon is associated with when it comes to tribute. Meiggs and Lewis mention the Knights, and so we can start there. At line 78, Paphlagon’s hand is said to be among the Aitolians. [45] Paphlagon’s entrance onstage occurs as he is being beaten, an act which the chorus of knights cheers on: “rightly so, since you gobble public funds before you’re allotted an office; and like a fig picker you squeeze magistrates under review, looking to see which of them is raw, which ripe and unripe; yes, and what’s more, you scan the citizenry for anyone who’s an innocent lamb, rich and innocuous and afraid of litigation.” [46] A little later he is described as “watching the tribute from up above on the rocks like a tunny-fisher.” [47] At 438 the Sausage-Seller accuses Paphlagon of getting ten talents from Poteidaia, and then promises to charge him over a thousand times for theft (κλοπή). [48] In a further confrontation, the Sausage-Seller claims at 802–804 that Paphlagon is stealing and taking bribes from the allies while hoodwinking Demos, [49] and at 823–835 that he “breaks the choicest stalks off the audits of outgoing officials and gulps them down, and with both hands sops the gravy from the people’s treasury … [and] took a bribe from Mytilene of over forty minas!” [50] Then we come back around to the Sausage-Seller’s riposte to Paphlagon’s threats about trierarchies and the eisphora which we mentioned above:

I wish you this: your squid is sizzling in the pan when you’re scheduled to make a motion about the Milesians that’ll net you a talent if you get it passed, and you’re hurrying to stuff yourself with the squid in time to get to the Assembly, and before you can eat it a man comes to fetch you, and you’re so eager to get the talent that you choke on your meal! [51]
Aristophanes Knights 928–940, trans. Henderson 1998a

At 992–996 the chorus jokes that as a youth Kleon was expelled from music classes for a propensity for bribe-taking. [52] In the Clouds, the chorus advises the Athenians to “convict that vulture Kleon of bribery and theft, then clamp his neck in the pillory.” [53] Kritias, meanwhile, is reported to have claimed that “Kleon had not even the property of a free man before coming to public affairs, but subsequently left behind an estate worth fifty talents.” [54] A scholiast’s note on Acharnians 6 attributes to Theopompos the information that “Kleon took five talents from the islanders, in order that he might persuade the Athenians to lighten their eisphorai.” [55]

The clear pattern that emerges from these passages is the same as that seen in our consideration of the eisphora. It is not of Kleon as a master financial manipulator concerned with maximizing Athenian revenues, but of Kleon as just another corrupt politician, pledging allegiance to the dēmos and bragging about his accomplishments in office like any other politician while simultaneously lining his own pockets at the expense of Athenian interests. As Lowell Edmunds has observed, “Aristophanes’ principal explicit charge against Cleon [in the Knights ] is that he steals the city’s money.” [56] That Aristophanes saw Kleon not as anything truly unique, but as one of a type that was widespread at Athens is apparent from both the Knights and the Wasps. Thus, Bdelykleon in the Wasps speaks of “the ‘I won’t betray the Athenian rabble and I’ll fight for the masses’ bunch” who “extort fifty talent bribes from the allied cities by terrifying them with threats like this: ‘You’ll hand over the tribute, or I’ll upend your city with my thundering!’ While you [the Athenian dēmos ] are content to gnaw the rinds of your own empire.” [57] The entire plot of the Knights is an exercise in competitive corruption, as the Sausage-Seller overthrows the Paphlagonian by beating him at his own game; Edmunds comments on the “cheerful nihilism” of the chorus of knights in supporting the Sausage-Seller:

Cleon’s enemies were the σώφρονες ‘sensible men’, and chief among them was Nicias (Thuc. 4.27.5). The Knights exhort the Sausage-seller to prove, in defeating Cleon, that τὸ σωφρόνως τραφῆναι ‘the education of a sensible man’ is now meaningless in public life (334, cf. 191–2).
Edmunds 1987:19–20

When the Sausage-Seller warns Demos to beware of the Paphlagonian who is always requesting revenue-collecting ships, he ends by pledging to pay the soldiers on those ships in a hyperbolic promise comparable to Kleon’s own about Pylos. [58] Finally, Demos vaunts that he selects a thieving prostatēs to fatten up and then swats that leader down, [59] and that he monitors such leaders (plural!), pretending not to see their theft until he extracts the money in court. [60]

Several of the passages we have discussed are particularly meaningful in the context of the Thoudippos decree. The fragment of Theopompos provides one likely example of Kleon taking (or extorting) money from allied cities to lower their tribute, but similar situations also probably lurk behind the references to Kleon accepting bribes from the allies at Knights 78, 438, 802, 834, and 930–933, and this kind of personal enrichment is the best background for the image of Kleon as the fisher lurking in wait for the allied tribute at 313. Our evidence, then, suggests that Kleon was exactly the sort of politician against whom many of the stipulations of the Thoudippos decree were designed to protect. Furthermore, the idea that a career military leader like Nikias would have attempted to undermine the war effort by disrupting necessary funding for the Athenian army is not so obvious as Meiggs makes it out to be. Nikias was strategos six times between 428/7 and 421/0, after all, and would have been acutely aware of the need for augmented funds to secure military success. He displays this awareness twice in the course of the Sicilian expedition when, despite being embroiled in an effort he opposed, he recommends a large, well-funded initial expedition (Thucydides 6.21–23), and requests reinforcements and significantly more financial support after the venture has bogged down (Thucydides 7.13–15). The only real association between Nikias and lower tribute is the backing down from 425/4 levels that occurs after the death of Kleon, [61] but such a change can as easily be explained as a reasonable response to the lower financial demands of peacetime as by a long-standing policy of moderation with respect to allied tribute. [62] Besides, the “backing down” of tribute during the Peace of Nikias was not terribly significant: the assessment of 422/1, made before the Peace, likely decreased the total assessment from its high of 1460+ T in 425/4 to something closer to 1200 T, [63] and there is no indication that the assessment of 418 provided further decreases. [64] We should consider the possibility that the strong language mandating expediency in the Thoudippos decree was a reaction to the urgent necessities of the wartime situation, rather than being reflective of an underlying attempt to undercut the Athenian war effort, and that the attempts at regulation and oversight were actually aimed at ensuring that politicians like Kleon were not becoming rich at the expense of the Athenian military. In evaluating this possibility we must consider two further possible connections between Kleon and the Thoudippos decree: the timing of the decree, and a putative marriage between Thoudippos and the daughter of Kleon.

