Anytus

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Anytus (/ˈænɪtəs/; Greek: Ἄνυτος Ánytos; c. 5th–4th century BCE), son of Anthemion, was an ancient Athenian politician. He served as a general in the Peloponnesian War, and was later a leading supporter of the democratic movements in Athens opposed to the oligarchic forces behind the Thirty Tyrants.[1]

He is best remembered as one of the prosecutors of the philosopher Socrates, and is depicted as an interlocutor in Plato's Meno.

Life[edit]

Political career[edit]

Anytus came from a family of tanners, successful from the time of his grandfather. He was a powerful, upper-class politician in ancient Athens, one of the nouveaux riches.[2] While a general in the Peloponnesian War, he lost Pylos to the Spartans and was charged with treason.[3] According to the Constitution of the Athenians associated with Aristotle, he was later acquitted by bribing the jury.[4] Anytus later won favor by playing a major role in the overthrow of the Thirty Tyrants.[5] In 403 BCE, he supported the amnesty of Eucleides, which prohibited the punishment of anyone who committed a crime before or during the time of the Thirty Tyrants.[6]

Relationship with Alcibiades[edit]

Numerous ancient sources, including Plutarch's Life of Alcibiades, preserve stories of Anytus' tumultuous relationship with the young Alcibiades, who was disciple of Socrates.[7] Alcibiades seems to have treated Anytus with great contempt: on one occasion upon which Anytus had invited him to dinner, Alcibiades arrived late and drunk. Seeing the table laid with gold and silver dishes, Alcibiades ordered his slaves to take half of the dishes back to his own house. Having played this prank, Alcibiades departed immediately, leaving Anytus and his other guests greatly surprised. When the guests began to rebuke Alcibiades, Anytus excused him, saying that he loved the boy so much that he would have suffered Alcibiades to take the other half of the dishes, too.[8][9]

Trial of Socrates and aftermath[edit]

Plato's Apology, and likewise that of Xenophon, lists Anytus as one of the primary prosecutors in the trial of Socrates. Ancient and modern commentators have suggested at least two motivations for Anytus' role in Socrates' trial:

  1. Socrates constantly criticised the democratic government of which Anytus was a leader. Anytus may have been concerned that Socrates' criticism was a threat to the newly reestablished democracy.[10]
  2. Socrates taught Anytus' son and Anytus perhaps blamed Socrates' teachings for poisoning his son's mind or taking him away from the career path his father had set for him. Xenophon has Socrates forecast that the boy will grow up vicious if he studies a purely technical subject such as tanning. Xenophon also tells us that the son became a drunk.[11]

An unsubstantiated legend has it that Anytus was banished from Athens after the public felt guilty about having Socrates executed.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ P. Rhodes, A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia, Oxford University Press 1981, pp. 431-432
  2. ^ Rhodes, p. 343
  3. ^ Rhodes, p. 344
  4. ^ Pseudo-Aristotle. "Constitution of the Athenians". Retrieved March 20, 2012.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  5. ^ J. Adam, Platonis Apologia Socratis, Cambridge U Press 1916, p. xxvi.
  6. ^ J. Burnet, Plato: Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, Crito, Clarendon 1924, pp. 100-101.
  7. ^ Plato's Symposium.
  8. ^ Robert J. Littman, "The Loves of Alcibiades." Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 101 (1970), pp. 263-276.
  9. ^ Plutarch. "Life of Alcibiades". Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  10. ^ Burnet, p. 74
  11. ^ Xenophon, Apology 29-31.
  12. ^ Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edition., p. 117.