An Athenian ostrakon of the fifth century B.C.



An ostrakon of Themistocles
V. cent. B.C.




ANDROTION of Athens, FRAGMENT 6 (from his Atthis) [Fragmente der Griechischen Historiker 324 F6]

...{Harpokration, s.v. 'Hipparchos':]There is another Hipparchus, concerning whom Lycurgus speaks in the Against Lycophron: "Hipparchus, the son of Peisistratus". Hipparchus, the son of Charmos is a different man, whom Lycurgus mentions in Against Leocrates. Androtion, in Book II, says about this Hippocrates that he was a syngenes of Peisistratus the Tyrant and was the first man to be ostracized, the nomos concerning ostracism being employed then for the first time on account of suspicion of those in the circle of Peisistratus, because he was a demagogue and as a general set up the tyranny.

PHILOCHORUS Fragment 30 (from his Atthis) [FGrH 328 F30]

The practice of ostracism: Philochorus explains Ostracism in his Book III, sets it down as follows: "Ostracism is as follows: The Demos takes a vote before the 8th Prytany, as to whether it seemed best to hold an ostracism. When the response is positive, the Agora is fenced off with barricades; ten entrances were left open, through which they entered according to Phyle and deposited their potsherds, keeping face-down what they had written. The Nine Archons and the Boule presided. After they added up the results, whoever received the largest number, and it had to be not less than 6,000, was required to pay the penalty: he had to settle his private affairs within ten days and to depart from the City for ten years (though it later was made five years); he still received the income from his property, but he could not come nearer than Geraistos, the promontory of Euboea. Hyperbolus was the sole undistinguished person to suffer ostracism, on account of the degeneracy of his habits, not because he was suspected of aiming at tyranny. After him the practice was abandoned, which had begun when Kleisthenes was legislating, when he expelled the tyrants, so that he might toss out their friends as well.

Scholia to Aristophanes, Hippeis 855:

[The information in Philochorus is repeated as far as "..he had to depart from the city within ten days. Then follows:] but if six thousand are not cast, he did not go into exile. The Athenians are not the only ones to conduct the ostracism; the Argives do so as well, and the Milesians and Megareans. Practically all the most favored men were ostracized: Aristeides, Kimon, Themistokles, Thucydides, Alcibiades. Ostracism was used until Hyperbolus, but it ended with him, and they did not employ the law later on, because of the weakness which came about in Athenian public affairs.

JULIUS POLLUX Onomasticon to the Ten Attic Orators VIII. 19:

However, the whole populace casts its vote on ostraka in common, and the process is called ostrakophoria, the result ostrakismos; the verb is exostrakisai and exostrakisthenai. Now, when a certain part of the Agora was roped off, it was necessary for an Athenian who wanted [to vote] to bring to the roped-off area a potsherd inscribed with the name of the man he wanted to be ostracised; if six thousand ostraka turned up for a particular man, he had to go into exile, not because he had been convicted of crime, but because he was something of a burden to upon the politeia, reproached for his arete rather than censured for an evil deed.

'ARISTOTLE'' Athenaion Politeia 22.3: the Archonship of Phainippos [490/89] the Athenians won the Battle of Marathon. This made the democracy so confident that after a further two years had passed they first used the law of ostracism. It had been passed from a suspicion of those in power, because Piesistratos had started as leader of the people and strategos, and became tyrant. The first to be ostracised was one of his relations, Hipparchos the son of Charmos, of Kollytos; it was the desire to expel him which was the primary motive of Kleisthenes in proposing the law. With the customary forbearance of the democracy, the People had allowed the friends of the tyrants to continue to live in Athens with the exception of those who had committed crimes in the civil disorders; their leader and champion was Hipparchos. In the year immediately following, the archonship of Telesinos [487/6] .... Megakles the son of Hippokrates from Alopeke was ostracised. For three years they ostracised the friends of the tyrants, the original purpose of ostracism, but in the fourth year [485/4] they also removed anyone else who seemed to be too powerful. The first man to be ostracised who was not connected with the tyranny was Xanthippos the son of Ariphron.... two years later... at this time [483/2] Aristeides the son of Lysimachos was ostracised. Three years later, in the Archonship of Hypsichides [481/0] , they recalled all those who had been ostracised; for the future they decreed that those who had been ostracised should not live nearer to Athens than Geraistos or Scyllaion under penalty of losing their citizenship permanently.

