Pausanias II. 18.8 ff.:

[Effects of the return of the Herakleidai to the Peloponnesos:] They gave the same kind of account about Messenia also, that it had been given in trust to Nestor by Herakles after he had taken Pylos. So they expelled Tisamenos from Lakedaimon and Argos, and the descendants of Nestor from Messenia, namely Alkmaion son of Sillos, son of Thrasymedes; and Peisistratos, son of Peisistratos; and the sons of Paeon, son of Antilochos; and with them Melanthios, son of Andropompos, son of Boros, son of Penthilos, son of Periklymenos. So Tisamenos and his sons went with his army to the land which is now Achaia. To what people Peisistratos retreated I do not know, but the rest of the Neleidai went to Athens, and the genos of the Paionidai and of the Alkmaionidai were named after them. Melanthos even came to the throne, having deposed Thymoites the son of Oxyntes; for Thymites was the last Athenian king descended from Theseus.

Herodotus VI. 115 ff. (especially 123-132):

The tale of the Alkmaionidai treacherously signalling to the Persians with a shield is, to me, quite extraordinary, and I cannot accept it. It is likely that these men, who were obviously greater tyrant-haters even than Kallias the son of Phainippos and father of Hipponikos, should have wished to see Athens ruled by Hippias under foreign control?? . . . They were men who remained in exile throughout the period of absolute government in Athens, and it was they who thought of the plan which deprived the Peisistratidai of their power. Indeed, in my judgment it was the Alkmaionidai more than Harmodios and Aristogeiton who liberated Athens . . . . always provided that what I said further back is true, namely that it was the Alkmaionidai who bribed the priestess at Delphi to keep on telling the Spartans that they must set Athens free . . . . Even in the very early days the Alkmaionidai were a distinguished family in Athens, and from the time of Alkmaion, and afterwards Megakles, they be came very distinguished indeed. Alkmaion, the son of Megakles, gave all the assistance in his power to the Lydians who came from Croesus at Sardis to consult the oracle at Delphi . . . . [In gratitude Croesus offered Alkmaion all the gold he could carry off from Croesus' treasury.] In this way Alkmaion's family suddenly found itself rich, and Alkmaion was able to keep race-horses, with which he won the chariot race at Olympia. In the next generation the family became much more famous than before through the distinction conferred upon it by Kleisthenes the Tyrant of Sikyon . . . . From Athens there were two [suitors for the hand of Kleisthenes' daughter Agariste]: Hippokleides the son of Teisander, the wealthiest and best-looking man in Athens . . . . [who] was related some generations back to the family of Kypselos of Corinth . . . . The issue of the marriage [of Megakles and Agariste I] was that Kleisthenes (named after his grandfather Kleisthenes of Sikyon) who reorganized the Athenian tribes and instituted the democracy in Athens. A second son of Megakles was Hippokrates, who became the father of another Megakles and another Agariste [II]–the namesake of Kleisthenes' daughter–who married Xanthippos the son of Ariphron. This second Agariste dreamed during her pregnancy that she gave birth to a lion, and a few days later became the mother of Perikles.

Isokrates XVI. 25-26:

(397 B. C.) [Loeb Classical Library III, 189 f.]
[written for Alkibiades the Younger]

My father on the male side belonged to the Eupatridai, whose noble birth is apparent from the very name. On the female side he was of the Alkmaionidai, who left behind a glorious memorial of their wealth; for Alkmaion was the first Athenian to win at Olympia with a team of horses, and the good will which they had toward the people they displayed in the time of the tyrants. For they were kinsmen of Peisistratos and before he came to power were closest to him of all the citizens, but they refused to share his tyranny; on the contrary, they preferred exile rather than to see their fellow citizens enslaved. And during the forty years of civic discord [ca. 560-510 ?] the Alkmaionidai were hated so much more bitterly than all other Athenians by the tyrants that whenever the tyrants had the upper hand they not only razed their dwellings, but even dug up their tombs; and so completely were the Alkmaionidai trusted by their fellow exiles that they continued during all that time to be leaders of the people [hegemenoi tou demou] . . . .

Athenian Archon List

(527/6–522/1 B. C.) [Meiggs & Lewis, #6c.]

