Aristides died about four years after the banishment of Themistocles. The common accounts of his poverty are probably exaggerated, and seem to have been founded on the circumstances of a public funeral, and of handsome donations made to his three children by the state. But whatever his property may have been, it is at least certain that he did not acquire or increase it by unlawful means; and not even calumny has ventured to assail his well-earned title of THE JUST.
On the death of Aristides, Cimon became the undisputed leader of the conservative party at Athens. Cimon was generous, affable, magnificent; and, notwithstanding his political views, of exceedingly popular manners. He had inherited the military genius of his father, and was undoubtedly the greatest commander of his time. He employed the vast wealth acquired in his expeditions in adorning Athens and gratifying his fellow- citizens. It has been already mentioned that he succeeded Aristides in the command of the allied fleet. His first exploits were the capture of Eion on the Strymon, and the reduction of the island of Scyros (B.C. 476). A few years afterwards we find the first symptoms of discontent among the members of the Confederacy of Delos. Naxos, one of the confederate islands, and the largest of the Cyclades, revolted in B.C. 466, probably from a feeling of the growing oppressiveness of the Athenian headship. It was immediately invested by the confederate fleet, reduced, and made tributary to Athens. This was another step towards dominion gained by the Athenians, whose pretensions were assisted by the imprudence of the allies. Many of the smaller states belonging to the confederacy, wearied with perpetual hostilities, commuted for a money payment the ships which they were bound to supply; and thus, by depriving themselves of a navy, lost the only means by which they could assert their independence.
The same year was marked by a memorable action against the Persians. Cimon at the head of 200 Athenian triremes, and 100 furnished by the allies, proceeded to the coast of Asia Minor. The Persians had assembled a large fleet and army at the mouth of the river Eurymedon in Pamphylia. After speedily defeating the fleet, Cimon landed his men and marched against the Persian army which was drawn up on the shore to protect the fleet. The land- force fought with bravery, but was at length put to the rout.
The island of Thasos was the next member of the confederacy against which the Athenians directed their arms. After a siege of more than two years that island surrendered, when its fortifications were razed, and it was condemned to pay tribute (B.C. 463).
The expedition to Thasos was attended with a circumstance which first gives token of the coming hostilities between Sparta and Athens. At an early period of the blockade the Thasians secretly applied to the Lacedaemonians to make a diversion in their favour by invading Attica: and though the Lacedaemonians were still ostensibly allied with Athens, they were base enough to comply with this request. Their treachery, however, was prevented by a terrible calamity which befel themselves. In the year B.C. 461 their capital was visited by an earthquake which laid it in ruins and killed 20,000 of the citizens. But this was only part of the calamity. The earthquake was immediately followed by a revolt of the Helots, who were always ready to avail themselves of the weakness of their tyrants. Being joined by the Messenians, they fortified themselves in Mount Ithome in Messenia. Hence this revolt is sometimes called the Third Messenian War (B.C. 464). after two or three years spent in a vain attempt to dislodge them from this position, the Lacedaemonians found themselves obliged to call in the assistance of their allies, and, among the rest, of the Athenians. It was with great difficulty that Cimon persuaded the Athenians to comply with this request; but he was at length despatched to Laconia with a force of 4000 hoplites. The aid of the Athenians had been requested by the Lacedaemonians on account of their acknowledged superiority in the art of attacking fortified places. As, however, Cimon did not succeed in dislodging the Helots from Ithome the Lacedaemonians, probably from a consciousness of their own treachery in the affair of Thasos, suspected that the Athenians were playing them false, and abruptly dismissed them, saying that they had no longer any occasion for their services. This rude dismissal gave great offence at Athens, and annihilated for a time the political influence of Cimon. The democratical party had from the first opposed the expedition; and it afforded them a great triumph to be able to point to Cimon returning not only unsuccessful but insulted. That party was now led by Pericles. A sort of hereditary feud existed between Pericles and Cimon; for it was Xanthippus, the father of Pericles, who had impeached Miltiades, the father of Cimon. The character of Pericles was almost the reverse of Cimon's. Although the leader of the popular party, his manners were reserved. He appeared but little in society, and only in public upon great occasions. His mind had received the highest polish which that period was capable of giving. He constantly conversed with Anaxagoras, Protagoras, Zeno, and other eminent philosophers. To oratory in particular he had devoted much attention, as an indispensable instrument for swaying the public assemblies of Athens.
