Kimon (507-449 BC) Greek nobleman

As son of the famous Miltiades, Kimon (also known as Cimon) was member of an old Greek aristocrat family. When Miltiades, the great hero of the Battle at Marathon (490), fell in disgrace after a tiny military letdown, he had to pay a fine of 50 talents, a huge amount of money. Because Miltiades did not pay, he was thrown in jail where he died one year later. Then Kimon had to take his place in prison to free his father's corpse for the funeral (as is expressed by ancient writers Diodoros Sikoulos and Iustinus).

The last chronicle might be apocryphal because the rich Kimon would have had no problem at all to pay the fine. His assets contributed to the fact that he could rival Themistocles at the Athens political stage after the Persian Wars. The main difference between him and Themistocles was Kimon's strive for peaceful relationships with the Spartans. Historian Plutarch has left us some writings about Kimon's huge contributions to the public services in Athens: he financed public buildings around the Agora, the main city square, such as the Hermenstoa, and let design public gardens. He was also responsible for the construction of the Theseion temple, where Theseus' mythical bones were laid to rest eternally. This was in silent remembrance of his father, who was said to be assisted by this mythological king at Marathon.

Under the democratic ruler Ephialtes, Kimon was forced into exile in 461 BC. This was probably because of his resistance towards the government, but according to Attic politician and orator Andocides because he supposedly had an incestuous affair with his sister Elpinike. Kimon was called back in 457, but could not play an important role on the political rostrum anymore. Plutarch writes about both cases in Life of Kimon:

They at once took open measures of hostility against the Laconizers, and above all against Kimon. Laying hold of a trifling pretext, they ostracised him for ten years. That was the period decreed in all cases of ostracism. (...) The Athenians did not long abide by their displeasure against Kimon, partly because, as was natural, they remembered his benefits, and partly because the turn of events favored his cause. For they were defeated at Tanagra in a great battle, and expected that in the following springtime an armed force of Peloponnesians would come against them, and so they recalled Kimon from his exile. The decree which provided for his return was formally proposed by Pericles.

During the siege of Kition (on Cyprus) in 449, he died of an infection.

Kimon was an Athenian but he was a firm believer in Sparta and Athens working together. He once said that Greece was a chariot being pulled by two horses Athens and Sparta. Indeed he was such a fan of Sparta that he named his son Lacedaemonius, which translates as Spartan

Kimon was the son of Miltiades and a member of the aristocracy, so it is likely that his sympathies were slightly oligarchic rather than democratic, however he was the key figure in Athenian democratic politics for twenty years. He first appeared on the political stage in 479B.C. when he was part of an embassy sent to Sparta. from that point on he was frequently elected as a general. He became the enforcer of the Delian League preventing members from leaving, and commanding all the major operations against the Persians with his finest hour being the victory at the battle of Eurymedon in 466B.C. where he defeated the Persian forces on both land and sea, effectively removing them as a threat to Greece for many years to come.

In 465B.C. Thasos seceded from the Delian League. The Athenians responded by invading the island to force them back into the league, Thasos responded by trying to convince Sparta to invade Attica. Sparta agreed. However in 464B.C. as the Spartans prepared to invade, Sparta was struck by an earthquake, the helots seized the opportunity and revolted. Sparta was only saved on that occasion by the quick thinking of King Archidamus, who organised the army to repel the initial assault. The helots retreated to Mount. Ithome, which they fortified and prepared for a siege. The Spartans were never good at siege warfare, and so sent for all their allies to aid in putting down the revolt. They also, unbelievably, asked Athens for help. The Athenians were reluctant to send aid, however Kimon persuaded them to do so.

Kimon led an army into Sparta, however when the siege failed to resolve itself swiftly the Spartans became nervous. The reasons for their nerves were that the helots unlike all other slaves in Greece were Greeks themselves, also in Athens the cat was away so the mice were playing. Ephialtes and Pericles were taking advantage of Kimon's absence to turn Athens into a radical democracy. These two factors made the Spartans wary of having Athenian troops within their borders when they already had their hands full. The Spartans sent the Athenians home but retained the other allies. Athens was humiliated and in true democratic fashion looked for a scapegoat, they found Kimon. Ephialtes and Pericles both anti-Spartans, rose in power as Kimon fell. In 461B.C. Kimon was ostracised, although there were allegations of incest it was really the result of him losing power, ostracisms were Athens' way of clearing the political air, when two sides were in conflict each one would vote for the other's candidate and the man with the most supporters, got rid of his opponent for ten years. Themistocles had ostracised Xanthippus and Aristides, Kimon had ostracised Themistocles, Ephialtes and Pericles now ostracised Kimon.

Kimon returned from his ostracism in the late 450's and found Athens at war with both Sparta and Persia, he made a five year truce with Sparta and engaged the Persians on Cyprus where he died of an infection.

Kimon was a man who dominated the Athenian political and military scene for twenty years, he was an excellent general and under him the Athenians enjoyed their longest period of peace with Sparta, indeed his ostracism took place in the same year that the First Peloponnesian War started.

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