Classical Greek leaders

Other evidence to Kleon being a provocative and warmongering leader, was after the fall of Mytilenes revolt against Athens in 427. Kleon proposed that all its citizens be put to death and the women and children enslaved. His harsh decision was heard by the people and Ekklesia and his decree was passed, but rescinded the next day, in time to save Mytilene. This shows him as a very power-hungry demagogue as he had fueled the Demos with violence and wanted to display his hatred and power further in order to pronounce a superiority of the people of Athens and kill anyone who stood against them.

It also displays him as one who is much uncultured and only believes in his own state and country and will not have anything to do with any other country or help them out. Plutarch also looks at Kleon in his biography of Nicias. Plutarch is known to be biased and exaggerates slightly, with this piece as no exception (especially since it is about Nicias who’s views are portrayed as very much contradictory to those of Kleon), however it does give an opinion of Kleon from a writer so wildly known and experienced in writing biographies for Classical Greek leaders.

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Plutarch gives his opinion which is that Kleon tried “to please” the demos in finding them fees, however despite this attempt to gain power, his “arrogance” led to many followers of Nicias. He also follows up further on this idea that he was a war monger and that his violent actions inspired people to fight the Peloponnesians brought together both their sea and land-forces, and because of poor techniques and low confidence from the Demos, people began to agree with Nicias in order to bring peace.

However, in reading other pieces by Plutarch, such as his biography on Aristides, it appears that he writes in a strong favour towards those he is focusing on, and in this biography in particular, he is focusing on Nicias and his achievements, and therefore looking down on what Kleon has achieved, purely because he was a “New politician” with different and probably radical views and actions for the time period.

Overall it is clear to see that from this range of sources that many of the sources written in or around the period of Kleon’s reign were very judgmental, for the fact that he was a “new politician” and therefore his actions and mannerism were very different from the traditional and oligarchic politicians that they themselves wanted at the time.

They did not look at his reforms as much as is needed to judge a politician and did not view his actions as if they were for any particular purpose, such as to draw a likeness to the Demos themselves to gain trust and power. However, it is clear to say, as many of the sources match up, that his actions were violent and he did use abusive language, which does suggest that he was power-hungry, spurring the Demos by whipping them into frenzy and perhaps encouraging them to fight.

The fact also that he refused any peace treaties from the Spartans highlights that perhaps he was a warmonger and wanted to win glory for himself due to wonderous battles in which the Demos themselves made possible, promising them more power as he did so in Office by raising the compensational pay. However it is true that he funded the wars himself showing a general interest, with more success than any Aristocrat could do, and therefore with longer time in power, he may have established his way of leadership more firmly and acted more professional for an effective ruling and running of Athens.