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Cleisthenes and Ostracism: Precedents and Intentions*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2015

R. Develin*
University of Melbourne


The standard body of primary evidence would seem to make it clear that Cleisthenes was responsible for the law on ostracism at Athens. The only contrary element is Harpocration’s use of Androtion (FGrH 324) F 6, when he talks of Hipparchos’ ostracism in 488/7, . However, verbal similarities and other considerations make it likely that Androtion was the source for Athenaion Politeia (henceforth Ath.Pol.) 22 and Philochoros (FGrH 328) F 30, both of which maintain a Cleisthenic origin for the law, so that this will have been Androtion’s view also. It is easy enough to see how Harpocration, in a passage where, let us remember, he is concerned with Hipparchos, not ostracism, could have been loose or confused in his usage. Unfortunately, the rediscovery of a late Byzantine account of ostracism has led to the supposition that there is a difference between Ath.Pol. and Androtion, but that in a way both were right.

Research Article
Copyright © Australasian Society for Classical Studies 1977

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1 Other sources recording a Cleisthenic origin are Aelian VH xiii 24 and the Byzantine source to be discussed; also, by implication, Diod.Sic. xi 55. Thomsen, R.The Origin of Ostracism. A Synthesis (Copenhagen, 1972) (henceforth Thomsen), pp.19 ff.,Google Scholar is an exhaustive survey of the discrepancy between Ath.Pol. and Androtion and the reconstructions it has provoked; he concludes that they agreed (pp.59 f.) and had reliable information (pp.135 ff.). On the confusion in Harpocration and possible causes see Dover, K.J.CR 13 (1963), 256 ff.;Google ScholarSumner, G.V.BICS 11 (1964), 79 ff.;Google Scholar Thomsen, pp.56 ff. While I am prepared to believe that τότε in Harpocration can be a vague term indicating a general period (so Kagan, D.Hesperia 30 [1961], 394,CrossRefGoogle Scholar after Carcopino; contra, Thomsen, pp.22 f.), it is unlikely it was so in Androtion. As Harpocration is unreliable, the emendation of Keaney, J.J.Historia 19 (1970), 1 ff.,Google Scholar is unnecessary (against it see Thomsen, pp.54 f.); though the archetypal reading may have been τότε πρώτου, that is still wrong and πρώτου is the obvious correction, even if it creates a misleading statement. On Androtion as the source of Philochoros see Jacoby, F.FGrH 3b (1954), i.249 f.Google Scholar

2 Accepting for the moment the emendations of Sternbach, σκ€φαμένην for οκεψαμένων, which is painless, and τώδήμω for τύν δήμου, with which I am less happy; see below for an alternative suggestion. It would be well to offer a translation of the passage: ‘Cleisthenes introduced the law of exostracism to Athens. It was as follows: it was customary for the council, after some days of consideration, to write upon ostraka the name of anyone among the citizens who should go into exile and to cast these ostraka into the enclosure of the council-house. Whoever received over two hundred ostraka should go into exile for ten years, still enjoying the fruits of his property in Attica. Later the demos decided to establish a law that the ostraka cast for a man to go into exile should come to more than six thousand.’

3 AJPh 93 (1972), 87 ff.

4 AJA 55 (1951), 221 ff., already assaulted by Robinson, C.A. JrAJA 56 (1952), 23 ff.,CrossRefGoogle Scholar and now at inordinate length by Thomsen, pp.26 ff.

5 Bicknell, P.J.reviewing Thomsen in Gnomon 46 (1974), 817 ff.Google Scholar and Sumner, G.V.reviewing E.S. Staveley, Greek and Roman Voting and Elections, in Phoenix 23 (1975), 197 f.Google Scholar

6 I cannot accept Bicknell’s suggestion (loc.cit.) that Ath.Pol. wants to make the point that in 488/7 the demos first took part in ostracism. The form of expression, with the demos appearing in a genitive absolute (θαρροϋντοι ήδη τοϋ δήμου) followed by the general third person (έχρήσαντο), seems to militate against this view; Ath.Pol. could easily have said ‘the demos began to use …’ if he had meant that.

7 It would be possible to emend Raubitschek’s view and suppose that an initial ostracism procedure brought in in 510 was transferred to the people in 508/7 or so. But every indication is that the law on ostracism was connected only with Cleisthenes’ legislative programme, which I can place only in or after 508/7.

8 Cf. Sealey, R.Historia 9 (1960), 176,Google Scholar in the context of a quite different argument, on which see below n.46.

9 This against Bicknell, op.cit. (see note 5 above) 818 f. n.2.

10 Unless perhaps we conclude that Cleisthenes intended ostracism to remain in the council even when its number changed and someone else later thought otherwise. Our sources know nothing of this and even Vat. Gr. gives no hint of it, except in so far as Cleisthenes is not mentioned specifically in connexion with the change. And if Cleisthenes intended ostracism to operate in the demos, there is no reason why he could not have had it so at once.

11 See Keaney, AJPh 93 (1972), 88 (6).Google Scholar

12 See the argument of Thomsen, pp.66 f. n.23, though common sense alone would be sufficient support for the quorum theory; everything points to a quorum of 6000 and Vat. Gr. might just be supposed to agree if one adopts the emendation suggested in the text.

