previous next


Thucydides (i. 126) completes and corrects this account of Cylon's coup d'état, which is clearly based on Alcmaeonid tradition. Plutarch (Solon 12) is in general agreement with Thucydides, but probably drew immediately from some Atthis. The chief points of difference are:

(1) Cylon received aid from his father-in-law, Theagenes of Megara.

(2) Being encouraged by the Delphic oracle to make the attempt at the chief festival of Zeus, he, an Olympic victor, chose the Olympic games, not the Attic Diasia.

(3) He actually seized the Acropolis and was there besieged for some time by the Attic levies under the Archons.

(4) Cylon and his brother escaped, their followers were slaughtered.

ἐπὶ τυραννίδι ἐκόμησε, ‘set his cap at a tyranny.’ Cf. Arist. Vesp. 1317ἐπὶ τῷ κομᾷς”: for ἐπί marking the end cf. i. 66. 1; and for pride in wearing the hair long cf. i. 82. 7, 8.

τὸ ἄγαλμα: probably the Athene Polias in the earlier Erechtheum. Cf. ch. 72. 3 n.


τούτους: presumably Cylon as well as his partisans, but cf. (4) supra.

οἱ πρυτάνιες τῶν ναυκράρων: ναυκραριέων (Stein, Abbott) would be an improvement. Naucraries were local districts whose presidents (ναύκραροι) were responsible (Ath. Pol. 8. 3; Pollux viii. 108; Bekk. Anec. i. 283) for levying money and contingents for the army and ships for the fleet (the name coming from ναῦς and κρά, the root of κραίνω, Busolt, ii. 191). The notion that Solon first instituted 48 such naucraries (12 in each of the four Ionic tribes) is due to Photius' misrepresentation of Ath. Pol. 8. 3, where their pre-existence is really implied. There is then no reason to doubt that the ‘presidents of the naucraries’ (prob. = ναύκραροι) were important officers, but the statement that they were the supreme power in the state (for ἔνεμον cf. i. 59. 6; v. 92 β 1) is directly contradicted by Thucydides (i. 126), who rightly names the archons, in which he is followed by Plutarch, Sol. 12 Μεγακλῆς ἄρχων καὶ οἱ συνάρχοντες. Aristotle (Ath. Pol.) rightly sees in the naucrari local officials (ch. 21), succeeded by the demarchs, while the archonship is the chief political office (ch. 13). The attempt of Harpocration to reconcile Herodotus and Thucydides by identifying archons and naucrari is a mere subterfuge contradicted by all other authorities; nor is it likely that the archons were the presidents of the naucrari as has been suggested. The true explanation of the passage is that Herodotus, or his authority, is anxious to absolve the Alcmaeonid archon, Megacles, from the guilt of the sacrilege by throwing the blame on another board of magistrates. For his Alcmaeonid leanings cf. vi. 121, and Appendix XVIII, § 6.

ὑπεγγύους πλὴν θανάτου. The agreement bound the suppliants to appear before a court of justice, but guaranteed them their lives. Cf. Plut. Sol. 12τοὺς συνωμότας . . . ἐπὶ δίκῃ κατελθεῖν”.

πρὸ τῆς Πεισιστράτου ἡλικίης: a vague date, yet natural in Herodotus, since his continuous history of Athens begins with Pisistratus. Thucydides gives two notes of time, the Olympiad (sup.) and the synchronism with Theagenes. Aristotle (Ath. Pol.) apparently placed Cylon before Draco, and Euseb. Chron. i. 198 (cf. Paus. i. 28. 1) dates his victory in the foot-race at Olympia to 640 B. C. Hence, as he was apparently still young at the time of his rising (cf. τὴν ἑταιρηίην τῶν ἡλικιωτέων), Busolt (i. 670, ii. 206) and others prefer the date 632 B. C.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide References (5 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (5):
    • Aristophanes, Wasps, 1317
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 8
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 8.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.28.1
    • Plutarch, Solon, 12
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: