In part Three, with the fall of Nicias during the Sicilian campaign, and Athens only other able bodied general, Alcibiades defecting to the Spartans, things seemed grim for Athens. But a series of surprising and interesting string of events would ultimately save Athens from their enemies external and internal.
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Coriolanus was a member of the infamous Patrician Marcii house who have always been very active in Roman high society, reaching the height of Roman power with past Kings, nobleman, censors, and senators as some of their past flock.
Coriolanus has big shoes to fill and filled he did landing him a special place in Roman history.
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At the end of the last episode about the Life of Cimon we mentioned how after the Spartan’s snubbed Athens’s help in dealing with their Helot slave rebellion, that Cimon lost popularity in Athens, due to to his well-known and long-standing pro-Spartan views and Cimon came out on the losing end of an ostracism vote in 461 BC, sending him into exile for 10 years.
With Cimon out of the picture for a while, more democratic figures would step up to fill the leadership vacuum, and Pericles would end up becoming the most prominent of them, eventually establishing a legacy as arguably the greatest statesman in the history of Athens.
With Pericles as the lead voice in the Ecclesia, Athens would experience a Golden Age which continues to impress us a full two and a half millennia later.
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Big news we just dropped our Tenth episode! We are super excited and we wouldn’t have made it this far without you our listeners. We hope everyone is enjoying the episodes!
So without further a due, check out our latest episode, the Life of Cimon.
Having narrowly survived the invasion of Xerxes massive Persian army, Athens would lean on the leadership of Cimon as it looks to establish supremacy in the Aegean Sea with a new alliance and a powerful navy.
We are very excited to be back after the latest lockdown kept us from being able to meet up and record. Fortunately we had our materials ready to go and once lockdowns lifted we were able to record two episodes with one dropping today, and the second in two weeks.
Episode 9: Poplicola
As usual a excerpt is below of our ninth Episode, Poplicola, A New Day
With the Monarchy in retreat, several Roman aristocrats would see to it that the Monarchy would die with the overthrow of Tarquin Superbus, the last of the Roman Kings, with Poplicola becoming the leading man in the first decade of the new Republic.
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Little Preview of the episode is below.
Chris: Welcome back everyone and thanks for listening. Last episode we were in Greece, where Xerxes dark cloud of tyranny threatened all Greeks on a scale never seen before, but a determined Greek population led by Athenian heroes sent the Persians packing.
Chris: For today’s episode, we head to the western Mediterranean and back to the Italian Peninsula, where the Romans were purging tyranny of their own, ushering in the classical Roman Republic that we all know and love.
Chris: So, lets get to it.
Chris: After the unstoppable force of Romulus who founded the city of Rome, gave her, her laws and military tradition, and the wise administration of Numa, Rome’s second King, providing the Romans with moral and religious tradition, the quality of Rome’s kings seems to have declined until we reach the reign of Tarquin, the seventh King of Rome who would rule for the good of himself, while the people suffered, marking the end of the Romans love affair with autocracy for the next 500 years.
Chris: The Roman people, desperate and distraught, turned to prominent Romans such as Lucius Brutus, here in called Brutus, Tarquinius Collatinus, here in called Collatinus and Publius Valerius, or Poplicola, who is today’s subject for help in deposing King Tarquinius Superbus, or in English, Tarquinius the Arrogant, here in referred simply as Superbus.
Chris: So, what were the Romans goals in incorporating the ruling class into their budding rebellion against the Tyrant Superbus?
Chris: To understand their goals, we must understand the terrible conditions the Roman State was in at the time.
Chris: Plutarch provides an image of a King so ill tempered, violent, and greedy whom illegally and brutally ascended to the throne and made no attempt to repent or better Rome for the average citizen for 25 long years, inspired an entire generation of hate for his reign and naturally the idea of a King soured on the Romans.
Chris: Everything Superbus stood for was the opposite of past great Kings like Romulus and Numa, and the people were simply at their wits ends hoping for a better future without Superbus.
Chris: However, how could common citizens with no political or economic power stand up to the mighty Superbus and the entrenched system of monarchy hope to make meaningful changes?