13 On what follows see Vanderpool, E.Hesperia Suppl. 8 (1949), 405 ff.;Google Scholarcf. Hands, A.R.JHS 79(1959), 73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

14 The archon of 669/8 admits of no investigation, while the grandson of the tyrant surely went into exile with Hippias and so would not be around when ostracisms began in the 480s. The dedication to Apollo by the latter Peisistratos cannot prove that he was in Athens in the early fifth century, as it must be dated c. 521; see Meiggs, R. and D.M., LewisA Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions (Oxford, 1969), no.ll;Google ScholarMeiggs, JHS 86 (1966), 87 f.;CrossRefGoogle ScholarGraham, A.J. in Acta of the Fifth Epigraphic Congress (Oxford, 1971), p.13.Google Scholar

15 Vanderpool, loc.cit; Ath.Pol. 8.4 I assume throughout that this law, though perhaps couched in anachronistic terms, is a genuine measure of Solon, designed to protect his ‘constitution’; see Ostwald, M.TAPA 86 (1955), 104 f.Google Scholar

16 On what follows see Ostwald, op.cit. 104 ff.

17 Ostwald, op.cit. 105.

18 See Hignett, C.A History of the Athenian Constitution (Oxford, 1952) (hence-forth Hignett), pp.161 and 313 ff.;Google Scholar Ostwald, op.cit. 106 f.

19 In this context I wonder if the phrasing of Solon’s law against neutrality in stasis, with its punishment Άτιμου κο¡ και τής πύλβως μη μετέχειν, is in fact merely legal prolixity and whether πόλις stands for πολτε¡ο, as supposed by Bers, V.Historia 24 (1975), 496,Google Scholar citing Lavagnini, B.RFIC 75 (1947), 85 n.l.Google Scholar

20 As was the case in the fourth century: Hignett, p.281 ; Harrison, A.R.W.The Law of Athens, Vol. 2 (Oxford, 1971), pp.169 ff.Google Scholar

21 The best one can do for evidence of a ten-year exile period before Cleisthenes is not very good. Solon’s άποδημία was for ten years (Hdt. i 29.1; Ath.Pol. 11.1); was this a voluntary exile corresponding to a new principle established by him? The fact that Peisistratos returned from his second exile in the eleventh year (Hdt. i 62; Ath.Pol. 15.2) hardly seems relevant.

22 Thuc. vi 55.1, with the emendation of άικίας to ατιμίας, in adopting which I agree with Hignett, p.162 n.2; contra Ostwald, op.cit. (see note 15 above) 109 n.29, whose argument from the limited meaning of άτψία is, on my view, without force, especially when the reading άτψία,ς bears a direct relationship to a law reported elsewhere. The extreme measures taken against those who joined Cleomenes at Eleusis perhaps relate to Solon’s law; Schol. Ar. Lys. 273; Ostwald, op.cit. 109 and Nomos and the Beginnings of the Athenian Democracy (Oxford, 1969), p.146 and n.l.Google Scholar

23 The idea of a precedent for Cleisthenes’ law is not new; Carcopino, J.L’ostracisme athénien 2 (Paris, 1935), pp.28 ff.,Google Scholar saw a modification of the severity of earlier statutes; this view can easily be emended on the lines I suggest. I find Hignett’s arguments on this (pp.161 f.) only partly persuasive.

24 Suda A4101 Adler; cf. Schol. Ar.Plut. 627; Raubitschek, AJPh 93 (1972), 91.Google Scholar

25 See Raubitschek, Class, et Med. 19 (1958), 78 n.3;Google Scholar Thomsen, p.14, against Jacoby FGrH IIIb i.311 f. None of what follows, of course, need presume the historicity of Theseus’ activities.

26 Bicknell, op.cit. (see note 5 above) 819, ponders the possible rehabilitation of Aelian as he stands: was Cleisthenes ostracized in the archonship of the possible Philaid Acestorides in 504/3? If he was, it would be odd, though not inexplicable, that our major sources have no record of it, rather agreeing that the first ostracism took place in 488/7.

27 So in Theodoras Metochites and probably Vat. Gr.

28 Cf. Carcopino and Hignett (above n.23).

29 So Ostwald, Nomos, p. 110.

30 Cf. Ostwald, Nomos, p.158.

31 Androtion apparently said something like διό την ύποψίαν των περί Πεισίστρατου, ότι δημαγωγός ών και στρατηγός τυράννηοεν. Ath.Pol. 22.3 διό. την ύποψίαν rηυ έυ ταΐς Βυνάμεσιν, οτι Πεισίστρατος δημαγωγός και στρατηγός ων τύραννος κατέστη is perhaps merely a variation, though it may widen the terms of reference (so Keaney, Historia 19 [1970], 5 f., though I cannot follow him in his attempt to dissociate this motive from Cleisthenes; as far as the sources go, the motive is that for the law, and Cleisthenes was responsible for the law; the motive could be a later deduction from the use of the law in the fifth century, but I would argue that it makes sense in its own right). Philochoros F 30 perhaps intensifies a little with άπως συν€κβάλοι και τους φίλους αυτών. Cf. also Heracleides Lembos F 1.6 f.: δ ιά τούς τυραννιώντας.