Much has been made of the close chronological proximity between the Thoudippos decree and the surprising and momentous success of Kleon at Pylos. The precise details of this hypothesis have evolved over time, centering largely on the mention of the returning army at lines 33–35, the appropriate restoration and understanding of the various prytanies named in the decree, and Thucydides’ timeline of Kleon’s Pylos campaign. Initially, H. T. Wade-Gery and Benjamin Meritt argued that the prytany dating the principle decree (line 3, entirely restored) should be the third prytany, and that the one in line 34 (partially restored) should be the second prytany. [65] On the basis of the stipulation that this second prytany was to bring the matter to the dēmos and even stretch the ekklēsia meeting to a second day if necessary to conclude discussion, it was argued that the probouleuma was formulated towards the end of this second prytany. This would be around mid-September, which would match up well with Wade-Gery and Meritt’s interpretation of the narrative of Thucydides as locating the Spartan surrender at Pylos around September fifth. [66] In light of this extremely close timing, Wade-Gery and Meritt proposed a scenario in which:

Thoudippos, knowing Kleon’s plans and policies, drafted the probouleuma of I.G., I2, 63 and had it ratified in the council as soon as the news of Kleon’s success had reached him. Still, he wanted Kleon in Athens when the decree was brought into the ekklesia and so inserted in the probouleuma the clause calling for an extraordinary session two days after Kleon’s return.
Wade-Gery and Meritt 1936:391–392

However, Gomme proposed a different chronology, arguing that “the second week of August seems to be the latest date possible for the finish of the campaign.” [67] Meiggs and Lewis objected to Wade-Gery and Meritt’s reconstruction on this basis, and by noting that, “[i]f this reconstruction is right, a stele was set up on the Acropolis which said that the members of the [Oineis] prytany would be very heavily fined if they did not do what it was already known they had not done (ll. 34–8).” [68] Ultimately, and without convincingly resolving some of the epigraphic points of Wade-Gery and Meritt, Meiggs and Lewis agreed with Malcolm McGregor, who had suggested that the ‘army returning’ in the Thoudippos decree referred to Nikias’ campaign in Corinthia subsequent to Kleon’s return from Pylos. [69] In 1971, based upon further discoveries and developments in his understanding of the calendar of 425/4, Meritt conceded that “the first decree was passed … in the fifth prytany, Leontis (line 3),” [70] and thus that “the decree was passed only after the return of the troops from the Korinthia.” [71]

Ultimately, despite the disagreements about the exact timing of the Thoudippos decree, most scholars have agreed that the decree was made possible by, and indeed indicates, the supremacy of Kleon. Meritt, even after backing off about regarding the decree “as the immediate consequence of that victory,” [72] still thought that it “came so close after Kleon’s spectacular triumph at Pylos that his prestige was high and any elective position that he wished could have been open to him … the assessment of 425 B.C. belonged to Kleon.” [73] Meiggs and Lewis come to a similar conclusion, noting that “the date is still sufficiently near to Cleon’s spectacular triumph to justify the belief that his political followers were primarily responsible for it.” [74] The situation is slightly different for McGregor, who attempts to take more fully into account the timing of the decree during/after Nikias’ campaign in the Corinthia:

The decree was not passed on the wave of enthusiasm which followed Kleon’s victory at Pylos. On the contrary, it was preceded by the failure of Nikias to accomplish in the Korinthia what Kleon had done on the west coast of the Peloponnese. Kleon’s party had been ascendant since his triumph at Sphakteria, and his influence was undoubtedly enhanced by Nikias’ futile attempt to counterbalance his rival’s recently acquired prestige. Nikias’ influence, then, might well have been insufficient to prevent the imposition of new burdens upon the allies. [75]
McGregor 1935:161

Kleon was undoubtedly popular at the time when the Thoudippos decree was passed, but can we assume from that popularity that he (or “his political followers”) were responsible for it? For one thing, we should take care in accepting McGregor’s judgment about Athenian feelings regarding the Corinthian campaign of Nikias. McGregor calls the expedition a “failure” and a “futile attempt” to match Kleon’s achievement, but the narrative in Thucydides does not support such an assertion: the Athenians solidly defeat the Corinthians in battle (Thucydides 4.44.6), withdraw in good order when further forces arrive (4.44.5–6), ravage the territory of the Corinthians (4.45.1), and fortify Methana to be used as a base for future raiding (4.45.2). Although the result was not as spectacular as was Kleon’s success as Pylos, there is no indication that the Athenians were displeased with the results of Nikias’ Corinthian campaign. Nikias was in fact elected as strategos again in 424/3 and 423/2. [76]

Furthermore, popularity with the Athenian people in no way guaranteed that a politician would have his way on any particular matter. After being introduced to the Histories in 3.36 as “by far the most influential with the dēmos at the time,” Kleon is immediately overruled on the question of how to deal with the rebellious Mytilenians. [77] The entire concept of the ostracism revolved around expelling a leader at or near the height of their popularity. Perhaps most importantly, however, the timing of the decree may actually argue against a narrative in which Kleon as leader of those supporting the war effort jammed through the Thouddipos decree at a moment of strength for himself and weakness for Nikias, his opponent and leader of a “moderate” party. If the scholarly consensus is correct about the timing of the decree’s passage, then the prytaneis of Oeneis are required to hold off on introducing the decree to the ekklēsia until after Nikias has returned with his troops. If Kleon was in Athens (and we have no reason to think that he was not), and the Thoudippos decree was a piece of legislation that Nikias had prevented him from passing, why would he wait until Nikias returned to Athens to bring the probouleuma before the dēmos ? Such a stipulation makes far more sense if Nikias was expected to support its passage. [78]

