Monday, January 4, 2016

Downfall of the Thirty (403 BC)

When Theramenes warned Critias against the course he was taking, he refrained from making moral arguments, since it was obvious that morality meant nothing to Critias.  Instead, he argued that it was unwise to make so many enemies.  And so it would turn out to be.

Among the enemies Theramenes named were Thrasybulus, Anytus, and Alcibiades.  Thrasybulus was one of the admirals who rallied the fleet against the coup of the 400 and led it to its series of victories in the Propontis.  Anytus had been sent to relieve the siege of Pylos but been defeated by a storm, was put on trial and escaped by bribing the jury.  The experience can hardly have endeared the democracy to him, and Aristotle names him at first with Theramenes, Archinus and others as wanting to reign in the democracy but not belonging to any conspiracies.*  Alcibiades appears to the son of the Alcibiades, who had been murdered in exile under uncertain circumstances, but possibly on the order of either Lysander or Critias.  It is unclear whether they were formally sentenced to exile, left voluntarily, or fled for their lives.

Whatever the case, Thrasybulus had taken refuge in Thebes and marched out in the winter with 70 men to seize the fortress of Phyle.  The Thirty and their forces marched against them but were thwarted by a  late snowstorm. The Thirty returned to Athens but left most of the Spartan garrison and two divisions of cavalry to guard the fort.  Thrasybulus' men, now numbering  700, launched a surprise attack on the camp and scattered them,** before returning to the fort.

The Thirty then became increasingly fearful for their power and decided  to secure a place of refuge.  They took the cavalry** to the village of Eleuis on the pretext of registering them men there for military service.  After each man was registered, he was told to march out the gate, where the cavalry and their attendants were waiting.  They seized and bound each man, took them back to Athens, and delivered them to the executioners.  Something similar was done at Salamis, but Xenophon was apparently not present, so we do not have a detailed account.  The Thirty then summoned the Assembly, perhaps the only time they ever did so.  Critias told them that if they were to share in the benefits of the oligarchy, they must share in the dangers and prove their loyalty by voting the death sentence on these men, totaling 300.***  With the Spartan garrison present, fully armed, no one dared refuse, but by now the participants had come to look upon the Thirty with horror and revulsion.

The exiles, now numbering a thousand, advanced to the Piraeus and seized a strongly defensible hill called the Munichia. And, at least according to Diodorus, the Thirty sought to buy Thrasybulus off by offering to admit him to replace Theramenes.  He indignantly refused.  The Thirty attacked with the Spartans, the cavalry, and their selected hoplites.  The exiles, though outnumbered, were able to hold their strong position.  The forces of the Thirty were driven back and Critias was killed, along with Hippomachus, another of the Thirty, and Critias' cousin and fellow Socratic pupil Charmides, one of the ten given command of the Piraeus.  Here Thrasybulus departed from the usual custom, which was to raise a trophy, strip the dead, and granted the losers a truce to retrieve the bodies.  He took the arms from the dead, which his forces were sorely lacking, but returned them without stripping them and apparently did not raise a trophy.  This was intended as a display of respect for his fellow countrymen.  The herald called on the forces as fellow countrymen to turn against the Thirty.

And in fact, the 3000 began quarreling among themselves,** some wanting to allow the exiles to return and others fearing retaliation if they did.  In the end, they deposed the Thirty and elected ten to end the war.  The remaining Thirty fled, except for Pheidon, who joined the Ten, and Eratosthenes, deemed a moderate.  But the Ten continued the policies of the Thirty, and the war continued.  The exiles swelled in number, though many were lightly armed, and vowed to exempt any foreigner in their number from special taxes on non-citizens.  They foraged the countryside for food, harassed by the cavalry.  The cavalry commander killed one such party, when even many of his own men were opposed.**  The exiles retaliated by killing a cavalryman and even began attacking the walled city.

The Thirtyor the Ten, sent to Sparta to ask for relief forces, commanded by Lysander.  Instead of providing men, the Spartans lent the oligarchs 100 talents, which they used to hire a mercenary force, commanded by Lysander, with his brother commanding a fleet.  They proceeded to blockade the men at Piraeus and might perhaps have won, but the government at Sparta began having other ideas.  The brutality of the Thirty had sickened them no less than anyone else, and they were beginning to get nervous about all the power Lysander had amassed by installing juntas all across the empire that were loyal to him personally rather than to Sparta.

