Cimon (c. 510-451 B. C. E.)

Model_of_a_greek_trireme

Reconstructed model of a trireme, the type of ship in use by both the Greek and Persian forces.

Athenian statesman and general who played an active part in building up the Athenian Empire in the period following the Greco-Persian Wars.

Cimon was the son of Miltiades, the architect of the victory at the Battle of Marathon against the Persians in 490. His impressive performance in the victorious sea battle against the Persians at Salamis in 480 led to his election as strategos, one of Athens’s 10 annual generals. In 478 he helped Aristides to secure the transference of the leadership of the Greek forces from Sparta to Athens and he became the principal commander of the Athenian-led alliance known as the Delian League.

Cimon’s first task was to drive out the Spartan general Pausanias-who had been dismissed on suspicion of treason- from Byzantium. He then removed Eion in Thrace from Persian hands (476-475 B. C. E.) and soon after this he won the island of Skyros for Athenian settlers and returned to Athens the supposed remains of Theseus, Athens’s legendary hero.

Cimon’s greatest triumph took place in 466 when, as leader of an allied fleet of 200 ships, he crushed the much larger Persian fleet near the mouth of the River Eurymedon in Pamphylia and subsequently defeated the Persian king’s forces on land. He then returned to the Aegean and drove the remaining Persians out of the Thracian Chersonese. When the rich island of Thasos seceded from the Delian League, Cimon besieged it and forced it to surrender (463).

In 461, Cimon was ostracized. On his return to Athens, he worked for peace with Sparta. When peace was achieved in 451, he once again mounted a big naval expedition against Persia in order to recapture Cyprus. During the siege of the city of Kition, however, he died of sickness or a wound.

References and further reading: Plutarch. Life of Kimon. Trans. A. Blamire. London: University of London, 1989.

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