There is one final piece of circumstantial evidence frequently adduced to support Kleon’s involvement with the Thoudippos decree: a prosopographical connection between the politician and the proposer of the decree. In a footnote to the article of Wade-Gery and Meritt that we have been discussing, the authors suggest that the Thoudippos of IG I3 71 should be identified with a Thoudippos mentioned in Isaios 9 (“On the Estate of Astyphilos”) as the father of a man named Kleon:

Astyphilos πρῶτον μὲν ἐστρατεύσατο εἰς Κόρινθον not later than 394 BC (§ 14); so his father’s death when he was still quite a small child (§§ 20, 27–28) happened hardly later than 410 BC, and perhaps a few years earlier. Thoudippos, the alleged assaulter, may thus be the Thoudippos of I.G., I2, 63. The name is otherwise unknown, and it is noteworthy that his son’s name was Kleon. Put most concretely, was Thoudippos the son-in-law of the great demagogue? And did his second son take the maternal grandfather’s name?
Wade-Gery and Meritt 1936:392n36

Meiggs and Lewis called the suggestion “attractive,” [79] and Davies expanded upon it in his entry on Θούδιππος (Ι) Ἀραφήνιος in Athenian Propertied Families: “The first suggestion [that Thoudippos (I) should be identified with the proposer of the reassessment decree of 425/4] is as good as certain; the second [i.e. that he should be regarded, because of the name of his son, as the son-in-law of Kleon (I) of Kydathenaion] fits as well chronologically as it does politically, and is very probably correct as well.” [80] However, this association has been strongly challenged by F. Bourriot in his 1982 article on “La famille et le milieu social de Cléon.”

Bourriot attacks the proposed marriage connection on nearly every front. He begins by providing an important caution against reconciling simple homonymies, using as an example the Astyphilos of Araphen from Isaios 9, a rare name and a man who, by chronology, one might be tempted without further information to associate with an Astyphilos proposing a decree admitting Methymna to the Second Athenian Confederacy. [81] In the case of Astyphilos we have the necessary information to rule out such an identification, but the warning is well worth keeping in mind for the case of Thoudippos. Bourriot then examines Isaios 9 for support for the identification of Thoudippos of Araphen and the proposer of IG I3 71, concluding that there was none to be detected. [82] The political connection is also questionable. As Bourriot notes, the two are from different worlds: Kleon a nouveau-riche politician from the city deme of Kydathenaion, and Thoudippos from “a family of the sort which evokes more the rural milieu of Aristophanes.” [83] This rural background also means that “one can only with difficulty imagine Thoudippos, a peasant of the eastern coast, coming to the ekklēsia to propose a capital law on the tribute of the allies which requires knowledge far exceeding the horizon of Araphen.” [84] (It is worth noting here that Nikias seems to have aligned far better with the “milieu of Aristophanes” than did Kleon, given the notable restraint shown towards the former in his plays.) Ultimately, then, all that supports the identification of Thoudippos of Araphen and the proposer of IG I3 71 is two pieces of homonymy stacked atop each other: Thoudippos and Kleon. Furthermore, even if we lean towards identifying Thoudippos of Araphen and the proposer of IG I3 71 on the basis of the rarity of the name Thoudippos, the same argument cannot be made for Kleon: as J. S. Traill points out, “the name is known in at least 25 other demes and has about 75 Attic occurrences.” [85] Traill also endorses Bourriot’s conclusions about Thoudippos. [86]

We have seen that arguments for attributing the Thoudippos decree of 425/4 to the impetus of Kleon on the basis of tone, timing, and prosopography are all unconvincing. Our study of the evidence for Kleon’s interactions with tribute have revealed not a man with a financial bent who was dead set on squeezing the allies to provide more money for the war effort with Sparta, but a politician with a reputation for making money at the expense of the city coffers, precisely the kind of behavior that decrees like the Thoudippos decree and (if we accept Samons and Fornara’s redating [87] ) the Kleinias decree were designed to prevent. The timing of the Thoudippos decree and the stipulation therein that the prytaneis wait for Nikias’ return from campaign before presenting it to the dēmos is also poorly suited to the argument for a Kleonian initiative. Finally, as we have just seen, the putative family connection between Kleon and Thoudippos is extremely weak, especially without the added support of a previously assumed association between Kleon and the decree that Thoudippos proposed. Thus, it is necessary to agree with Gomme, against the general trend in scholarship, that “the common assumption … that Kleon was specially responsible for [the Thoudippos decree], is wrong.” [88] Such a conclusion may draw some support from Aristophanes’ complete silence about any connection between Kleon and the decree, a silence that made Meiggs nervous:

The view that Thudippus was the mouthpiece of Cleon’s group has, however, to admit one objection. Aristophanes’ Knights, produced at the Lenaea of 424, is primarily concerned with attacking Cleon, but the play has no clear reference to the assessment decreed only a few months earlier. It is difficult, in view of its temper, to believe that the decree was non-controversial, and Aristophanes’ attitude to the allies elsewhere makes it unlikely that he would have approved the sharp increase now made. Did he perhaps remember the Babylonians and feel that anything which could be construed as an attack on the new policy, especially when the final list had not yet been approved, might lead to another prosecution? [89]
Meiggs 1972:326

Our new appreciation for the Thoudippos decree resolves this difficulty in two ways. First, if Kleon was not associated with the decree, there is no particular reason for Aristophanes to incorporate the decree among his attacks on Kleon in the Knights. Second, if the decree was designed to primarily accomplish two goals—(1) to provide funding to continue the war effort and (2) to cut down on the corruption among politicians with respect to the tribute system—Aristophanes may well have been conflicted about how to react to it. He expresses strong yearnings for peace in many plays of the 420s, but he spends even more time attacking politicians for their corruption, and so he may have decided to take a wait-and-see approach on whether to decry or vaunt about the decree. [90]

Thus, what evidence we have for how Kleon was viewed by his contemporaries does not suggest a man who gained the support of the dēmos by possessing, and trading on, “financial expertise” or mastery of the mass of details of imperial administration that was beyond the reach of the common man. [91] Instead it suggests a forceful, opinionated man willing to take drastic steps to get what he wants, who gained the support of the Athenian dēmos by operating with the aggressiveness and polypragmasunē that characterized the Athenian ethos. [92] This is the same image of Kleon that has been discovered by close analyses of his speeches in the Mytilenean Debate in Thucydides, such as those of James Andrews, who notes Kleon’s appeals to a very traditional concept of arēte to persuade the Athenians to adopt his position. [93] As I suggested at the outset, this conclusion essentially strikes a killing blow to the “financial/indispensable experts” theory: if Perikles is perhaps the best example of a politician who was versed in financial minutiae and, on the basis of at least two passages in Thucydides, 2.13 and 2.65, used that financial knowledge as part of his appeal to the dēmos for support, [94] while Kleon shows no signs of similar capability or reputation with financial matters, surely it is perverse to suggest that only upon the former’s death and the latter’s ascension did financial expertise begin to serve as a critical aspect of a political career at Athens.


