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Theramenes

(d. 404 bc)


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(d. 404/3 bc),

Athenian politician, son of Hagnon (see amphipolis). He played an active part in establishing the Four Hundred in 411, but four months later he was active in overthrowing them and establishing the Five Thousand, a more moderate but still not fully democratic regime, which succeeded the Four Hundred briefly. When full democracy was restored in 410 he was in the Hellespont, assisting in the recovery of Athens' naval supremacy. At Arginusae (406) he commanded only a single ship, but was one of those instructed to rescue survivors and corpses after the battle. Failure to achieve that was probably due only to bad weather, but later the blame was disputed between Theramenes and the generals (strategoi), and after a largely illegal trial six generals were put to death. Xenophon blames Theramenes for orchestrating this miscarriage of justice; but in Diodorus 2 Siculus' account his role is less sinister, and Aristophanes in Frogs next spring treated him lightly, as an adroit politician. In 404 he was sent to negotiate with Lysander, and afterwards brought back the final terms of peace from Sparta. He was involved in setting up the oligarchy of the Thirty Tyrants, and was one of them, but he soon quarrelled with the extremists, esp. Critias, who had him put to death.

His frequent changes of side were criticized both by democrats like Lysias and by oligarchs like Critias, but in the 4th cent. he could be defended as a moderate seeking a genuine political mean. If he was sincere, he was at least guilty of misjudgement, and must bear a share of the blame for the internal troubles which weakened Athens in the last years of the Peloponnesian War.

See also patrios politeia.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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