Conspiracy of Cinadon

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The conspiracy of Cinadon was an attempted coup d'état which took place in Sparta in the 4th century BC during the first years of the reign of Eurypontid King Agesilaus II (398 BC-358 BC).[1] The leader was Cinadon, who was a distinguished military officer, but came from a poor family. The conspiracy aimed to break the power of the oligarchic Spartan state and its elite and give rights to poorer Spartans and even to helots. Although elaborately organized, the plot was in the end betrayed to the ephors; they cracked down on the conspirators, and Cinadon himself was tortured and executed.

Cinadon's conspiracy can be seen as a predecessor to many other radical movements of the ancient world, such as the Catiline Conspiracy in Rome or even the slave revolt of Spartacus.

Conspirators[edit]

Cinadon was a young and valiant man. He was a military officer who carried out important missions for the ephors; he had a scytale in his possession which was used to direct hippeis, members of the elite Spartan guard of the Spartan army. He was well educated and, because of his job, he should have been a valued and respected person likely (according to Xenophon and Aristotle[2]) to be a member of the peers (homoioi). In fact, he was a member of the "Inferiors" (hypomeiones), those Spartans who had lost their civil rights either through cowardice,[3] or poverty (for example, the inability to pay their dues to the syssitia), as was the case for Cinadon, who had a humble background. He aspired, as he stated in the course of his trial, "to be a Lacedaemonian inferior to no one".

He assembled other hypomeiones, of whom the most dangerous, according to Xenophon, was the seer Tisamenus, a descendant of an Elean of the same name who had received Spartan citizenship after the Greco-Persian Wars. He had also lost his civil rights, probably also because of poverty. These two plotters were not members of the oppressed classes, but had been stripped of their usual rights as citizens.

Discovery of the plot[edit]

During a sacrifice presided over by King Agesilaus II, the omens proved to be very bad. Xenophon bluntly indicates that the soothsayer assisting the king foresaw "a most terrible conspiracy". Several days later, a man denounced the conspiracy of Cinadon to the ephors; he said that Cinadon had brought him to the agora and ordered him to count the Spartans in the crowd, which consisted of nearly 4000. It turned out that only 40 of them were Peers: a king, ephors, Gerousia, and citizens. Cinadon then pointed out that the 40 Spartans were the enemy, and the 4000 others were allies. The informer added that Cinadon had gathered around himself a number of hypomeiones who hated the Spartans:

" for whenever among these classes any mention was made of Spartiatae, no one was able to conceal the fact that he would be glad to eat them raw."[4][5]

The informer finished by pointing out that some conspirators were armed and the rest had access to implements such as hatchets and sickles.[6]

Panicked, the ephors did not immediately arrest Cinadon. By means of an elaborate ruse, they sent him to the Elean frontier at Aulon in Messenia. His escort was composed of young Hippeis carefully selected by their commander. An additional detachment of cavalry was available as reinforcements. Cinadon was interrogated in the field; where he revealed the names of the principal co-conspirators, who were then arrested. On his return to Sparta, he was further questioned until all his accomplices were named. Cinadon and the conspirators were then bound, flogged and dragged through the city until they were dead.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ This article translated from the French wiki article 15 June 2006
  2. ^ Aristotle, Politics (V, 7, 1306b 33–35)
  3. ^ Reginald Walter Macan, Herodotus: The Seventh, Eighth, & Ninth Books with Introduction and Commentary explains the term 'tresantes' which is associated with this misdeed. online accessed 13 June 2006.
  4. ^ Hellenica, III, 3, 6
  5. ^ Xenophon, Hellenica Online at Perseus accessed 14 June 2006
  6. ^ Hellenica, III, 3, 7

Bibliography[edit]

  • E. David, "The Conspiracy of Cinadon". Athenæeum 57 (1979), p. 239–259
  • Dustin A. Gish, "Spartan Justice: the Conspiracy of Kinadon in Xenophon's Hellenika," Polis, 2009, pdf accessible from https://www.academia.edu/937041/Spartan_Justice_The_Conspiracy_of_Kinadon_in_Xenophons_Hellenika_.
  • J.F. Lazenby, "The Conspiracy of Cinadon reconsidered". Athenæum 55 (1977), p. 437–443
  • (in French) Edmond Lévy. Sparte : histoire politique et sociale jusqu’à la conquête romaine. Seuil, "Points Histoire" collection, Paris, 2003 (ISBN 2-02-032453-9)
  • (in Italian) R. Vattone, "Problemi spartani. La congiura di Cinadone". RSA 12 (1982), p. 19–52.