chapter  11
9 Pages

ATHENIAN POLITICS, 478–462/1

The major source for this period is Plutarch’s Lives of Cimon and Themistocles, since Thucydides deals with these events only in a brief, cursory fashion (1.89-102.4) as part of his short digression on the ‘Pentecontaetia’ (‘The Fifty-Years’ – see Chapter 1), and in his digression on the fall of Themistocles (1.135-8), the reliability of which has rightly been called into question (for example, how did Thucydides gain access to Themistocles’ letter to the Persian king?). Diodorus gives some extra information, but his probable source was the fourth-century historian Ephorus who in turn generally relied upon Thucydides. The weaknesses of Plutarch as a historical source are discussed fully in Chapter 1, but it is worth mentioning that his main aim in the Lives was to portray the moral worth (or lack of it) in his subjects so as to inspire later generations (Life of Pericles 1-2).