A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

2. An Athenian, son of Megacles and Agarista, and grandson of the tyrant of Sicyon, appears as the head of the Alcmaeonid clan on the banishment of the Peisistratidae, and was indeed suspected of having tampered with the Delphic oracle, and urged it to require from Sparta the expulsion of Hippias. Finding, however, that he could not cope with his political rival Isagoras except through the aid of the commons, he set himself to increase the power of the latter, and to remove most of the safeguards against democracy which Solon had established or preserved. There is therefore less trutn than rhetoric in the assertion of Isocrates (Areiopag. p. 143a), that Cleisthenes merely restored the constitution of Solon. The principal change which he introduced, and out of which most of his other alterations grew, was the abolition of the four ancient tribes, and the establishment of ten new ones in their stead. These last were purely local, and the object as well as the effect of the arrangement was, to give permanence to democratic ascendency by the destruction of the old aristocratic associations of clanship. (Comp. Arist. Polit. 6.4, ed. Bekk.; Thrige, Res Cyren. § 48.) The increase in the number of the βουλή and of the ναυκραρίαι was a consequence of the above measure. The φρατρίαι were indeed allowed to remain as before, but, as they were no longer connected with the tribes (the δῆμοι constituting the new subdivision), they ceased to be of any political importance. According to Aelian (Ael. VH 13.24) Cleisthenes was also the first who instituted ostracism, by which he is said, on the same authority, to have been the first sufferer; and this is partly borne out by Diodorus (11.55), who says, that ostracism was introduced after the banishment of the Peisistratidae (but see Plut. Nic. 11; Harpocrat. s. v. Ἵππαρχος). We learn, moreover, from Aristotle (Aristot. Pol. 3.2, ed Bekk.) that he admitted into the tribes a number of persons who were not of Athenian blood; but this appears to have been only intended to serve his purposes at the time, not to be a precedent for the future. By some again he is supposed to have remodelled the Ephetae, adding a fifth court to the four old ones, and altering the number of the judges from 80 to 51, i. e. five from each tribe and a president. (Wachsmuth, vol. i. p. 360, Eng. transl.; but see Müller, Eumenid. § 64, &c.) The changes of Cleisthenes had the intended effect of gaining political superiority for himself and his party, and Isagoras was reduced to apply for the aid of the Spartans under Cleomenes I. Heralds accordingly were sent from Lacedaemon to Athens, who demanded and obtained the banishment of Cleisthenes and the rest of the Alcmaeonidae, as the accursed family (ἐναγεῖς), on whom rested the pollution of Cylon's murder. [CYLON.] Cleisthenes having withdrawn, Cleomenes proceeded to expel 700 families pointed out by Isagoras, and endeavoured to abolish the Council of 500, and to place the government in the hands of 300 oligarchs. But the Council resisted the attempt, and the people supported them, and besieged Cleomenes and Isagoras in the Acropolis, of which they had taken possession. On the third day the besieged capitulated, and the Lacedaemonians and Isagoras were allowed to depart from Attica. The rest were put to death, and Cleisthenes and the 700 banished families were recalled. (Hdt. 5.63, 66, 69_73, 6.131; comp. Dict. of Ant. pp. 156, 235, 323, &c., 633, 755, 990-993.)