Pausanias, one of the two kings, persuaded three of the five Ephors to send him out with the regular army.  Diognetus, Nicias' last surviving brother, presented the children of Nicias' murdered son and brother to Pausanias and begged for his support and began to win him over.  Pausanias went through the motions or ordering the men at the Piraeus to disburse.  When they did not, he gave battle, losing important officers in the fighting and was  ultimately (though minimally) victorious.  He encouraged both the city and the Piraeus to send ambassadors to him and seek to negotiate.  The men in the city overthrew the Ten and replaced them with a new body who genuinely wanted to end the war. They sent envoys to the Piraeus, and all parties sent envoys to Sparta.  The Ephors and Assembly sent mediators, who worked with Pausanias to negotiate a peace between the parties.

The terms were extraordinarily generous.  Everyone was to be granted amnesty for any actions he had done, except the Thirty, the Ten (who ruled the Piraeus) and the Eleven (the executioners).  Whoever did not trust these terms would be allowed to retire to Eleusis.  Anyone currently holding office under the oligarchy was to present an accounting to the democracy.  Eleusis was to be allowed self-government any anyone withdrawing there would retain full rights, except that they could not go to Athens, nor the people of Athens go to Eleusis, except for religious rituals.  Provisions were even made for how to determine the price of a house being bought in Eleusis.

Thrasybulus crowned for his reconciliation
Pausanias then disbanded his army and withdrew.  Thrasybulus, entering the city, gave the oligarchs a thorough tongue-lashing, telling them that any grounds they might have for proclaiming the superiority of oligarchy to democracy were decisively disproven.  Compared to the democracy, the oligarchy showed less respect for wealth and property, less military might, and less support from Sparta.  Nonetheless the amnesty held.  Those wishing to withdraw to Eleusis were given a fixed date to register the move.  Most of them postponed it until the last minute, which allowed Archinus (remember him?  Named by Aristotle as wanting to restrict democracy but not part of any conspiracy) to abruptly cancel the remaining days and compel most of the oligarchs to remain. Nothing happened to them.  Aristotle approved of this act.  He also approved of Archinus striking down as unconstitutional Thrasybulus' decree extending citizenship to anyone who took part in the Piraeus revolt, even slaves. He also approved of Archinus persuading the Council to execute, without trial, the first man to try to stir up trouble between the oligarchs and the returnees.  Shocking as this last act was, it proved effective.  No one violated the amnesty again.  The Athenians even agreed to repay the 100 talents the oligarchs had borrowed, on the grounds that it set the city on the course of reconciliation. Aristotle regarded this degree of statesmanship as unprecedented and, although generally a skeptic of democracy, concedes it as "just" in this case because the people accomplished its own return.

There was one little blemish on the reconciliation.  Aristotle passes it over with the euphemism,  "They also made a reconciliation with those that had settled at Eleusis two years after the migration."  Xenophon does not mince words.  Two years later (401 BC), the exiles at Eleusis hired mercenaries  with the presumed intent of either seizing power once again, or at least complete secession.  The whole Athenian army marched out against Eleusis, invited the generals to a conference, and then killed them.  They then reincorporated Eleusis back into Athens with no further retaliation.  Archinus might be considered vindicated.  Separation was more dangerous than integration.

Next: Reflections on the amnesty

*But Antyus is best known to posterity as one of the accusers of Socrates.
**Based on Xenophon's account.  This degree of detail suggests that he was present, among the cavalry.
***Perseus likens this to the vote sentence the generals to death, but the comparison is absurd.  Six lives were at stake in the case of the generals; 300 in this case.  In the case of the generals, a population distraught over their failure to rescue the survivors of a naval battle accused them, however unjustly, of negligence in the failure.  The massacre here was cold blooded murder of men no one pretended were guilty of anything.  The generals were at least given a hearing, however inadequate, before the Assembly.  No pretense of trial was offered in this case.

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