), a philosopher either of the Epicurean or Peripatetic school, who made himself tyrant of Athens, and was besieged there by Sulla, B. C. 87, in the first Mithridatic war. His early history is preserved by Athenaeus (v. p. 211, &c.), on the authority of Posidonius of Apameia, the instructor of Cicero.
By him he is called Athenion, whereas Pausanias, Appian, and Plutarch agree in giving him the name of Aristion. Casaubon on Athenaeus (l.c.
) conjectures that his true name was Athenion, but that on enrolling himself as a citizen of Athens, he changed it to Aristion, a supposition confirmed by the case of one Sosias mentioned by Theophrastus, whose name was altered to Sosistratus under the same circumstances. Athenion or Aristion was the illegitimate son of a Peripatetic, also named Athenion, to whose property he succeeded, and so became an Athenian citizen.
He married early, and began at the same time to teach philosophy, which he did with great success at Messene and Larissa. On returning to Athens with a considerable fortune, he was named ambassador to Mithridates, king of Pontus, then at war with Rome, and became one of the most intimate friends and counsellors of that monarch. His letters to Athens represented the power of his patron in such glowing colours, that his countrymen began to conceive hopes of throwing off the Roman yoke. Mithridates then sent him to Athens, where he soon contrived, through the king's patronage, to assume the tyranny. His government seems to have been of the most cruel character, so that he is spoken of with abhorrence by Plutarch (Praecept. ger. Reip.
p. 809), and classed by him with Nabis and Catiline.
He sent Apellicon of Teos to plunder the sacred treasury of Delos, [APELLICON], though Appian (Mithrid.
p. 189) says, that this had already been done for him by Mithridates, and adds, that it was by means of the money resulting from this robbery that Aristion was enabled to obtain the supreme power. Meantime Sulla landed in Greece, and immediately laid siege to Athens and the Peiraeus, the latter of which was occupied by Archelaus, the general of Mithridates.
The sufferings within the city from famine were so dreadful, that men are said to have even devoured the dead bodies of their companions.
At last Athens was taken by storm, and Sulla gave orders to spare neither sex nor age. Aristion fled to the Acropolis, having first burnt the Odeum, lest Sulla should use the wood-work of that building for battering-rams and other instruments of attack. The Acropolis, however, was soon taken, and Aristion dragged to execution from the altar of Minerva. To the divine vengeance for this impiety Pausanias (1.20.4
) attributes the loathsome disease which afterwards terminated Sulla's life.