06 March 2007

Cleon - Black Hat?

After the death of Pericles, Nicias, who subsequently fell in Sicily, appeared as leader of the aristocracy, and Cleon son of Cleaenetus of the people. The latter seems, more than any one else, to have been the cause of the corruption of the democracy by his wild undertakings; and he was the first to use unseemly shouting and coarse abuse on the Bema, and to harangue the people with his cloak girt up short about him, whereas all his predecessors had spoken decently and in order.

-- Aristotle, The Constitution of Athens (trans. Sir Frederic G. Kenyon)

2 comments:

IMK said...

Isn't Cleon the one who gave Thucydides some trouble as well?

Grotius said...

Well, Cleon, via a public prosecution, had Thucydides exiled. So you gotta ask (as most scholars have), just how bad of a guy Cleon really was? Did his enemies write the history so as to make him one of the chhief bad guys in the story, or were they being completely truthful in their writing? Or was it somewhere in between? Anyway, questions like this are a good historian always asks. As far as I know there is ultimately no way to get a definitive answer.