Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cleon, the son of an Athenian tanner named Cleaenetus, obtained by his coarse but powerful eloquence and by demagogic arts a considerable hold over his fellow-citizens. He began by opposing the war policy of Pericles, but we afterwards find him combating with equal ardour the pacific counsels of Nicias. In 427, when at the zenith of his power, he persuaded the assembly to condemn the male population of Mitylene to slaughter, a decree rescinded on the following day. In 425 he boasted that he would reduce the island of Sphacteria, long blockaded ineffectually by Nicias, and bring the garrison in chains to Athens within twenty days. He received the command, and fulfilled his promise. Three years later he was sent to recover Amphipolis in Thrace, but he was defeated by Brasidas, both commanders being slain in the action. Cleon was naturally an object of detestation to the oligarchical aristocracy of Athens, and as we get our information of his character and policy solely from Theucydides and Aristophanes, who not only belonged to that party but were also personally at variance with the democratic leader, it is probable that history has hardly done him justice. He is generally regarded as the type of a vulgar, loud-voiced, shifty, unscrupulous agitator, trading on the worse passions of an ignorant mob. But he must have possessed vigour and ability, even if they were combined with less estimable qualities.