[ON]ETO[RIDES] 527/6 .
[H]IPPIA[S] 526/5 son of Peisistratos, Tyrant
[K]LEISTHEN[ES] 525/4 the Lawgiver, Alkmaionid
[M]ILTIADES 524/3 Philaid (Herodotus VI. 39.1)
[KA]LLIADES 523/3 .
[PEISI?]STRAT[OS] 522/1 son of Peisistratos
(M & L, #8; Thuc. VI. 54.6-7)

Pindar Pythian Ode VII

with scholia [486 B.C.]
[written for Megakles of Athens, son of Hipponikos, nephew and son-in-law of Kleisthenes the Lawgiver; victor in the four-horse chariot race]

The great city of Athens is the loveliest invocation to cast down as foundation stone for the song to magnify the wide-flung strength of the sons of Alkmaion, and their victory with horses. What country could you live in? What habitation? and name one more conspicuous for all Hellas to attend.// In every city the atie is an intimate thing of the citizens of Erechtheus. At holy Pytho, Apollo, they made magnificent the front of your templed-house. I am guided by five wins at the Isthmos, one pre-eminent at Olympia, Zeus' own, two victories gained from Kirrha–// yours, Megakles, and your fathers' before you. In your late success I find some pleasure, but I am troubled at rancor changing beautiful things done. Even so, men say, blessedness that remains by a man to blossom over him brings, with good, some things that are otherwise.

scholia, line 1: Written for Megakles of Athens, who won the four-horse race in the 28th Pythiad. This is not the one who was victorious at the Olympic Games, but another man. The one who won the Olympic victory is registered for the 47th Olympiad [592 B.C.], but our Megakles for the 73rd [actually 73,3 = 486 B.C.]. Our Megakles would be a descendant of the other, carrying back his ancestral line to Alkmaion the Far-too-wealthy. [The story from Herodotus follows] From him are descended the Alkmaionidai who destroyed the tyranny of the Peisistratidai.

scholia, line 9: It is said that the Alkmaionidai, made exiles by the Peisistratidai, promised to rebuild the temple of Apollo Pythios, which had been burnt (by the Peisistratidai, as certain persons say), and when they had received funds and got together their forces they attacked the Peisistratidai, and when they had won the victory with the greatest success, they rebuilt the temenos for the god, as Philochoros [FGrH #328 F115] relates, because they had vowed to do so beforehand for the god.

Plutarch Solon 11

But [Solon] became still more admired and celebrated throughout the Greek world when he spoke out on behalf of the temple at Delphi and declared that the Greeks must not allow the people of Kirrha to profane the oracle, but must come to its rescue. it was on his advice that the Amphiktyonic Council went to war, as Aristotle, among others, confirms in his list of the victories at the Pythian Games, where he gives Solon the credit for taking up this attitude. He was not, however, appointed general for this war, as Evanthes of Samos alleges (according to Hermippos). Certainly Aeschines the orator makes no such statement, and according to the records at Delphi it was Alkmaion, not Solon, who commanded the Athenians.
First Sacred war:
 595-586    Hammond, History of Greece 137.
 595-590    Andrewes, The Greek Tyrants 60.
 595-582    Burn, The Lyric Age of Greece 200-203.

The first Pythian Games took place in 582, founded by Kleisthenes of Sikyon
and Eurylochos of Thessaly (Scholia on Pindar, Pythians, introduction).

Thucydides Peloponnesian War I. 126:

At first the Lacedaemonian envoys bade the Athenians drive out "the curse of the goddess". The curse was as follows: there was an Athenian in the days of old named Kylon, a victor at Olympia, of noble birth and powerful, and he had married a daughter of Theagenes, a Megarian, who was at that time Tyrant of Megara. Now Kylon consulted the oracle at Delphi, and the god in answer told him to seize the Akropolis of Athens "at the greatest festival of Zeus." So he obtained a force from Theagenes, and, persuading his friends to help, when the Olympic festival in the Peloponnesos came on he thought that the Olympic Festival was not only the greatest festival of Zeus, but also in a manner was connected with him as having won an Olympic victory. But whether the oracle meant the greatest festival in Attica or somewhere else he did not go on to consider, and the oracle did not make clear. For, in fact, the Athenians also have a festival in honor of Zeus Meilichios, the Diasia, as it is called, a very great festival celebrated outside the city, at which all the people offer sacrifices, many making offerings peculiar to the country instead of victims. But Kylon, thinking that he was right in his opinion, made his attempt. And the Athenians, when they were aware of it, came in a body from the fields against them and sitting down before the Akropolis laid siege to it. But as time passed, the Athenians grew weary of the siege and most of them went away, committing the task of guarding to the Nine Archons, to whom they also gave full power to settle the whole matter as they might determine to be best; for at that time the Nine Archons transacted most of the public business. But Kylon and those who were being besieged with him were in hard straits through lack of food and water. So Kylon and his brother escaped. But the rest, when they were in great distress and some of them were even dying of hunger, sat down as suppliants at the altar on the Akropolis. And the Athenians who had been charged with guarding them when they saw them dying in the temple, caused them to arise on promise of doing them no harm, and leading them away put them to death; and some who in passing by took refuge at the altar of the Semnai Theai they dispatched even there. For this act both they and their descendants were called The Accursed [ Enageis ] and 'sinners against the goddess.' Accordingly the accursed persons were driven out not only with the help of a faction of the Athenians, during a civil strife, when they drove out the living and disinterred and cast out the bones of the dead. Afterwards, however, they were restored, and their descendants are still in the city.