PLUTARCH, Life of Aristeides, Chapter 7

Aristeides, therefore, had at first the fortune to be veloved for this surname ['The Just'], but at length was envied, especially when Themistocles spread a rumor among the people that, by determining and judging all matters in private, he had destroyed the courts of justice, and was secretly making way for a monarchy in his own person, without the assistance of guards. Moreover the spirit of the people, now grown great and confident with their recent victory, naturally entertained feelings of dislike toward all of more than common fame and reputation. Coming together, therefore, from all parts into the City, they banished Aristeides by Ostracism, giving their jealousy of his reputation the name of fear of tyranny. For ostracism was not the punishment of any criminal act, but was speciously said to be the mere depression and numiliation of excessive greatness and power, and was in fact a gentle relief and mitigation of envious feelings, which were thus allowed to vent themselves in inflicting no intolerable injury, only a ten years' banishment. But after it came to be exercised upon base and villainous fellows, they desisted from it. Hyperbolus was the last whom they banished by ostracism.
The cause of Hyperbolus' banishment is said to have been this: Alcibiades and Nicias, men who had the greatest influence in the City, were of different factions. As the People, therefore, were about to vote for ostracism, and obviously to decree it against one of them, consulting together they contrived the banishment of Hyperbolus. The people being offended at this, as if some contempt or affront was put upon the thing, they left off and quite abolished it.
It was performed, to be short, in this manner. Every one taking an ostrakon, a sherd, that is, or piece of earthenware, wrote upon it the citizen's name he wished banished, and carried it to a certain part of the Agora surrounded with wooden rails. First, the Magistrates counted all the sherds in gross (for if there were less than six thousand, the ostracism was invalid); then, laying every name by itself, they pronounced him whose name was written by the larger number banished for ten years, with the enjoyment of his estate...."

DIODORUS THE SICILIAN, History Book XI, chapter 55:

"But afterwards, those who feared the eminence that [Themistocles] enjoyed, and others who were envious of his glory, forgot his services to the State, and began to exert themselves to diminish his power and to lower his presumption. First of all, they removed him from Athens, using against him what is called `ostracism', an institution which was adopted in Athens after the overthrow of the tyranny of Peisistratos and his sons [510 B.C.].

And the law is as follows: Each citizen wrote the name of the man who in his opinion had the greatest power to destroy the democracy; and the man who got the largest number of ostraka was obliged to go into exile from his native land for a period of ten years.

The Athenians, it appears, passed such a law, not for the purpose of punishing wrongdoing, but in order to lower through exile the presumption of men who had risen too high. Now Themistocles, having been ostracized in the manner we have described, fled as an exile from his native city to Argos..."

THUCYDIDES, History of the Peloponnesian War Book I, chapter 135:

"But when Pausanias [Regent of Sparta, for Pleistarchos, the son of Leonidas, who died at Thermopylae in 490] was convicted of treasonable dealings with Persia, the Lacedaemonians sent envoys to Athens and accused Themistocles as well of complicity in the plot, in accordance with discoveries they had made in connection with their investigation into Pausanias. And they demanded that he be punished in the same way. The Athenians agreed, but since he happened to have been ostracized, and (though residing in Argos, frequently visited other parts of the Peloponnesus as well) they sent some men, accompanied by the Lacedaemonians (who were quite ready to join in the pursuit) with instructions to arrest him wherever they happened to find him. But Themistocles was forewarned and fled from the Peloponnesus to Corcyra, since he was a benefactor [euergetes] of the Corcyreans..."

PLUTARCH, Life of Kimon Chapter 17:

Once more the Lacedaemonians summoned the Athenians to come to their aid against the Messenians and Helots in Ithome, and the Athenians went, but their dashing boldness awakened fear, and they were singled out from all the allies and sent off as dangerous conspirators. They came back home in a rage, and at once took open measures of hostility against the Laconizers, and above all against Kimon. Laying hold of a trifling pretext, they ostracised him for ten years. That was the period decreed in all cases of ostracism [Date: ca. 461]. .... the Athenians did not long abide by their displeasure against Kimon, partly because, as was natural, they remembered his benefits, and partly because the turn of events favored his cause. For they were defeated at Tanagra in a great battle [457?], and expected that in the following springtime an armed force of Peloponnesians would come against them, and so they recalled Kimon from his exile. The decree which provided for his return was formally proposed by Pericles....

THEOPOMPOS, Philippika Book 10 [F 88]

Theopompos in the Tenth Book of the Philippika says about Kimon: 'When five years had not yet gone by, a war having broken out with the Lacedaemonians, the People sent for Kimon, thinking that by his proxeny he would make the quickest peace. When he arrived at the City, he ended the war.

[from the scholia on Aelius Aristeides 'On the Four' 46.158. 13. See W. Robert Connor, Theopompus and Fifth Century Athens (1968), pp. 24 ff.]

THEOPOMPOS, [F 91: Scholia on Aristophanes, Wasps 947]:

... which Thucydides also experienced once when he was being prosecuted.... The fact that an ostracism took place indicates [that the Thucydides in Aristophanes' passage was] the son of Melesias, and the one who was ostracised. Theopompus the Historian, however, says that it was the son of Pantaenus who was the rival of Pericles. But not Androtion [FGrH IIIB 324 F 37] , who says that he was the son of Melesias.


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January 24, 2010 8:31 PM

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