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Encyclopedia > Mytilenean revolt
Mytilenean Revolt
Part of the Peloponnesian War
Date 428-7 BC
Location Lesbos
Result Athenian victory
Combatants
Athens, supporting Methymna and Tenedos Mytilene and other cities on Lesbos, weakly supported by Sparta and the Peloponnesian League
Commanders
Paches Salaethus, Alcidas, others
The suppression of the revolt in 427 BC was followed by a famous debate at Athens in which the assembly ordered the execution of the entire male population of Mytilene, but then reversed that order a day later.
Peloponnesian War
SybotaPotidaeaChalcisRhiumNaupactusMytileneTanagraOlpaePylosSphacteriaDeliumAmphipolisMantineaSicilian ExpeditionSymeCynossemaAbydosCyzicusNotiumArginusaeAegospotami

The Mytilenean revolt was an incident in the Peloponnesian War in which the city of Mytilene attempted to unify the island of Lesbos under its control and revolt from the Athenian Empire. In 428 BC, the Mytilenean government planned a rebellion in concert with Sparta, Boeotia, and certain other cities on the island, and began preparing to revolt by fortifying the city and laying in supplies for a prolonged war. These preparations were interrupted by the Athenian fleet, which had been notified of the plot, and the Mytileneans sent representatives to Athens to discuss a settlement, but simultaneously dispatched a secret embassy to Sparta to request support. Combatants Delian League led by Athens Peloponnesian League led by Sparta Commanders Pericles, Cleon, Nicias, Alcibiades Archidamus II, Brasidas, Lysander The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an Ancient Greek military conflict, fought between Athens and its empire and the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. ... Lesbos may refer to: Lesbos Island, a large Greek island in the Aegean Sea Lesbos Prefecture, the Greek prefecture that contains the island Slang word for Lesbians. ... Nickname: City of Athena or Cradle of Democracy Location of the city of Athens (red dot) within the Prefecture of Athens and Periphery of Attica Coordinates: Country Greece Peripheries Attica Prefecture Athens Founded circa 2000 BC Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis Area    - City 38. ... In Greek mythology, Methymna was the daughter of Macar. ... Gökçeada and Bozcaada are two islands in the Aegean Sea which are part of Canakkale Province in Turkey. ... Mytilene (Greek: Μυτιλήνη - Mytilíni, Turkish: Midilli), also Mytilini is the capital city of Lesbos (formerly known as Mytilene), a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, and the Lesbos Prefecture as well. ... Lesbos may refer to: Lesbos Island, a large Greek island in the Aegean Sea Lesbos Prefecture, the Greek prefecture that contains the island Slang word for Lesbians. ... Coordinates 37°4′ N 22°26′ E Country Greece Periphery Peloponnese Prefecture Laconia Population 18,184 source (2001) Area 84. ... The Peloponnesian League was an alliance of states in the Peloponnese in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. By the end of the 6th century, Sparta had become the most powerful state in the Peloponnese, and was the political and military hegemon over Argos, the next most powerful state. ... Combatants Delian League led by Athens Peloponnesian League led by Sparta Commanders Pericles, Cleon, Nicias, Alcibiades Archidamus II, Brasidas, Lysander The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an Ancient Greek military conflict, fought between Athens and its empire and the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. ... Battle of Sybota Conflict Peloponnesian War Date 433 BC Place Off Corcyra Result Indecisive The Battle of Sybota took place in 433 BC between Corcyra and Corinth. ... Battle of Potidaea Conflict Peloponnesian War Date 432 BC Place Potidaea Result Athenian victory The Battle of Potidaea was, with the Battle of Sybota, one of the catalysts for the Peloponnesian War. ... Battle of Chalcis Conflict Peloponnesian War Date 429 BC Place Chalcis Result Athenian defeat The Battle of Chalcis took place in 429 BC between Athens and the Chalcidians and their allies, in the early part of the Peloponnesian War. ... Combatants Athens Sparta, Corinth, and other members of the Peloponnesian League Commanders Phormio Machaon, Isocrates, Agatharchidas, and others Strength 20 triremes 47 triremes, some being used as transports Casualties None 12 ships captured, with most of their crews The Battle of Rhium (429 BC) was a naval battle in the... The naval Battle of Naupactus took place over the course of a week in 429 BC, in the early part of the Peloponnesian War, between the Athenian fleet under Phormio and a combined Spartan and Corinthian fleet. ... Battle of Tanagra Conflict Peloponnesian War Date 426 BC Place Tanagra Result Athenian victory The Battle of Tanagra was a battle in the Peloponnesian War in 426 BC between Athens and Tanagra. ... Battle of Olpae Conflict