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Did Kleon deserve his reputation as an uncultured and power-hungry demagogue?

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Introduction

"Did Kleon deserve his reputation as an uncultured and power-hungry demagogue?" Kleon was an Athenian politician during the Peloponnesian War, who was known to be the first representative of the "Commercial class" (or working class) in Athens. He was not born from a wealthy father like other politicians before him, such as Solon and Peisistratus, but instead was the son of Cleaenetus, from whom he inherited a lucrative tannery business. Since he was not of a wealthy class it was almost the markings of a change in the way politics and the state was lead, opening up a way for the working class to have more power, in what can be argued as an increasingly democratic state. As well as this his ideas and actions began to pronounce an end of the reforms Solon had put forward in 595, which were considered by all politicians and leader after this, with further scrutiny and adjustment. Due to his family status and the way he chose to run the state, information gathered from both the rough time of his reign to modern writers interpretations, praise and criticize can be seen for his techniques and characteristics, establishing as to whether Keon deserved a reputation as an uncultured and power-hungry demagogue, which during his life, he was known to be. The constitution of the Athenians by pseudo-Aristotle is a key source for looking at Athenian politics. ...read more.

Middle

Following on from this comment on Aristophanes, his views are insightful into the bitter rivalry between the two men, one after prolonged peace, and the other who is represented as a warmonger for his abusive use of language and mannerisms. He scripts Kleon as saying "I'll out scream all the speakers, and make Nicias stand aghast." Highlighting how he act. This matches many of the sources, so in cross-referencing them, they begin to describe very similar actions. Aristophanes also uses historical actions in his pieces which describes a lot about Kleons character, and if the people were able to find it funny, then they must have understood the jokes and agreed with many of them. One example of the use of historical context is from a play titled "the Knights" in which he criticised Kleon's actions around Pylos. Pylos was one of Kleons proudest military achievements in which Kleon largely financed and convinced the Ekklesia not to accept a Spartan peace offering. The Athenians defeated both the Spartan naval garrison and their troops on the island, which was seen as a huge blow to their integrity. Thucydides (who also opposed Kleon, saying he persuaded the people through violence) even admitted that Kleon's promises had been 'fulfilled', and showed the diplomatic flair of Kleon. At the same time, all prisoners taken in these battles were orderedto be executed, an example of how his diplomacy could go hand in hand with an unforgiving nature. ...read more.

Conclusion

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. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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