Chris: Of course, the senatorial class, some of whom likely were disenchanted with Superbus and had parallel complaints, though likely less credible than the regular citizens, had the resources both economically, politically and militarily to help dispose Superbus and institute a fair, just, and equitable system for all Romans, where the senate, elected by the people, would become the political system which the Romans would call the Republic and would build the first democracy of the ancient world.
“The Persians are coming and Athens is doomed to destruction if the bold and clever Themistocles, and his rival the honorable Aristides, can’t find a way to stop them”
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Ryan: Welcome everyone to Part 2 of the Lives of Themistocles and Aristides.
Ryan: So Chris, If you remember at the end of the last episode, Athens had just won a surprising and momentous victory over a Persian army at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, less than twenty years after becoming the world’s first democracy.
Chris: Yes, I do. I imagine it must have been a pretty exciting time for the city.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s safe to say that following the victory at Marathon, the people of Athens were feeling pretty good about themselves. Everyone except Themistocles that is.
It seems that partly this was down to jealousy of the general Miltiades whose bold leadership at Marathon now made him Athens’ top star. Themistocles needn’t have been jealous – though for the very next year, Miltiades would, apparently due to a personal grudge, convince Athens to let him lead an expedition against the island of Paros which would end in failure. Upon his return to Athens, Miltiades was brought up on charges of treason and died in prison, probably from gangrenous wound. It’s worth taking note of the rapid rise and fall of Miltiades, because he will certainly not be the last person to discover this unfortunate feature of Athenian democracy: you can be a hero one minute and a zero the next.
Of course in the weeks following the Battle of Marathon nobody knew that a year later their hero Miltiades would die in disgrace – and when young Themistocles friends noticed he was not showing up at any of his usual hangouts Plutarch says they asked him what was troubling him and he responded that “the trophy of Miltiades would not let him sleep.” This comment is in reference to the Ancient Greek tradition of the victorious side in a battle erecting a trophy on the battlefield assembled from the defeated enemies arms and armour.
Chris: So Themistocles just couldn’t stand someone else getting all the glory? Sounds like a running feature in the lives of the greeks and romans.
Ryan: That’s right, but it seems that wasn’t the only reason Themistocles refused to feel satisfied with the victory. Plutarch writes that, “when others were of opinion that the Battle of Marathon would be an end to the war, Themistocles thought that it was but the beginning of far greater conflicts, and for these, to the benefit of all Greece, he kept himself in continual readiness, and his city in proper training.”
Now, as it happens, when word of his armies defeat at Marathon got back to the Great King Darius he was furious and determined to launch another expedition against Greece, but while preparations were underway revolt broke out in the crucial province of Egypt, which ended up buying Greece a little time. Before Darius would set out on campaign in Egypt, he needed to choose an heir, according to Persian tradition. Darius had a choice between his two eldest sons, born of different mothers. Artobazanes was the eldest, but Xerxes mother was the formidable Attosa, the daughter of Cyrus the Great, and second only to Darius himself in power and influence at the Persian court. Darius wisely chose Attosa’s son Xerxes as his heir, despite him not being the oldest son. As it turned out, Darius died before the campaign in Egypt could commence and it fell to the new Great King Xerxes to quell the rebellion. Back in Athens, Themistocles saw an opportunity to build up the city’s
defenses against the Persian invasion which his foresight told him would be coming. A silver strike was made at the mines of Laurium outside Athens and the money from this windfall was to divided amongst the Athenian population but Themistocles proposed that instead of a handout of ten drachmas to every Athenian the revenue from the mines should be spent on constructing a fleet of warships (Plutarch says 100 warships, Herodotus says 200 – so maybe we’ll split the difference and go with 150). Themistocles hoped this fleet could defend Athens against the Persian threat but this is not how he pitched the idea. he knew that the Persian threat seemed far away to his fellow Athenians, so he proposed building the fleet to make war against Athens old rival the Aeginetans. Aegina was an island close to Athens and the Aeginetans had a fleet of their own. Themistocles knew the Athenian people were far more likely to support building a fleet to take the fight to Aegina, than to defend against Persians who, even after Marathon, seemed a distant and uncertain threat.
Chris: So appealing to jealousy and anger of the Athenians seemed like a better bet to Themistocles than appealing to their logic?