Peloponnesian War Date 426 BC Place Olpae Result Athenian victory The Battle of Olpae was a battle of the Peloponnesian War in 426 BC, between armies led by Athens and Sparta. ... Combatants Athens Sparta Commanders Demosthenes Thrasymelidas Brasidas Strength 50 ships Hundreds of troops 60 ships Unknown troops Casualties Unknown Unknown The Battle of Pylos took place in 425 BC during the Peloponnesian War, between Athens and Sparta. ... Combatants Athens Sparta Commanders Demosthenes Cleon Epitadas† Styphon Strength About 3000 440 Casualties Very few (about 230) 148 The Battle of Sphacteria was a battle of the Peloponnesian War in 425 BC, between Athens and Sparta. ... The Battle of Delium took place in 424 BC between the Athenians and the Boeotians, and ended with the siege of Delium in the following weeks. ... Combatants Athens Sparta Commanders Cleon† Nicias Thucydides Brasidas† Clearidas Strength About 2000 About 2500 Casualties About 600 8 {{{notes}}} The Battle of Amphipolis was fought in 422 BC during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. ... Combatants Sparta Arcadian allies of Sparta Tegea Argos Athens Mantineia Commanders Agis II Laches † Nicostratus† Thrasyllus Strength About 9000 About 8000 Casualties About 300 About 1100 The Battle of Mantinea took place in 418 BC between Sparta and its allies, and an army led by Argos and Athens. ... The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian expedition to Sicily from 415 BC to 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. ... Battle of Syme Conflict Peloponnesian War Date 411 BC Place Off Syme Result Indecisive The Battle of Syme was a naval battle in 411 BC between Sparta and Athens, during the Peloponnesian War. ... Battle of Cynossema Conflict Peloponnesian War Date 411 BC Place Off Cynossema Result Athenian victory The Battle of Cynossema was a naval battle in the Hellespont in 411 BC between Athens and Sparta, around the same time the Athenian democracy was overthrown in favour of a short_lived oligarchy. ... Battle of Abydos (410 BC) Battle of Abydos (322 BC) Battle of Abydos (200 BC) Battle of Abydos (989) This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... The Battle of Cyzicus in 410 BC was a small-scale naval battle during the Peloponnesian War between an Athenian fleet led by Alcibiades and a Peloponnesian fleet led by Sparta. ... Combatants Sparta Athens Commanders Lysander Antiochus Strength 70 ships 80 ships Casualties none 22 ships Th Battle of Notium (or Ephesus) in 406 BC, was a Spartan naval victory in the Peloponnesian War. ... Combatants Sparta Athens Commanders Callicratidas† 8 generals Strength 120 ships 155 ships Casualties 70 ships 25 ships The naval Battle of Arginusae took place in 406 BC during the Peloponnesian War just east of the island of Lesbos. ... Combatants Sparta Athens Commanders Lysander 6 generals Strength 170 ships Casualties Very few All but 10 ships, thousands of sailors The Battle of Aegospotami was the last major battle of the Peloponnesian War. ... Combatants Delian League led by Athens Peloponnesian League led by Sparta Commanders Pericles, Cleon, Nicias, Alcibiades Archidamus II, Brasidas, Lysander The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an Ancient Greek military conflict, fought between Athens and its empire and the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. ... Mytilene (Greek: Μυτιλήνη - Mytilíni, Turkish: Midilli), also Mytilini is the capital city of Lesbos (formerly known as Mytilene), a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, and the Lesbos Prefecture as well. ... Lesbos may refer to: Lesbos Island, a large Greek island in the Aegean Sea Lesbos Prefecture, the Greek prefecture that contains the island Slang word for Lesbians. ... The Delian League was an association of Greek city-states in the 5th century BC. As it was led by Athens, it is sometimes pejoratively referred to as the Athenian Empire. ... Coordinates 37°4′ N 22°26′ E Country Greece Periphery Peloponnese Prefecture Laconia Population 18,184 source (2001) Area 84. ... Boeotia or Beotia (//, (Greek Βοιωτια; see also list of traditional Greek place names) was the central area of ancient Greece. ...


The attempt to reach a settlement at Athens fell through, as the Athenians were unwilling to allow their loyal ally Methymna to be subjugated by the Mytileneans, and the Athenian fleet blockaded Mytilene by sea. Sparta, although it agreed to send support and prepared a fleet, was cowed by an Athenian show of force and took no action on 428 BC. On Lesbos, meanwhile, the arrival of 1,000 Athenian hoplites allowed Athens to complete the investment of Mytilene by walling it in on land. Although Sparta finally dispatched a fleet in the summer of 427 BC, it advanced with such caution and so many delays that it arrived in the vicinity of Lesbos only in time to receive news of Mytilene's surrender. In Greek mythology, Methymna was the daughter of Macar. ...


