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A Note on Thucydides iii 68.5

  • A. French (a1)

Extract

In his Historical Commentary (ii 358) Professor Gomme rejected long-suggested emendments to the text, which, as it stands, dates the Plataean alliance with Athens to 519 B.C. Difficulties in accepting this date were long ago pointed out by Grote (iv 2 94 n.), adducing the text of Herodotos v 78. It must be admitted that, if the dating is correct, the episode is quite out of keeping with all else that we know of Peisistratan foreign policy, for during the thirty-six years of the régime Athens is not credited with any other clash with a mainland power. On the fall of the tyranny Athens is involved in war with Boeotia, Euboea, Aegina, and repeatedly with Sparta.

A possible reason for the caution of the tyrants and the belligerence of the régime which followed their expulsion may perhaps be found in the nature of the defence force of which both governments disposed. Before the tyranny the Attic army had evidently consisted of the landed gentry leading the retainers from their estates; the squires (knights and hoplites) formed, with the Pentakosiomedimnoi, the only properly armed force in the state, and Peisistratos was very careful to disarm it at the beginning of his régime; there is no suggestion that the confiscated arms were ever distributed to other sections of the citizen population, nor of any organisation employed by the tyrants to mobilise any citizen militia; indeed the organisation of the latter was one of the most urgent duties later undertaken by Kleisthenes.

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1 Cf. Ath. Pol. 16.7 (of Peisistratos) Against this may be set Thucydides' inscrutable comment, vi 54.5.

2 Ath. Pol. 15, cf. Polyaenus 1.21.

3 Hdt. i 64.

4 Hdt. v 63.

5 Arist. Pol. 1285a.

A Note on Thucydides iii 68.5

  • A. French (a1)

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