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———. 1998b. Aristophanes II: Clouds, Wasps, Peace. Cambridge, MA.
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———. 1981. “Kleon’s Assessment of Tribute to Athens.” In Classical Contributions: Studies in Honor of Malcolm Francis McGregor, ed. G. S. Shrimpton and D. J. McCargar, 89–94. New York.
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[ back ] 1. All dates are BCE unless otherwise indicated.
[ back ] 2. I have removed the footnotes to this text.
[ back ] 3. Connor 1971.
[ back ] 4. Connor 1971:126n68.
[ back ] 5. This can be seen both in Thucydides’ description of him at the time of the Mytilenean debate (Thucydides 3.36) as well as the list of demagogues or prostatai tou dēmou in Athens at [Aristotle] Athenaion Politeia 28.
[ back ] 6. For the details of Kleon’s career and family, see Kirchner 1901–1903 #8674, Davies 1971 #8674, Develin 1989 #1437. It is possible that Ephialtes could be said to have had a dominant period of similar or greater length, but we simply lack any evidence to support such a view, and as Mann 2007:135 points out, we lack indications for Ephialtes’ lineage. Although Nikias has a long career, he is eclipsed first by Kleon, then potentially by Hyperbolos, and finally by Alkibiades. On Hyperbolos’ potentially six years of power in Athens, see Theopompos FGrH (BNJ) 115 F 96c (= ΣAristophanes Peace 681) and Connor 1968:59–64.
[ back ] 7. West 1924:139.
[ back ] 8. West 1924:139–140.
[ back ] 9. HCT 2.278.
[ back ] 10. The association of Kleon with every bit of financial maneuvering in the 420s is part and parcel of a larger trend that Figueira deemed the “bad guy Kleon” approach to Athenian history (Figueira 2001). The “bad guy Kleon” approach views Kleon’s aggressiveness and brutality as driving a significant intensification of Athenian imperialism after Perikles’ death. The approach was taken farthest by H. B. Mattingly, who used Kleon as a sort of bogeyman to support a redating of many Athenian decrees to the period of his ascendancy. “Bad guy Kleon” is itself a subset of the deeply flawed “great man” approach to history, which eschews analysis of structures in favor of using famous individuals as the motivators for most historical events.
[ back ] 11. Samons 2000 slightly unmoors the Kleonymos decree from 426/5 by removing the necessity that it originate during Kleonymos’ tenure as bouleutēs, but he ultimately concludes that “the year 426/5 remains a possible, perhaps even likely date for the measure, while other years in the early to mid-420s should not be excluded” (189). Any date within this range will work for my argument here.
[ back ] 12. Thucydides 3.19.1: Προσδεόμενοι δὲ οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι χρημάτων ἐς τὴν πολιορκίαν, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐσενεγκόντες τότε πρῶτον ἐσφορὰν διακόσια τάλαντα, ἐξέπεμψαν καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς ξυμμάχους ἀργυρολόγους ναῦς δώδεκα καὶ Λυσικλέα πέμπτον αὐτὸν στρατηγόν. The debate about the precise meaning of τότε πρῶτον and the history of eisphorai at Athens does not concern us here, but for a good summary with literature see Blamire 2001:110. All translations are mine unless otherwise noted.
[ back ] 13. HCT 2.278.
[ back ] 14. Blamire 2001:110.
[ back ] 15. Develin 1989:195.
[ back ] 16. Πα . καὶ πῶς ἂν ἐμοῦ μᾶλλόν σε φιλῶν, ὦ Δῆμε, γένοιτο πολίτης; / ὃς πρῶτα μὲν ἡνίκ’ ἐβούλευόν σοι χρήματα πλεῖστ’ ἀπέδειξα / ἐν τῷ κοινῷ, τοὺς μὲν στρεβλῶν, τοὺς δ’ ἄγχων, τοὺς δὲ μεταιτῶν, / οὐ φροντίζων τῶν ἰδιωτῶν οὐδενός, εἰ σοὶ χαριοίμην.
[ back ] 17. Martin Ostwald’s (1986:204–206) argument that Kleon served two terms as bouleutēs is irrelevant to this discussion except insomuch as he connects Kleon’s attack on the cavalry, mentioned in Aristophanes Acharnians 6–7 and explicated in a scholion ad loc., with his membership in the boulē in 428/7. However, Edwin Carawan (1990:142–143) has suggested that instead of an action as bouleutēs at the hippeis’ dokimasia, the subject of the scholion should be understood to be a legal action brought by Kleon against the hippeis (which would not require membership in the boulē ).
[ back ] 18. See [Aristotle] Athenaion Politeia 45–49. If there is any sense at all to the hyperbole about his savagery, he may have particularly pursued allied defendants, who lacked all the protections of Athenian citizens.
[ back ] 19. West 1924:139.
[ back ] 20. Busolt 1890:640.
[ back ] 21. Busolt 1893–1904:3.998: “Er begann aber in der That als Ratsherr sich amtlich mit Staatsangelegenheiten zu befassen, denn er muss schon 428/7 im Rate gesessen haben, sowohl aus andern Gründen, als auch deshalb, weil er im J. 427/6 aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach Hellenotamias war.”
[ back ] 22. Accounts of expeditions to Macedon, Potidaea, and the Peloponnese.