In the wake of the Mytileneans' surrender, a heated debate took place at Athens over their fate. One faction, led by Cleon, advocated executing all of the men and the city and enslaving the women and children, while another faction preferred slightly more moderate treatment in which only men who had been identified as ringleaders would be executed. The Athenian assembly wavered; an order for mass execution was issued on on the first day of debate but countermanded on the next. In the end, the city as a whole was spared, but 1,000 supposed "ringleaders" were executed without trial. Cleon (d. ...

Contents

Plan and preparations

The Mytilenean government (which was oligarchic) had considered revolting from Athens even before the Peloponnesian War broke out, but when they initially approached Sparta in the 430s BC the Spartans would not promise to accept them into the Peloponnesian League, and without the support that would have made it feasible the plan came to nothing.[1] In 428, however, the Mytilenean leaders judged that the time was ripe for revolt, and both Boeotia and Sparta participated in planning the rebellion. The primary motivation for the rebellion was the Mytilenean's desire to gain control of all of Lesbos; Athens generally discouraged the creation of multi-city subunits of the empire, and would certainly not have permitted Lesbos to be unified.[2] Moreover, Mytilene's privileged status as an independent state, commanding its own fleet, within the Athenian empire seems to have given its leaders both confidence in their chances of success and concern that, if they did not revolt, they might in the future be reduced to the same tributary status as the majority of Athens' allies.[3] The Mytileneans, therefore, began strengthening their fortifications and sent for mercenaries and supplies from the Black Sea region. Before they had completed their preparations, however, their plans were betrayed to to the Athenians by several of their enemies in the region, namely the Methymnians and Tenedians, and by a group of Mytilenean citizens who represented Athens' interests in that city (probably members of the democratic faction there).[4] Forms of government Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Oligarchy (Greek , Oligarkhía) is a form of government where political power effectively rests with a small, elite segment of society (whether distinguished by wealth, family or military prowess). ... The Peloponnesian League was an alliance of states in the Peloponnese in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. By the end of the 6th century, Sparta had become the most powerful state in the Peloponnese, and was the political and military hegemon over Argos, the next most powerful state. ... Boeotia or Beotia (//, (Greek Βοιωτια; see also list of traditional Greek place names) was the central area of ancient Greece. ... In Greek mythology, Methymna was the daughter of Macar. ... Gökçeada and Bozcaada are two islands in the Aegean Sea which are part of Canakkale Province in Turkey. ...


The revolt

Initial moves

The Athenians, who were still suffering from the plague at this time and were under great financial strain from the unexpectedly long and involved war, initially tried to negotiate in order to avoid taking on yet another military commitment in Lesbos.[5] When the Mytileneans refused to abandon their plans to unify Lesbos or their preparations for war, however, the Athenians resigned themselves to the necessity of a military response and dispatched a fleet, which had originally been intended for an expedition around the Peloponnesus, to Mytilene (ten Mytilenean triremes which had been serving in the fleet were interned at Athens with thir crews). The initial plan was for the fleet to arrive during a religious festival for which all the Mytileneans would be outside of the city, and during which it would be easy for the Athenians to seize the fortifications of the town. Since this plan was crafted in the open Athenian assembly, however, it was impossible to keep it secret, and the Mytileneans had ample warning of the fleet's approach.[6] On the day of the festival, they remained in the city, with doubled guards on the weaker sections of the walls; the Athenians, arriving to find the city well defended, ordered the Mytileneans to surrender their fleet and tear down their walls. The Mytileneans refused this demand, and even went so far as to send their fleet to fight the Athenians just outside the harbor. When the Athenians quickly defeated this fleet and drove it back into the harbor, however, the Mytileneans quickly agreed to negotiate, arranged an armistice on the scene, and sent representatives to Athens. In doing this, however, the Mytilenean government was aiming not at reaching an accomodation with Athens, but rather at buying time for their negotiations with Sparta and Boeotia to bear fruit,[7] and as the representatives were on their way to Athens, a second group was secretly dispatched to Sparta to secure that city's support in the rebellion. The city-state of Athens in ancient Greece was hit by a devastating epidemic, known as the Plague of Athens, during the second year of the Peloponnesian War (430 BC) when an Athenian victory still seemed within reach. ... Peloponnesos (Greek: Πελοπόννησος, sometime Latinized as Peloponnesus or Anglicized as The Peloponnese) is a large peninsula in Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Isthmus of Corinth. ...