Pericles seized the occasion presented by the ill success of Cimon, both to ruin that leader and to strike a fatal blow at the aristocratical party. He deprived the Areopagus of its chief functions, and left it a mere shadow of its former influence and power. He rendered the election to magistracies dependent simply upon lot, so that every citizen however poor, had an equal chance of obtaining the honours of the state. Other changes which accompanied this revolution--for such it must be called--were the institution of paid DICASTERIES or jury-courts, and the almost entire abrogation of the judicial power of the Senate of Five Hundred. It cannot be supposed that such fundamental changes were effected without violent party strife. The poet AEschylus, in the tragedy of the EUMENIDIES, in vain exerted all the powers of his genius in support of the aristocratical party and of the tottering Areopagus; his exertions on this occasion resulted only in his own flight from Athens. The same fate attended Cimon himself; and he was condemned by ostracism (B.C. 461) to a ten years' banishment. Nay, party violence even went the length of assassination. Ephialtes, who had taken the lead in the attacks upon the Areopagus, fell beneath the dagger of a Boeotian, hired by the conservative party to dispatch him.
It was from this period (B.C. 461) that the long administration of Pericles may be said to have commenced. The effects of his accession to power soon became visible in the foreign relations of Athens. Pericles had succeeded to the political principles of Themistocles, and his aim was to render Athens the leading power of Greece. The Confederacy of Delos had already secured her maritime ascendency; Pericles directed his policy to the extension of her influence in continental Greece. She formed an alliance with the Thessalians, Argos, and Megara. The possession of Megara was of great importance, as it enabled the Athenians to arrest the progress of an invading army from Peloponnesus, AEgina, so long the maritime rival of Athens, was subdued and made tributary. The Athenians marched with rapid steps to the dominion of Greece. Shortly afterwards the battle of OEnophyta (B.C. 456), in which the Athenians defeated the Boeotians, gave Athens the command of Thebes, and of all the other Boeotian towns. From the gulf of Corinth to the straits of Thermopylae Athenian influence was now predominant. During these events the Athenians had continued to prosecute the war against Persia. In the year B.C. 460 they sent a powerful fleet to Egypt to assist Inarus, who had revolted against Persia; but this expedition proved a complete failure, for at the end of six years the revolt was put down by the Persians, and the Athenian fleet destroyed (B.C. 455). At a later period (B.C. 449) Cimon, who had been recalled from exile, sailed to Cyprus with a fleet of 200 ships. He undertook the siege of Citium in that island; but died during the progress of it, either from disease or from the effects of a wound. Shortly afterwards a pacification was concluded with Persia, which is sometimes, but erroneously, called "the peace of Cimon." It is stated that by this compact the Persian monarch agreed not to tax or molest the Greek colonies on the coast of Asia Minor, nor to send any vessels of war westward of Phaselis in Lycia, or within the Cyanean rocks at the junction of the Euxine with the Thracian Bosporus; the Athenians on their side undertaking to leave the Persians in undisturbed possession of Cyprus and Egypt. During the progress of these events, the states which formed the Confederacy of Delos, with the exception of Chios, Lesbos, and Samos, had gradually become, instead of the active allies of Athens, her disarmed and passive tributaries. Even the custody of the fund had been transferred from Delos to Athens. The purpose for which the confederacy had been originally organised disappeared with the Persian peace; yet what may now be called Imperial Athens continued, for her own ends, to exercise her prerogatives as head of the league. Her alliances, as we have seen, had likewise been extended in continental Greece, where they embraced Megara, Boeotia, Phocis, Locris, together with Troezen and Achaia in Peloponnesus. Such was the position of Athens in the year 448 B.C., the period of her greatest power and prosperity. From this time her empire began to decline; whilst Sparta, and other watchful and jealous enemies, stood ever ready to strike a blow.
In the following year (B.C. 447) a revolution in Boeotia deprived Athens of her ascendency in that country. With an overweening contempt of their enemies, a small band of 1000 Athenian hoplites, chiefly composed of youthful volunteers belonging to the best Athenian families, together with a few auxiliaries, marched under the command of Tolmides to put down the revolt, in direct opposition to the advice of Pericles, who adjured them to wait and collect a more numerous force. The enterprise proved disastrous in the extreme. Tolmides was defeated and slain near Chaeronea, a large number of the hoplites also fell in the engagement, while a still larger number were taken prisoners. This last circumstance proved fatal to the interests of Athens in Boeotia. In order to recover these prisoners, she agreed to evacuate Boeotia, and to permit the re-establishment of the aristocracies which she had formerly overthrown. But the Athenian reverses did not end here. The expulsion of the partisans of Athens from the government of Phocis and Locris, and the revolt of Euboea and Megara, were announced in quick succession. The youthful Pleistoanax, king of Sparta, actually penetrated, with an army of Lacedaemonians and Peloponnesian allies, as far as the neighbourhood of Eleusis; and the capital itself, it is said, was saved only by Pericles having bribed the Spartan monarch. Pericles reconquered Euboea; but this was the only possession which the Athenians succeeded in recovering. Their empire on land had vanished more, speedily than it had been acquired; and they were therefore induced to conclude, at the beginning of B.C. 445, a THIRTY YEARS' TRUCE with Sparta and her allies, by which they consented to abandon all the acquisitions which they had made in Peloponnesus, and to leave Megara to be included among the Peloponnesian allies of Sparta.