[ back ] 23. Cf. Davies 1971:319: “Busolt’s identification of him as Hellenotamias in 427/6 (Hermes, 25 (1890), 604f.) did not survive Bannier’s re-dating of i.2 297 to 414/3.”
[ back ] 24. Thomsen 1964:170.
[ back ] 25. Thomsen, like West, functions with a party-based conception of Athenian politics, and sees Lysikles as the head of the “war party” at Athens between Perikles’ death and his own death (Thomsen 1964:170).
[ back ] 26. Πα. ἐγώ σε ποιήσω τριη- / ραρχεῖν, ἀναλίσκοντα τῶν / σαυτοῦ, παλαιὰν ναῦν ἔχοντ’, / εἰς ἣν ἀναλῶν οὐκ ἐφέ- / ξεις οὐδὲ ναυπηγούμενος· / διαμηχανήσομαί θ’ ὅπως / ἂν ἱστίον σαπρὸν λάβῃς. / … / δώσεις ἐμοὶ καλὴν δίκην, / ἰπούμενος ταῖς εἰσφοραῖς. / ἐγὼ γὰρ εἰς τοὺς πλουσίους / σπεύσω σ’ ὅπως ἂν ἐγγραφῇς.
[ back ] 27. Cf. Thompson 1981:156–157, who reaches similar conclusions about Kleon’s role with respect to the eisphora.
[ back ] 28. IG I3 68 (= Meiggs and Lewis 1988 #68, Osborne and Rhodes 2017 #152).
[ back ] 29. IG I3 68 lines 5–9: …               ℎοπόσ]αι πόλες φόρο-
ν φέροσ[ι Ἀθ]ενα[ίοις ℎαιρέσθον] ἐν ἑκάστει τε̑-
[ι] πόλει [φόρο ἐγλογέας ℎόπος ἂν] ℎεκασταχόθε-
[ν Ἀθε]ν[αίοις σύμπας ἐγλέγεται] ℎο [φόρος] ἒ ℎυπ-
[εύθυνοι ὄντον ℎοι ἐγλογε̑ς — — — — — — — — — — —]
[ back ] 30. IG I3 68 lines 14–16: ἐς δὲ κοι]νὸν ἀ[ποφαινόσθον ℎαι πό]λες ℎαίτ-
[ινες ἂν ἀπο]δο̑σι τ[ὸν φόρον καὶ αἵτιν]ες μὲ ἀπο-
[δο̑σιν καὶ ℎ]αίτιν[ες ἂν κατὰ μέρε·
[ back ] 31. IG I3 68 lines 16–18: ἐ]π̣ὶ δὲ τὰς ὀφ-
[ελόσας πέ]μπεν πέ[ντε ἄνδρας ℎίνα] ἐσπράχσον-
[ται τὸν φ]όρον·
[ back ] 32. IG I3 68 lines 26–30:                Π-
[ ]κριτος εἶπε· τ̣[ὰ μὲν ἄλ]λα καθάπερ Κλεόνυμ-
[ος· ℎ]όπος δὲ ἄρι[στα καὶ ρᾶ]ιστα οἴσοσι Ἀθενα-
[ι̑οι τ]ὸν πόλεμ[ον γνόμεν ἐς] τὸν δε̑μον ἐχφέρεν
[ἐκκλε]σίαν̣ [ποέσαντας ℎε]οθινέν
[ back ] 33. IG I3 68 lines 41–43: το̑ν στρατεγο̑ν ℎ̣[ένα τάττεν παρέ]ζεσθα-
ι ℎόταν περί τινος το̑ν [πόλεον δίκε δικάζετα]-
[ back ] 34. IG I3 68 lines 43–47: ἐὰν δέ τις κακοτεχνε̑ι [ℎόπος μὲ κύριον ἔστα]-
ι τὸ φσέφισμα τὸ το̑ φόρο [ἒ ℎόπος μὲ ἀπαχθέσετ]-
αι ℎο φόρος Ἀθέναζε γρά[φεσθαι προδοσίας αὐ]-
τὸν το̑ν ἐκ ταύτες τε̑ς πό[λεος τὸν βολόμενον π]-
ρὸς τὸς ἐπιμελετάς
[ back ] 35. Meiggs and Lewis 1988:188.
[ back ] 36. Meiggs 1972:317.
[ back ] 37. Meiggs 1972:318.
[ back ] 38. εἶτ’ Εὔαθλος χὠ μέγας οὗτος Κολακώνυμος ἁσπιδαποβλὴς / οὐχὶ προδώσειν ἡμᾶς φασιν, περὶ τοῦ πλήθους δὲ μαχεῖσθαι. / κἀν τῷ δήμῳ γνώμην οὐδεὶς πώποτ’ ἐνίκησεν, ἐὰν μὴ / εἴπῃ τὰ δικαστήρι’ ἀφεῖναι πρώτιστα μίαν δικάσαντας / αὐτὸς δὲ Κλέων ὁ κεκραξιδάμας μόνον ἡμᾶς οὐ περιτρώγει, / ἀλλὰ φυλάττει διὰ χειρὸς ἔχων καὶ τὰς μυίας ἀπαμύνει.
[ back ] 39. Ostwald 1986:205–206. On the implausibility of tribute amounts in 425 being substantially higher than they were in 478, see Figueira in this volume.
[ back ] 40. Peace with Sparta was, of course, mostly a dead letter between the Spartan rebuff of Athenian negotiators in 430 (cf. Thucydides 2.59) and Athenian successes at Sphakteria in 425. After that point, peace talks were hobbled by Sparta’s relative inability to make substantive concessions to Athens to return the situation to the status quo ante bellum, as Figueira 2019:193–198 demonstrates.
[ back ] 41. Meiggs 1972:322.
[ back ] 42. Cf. Ostwald 1986:206: “deadlines were peremptorily laid down for all officials involved in assessments and collection (ML, no. 69.9, 11, 20, 33–36); harsh fines and penalties, including loss of civic rights and confiscation of property, were imposed for noncompliance at every stage (9–10, 11–12, 15, 28–31, 31–33, 35–38).” Meiggs and Lewis 1988:196–197: “The association with the followers of Cleon may also be reflected in the tone of the decree, for this is perhaps the strongest decree that has survived from the fifth century. The executive is threatened with penalties at every turn, in a manner reminiscent of, but more intensive than, the Coinage decree (No. 45) and the decree of Kleinias (No. 46). The polemical tone of most of the clauses presupposes opposition, and a strong determination to override it. This is the bullying tone that gives Aristophanes so much scope in the Knights.”
[ back ] 43. Notably almost all of these penalties are aimed at Athenian officials allotted from the dēmos and not aimed at the allies; the same is true for the Coinage Decree, on which see Figueira 1998:319–423. Most scholars have noted the inward direction of these punitive clauses, which have served as the foundation for theories about partisan strife at Athens on the subject of tribute reassessment.
[ back ] 44. Samons 2000:193.
[ back ] 45. Aristophanes Knights 78: τὼ χεῖρ’ ἐν Αἰτωλοῖς.
[ back ] 46. Trans. Henderson 1998a. Aristophanes Knights 258–265: ἐν δίκῃ γ’, ἐπεὶ τὰ κοινὰ πρὶν λαχεῖν κατεσθίεις, / κἀποσυκάζεις πιέζων τοὺς ὑπευθύνους, σκοπῶν / ὅστις αὐτῶν ὠμός ἐστιν ἢ πέπων ἢ †μὴ πέπων. / καὶ σκοπεῖς γε τῶν πολιτῶν ὅστις ἐστὶν ἀμνοκῶν, / πλούσιος καὶ μὴ πονηρὸς καὶ τρέμων τὰ πράγματα.
[ back ] 47. Aristophanes Knights 313: κἀπὸ τῶν πετρῶν ἄνωθεν τοὺς φόρους θυννοσκοπῶν.