Failure of negotiations and resumption of fighting

The negotiations at Athens were brief and unsuccessful. The Mytileneans offered to remain loyal if the Athenians would withdraw their fleet from Lesbos.[8] Implicit in this proposition was that the Athenians would abandon Methymna, and that the Athenians could not do, as failing to protect a subject city from agression would have undermined their claims to legitimacy as rulers of their empire.[9] The Athenians, accordingly, rejected the Mytilenean offer, and when the ambassadors returned to Lesbos bearing this news all the cities of Lesbos save Methymna openly declared war on Athens.[10] The Mytileneans mustered an army and marched out to attack the Athenian camp; although they came off slightly the better in the ensuing battle, they were unwilling to press their advantage and retreated back behind their fortifications before nightfall. At this point the Athenians, encouraged by the lack of initiative on their enemies' part, summoned troops from their allies and, once these arrived, built two fortified camps, one on either side of Mytilene's harbor, from which they instituted a naval blockade of the city (the Mytileneans and their allies continued to control all the land outside the Athenian fortifications).


Sparta wavers

Immediately after the Mytilenean attack on the Athenian camp, a trireme bearing ambassadors from Sparta and Boeotia slipped past the Athenians into Mytilene and persuaded the Mytileneans to send a second trireme full of ambassadors to Sparta to make the case for intervention (the Spartan and Boeotian ambassadors had been en route since before the revolt broke out but had been unable to enter the city before this point).[11] This second group of ambassadors arrived within a week of the first, in July, but neither secured any immediate assistance; the Spartans deferred the decision over Mytilene to the Peloponnesian League as a whole, which would be convening at Olympia later that summer.[12] At that meeting, the Mytilenean ambassadors gave a speech in which they gave justifications for their revolt, emphasized Athens' weakness, and stressed the importance of attacking the Athenians in the empire, from which they drew their resources.[13] After hearing this speech, the Spartans and their allies voted to accept the Lesbians into their alliance and attack Athens immediately in support of the revolt.[14] Coordinates 37°4′ N 22°26′ E Country Greece Periphery Peloponnese Prefecture Laconia Population 18,184 source (2001) Area 84. ... Boeotia or Beotia (//, (Greek Βοιωτια; see also list of traditional Greek place names) was the central area of ancient Greece. ... The Peloponnesian League was an alliance of states in the Peloponnese in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. By the end of the 6th century, Sparta had become the most powerful state in the Peloponnese, and was the political and military hegemon over Argos, the next most powerful state. ... Coordinates 37°38′ N 21°37′ E Country Greece Periphery West Greece Prefecture Elis Province Ilia Population 11,069 source (2001) Elevation 63 m Postal code 270 65 Area code 26240 Licence plate code ΗΑ Olympia (Greek: Olympía or Olýmpia, older transliterations, Olimpia, Olimbia), a sanctuary of ancient Greece...


The plans made at Olympia called for all the allied states to send their contingents to the isthmus of Corinth to join together and prepare to advance on Athens.[15] The Spartan contingent was the first to arrive, and set about dragging ships across the isthmus from the gulf of Corinth so as to be able to attack simultaneously on land and sea. While the Spartans set enthusiastically about this work, however, the other allies sent in their contingents only slowly; the harvest was underway, and the allies were tired of constant military service (their service had already been called on that summer for a month-long invasion of Attica beginning in May).[16] The Athenians, meanwhile, aware that the Peloponnesian's readiness to attack derived in part from the Mytileneans' assertions that Athens was critically weakened, prepared a fleet of 100 ships to raid the coast of the Peloponnese. Preparing the fleet required extreme measures, as the state's resources were already stretched thin; as not enough thetes (poor citizens) were available for service to crew the fleet fully, both zeugitai (landowners who usually fought as hoplites) and metics (resident aliens) were recruited to serve as rowers.[17] The fleet raided at will along the Peloponnesian coast, and the Spartans, who had been promised that the forty ships at Mytilene and the forty that had circumnavigated the Peloponnese earlier in the summer were all the Athenians could muster,[18] concluded that they had been deceived and called off their plans to launch an attack that summer. The Isthmus of Corinth is the narrow landbridge which connects the Peloponnesos peninsula with the mainland of Greece, near the city of Corinth. ... The Gulf of Corinth or the Corinthian Gulf is a deep inlet of the Ionian Sea separating the Peloponnese from western mainland Greece. ... Hoplites depicted on an Attic vase dated to 510-500 BC The Hoplite was a heavy infantryman that was the central focus of warfare in Ancient Greece. ... In ancient Greece, the term metic meant resident alien, a person who did not have citizen rights in their Greek city-state (polis) of residence. ...


Fighting on Lesbos

While the Spartan force was at the isthmus making its preparations, the Mytileneans and their allies launched an attack on Methymna, expecting that the city would be betrayed to them from within.[19] In the event, however, the promised betrayal failed to materialize, and the attack was repulsed. The Mytileneans returned home, stopping along the way to help strengthen the fortifications of several of their allies near Methymna. Once the Mytileneans were gone, the Methymnians marched out against one of these cities, Antissa but were defeated by the Antissans and their mercenaries in fighting outside that city's walls. Antissa (Αντισσαιος) was a city of the island Lesbos (Lesvos), near to Cape Sigrium, the western point of Lesbos. ...


