After the democracy: Athens under Phocion (322/1-319/8 B.C.)

Steven Hughes

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

After the defeat of the Greek forces in the Lamian War the Athenians agreed to Antipater's demand for unconditional surrender. As result of the terms the Macedonian general demanded Phocion became pre-eminent in Athens for a few years from 322/1 to 319/8 B.C. It is my belief that, although he did not seek to become leader in Athens, Phocion none-the-less accepted his new role out of a sense of duty and a firm belief that he was the only person suited for the job. Here was a man whose logical, pragmatic and unemotional attitude to political and world affairs enabled him to rise above what he believed to be the short-sightedness of his contemporaries and accurately assess the future for Athens and the city-state's place in the new world order. Of course our picture of Phocion is taken, mainly, from Plutarch's encomiastic Life of Phocion. According to his account the Athenian general and statesman did not want war but peace and prosperity. He did not believe the Athenians capable of defeating Macedonia. Instead, he felt that the people should accept their new position in the world and make the best of the situation. It should not be forgotten, however, that Plutarch was writing at a time when Europe was under the yoke of the new superpower: Rome. He saw the benefits of living in Greece at a time when the city-states were no longer continually involved in internecine warfare. It was, perhaps, this appreciation of the state of his own world, gained with the benefit of hindsight, that gave rise to his admiration of (what he perceived to be) Phocion's foresight. Phocion appeared to understand, as Plutarch did, that there was no reason why Athens could not still be prosperous. Plutarch's Phocion saw the city-state's future as no longer being primarily reliant on military preparedness but rather on trade and sound economic policy. With the protection of the powerful Macedonian overlord Athens would be free to enjoy life in relative peace and prosperity. Ultimately, Plutarch has had a significant influence on our understanding and appreciation of Phocion the general, statesman and man. The aim of this paper then is, with the use of other primary and secondary sources, to look beyond Plutarch's encomium and attempt to find the real Phocion. In particular, I will be examining the aging general's role in Athenian affairs after the Lamian War. This pivotal time in Athenian history has received too little attention. Life in Athens changed dramatically after Antipater defeated the Greek forces at the Battle of Crannon. The Athenians lost their freedom and autonomy and were fated never to regain the hegemony of the Greeks. Moreover, they had failed to live up to the glorious deeds of their ancestors. It was Phocion's task to help his people to come to terms with this new state of affairs and to find a place for Athens in the new world order. And so, political life in Athens was turned upside down as democracy was changed to oligarchy.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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