[ back ] 48. Aristophanes Knights 438: σὲ δ’ ἐκ Ποτειδαίας ἔχοντ’ εὖ οἶδα δέκα τάλαντα. Charges of theft: 445.
[ back ] 49. Aristophanes Knights 802–804: σὺ μὲν ἁρπάζῃς καὶ δωροδοκῇς παρὰ τῶν πόλεων, ὁ δὲ δῆμος / ὑπὸ τοῦ πολέμου καὶ τῆς ὁμίχλης ἃ πανουργεῖς μὴ καθορᾷ σου, / ἀλλ’ ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης ἅμα καὶ χρείας καὶ μισθοῦ πρός σε κεχήνῃ.
[ back ] 50. Trans. Henderson 1998a. Aristophanes Knights 824–827, 834–835: καὶ τοὺς καυλοὺς / τῶν εὐθυνῶν ἐκκαυλίζων / καταβροχθίζει, κἀμφοῖν χειροῖν / μυστιλᾶται τῶν δημοσίων… / δωροδοκήσαντ’ ἐκ Μυτιλήνης / πλεῖν ἢ μνᾶς τετταράκοντα.
[ back ] 51. εὔχομαι δέ σοι ταδί· / τὸ μὲν τάγηνον τευθίδων / ἐφεστάναι σίζον, σὲ δὲ / γνώμην ἐρεῖν μέλλοντα περὶ / Μιλησίων καὶ κερδανεῖν / τάλαντον, ἢν κατεργάσῃ, / σπεύδειν ὅπως τῶν τευθίδων / ἐμπλήμενος φθαίης ἔτ’ εἰς / ἐκκλησίαν ἐλθών· ἔπει- / τα πρὶν φαγεῖν ἁνὴρ μεθή- / κοι, καὶ σὺ τὸ τάλαντον λαβεῖν / βουλόμενος ἐσθίων ἐπαποπνιγείης.
[ back ] 52. Aristophanes Knights 992–996: κᾆτα τὸν κιθαριστὴν / ὀργισθέντ’ ἀπάγειν κελεύ- / ειν, “ὡς ἁρμονίαν ὁ παῖς / οὗτος οὐ δύναται μαθεῖν / ἢν μὴ Δωροδοκιστί.”
[ back ] 53. Trans. Henderson 1998a. Aristophanes Clouds 591–592: ἢν Κλέωνα τὸν λάρον δώρων ἑλόντες καὶ κλοπῆς / εἶτα φιμώσητε τούτου τῷ ξύλῳ τὸν αὐχένα.
[ back ] 54. DK 88 [81] B 45 = Aelian Varia Historia 10.17: Κλέωνα πρὸ τοῦ παρελθεῖν ἐπὶ τὰ κοινὰ μηδὲν τῶν οἰκείων ἐλεύθερον εἶναι· μετὰ δὲ πεντήκοντα ταλάντων τὸν οἶκον ἀπέλιπε.
[ back ] 55. Theopompos, FGrH 115 F 94 = ΣAristophanes Acharnians 6: παρὰ τῶν νησιωτῶν ἔλαβε πέντε τάλαντα ὁ Κλέων, ἵνα πείσηι τοὺς ᾽Αθηναίους κουφίσαι αὐτοὺς τῆς εἰσφορᾶς. For a thorough consideration of the odd use of the term eisphora in this scholion, see Hershkowitz 2018:145–146n429.
[ back ] 56. Edmunds 1987:16.
[ back ] 57. Trans. Henderson 1998b. Aristophanes Wasps 666–667, 669–672: τούτους τοὺς “οὐχὶ προδώσω τὸν Ἀθηναίων κολοσυρτόν, / ἀλλὰ μαχοῦμαι περὶ τοῦ πλήθους ἀεί.” … / κᾆθ’ οὗτοι μὲν δωροδοκοῦσιν κατὰ πεντήκοντα τάλαντα / ἀπὸ τῶν πόλεων ἐπαπειλοῦντες τοιαυτὶ κἀναφοβοῦντες, / “δώσετε τὸν φόρον, ἢ βροντήσας τὴν πόλιν ὑμῶν ἀνατρέψω.” / σὺ δὲ τῆς ἀρχῆς ἀγαπᾷς τῆς σῆς τοὺς ἀργελόφους περιτρώγων.
[ back ] 58. Aristophanes Knights 1070–1079.
[ back ] 59. Aristophanes Knights 1125–1130: αὐτός τε γὰρ ἥδομαι / βρύλλων τὸ καθ’ ἡμέραν, / κλέπτοντά τε βούλομαι / τρέφειν ἕνα προστάτην· / τοῦτον δ’, ὅταν ᾖ πλέως, / ἄρας ἐπάταξα.
[ back ] 60. Aristophanes Knights 1145–1150: τηρῶ γὰρ ἑκάστοτ’ αὐ- / τούς, οὐδὲ δοκῶν ὁρᾶν, / κλέπτοντας· ἔπειτ’ ἀναγ- / κάζω πάλιν ἐξεμεῖν / ἅττ’ ἂν κεκλόφωσί μου, / κημὸν καταμηλῶν.
[ back ] 61. ATL 3.353: “although the hope and expectation of lowered tribute assessments were in everyone’s mind at the Dionysia of 421, it was, after all, the date of tax collection and the old rates were still in force. Indeed, the old rates were undoubtedly reaffirmed at the Panathenaia of 422 when Kleon was still the guiding spirit of the Athenian democracy. Talk of lower rates came only after his death, and the death of Brasidas, and the progress of negotiations for peace.” Even this connection between Nikias and lower tribute has been significantly undermined by the more recent scholarly communis opinio: the ATL arrived at their conclusion about the identical assessments of 425/4 and 422/1 by dating IG I3 77 to 421, largely to match and support the narrative laid out in the quotation above. Subsequently IG I3 77 has been redated to 422/1 (cf. Meritt and McGregor 1967; Meiggs 1972:340–343), so that the total assessment was already decreasing “when Kleon was still the guiding spirit of the Athenian democracy” and, in fact, did not much change under Nikias (see nn. 62–64 immediately below).
[ back ] 62. I hope that I am showing here that it was not so much Kleon’s policies vis-à-vis tribute per se that caused it to be high during the late 420s and to return to “moderate” (on the high nature of these “moderate” levels, cf. nn. 63 and 64 below) levels after his death, but that it was his policy (adopted from Perikles) of refusing any concessions to the Peloponnesians that in turn necessitated greater funding, to which even Athenians in favor of peace with Sparta would not necessarily object. Even after Kleon’s death and Nikias’ ascension, as Blamire 2001 points out, “[t]here could clearly be no question of any return to pre-war levels of assessment until the debt to the sacred treasuries had been repaid” (112).
[ back ] 63. Both Andocides 3.8–9 (a contemporary source) and Aeschines 2.175 claim that the annual phoros during the Peace of Nikias was 1200 talents, and that this level of tribute allowed the Athenians to restore their reserves on the Acropolis. The total for the Hellespontine district in IG I3 71.III.121–124 is somewhere between 250 and 300 T, and Meiggs 1972:342 argues compellingly that the Hellespontine total in 422/1 (IG I3 77.IV.11–13) should be about 196 T. If the Hellespontine total in 425/4 is closer to 250 T, that means it decreases by about 20% in 422/1; a similar decrease in overall tribute would bring it from ~1500 T to ~1200 T, matching the testimony of Andocides and Aeschines.