At this point the Athenians, realizing that their force at Lesbos was insufficient to cope with the Mytilineans, dispatched an additional 1,000 hoplites to the scene. The Athenians at Lesbos were now able to gain control of the land around Mytilene and build a wall of circumvallation around the city, completing the blockade of the city. circumvallation in Alesia Circumvallation is a standard military tactic of siege used in ancient and modern warfare. ...


Siege, relief effort, and surrender

To pay the expenses of the ongoing siege in their current state of financial crisis, the Athenians were forced to turn to two extraordinary measures. First, they imposed an eisphora, or direct tax, on their own citizens.[20] Ancient Greeks were extremely reluctant to use measures such as this, which were regarded as an imposition on personal freedom, and in fact this may have been the first time that such a tax was ever imposed at Athens.[21] At the same time, an increase in the tribute imposed on Athens' subjects was announced, and twelve ships were sent out to collect the new assessments several months before the usual time; this action clearly triggered resistance, as one of the generals commanding these ships was killed while attempting to make collections in Caria.[22] Location of Caria Caria (Greek Καρία; see also List of traditional Greek place names) was a region of Asia Minor, situated south of Ionia, and west of Phrygia and Lycia. ...


In the summer of 427 BC, the Spartans and their allies planned a concerted effort on land and sea to strain Athens' resources and relieve the siege at Mytilene. The annual invasion of Attica that year was the second largest of the Archidamian War, exceeded in duration and destructiveness only by that of 430.[23] While this invasion was underway, 42 ships under the command of the navarch Alcidas were sent out to Mytilene; the plan was that the Athenians would be preoccupied with the invasion and unable to devote their full attention to Alcidas and his fleet.[24] Combatants Delian League led by Athens Peloponnesian League led by Sparta Commanders Pericles Cleon Nicias Alcibiades Archidamus II Brasidas Lysander The Peloponnesian War (431 BC–404 BC) was an Ancient Greek military conflict fought between Athens and its empire and the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. ... Navarch is a Greek word meaning leader of the ships. ...


At Mytilene, however, time was rapidly running out for the Peloponnesians to come to the rescue. A Spartan representative, Salaethus, had been smuggled into the city in a trireme at the end of the winter with news of the relief scheme, and had taken command of the defenses there in anticipation of the fleet's arrival.[25] Food supplies in the city, however, were exhausted at some point early in the summer, and, since the fleet had yet to materialize, Salaethus was forced to gamble on a breakout attempt.[26] Hoplite armor was issued to all the citizens, most of whom heretofore had only served as light troops, in preparation for this attempt, but once the people were armed in this way they refused to obey the government and demanded that the authorities distribute any remaining food supplies, threatening to come to terms with the Athenians on their own if this was not done. Realizing that they could not prevent this, and that a peace concluded without their involvement would surely be fatal to them, the members of the government contacted the Athenian commander and surrendered, on the condition that none of the Mytileneans should be imprisoned, enslaved, or executed until representatives from the city had presented their case at Athens. Hoplites depicted on an Attic vase dated to 510-500 BC The Hoplite was a heavy infantryman that was the central focus of warfare in Ancient Greece. ...


While these events were taking place, Alcidas advanced slowly and cautiously with his fleet, wasting a great deal of time in rounding the Peloponnese. Although he succeeded in giving the Athenians the slip and reaching Delos without being discovered, he reached Erythrae on the coast of Ionia a few days later only to learn that Mytilene had already fallen.[27] At this point the commander of the contingent from Elis advocated launching an attack on the Athenians at Mytilene, arguing that since they had only recently taken the city they would be off their guard and vulnerable to a surpise attack.[28] Alcidas, however, was unwilling to attempt such a bold action, and also rejected a plan to seize some Ionian city as a base from which to foment rebellion in the empire. Indeed, once he learned of Mytilene's surrender Alcidas's primary goal was to return home without having to confront the Athenian fleet, and he accordingly began sailing southwards down the Ionian coast. Off Clarus he was spotted by the Athenian messenger ships Paralus and Salaminia, and the Athenian fleet set out from Mytilene to pursue him. Alcidas, however, set out from Ephesus in full flight back to the Peloponnese, neither landing nor stopping until he was safely home, and thus escaped his pursuers. After this, the Athenians returned to Lesbos and reduced the remaining rebellious cities there.[29] The island of Delos, Carl Anton Joseph Rottmann, 1847 The island of Delos (Greek: Δήλος, Dhilos), isolated in the centre of the roughly circular ring of islands called the Cyclades, near Mykonos, had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Olympian Greek mythology made it the birthplace of... Erythrae (mod. ... Ionia (Greek Ιωνία; see also List of traditional Greek place names) was an ancient region of southwestern coastal Anatolia (now in Turkey) on the Aegean Sea. ... Elis, or Eleia (Greek, Modern: Ήλιδα Ilida, Ancient/Katharevousa: Ήλις, also Ilis, Doric: Άλις) is an ancient district within the modern prefecture of Ilia. ... Ionia (Greek Ιωνία; see also List of traditional Greek place names) was an ancient region of southwestern coastal Anatolia (now in Turkey) on the Aegean Sea. ... The Dogcow The Dogcow is a bitmapped image first introduced by Apple Computer. ... Historical Map of Ephesus, from Meyers Konversationslexikon 1888 Ephesus (Greek: , Turkish: ), was one of the great cities of the Ionian Greeks in Asia Minor, located in Lydia where the Cayster River (Küçük Menderes) flows into the Aegean Sea (in modern day Turkey). ...


