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Pheidon

Φείδων).

1. Son of Aristodamidas, and king of Argos, was the tenth, according to Ephorus, but, according to Theopompus, the sixth in lineal descent from Temenus, Temenus himself being reckoned as the fifth from Hercules. Having broken through the limits which had been placed on the authority of his predecessors, Pheidon changed the government of Argos to a despotism. He then restored her supremacy over Cleonae, Phlius, Sicyon, Epidaurus, Troezen, and Aegina, the cities of her confederacy, "which had before been so nearly dissolved as to leave all the members practically independent." And this, as Mr. Grote observes, is the meaning of what Ephorus tells us in mythical language, that Pheidon recovered "the whole lot of Temenus" (τὴν λῆξιν ὅλην τὴν Τημένου), after it had been torn asunder into several parts. He appears next to have attacked Corinth, and to have succeeded in reducing it under his dominion. Not content however with this, and wishing to render his power there more secure, he sent to require of the Corinthians, for military service, 1000 of their most warlike citizens, intending to make away with them; but Abron, one of Pheidon's friends, frustrated the design by revealing it to Dexander, who had been appointed to command the body of men in question. We hear further, that Pheidon, putting forward the title of his legendary descent, aimed at the extension of his supremacy over all the cities which Hercules had ever taken,--a claim that reached to the greater part of the Peloponnesus. It seems to have been partly as the holder of such supremacy, and partly as the representative of Hercules by lineal descent, that the Pisans invited him, in the 8th Olympiad, to aid them in excluding the Eleians from their usurped presidency at the Olympic games, and to celebrate them jointly with themselves. The invitation quite fell in with the ambitious pretensions of Pheidon, who succeeded in dispossessing the Eleians; but the latter, not long after, defeated him, with the aid of Sparta, and recovered their privilege. Thus apparently fell the power of Pheidon; but as to the details of the struggle we have no information. He did not fall, however, without leaving some very striking and permanent traces of his influence upon Greece. It may have been, as bishop Thirlwall suggests, in prosecution of his vast plans, that he furnished his brother CARANUS with the means of founding a little kingdom, which became the core of the Macedonian monarchy. And a more undoubted and memorable act of his was his introduction of copper and silver coinage, and of a new scale of weights and measures, which, through his influence, became prevalent in the Peloponnesus, and ultimately throughout the greater portion of Greece. The scale in question was known by the name of the Aeginetan, and it is usually supposed, according to the statement of Ephorus, that the coinage of Pheidon was struck in Aegina; but there seems good reason for believing, with Mr. Grote, that what Pheidon did was done in Argos, and nowhere else,--that "Pheidonian measures" probably did not come to bear the specific name of Aeginetan until there was another scale in vogue, the Euboic, from which to distinguish them,--and that both the epithets were probably derived, not from the place where the scale first originated, but from the people whose commercial activity tended to make them most generally known,--in the one case the Aeginetans, in the other case the inhabitants of Chalcis and Eretria.

With respect to the date of Pheidon there is some considerable discrepancy of statement. Pausanias mentions the 8th Olympiad, or B. C. 748, as the period at which he presided at the Olympic games; but the Parian marble, representing him as the eleventh from Hercules, places him in B. C. 895. Hence Larcher and others would understand Pausanias to be reckoning the Olympiads, not from Coroebus, but from Iphitus : but Pausanias and Ephorus tell us that the Olympiad which Pheidon celebrated was omitted in the Eleian register, and we know that there was no register of the Olympiads at all before the Olympiad of Coroebus in B. C. 776. On the other hand, Herodotus, according to the common reading of the passage (6.127), calls Pheidon the father of Leocedes, one of the suitors of Agarista, the daughter of Cleisthenes of Sicyon; and, as this would bring down the Argive tyrant to a period at least a hundred years later than the one assigned him by Pausanias, some critics have suspected a mutilation of the text of Herodotus, while others would alter that of Pausanias from the 8th to the 28th Olympiad, and others again suppose two kings of Argos of the name of Pheidon, and imagine Herodotus to have confounded the later with the earlier. Of these views, that which ascribes incorrectness to the received reading of the passage in Herodotus is by far the most tenable. At any rate, the date of Pheidon is fixed on very valid grounds, which may be found in Clinton, to about the middle of the eighth century B. C.

(Ephor. apud Strab. viii. p. 358; Theopomp. apud Diod. Fragm. B. vii.; Arist. Pol. 5.10, ed. Bekk.; Paus. 6.22; Plut. Am. Narr. 2 ; Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod. 4.1212; Schol. ad Pin Olymip. 13.27; Poll. Onom. 10.179; Plin. Nat. 7.56; D. L. 8.14; Ael. VH 12.10 ; Perizon. ad loc. ; Clint. F. H. vol. i. app. i. ; Larcher, ad Herod. 6.127; Müller, Dor. 1.7.15; Herm. Pol. Ant. § 33; Böckh, Publ. Econ. of Athens, b. i. ch. 4, b. iv. ch. 19; Thirlwall's Greece, vol. i. p. 358; Grote's Greece, part ii. ch. 4.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.22
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 7.56
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 12.10
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