[ back ] 64. Cf. Blamire 2001, 113: “[a] new assessment of tribute was due at the Great Panathenaia of 418, and five fragments survive of what is now agreed to be the quota list for 418/17 (ATL list 33 = IG I3 287). Extrapolation from the three preserved figures in the Hellespontine panel (col. II, lines 9–11) seems to establish that the level of tribute set in 422 had been broadly maintained after the Peace of Nikias, so that a return of 1,200T a year (Andoc. 3.9) is by no means impossible if taken to refer to overseas income as a whole.” Here and at his p. 111 Blamire seems to prefer a figure of 1000 T for the post-422/1 total tribute assessment. Such a number would make sense if the Hellespontine district’s total in 425/4 was much closer to 300 T than 250 T, but also requires distorting Andocides 3.8–9 and Aeschines 2.175, which clearly state that the tribute (φόρος) during the Peace of Nikias was 1200 T, into meaning instead “overseas income as a whole.” As best I can make out, there is no advantage to such an interpretation, as opposed to simply accepting a total tribute assessment of ~1200 T post-422/1.
[ back ] 65. Wade-Gery and Meritt 1936:390.
[ back ] 66. Wade-Gery and Meritt 1936:378–384, and especially Table 1 on page 383.
[ back ] 67. HCT 3.478. Wade-Gery and Meritt’s proposed chronology is based upon a somewhat questionable interpretation of Thucydides’ positioning of the Peloponnesian invasion of Attica with respect to the growth of the grain crop (Wade-Gery and Meritt 1936:379–380), which is rejected by Meiggs and Lewis in favor of Gomme’s interpretation.
[ back ] 68. Meiggs and Lewis 1988:195.
[ back ] 69. On the epigraphic issues, Meiggs and Lewis 1988:195: “If in the two places (3 and 34) different tribes are indeed mentioned, then it is possible that the tribe of l. 3 is Leontis Pryt. II, followed by Oineis Pryt. III in l. 34, and that the decree was passed on the last day of Leontis when it was known that Oineis was to follow. This, however, though formally possible, perhaps relies too much on coincidence. An alternative is to believe that in l. 34 the mason wrote ἑ Λεοντίς, though the aspirate is not dropped elsewhere in this inscription. This possibility, however, is strengthened if in l. 36 we restore, instead of ἐπὶ τε̑[ς εἰρεμένες] πρυτανείας, which we do not think can mean ‘the said prytany’, ἐπὶ τε̑[ς Λεοντίδο]ς πρυτανείας, the more normal formulation.” Meritt 1971:110–113 rejects both conjectures: the former (Leontis line 3 Prytany II, Oineis line 34 Prytany III) because it violates Ferguson’s law of sortition (“no prytany knew the name of its successor until its own term came to its close,” 112) and because giving the task to a newly beginning prytany would clash with the urgency in lines 35–38 that the prytaneis conclude the business ideally in a single day, or at worst by continuously working from that day forward, with penalties imposed if the task is not finished within their prytany; the latter (lines 34 and 36 refer to Leontis, rather than Oineis) on epigraphic grounds (“[t]he daseia is never omitted from the definite article in this inscription, which is a veritable model of careful and consistent stonemasonry,” 111). On the expedition, Meiggs and Lewis 1988:196: “we believe that the expedition referred to in the main decree is more probably that of Nikias than that of Cleon.” Cf. McGregor 1935:156–161.
[ back ] 70. Meritt 1971:111.
[ back ] 71. Meritt 1981:89 and 92. Meritt 1971 and 1981 move Oineis, formerly his second prytany, to the fourth prytany on the basis of its appearance in the Logistai inscription (IG I3 369.19), and make Leontis, the prytany in which the (first) decree was passed, the fifth prytany. He thus sustains over Meiggs and Lewis’s objections the idea of Oineis’s “failure” vis-à-vis lines 33–38 of the Thoudippos decree as “a dead letter” published on the stele, and evidence of “a surprising lack of official interest in the archival accuracy of the record” (90). However, a timeline placing the passage of the decree in the fifth prytany runs afoul of questions raised by Wade-Gery and Meritt 1936:384–385 about the feasibility of heralds dispatched in the fifth prytany summoning allied ambassadors to arrive in Athens by Maimakterion. In 425/4 Prytany V began around Maimakterion 4, and, as Meritt notes, the probouleuma will not have been ratified on the first day of the prytany: after the return of the army “there were to be still two more days before the business of the decree came before the Demos, and then one day at least of deliberation, possibly two days or more” (1971:112). Meritt (if I understand him correctly) appears to resolve this issue by having the heralds sent out by the probouleuma rather than the decree, speculating that “[t]he probouleuma