From simonides to isocrates: The fifth-century origins of fourth-century panhellenism

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This article attempts to gather the evidence for panhellenism in the fifth century B.C. and to trace its development both as a political program and as a popular ideology. Panhellenism is here defined as the idea that the various Greek city-states could solve their political disputes and simultaneously enrich themselves by uniting in common cause and conquering all or part of the Persian empire. An attempt is made to trace the evidence for panhellenism throughout the fifth century by combining different kinds of evidence: that is, both poetic and historical texts, as well as the testimonia for monuments which are no longer extant. Any thought of a panhellenic crusade was impossible before the Persian invasions, but such an expedition, under the dual leadership of Athens and Sparta, was espoused by Cimon. After his death it remained an item of popular talk for the rest of the century and this talk intensified during the second half of the Peloponnesian War. The paper has six parts: the first finds hints of panhellenist ideology in the fragments of Simonides' Plataea elegy and in Aeschylus' Persians. The second part attempts to explain several puzzling passages in Herodotus in terms of his reflecting contemporary panhellenist discourse, especially in his account of Aristagoras of Miletus at Sparta. Part three reconstructs Cimon' s belief in dual hegemony and his plans for a joint Athenian-Spartan expedition against the Persian empire. Part four connects an anecdote about Miltiades with the Cimonian monuments and argues that the artistic program of the Stoa Poikile was intended to support Cimon's panhellenist aspirations. Part five discusses panhellenist sentiments in late fifth-century Greek poetry, and dates the Olympic Oration and Funeral Oration of Gorgias to the period 408-405 B.C. Finally, part six relates the panhellenist writings of Isocrates to earlier developments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-101+2
JournalClassical Antiquity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Classics


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