32 See Thomsen, p.24; Karavites, P.Athenaeum 52 (1974), 329.Google Scholar

33 Not that I believe the first ostracism did accomplish the aim of Cleisthenes. I would presume Hipparchos’ ostracism in 488/7 was connected with the matter of policy with regard to Persia; those favouring a conciliatory attitude could be identified with the ‘friends of the tyrants’, so that the rhetoric of those opposed to them could point to danger coming from that very quarter which Cleisthenes had suspected, even though the issue was not one of a projected tyranny and the law of Cleisthenes was revived to serve a purpose different from its intention.

34 Hdt. v 91 ff., 96.

35 Cleisthenes suffered no eclipse as a result of negotiations with Persia; see Thomsen, pp.123 ff. Karavites, op.cit. 331, thinks Cleisthenes satisfied his ‘constituency’ with a show of toughness. It was not leniency of the demos, as Ath.Pol. 22.4 seems to think, which allowed the ‘friends of the tyrants’ to remain in Athens; Karavites’ attempt (328) to have πραάτης mean ‘inconsistency’ will not do. Hands pointed out (op.cit. [note 13 above] 69) that the nature of the law, requiring a vote on whether to have an ostracism and then the ostrakophoria itself, easily allowed the immediate possibility of non-use. Sumner, op.cit. (see note 1 above) 82 f., rightly sees ostracism as aimed at potential tyrants; compare perhaps a clause in the bouleutic oath cursing potential tyrants (Ostwald, op.cit. [note IS above] 109 and n.31, 112 and n.45). Bicknell, op.cit. (note 5 above), thinks, not without reason, that the ideal setting for the law on ostracism is Cleomenes’ attempt to restore Hippias, the aim being to deter Hipparchos from supporting him.

36 Stanton, G.R.JUS 90 (1970), 180 ff.,Google Scholar looked upon kindly by Thomsen, pp.133 ff., 139 ff. Cf.Knight, D.W.Historia Einzelschriften 13 (1970), pp.22f.,Google Scholar Karavites, op.cit.

37 We are to see another element of propaganda at Hdt. v 74.1, where Cleomenes wishes to set up Isagoras as tyrant.

38 See Hignett, pp.126 ff., where Isagoras is daunted by obvious popular feeling and gives way. This is weak. Nor will it help to suppose that another Isagoras was archon in 508/7, as does MacCargar, D.J.Phoenix 28 (1974), 275 ff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar We cannot allow the reduplication of figures without evidence, and, in any event, it seems most unlikely in this case. There is no necessity to believe Isagoras must have been archon before and even if he was older than the norm when he became archon, he had a special reason to hold the office in 508/7.

39 Seager, R.AJPh 84 (1963), 287 ff.;Google Scholar cf. Thomsen, p.114. Hignett, pp.331 ff., saw the problems.

40 Cf. Hignett, pp.332 ff.; he nonetheless believes Herodotos does imply the laws were at least ratified before the appeal to Cleomenes.

41 Cf. Hignett, p.333. This is one point on which I can agree with Caven, the reviewer of Thomsen, in JHS 95 (1975), 243 f.Google Scholar

42 Pace Thomsen, pp.109 f., 114.

43 Cadoux, T.J.JHS 68 (1948), 114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

44 See Thomsen, pp.109 ff.

45 The suggestion is from Fornara, C.W.CQ 13 (1963), 104 with n.3;CrossRefGoogle Scholarcontra, Sumner, op.cit. (see note 1 above) 84; Thomsen, p.113.

46 R. Sealey, op.cit. 175 ff., argues that Ath.Pol. may have assigned Cleisthenes’ work to 508/7 simply because he found Isagoras’ name there in the archon list and he wishes to bring the date of the reforms down to the years 502/1 and 501/0, placing Alcmaeon in the former. He thinks it would be surprising if the bouleutic oath was instituted some years after the council itself and even more surprising if the factional struggle came to a head as early as 508/7. But the latter year is a sufficient time after the expulsion of Hippias for the struggle to have culminated, especially if Isagoras’ victory was represented by the acquisition of the archonship. And we cannot assume that the bouleutic oath was an immediate concomitant of the institution of the council of 500. Besides, the tradition does not associate Cleisthenes with the bouleutic oath or the election of generals. I see no good reason to reject the traditional date for Cleisthenes’ battle with Isagoras; indeed, the fact that the former won the battle in the archonship of his rival would imprint the date upon the record, be it oral or written. And, on my view, Ath.Pol. did not precisely attribute all Cleisthenes’ work to 508/7.

47 Ceitainly the action taken against Isagoras was not ostracism; he should be included in the measures mentioned above n.22.

48 See Ostwald, Nomos, p.149,Google Scholar after Lewis, D.M.Historia 12 (1963), 22 ff.Google Scholar

49 Nomos, pp.156 f.

50 See e.g. Lewis, op.cit.

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