2. An Athenian statesman and general, son of Sophonides, or, according to Diodorus, of Simonides, was a friend and partizan of Pericles, who is said by Plutarch to have often put him forward as the main ostensible agent in carrying political measures when he did not choose to appear prominently himself. (Ael. VH 2.43
; Plut. Per. 7
, Reip. Gerend. Praec.
15; Diod. 11.77
.) Thus, when the Spartans sent to ask the assistance of the Athenians against Ithome in B. C. 461, he endeavoured to prevent the people from granting the request, urging them not to raise a fallen rival, but to leave the spirit of Sparta to be trodden down ; and we find him mentioned in particular as chiefly instrumental in that abridgment of the power of the Areiopagus, which inflicted such a blow on the oligarchical party, and against which the " Eumenides" of Aeschylus was directed. (Arist. Polit.
2.12, ed. Bekk.; Diod. l.c. ; Plut. Cim. 10
7, 9; Cic. de Rep.
By this measure Plutarch tells us that he introduced an unmixed democracy, and made the city drunk with liberty; but he does not state clearly the precise powers of which the Areiopagus was deprived, nor is it easy to decide this point, or to settle whether it was the authority of the court
or the council
that Pericles and Ephialtes assailed. (For a full discussion of the question the reader is referred to Müller, Eumen.
§§ 35-37; Wachsmuth, Hist. Ant.
vol. ii. p. 75, &c. Eng. transl.; Hermann, Opusc.
vol. iv. pp. 299-302, where the passages of Demosthenes [c. Arist.
p. 641] and of Lysias [de Caed. Erat.
p. 94] are ably and satisfactorily reconciled ; Thirlwall's Greece,
vol. iii. pp. 23, 24 ; Dict. of Ant. s. v. Areiopagus ;
and the authors mentioned by C. F. Hermann, Pol. Ant.
§ 109, note 6.)
The services of Ephialtes to the democratic cause excited the rancorous enmity of some of the oligarchs, and led to his assassination during the night, probably in B. C. 456.
It appears that in the time of Antiphon (see de Caed. Her.
p. 137) the murderers had not been discovered; but we learn, on the authority of Aristotle (apud Plut. Pericl.
10), that the deed was perpetrated by one Aristodicus of Tanagra.
The character of Ephialtes, as given by ancient writers, is a high land honourable one, insomuch that he is even classed with Aristeides for his inflexible integrity. Heracleides Ponticus tells us that he was in the habit of throwing open his grounds to the people, and giving entertainments to large numbers of them,--a statement which seems inconsistent with Aelian's account, possibly more rhetorical than true, of his poverty. (Plut. Cim. 10
14; Ael. VH 2.43
; V. Max. 3.8
. Ext. 4; Heracl. Pont. 1.)