Debate at Athens

After he completed subduing Mytilene, Paches sent the greater part of his army back to Athens, and sent with it the Mytileneans who he had identified as particularly culpable in the revolt and the captured Spartan general Salaethus. Salaethus was executed immediately, although he suggested that, in return for his life, he would have the Spartan force besieging Plataea withdrawn.[30] The assembly then turned its attention to the question of what to do with the prisoners at Athens and the rest of the Mytileneans back on Lesbos. What followed was one of the most famous debates in the history of the Athenian democracy, and one of only two occasions on which Thucydides records the content of opposing speeches in the assembly.[31] As such, the debate has been the subject of much scholarly analysis, aimed elucidating both the circumstances of the revolt and the internal politics of Athens at that time. Please wikify (format) this article as suggested in the Guide to layout and the Manual of Style. ... The speakers platform in the Pnyx, the meeting ground of the assembly where all the great political struggles of Athens were fought during the Golden Age. Here Athenian statesmen stood to speak, such as Pericles and Aristides in the 5th century BC and Demosthenes and Aeschines in the 4th... Bust of Thucydides residing in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. ...


Thucydides' account

The debate reported by Thucydides took place over two days. On the first day, the events of which Thucydides only summarizes, the Athenians angrily condemned the entire male population of Mytilene to death, and the women and children to slavery.[32] The citizens were particularly enraged that the revolt had brought a Spartan fleet into Ionian waters, where it would never have passed in normal circumstances and where no enemy fleet had sailed in over 20 years. In accordance with the assembly's decision, a trireme was dispatched to Mytilene bearing orders for Paches to execute the Mytilenean men.


On the next day, however, as the Athenians considered the severity of the measure they had just passed, a number of citizens began to have second thoughts.[33] Aware of this trend, the Mytilenean delegation that had been sent to Athens to present that city's case asked the prytanies to call a meeting of the assembly, and those officials acquiesced. At that meeting, a debate took place between those who supported the previous day's decree and those who called for a milder punishment. The first speech that Thucydides records was given by Cleon, who had proposed the previous day's motion. This speech marks Cleon's first appearance in the historical record, and Thucydides introduces him by saying that "he was remarkable among the Athenians for the violence of his character, and at this time he exercised far the greatest influence over the people." Cleon (d. ...


In Cleon's speech, as reported by Thucydides, the politician argues that consistent enforcement of laws, even when they seem unjust, is the only way to maintaining order, and moreover that the Mytilenean people as a whole (not merely the aristocracy) had revolted against Athens, and thus deserved to be condemned.[34] The speech is filled with acerbic criticism of the Athenian people, and of certain elements of the ideology of democracy, and it lays out an imperial ideology that openly describes Athens' rule as a tyranny and embraces it as such.[35] Part of Cleon's speech was devoted to attacking those who would speak against him, maintaining that anyone who would speak on behalf of the Mytileneans must have been bribed.[36] Certain elements of the speech evoke arguments made by Pericles in his famous funeral oration, and it is clear that Cleon, as portrayed by Thucydides, is deliberately laying claim to aspects of Pericles' mantle of leadership with his speech.[37] In content, the speech asserts that all the people of Mytilene, who had revolted from Athens despite their status as a favored subject, are highly culpable for this act, and presents the argument that equal and strict treatment for all is the only way to prevent favored or privileged groups from becoming ambitious and overreaching.[38] Pericles or Perikles (c. ...


