1. An Athenian demagogue, of obscure and, according to Aristophanes (Aristoph. Frogs 677
), of Thracian origin.
The meanness of his birth is mentioned also by Aelian (Ael. VH 12.43
), and is said to have been one of the grounds on which he was attacked by Plato, the comic poet, in his play called " Cleophon." (Schol. ad Aristoph. l.c.
) He appears throughout his career in vehement opposition to the oligarchical party, of which his political contest with Critias, as referred to by Aristotle (Aristot. Rh. 1.15.13
), is an instance; and we find him on three several occasions exercising his influence successfully for the prevention of peace with Sparta.
The first of these was in B. C. 410, after the battle of Cyzicus, when very favourable terms were offered to the Athenians (Diod. 13.52
; Wess. ad loc.;
Clinton, F. H.
sub anno 410); and it has been thought that a passage in the " Orestes" of Euripides, which was represented in B. C. 408, was pointed against Cleophon and his evil counsel. (See 1. 892, --κἀπὶ τῷδ̓ ἀνίσταται ἀνήρ τις ἀθυρόγλωσσος
The second occasion was after the battle of Arginusae, B. C. 406, and the third after that of Aegospotami in the following year, when, resisting the demand of the enemy for the partial demolition of the Long Walls, he is said to have threatened death to any one who should make mention of peace. (Aristot. apud Schol. ad Aristoph. Ran.
1528; Aesch. de Fals. Leg.
p. 38, c. Ctes.
p. 75; Thirlwall's Greece,
vol. iv. pp. 89, 125, 158.)
It is to the second of the above occasions that Aristophanes refers in the last line of the " Frogs," where, in allusion also to the foreign origin of Cleophon, the chorus gives him leave to fight to his heart's content in his native
fields. During the siege of Athens by Lysander, B. C. 405, the Athenian council, in which the oligarchical party had a majority, and which had been denounced by Cleophon as a band of traitorous conspirators, were instigated by Satyrus to imprison him and bring him to trial on a charge of neglect of military duty, which, as Lysias says, was a mere pretext.
Before a regular court of justice he would doubtless have been acquitted, and one Nicomachus therefore, who had been entrusted with a commission to collect the laws of Solon, was suborned by his enemies to fabricate a law for the occasion, investing the council with a share in the jurisdiction of the case.
This law is even said to have been shamelessly produced on the very day of the trial, and Cleophon of course was condemned and put to death,--not, however, without opposition from the people, since Xenophon speaks of his losing his life in a sedition. (Lys. c. Nicom.
p. 184, c. Agor.
p. 130; Xen. Hell. 1.7.35
The same year had already witnessed a strong attack on Cleophon by the comic poet Plato in the play of that name above alluded to, as well as the notices of him, not complimentary, in the "Frogs" of Aristophanes. If we may trust the latter (Thesm.
805), his private life was as profligate as his public career was mischievous. By Isocrates also (de Pac.
p. 174b.) he is classed with Hyperbolus and contrasted with the worthies of the good old time, and Andocides mentions it as a disgrace that his house was inhabited, during his exile, by Cleophon, the harpmanufacturer. (Andoc. de Myst.
p. 19.) On the other hand, he cannot at any rate be reckoned among those who have made a thriving and not over-honest trade of patriotism, for we learn from Lysias (de Arist. Bon.
p. 156), that, though he managed the affairs of the state for many years, he died at last, to the surprise of all, in poverty. (Comp. Meineke, Hist. Crit. Com. Graec.
p. 171 &c.)