must have been drafted late in Pyanopsion with the prospect in view of sending the heralds out immediately. They were enjoined by the probouleuma late in Prytany IV to travel to the cities of the empire” (1971:112). The procedure of sending heralds out through a probouleuma not yet approved by the dēmos is unusual at best, and is actively counter-indicated by lines 42–44 of the decree, which stipulate that the dēmos shall vote on the very wording that the heralds are to use. Ultimately, no interpretation is unproblematic. Meritt’s theory, although epigraphically sound, leaves a decree which is inscribed with “dead letter” stipulations and which leaves about three weeks for heralds to reach the corners of the empire and for allied embassies to return. Meiggs and Lewis’s theory creates several epigraphic irregularities and possibly does violence to the meaning of lines 35–38, but leaves plenty of time for heralds to be sent and embassies to return, and removes the problem of Meritt’s “dead letter” fine for the Oineis prytany.
[ back ] 72. Wade-Gery and Meritt 1936:394.
[ back ] 73. Meritt 1981:92–93. Meritt even notes that “[i]t is very probable that he was one of the assessors” (92). There is obviously no positive evidence to support this assertion, but beyond that, given the restrictions placed on these assessors and the degree of oversight stipulated it is questionable whether Kleon would even have wanted such a position.
[ back ] 74. Meiggs and Lewis 1988:196.
[ back ] 75. There is no positive evidence that Nikias or anyone else of importance at Athens opposed raising tribute assessments in the mid-420s. The contemporary plays of Aristophanes provide good evidence for a pro-peace position, but even if we assume that Nikias supported peace there is no guarantee that, after six years of war, plague, and eisphorai, peace would have prevented an increase of tribute assessments. Furthermore, once the decision had been taken to increase aggression against a Sparta shaken by the events of Sphakteria, it would have been deeply out of character for Nikias to deny funding necessary to support the war effort, as I have noted above.
[ back ] 76. See Fornara 1971:59–61.
[ back ] 77. Thucydides 3.36: τῷ τε δήμῳ παρὰ πολὺ ἐν τῷ τότε πιθανώτατος. Cf. also the description of Kleon at Thucydides 4.21.
[ back ] 78. McGregor 1935, despite his acceptance of the theory of Nikias as head of a “moderate” party, nevertheless admits that “the assessment decree itself contains nothing to which Nikias and the moderates could have objected” (161).
[ back ] 79. Meiggs and Lewis 1988:197.
[ back ] 80. Davies 1971:228.
[ back ] 81. Bourriot 1982:414–415.
[ back ] 82. Bourriot 1982:416.
[ back ] 83. Bourriot 1982:417: “une famille de ce genre qui évoque plutôt le milieu campagnard d’Aristophane.”
[ back ] 84. Bourriot 1982:417: “on imagine mal Thoudippos, un paysan de la côte orientale venant à l’Ecclésia proposer une loi capitale sur le tribut des alliés qui exige des connaissances dépassant de loin l’horizon d’Araphen.”
[ back ] 85. Traill 1986:41.
[ back ] 86. Traill 1986:41.
[ back ] 87. Fornara and Samons 1991:180–181. Cf. also Samons 2000:192–194.
[ back ] 88. HCT 3.501–502.
[ back ] 89. Meiggs’s assertion that Aristophanes would have disapproved of the sharp increase in tribute is questionable at best. In the Wasps, produced at the Lenaea of 422 (and thus while the tribute was, according to the ATL’s assessment, still at its high, 425-level), Aristophanes has Bdelykleon exult about the high tribute levels as a good undermined only by the rapacity of the politicians who steal the money for themselves, joking that the thousand cities paying tribute could each support twenty men, enabling twenty thousand Athenians to comfortably live “as befits their country and their trophy at Marathon” (Wasps 706–711; trans. Henderson 1998b). Thus, even a character named for hatred towards Kleon argues that the Athenians deserve the proceeds of their empire, and specifically the (high) tribute.
[ back ] 90. Cf. Ehrenberg 1951:48: “[t]he real aim of Aristophanes is always to fight corruption, not to hamper Athenian might.”
[ back ] 91. See Andrewes 1962. Pritchard 2015 has challenged this assumption that the average Athenian lacked the capacity to work with and manipulate financial matters, but his argument for the level of financial interest and discussion in Classical Athens may go too far in the other direction.
[ back ] 92. Samons has recognized better than most the importance of this national character and its long tenure at Athens; see e.g. Samons 2010, Samons 2016:9–31. See also Thucydides 1.70.
[ back ] 93. See Andrews 1994 and Andrews 2000.
[ back ] 94. At Thucydides 2.13 Perikles goes over the Athenian finances in painstaking detail to help them mentally prepare on the eve of the Peloponnesian War, and at 2.65 the dynamis of Perikles is said to derive in part from his γνώμῃ χρημάτων.