1. Son of Lysimachus, the Athenian statesman and general, makes his first certain appearance in history as archon eponymus of the year 489 B. C. (Mar. Par. 50.) From Herodotus we hear of him as the best and justest of his countrymen; as ostracised and at enmity with Themistocles; of his generosity and bravery at Salamis, in some detail (8.79, 82, and 95) ; and the fact, that he commanded the Athenians in the campaign of Plataea. (9.28.) Thucydides names him once as co-ambassador to Sparta with Themistocles, once in the words τὸν ἐπ̓ Ἀριστείδου φόρον
. (1.91, 5.18.)
In the Gorgias of Plato, he is the example of the virtue, so rare among statesmen, of justice, and is said " to have become singularly famous for it, not only at home, but through the whole of Greece." (p. 526a. b.) In Demosthenes he is styled the assessor of the φόρος
pp. 689, 690), and in Aeschines he has the title of "the Just." (c. Tim.
p. 4. 1. 23, c. Ctes.
pp. 79. 1. 38, 90. ll. 18,20, ed. Steph.) Added to this, and by it tobe corrected, wehave, comprehending the sketch by Cornelius Nepos, Plutarch's detailed biography, derived from various sources, 1
good and bad.
His family, we are told, was ancient and noble (Callias the torch-bearer was his cousin); he was the political disciple of Cleisthenes (Plut. 2, An. Seni,
p. 790), and partly on that account, partly from personal character, opposed from the first to Themistocles. They fought together, Aristeides as the commander of his tribe, in the Athenian centre at Marathon; and when Miltiades hurried from the field to protect the city, he was left in charge of the spoil. Next year, 489, perhaps in consequence, he was archon. In 483 or 482 (according to Nepos, three years earlier) he suffered ostracism, whether from the enmities, merely, which he had incurred by his scrupulous honesty and rigid opposition to corruption, or in connexion, further, with the triumph of the maritime and democratic policy of his rival.
He wrote, it is said, his own name on the sherd, at the request of an ignorant countryman, who knew him not, but took it ill that any citizen should be called just beyond his neighbours.
The sentence seems to have still been in force in 480 (Hdt. 8.79
; Dem. c. Aristog.
ii. p. 802. 1. 16), when he made his way from Aegina with news of the Persian movements for Themistocles at Salamis, and called on him to be reconciled.
In the battle itself he did good service by dislodging the enemy, with a band raised and armed by himself, from the islet of Psyttaleia. In 479 he was strategus, the chief, it would seem, but not the sole (Plut. Arist. 11
, but comp. 16 and 20, and Herod. ix.), and to him no doubt belongs much of the glory due to the conduct of the Athenians, in war and policy, during this, the most perilous year of the contest. Their replies to the proffers of Persia and the fears of Sparta Plutarch ascribes to him expressly, and seems to speak of an extant ψήφισμα Ἀριστείδου
embracing them. (100.16.) So, too, their treatment of the claims of Tegea, and the arrangements of Pausanias with regard to their post in battle.
He gives him further the suppression of a Persian plot among the aristocratical Athenians, and the settlement of a quarrel for the ἀριστεῖα
by conceding them to Plataea (comp. however on this second point Hdt. 9.71
); finally, with better reason, the consecration of Plataea and establishment of the Eleutheria, or Feast of Freedom. On the return to Athens, Aristeides seems to have acted in cheerful concert with Themistocles, as directing the restoration of the city (Heracl. Pont. 1); as his colleague in the embassy to Sparta, that secured for it its walls; as proposing, in accordance with his policy, perhaps also in consequence of changes in property produced by the war, the measure which threw open the archonship and areiopagus to all citizens alike. In 477, as joint-commander of the Athenian contingent under Pausanias, by his own conduct and that of his colleague and disciple, Cimon, he had the glory of obtaining for Athens the command of the maritime confederacy: and to him was by general consent entrusted the task of drawing up its laws and fixing its assessments.
This first φόρος
of 460 talents, paid into a common treasury at Delos, bore his name, and was regarded by the allies in after times, as marking their Saturnian age.
It is, unless the change in the constitution followed it, his last recorded act.
He lived, Theophrastus related, to see the treasury removed to Athens, and declared it (for the bearing of the words see Thirlwall's Greece, iii. p. 47) a measure unjust and expedient. During most of this period he was, we may suppose, as Cimon's coadjutor at home, the chief political leader of Athens.
He died, according to some, in Pontus, more probably, however, at home, certainly after 471, the year of the ostracism of Themistocles, and very likely, as Nepos states, in 468. (See Clinton, F. H.
in the years 469, 468.)
A tomb was shewn in Plutarch's time at Phalerum, as erected to him at the public expense.
That he did not leave enough behind him to pay for his funeral, is perhaps a piece of rhetoric. We may believe, however, that his daughters were portioned by the state, as it appears certain (Plut. 27; comp. Dem. c. Lept.
491. 25), that his son Lysimachus received lands and money by a decree of Alcibiades; and that assistance was given to his grand-daughter, and even to remote descendants, in the time of Demetrius Phalereus.
He must, so far as we know, have been in 489, as archon eponymus, among the pentacosiomedimni : the wars may have destroyed his property; we can hardly question the story from Aeschines, the disciple of Socrates, that when his poverty was made a reproach in a court of justice to Callias, his cousin, he bore witness that he had received and declined offers of his assistance; that he died poor is certain.
This of itself would prove him possessed of an honesty rare in those times; and in the higher points of integrity, though Theophrastus said, and it may be true, that he at times sacrificed it to his country's interest, no case whatever can be adduced in proof, and he certainly displays a sense, very unusual, of the duties of nation to nation.