After Cleon's speech, Thucydides presents a speech by Diodotus, a politician who appears only this once in recorded history, but who, Thucydides reports, had also spoken against Cleon's proposal the previous day.[39] He is identified as "Diodotus, son of Eucrates";[40] the Eucrates in question is presumably a fairly prominent lieutenant of Pericles mentioned on several occasions before this.[41] The early portion of Diodotus' speech is devoted to refuting the charges that Cleon had preemptively levelled against those who would speak after him, principally by arguing that the assembly would deprive itself of wise counsel if it constantly examined the motives of speakers instead of the arguments they presented.[42] With this necessary self-defense out of the way, the speech turns next to dismissing Cleon's argument for deterrence on the grounds that no state revolts in the expectation of failure, and that the more useful countermeasure, therefore, is a mild punishment that will allow for reconsideration once the revolt has turned badly. Throughout the speech, Diodotus refuses to stray from the grounds of expediency, reminding the Athenians that they sit not as a court of law but as political assembly, dedicated to determining what action is most advantageous for Athens. On the issue of culpability, however, he flatly denies that the demos shares in the guilt of the oligarchs, and warns the assembly against alienating its potential friends throughout the empire.[43]


After speeches on the motion concluded, the assembly voted, by a narrow margin, to overturn the previous day's decree.[44] Cleon then put forward a second motion proposing the execution, without trial, of the 1,000 Lesbians who Paches had selected out as most responsible for the rebellion; that motion carried without recorded discussion. A ship was immediately dispatched to Mytilene to countermand the execution order sent out the previous day. The Mytilenean representatives in Athens offered a sizable reward to the crew if the ship arrived in time to prevent the executions and, rowing day and night, sleeping in shifts, and eating at their oars, the rowers of the second trireme managed to make up the first ship's one day lead and arrive at Mytilene just as Paches was reading the original order, in time to prevent its execution.


Modern analyses

Authenticity of the speeches

As with all the speeches reported by Thucydides, the resemblance between Cleon's and Diodotus' speeches as the historian recorded them and the speeches actually given has been the subject of much debate. In the famous passage where he lays out his methodology for reporting the content of speeches, Thucydides states that "my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said."[45] Various historians have either stressed the first clause of this sentence and reached the conclusion that Thucydides put words into his speakers' mouths or emphasized the second clause and concluded that Thucydides' speeches maintain the basic sense of the speeches actually given on the various occasions he describes.[46] Still other scholars take the second approach but conclude that Thucydides strayed from this approach over his writing career; a number of schemes for dating the authorship of the various speeches has also been proposed, without any gaining a preponderance of support.


Popularity of the Athenian Empire

Diodotus' speech contains the famous claim that "in all the cities the people is your friend, and either does not revolt with the oligarchy, or, if forced to do so, becomes at once the enemy of the insurgents; so that in the war with the hostile city you have the masses on your side."[47] Modern scholars have disagreed over whether this was actually the case; G.E.M. de Ste. Croix accepted Diodotus' statement as factual, and took the Mytilenean demos' threat to hand over the city as evidence that they had harbored secret pro-Athenian feelings throughout the siege, while other scholars have suggested that the threat was the action of men desperate from hunger but harboring no special feelings for the Athenians; a third position is presented by Daniel Gillis, who observes that the Mytilenean demos would not necessarily have surrendered under less desperate circumstances, but was at least confident enough regarding its fate after a surrender to consider that action a viable alternative.[48] Both Donald Kagan and Ronald Legon, meanwhile, have emphasized that, whatever the feelings of the Mytilenean demos were, the people had clearly not displayed enough revolutionary sentiment to prevent their rulers from distributing arms to them.[49] Geoffrey Ernest Maurice de Ste. ...


Aftermath

Although Mytilene's citizens were spared execution, a harsh punishment was still imposed on the rebellious Lesbians.[50] All the farmland on the island, save that belonging to the Methymnaeans, was confiscated and divided up into 3,000 lots, which were leased back to the Lesbians on a yearly basis; 300 of these lots were dedicated to the gods, and the 10 talents collected from them annually would have gone into the Athenian treasury; the remainder supported a garrison of Athenian cleruchs.[51] All Mytilene's possessions on the Ionian mainland were confiscated by Athens, its walls were pulled down, and its ships were confiscated. For the Athenians, this solution solved several problems; the garrison would provide security on Lesbos, and the absence of its members from Athens would to an extent ease the overpopulation of that city and the strain on the treasury resulting from the need to feed thousands of displaced farmers.[52] The garrison returned home by the mid 420s BC,[53] but apparently Athens was mistaken to think the island secure; in 412 BC, in the wake of the disaster in Syracuse, Lesbos was among the first islands to begin intriguing against the newly weakened Athenians.[54] A cleruchy, in Hellenic Greece, was a specialised type of colony established by Athens. ... Ionia (Greek Ιωνία; see also List of traditional Greek place names) was an ancient region of southwestern coastal Anatolia (now in Turkey) on the Aegean Sea. ... The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian expedition to Sicily from 415 BC to 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. ...


In an anecdote that some have connected with the Mytilene affair, Plutarch reports that Paches killed himself during a trial at some point after the Mytilene affair.[55] Donald Kagan has interpreted this anecdote to indicate that Paches, a moderate, was being prosecuted by Cleon or another more aggressive politician, who disapproved of his decision to break off the pursuit of Alcidas' fleet.[56] Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek: Πλούταρχος; 46 - 127), better known in English as Plutarch, was an Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. ...


References

Modern Sources

  • Andrewes, Arthur. "The Mytilene Debate: Thucydides 3.36-49". Phoenix, Vol. 16, No. 2. (Summer, 1962), pp. 64-85.
  • Andrews, James A. "Cleon's Hidden Appeals: Thucydides 3.37-40". The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 50, No. 1. (2000), pp. 45-62.
  • Gillis, Daniel. "The Revolt at Mytilene". The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 92, No. 1. (Jan., 1971), pp. 38-47.
  • Kagan, Donald. The Peloponnesian War (Penguin Books, 2003). ISBN 0670032115
  • Kagan, Donald. The Archidamian War (Cornell University Press, 1974) ISBN 0801497140
  • Legon, Ronald P. "Megara and Mytilene". Phoenix, Vol. 22, No. 3. (Autumn, 1968), pp. 200-225.
  • Wasserman, Felix Martin. "Post-Periclean Democracy in Action: The Mytilenean Debate (Thuc. III 37-48)". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 87. (1956), pp. 27-41.

Donald Kagan (born 1932) is a Yale historian specializing in ancient Greece, notable for his four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War. ... Donald Kagan (born 1932) is a Yale historian specializing in ancient Greece, notable for his four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War. ...

Ancient Sources

Diodorus Siculus (c. ... Image File history File links Wikisource-logo. ... Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek: Πλούταρχος; 46 - 127), better known in English as Plutarch, was an Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. ... Image File history File links Wikisource-logo. ... Bust of Thucydides residing in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. ...

Notes

  1. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding the events leading up to the revolt are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.2.
  2. ^ Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 100-101
  3. ^ Legon, Megara and Mytilene, 201
  4. ^ Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 101
  5. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding the Athenian reaction and the initial battle are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.3-4.
  6. ^ Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 101
  7. ^ Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 101
  8. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.4
  9. ^ Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 101-102
  10. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding the early fighting on Lesbos are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.5-6.
  11. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.5
  12. ^ Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 102
  13. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.9-14
  14. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.15
  15. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding the Peloponnesians' actions and the Athenian response are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.15-16.
  16. ^ Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 100
  17. ^ Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 103
  18. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.13
  19. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding the fighting on Lesbos are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.18.
  20. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.19
  21. ^ Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 104-5
  22. ^ Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 104
  23. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 26.
  24. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 26.
  25. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.25
  26. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding the proposed breakout and the surrender are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.27-28.
  27. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.29
  28. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding Alcidas' campaign in the Aegean are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.30-33.
  29. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.35
  30. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.36
  31. ^ Wasserman, Post-Periclean Democracy in Athens, 27
  32. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding the first day's debate are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.36.
  33. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding events leading up to Cleon's speech are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.36.
  34. ^ Cleon's speech is recounted by Thucydides at 3.37-40.
  35. ^ Andrews, Cleon's Hidden Appeals, 46
  36. ^ Andrewes, The Mytilene Debate, 72
  37. ^ Wasserman, Post-Periclean Democracy, 33
  38. ^ Kagan, The Archidamian War, 157
  39. ^ Diodotus' speech is recounted by Thucydides at 3.42-48.
  40. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.41
  41. ^ Kagan, The Archidamian War, 126
  42. ^ Wasserman, Post-Periclean Democracy, 36
  43. ^ An abstract of the content of Diodotus' speech may be found in Kagan, The Archidamian War, 160-2.
  44. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding the remainder of the debate and the aftermath are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.49-50.
  45. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 1.22
  46. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding the scholarly conflict over the authenticity of Thucydides' speeches are drawn from Andrewes, The Mytilene Debate, 66-67.
  47. ^ Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.47
  48. ^ A summary of this scholarly debate as it pertains to Mytilene specifically may be found in Gillis, The Revolt at Mytilene, 41.
  49. ^ See Kagan, The Archidamian War, 152 n. 16 and Legon, Megara and Mytilene, 206.
  50. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all details regarding the sanctions imposed on Lesbos are drawn from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 3.50.
  51. ^ See Kagan, The Archidamian War, 166 for the sum and destination of the money raised from the land dedicated to the gods.
  52. ^ Kagan, The Archidamian War, 166
  53. ^ Kagan, The Archidamian War, 166
  54. ^ Legon, Megara and Mytilene, 211
  55. ^ Plutarch, Nicias 6.1
  56. ^ Kagan, The Archidamian War, 167-8

 
 

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