Herodotus V. 70-72:

. . . Then Kleomenes first sent a herald to Athens to demand the banishment of Kleisthenes and many other Athenians with him, "the Accursed" [ Enageis ] as he called them. And this he said in his message by Isagoras' instruction; for the Alkmaionidai and their faction were held guilty of that bloody deed, but Isagoras and his friends had no part therein. (71) Now the Accursed at Athens got their name in this way: There was an Athenian named Kylon, who had been a winner at Olympia. This man put on the brave air of one that aimed at tyranny; and gathering a company of men of like age, he attempted to seize the Akropolis, but when he could not win it he took refuge at the goddess' statue. The Prytaneis of the Naukraries, who were then ruling Athens, took them away, having guaranteed to invoke any penalty but death. But they were put to death, and the Alkmaionidai were blamed. (72) Kleomenes, then, having sent and demanded the banishment of Kleisthenes and the Accursed, Kleisthenes himself secretly departed. But nevertheless Kleomenes arrived at Athens with a small force, and having come he banished seven hundred Athenian epistia, the ones Isagoras named for him . . . .

Aristophanes Knights (Hippeis)

445-446, with scholia
[Threatening his antagonist, Paphlagon says:]

And I will say that you are a descendant of those who offended against the goddess.

Scholia [W. Dindorf (1838), p. 229]: . . . . Kylon, an Athenian, married a Megarian wife, the daughter of Theagenes, wishing to be a tyrannos; he received an oracle, to set his hand upon the City on the great festival of Zeus . . . . But he was caught sacking the hieron of Athena. Kylon himself got away, but they killed the rest; some they dragged from the altars where they were suppliants hiketai and put them to death. They used to say that those who did the wrong to the hiketai were aliterious ["accursed"] . . . .

Plutarch Solon 12

Athens had long been troubled by the blood-guilt which it had incurred over the treatment of Kylon and his party. On that occasion Megakles, the Archon, had induced Kylon and his fellow conspirators, who had taken sanctuary in the Temple of Athena, to come down and stand their trial. The men had fastened a braided thread to the goddess' statue and kept hold of it so as to remain under her protection. But as they reached the shrine of the Semnai Theai on their way down from the Akropolis, the thread snapped of its own accord, whereupon Megakles and the other Archons rushed up to seize them, on the pretext that the goddess had refused them the rights of suppliants. Those who were outside the sacred precincts were stoned to death, and the only men to be spared were those who appealed as suppliants to the Archons' wives. For this reason the Archons were laid under a curse and were regarded with loathing by the people. Those of Kylon's partisans who survived built up a strong following again, and formed a permanent faction against the descendants of Megakles. At the time of which we are speaking [600–595 ?] this feud was at its height and the city was torn between the two factions. Accordingly, Solon, whose reputation now stood very high, came forward to mediate between them with the help of some of the most prominent Athenians, and by argument and entreaty prevailed upon those who were still under the curse to stand trial and be judged by a jury of 300 citizens, selected from the most noble families. Myron of Phlya was the prosecutor and Megakles' family was found guilty. Those members of it who were still alive were banished and the bodies of those who had died were dug up and cast out beyond the frontiers of Attika. In the midst of these disorders the Athenians were also attacked by the Megarians and they lost Nisaia and were again driven out of Salamis. At this time, too, the city became a prey to superstitious alarms and strange apparitions, and the seers declared that their sacrifices gave warning of various curses and defilements which demanded expiation.

In this situation they sent to Crete for Epimenides of Phaistos, who is regarded as the seventh of the Sages of Greece by those who do not admit Periander of Corinth to their number. He was believed to be a man especially favored by the gods and to be deeply versed in religious matters, particularly in everything related to divine inspiration and mystic rites . . . . When he arrived in Athens he formed a friendship with Solon, gave him help in many ways, and prepared the way for his legislation . . . .

(13) However, once the disturbances concerning Kylon were past and those involved in the blood-guilt had been banished, as I have described, the Athenians relapsed into their perennial squabbles about the form their government should take . . . .

  • On the Semnai Theai, see Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion pp. 239-253.
  • Pausanias (I. 31.4) notes the shrine of the Semnai Theai at Phlya, the only other place in Attika besides the Areopagos where the (two) goddesses were worshipped under that title.
  • For Myron of Phlya, see J. Kirchner, Prosopographia Attica II (Berlin 1903) p. 109 #10508. Myron was in some way connected with Themistokles, against whom apparently one of the Alkmaionidai, Leobotes, took revenge by putting him on trial in the 470's. See J. K. Davies, Athenian Propertied Families (Oxford 1971) 212-213; 219-220; and for a stemma of the Alkmaionidai, s.v. Megakles #9688, pp. 368-385 and Table VI.

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