chapter  8
12 Pages

ATHENIAN POLITICS FROM CLEISTHENES TO THE OUTBREAK OF THE PERSIAN WAR

It is difficult to analyse the internal politics of Athens during this period due to the fact that the available literary evidence is both scanty and non-contemporaneous. The main source is Herodotus (484-420s), but he was not an Athenian and not primarily interested in politics, so he provides only glimpses, not a continuous account, of the political issues and disagreements which were current during these years; he concentrated on the military expansion of the Persian empire and its inevitable conflict with Greece, culminating in the Persian War of 480-479. Aristotle in the ‘Athenaion Politeia’ (see Chapter 1) or the ‘Constitution of Athens’ (Ath. Pol.) provides evidence for clashes between the supposed political factions in the 480s, but his account is very brief (Ath. Pol. 22) and his statement of motives suspect. Apart from his mention of the institution of the ‘bouleutic oath’ to be taken by the councillors of the Boule of 500 and the election of the ten ‘strategoi’ (generals), one from each tribe, his main emphasis is on the use of ostracism for political purposes. Therefore, it is a good starting-point to examine the procedure and the history of this institution.