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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VIII   


Pisander and his colleagues on their voyage alongshore abolished, as
had been determined, the democracies in the cities, and also took some
heavy infantry from certain places as their allies, and so came to
Athens. Here they found most of the work already done by their
associates. Some of the younger men had banded together, and
secretly assassinated one Androcles, the chief leader of the
commons, and mainly responsible for the banishment of Alcibiades;
Androcles being singled out both because he was a popular leader and
because they sought by his death to recommend themselves to
Alcibiades, who was, as they supposed, to be recalled, and to make
Tissaphernes their friend. There were also some other obnoxious
persons whom they secretly did away with in the same manner. Meanwhile
their cry in public was that no pay should be given except to
persons serving in the war, and that not more than five thousand
should share in the government, and those such as were most able to
serve the state in person and in purse.
But this was a mere catchword for the multitude, as the authors of
the revolution were really to govern. However, the Assembly and the
Council of the Bean still met notwithstanding, although they discussed
nothing that was not approved of by the conspirators, who both
supplied the speakers and reviewed in advance what they were to say.
Fear, and the sight of the numbers of the conspirators, closed the
mouths of the rest; or if any ventured to rise in opposition, he was
presently put to death in some convenient way, and there was neither
search for the murderers nor justice to be had against them if
suspected; but the people remained motionless, being so thoroughly
cowed that men thought themselves lucky to escape violence, even
when they held their tongues. An exaggerated belief in the numbers
of the conspirators also demoralized the people, rendered helpless
by the magnitude of the city, and by their want of intelligence with
each other, and being without means of finding out what those
numbers really were. For the same reason it was impossible for any one
to open his grief to a neighbour and to concert measures to defend
himself, as he would have had to speak either to one whom he did not
know, or whom he knew but did not trust. Indeed all the popular
party approached each other with suspicion, each thinking his
neighbour concerned in what was going on, the conspirators having in
their ranks persons whom no one could ever have believed capable of
joining an oligarchy; and these it was who made the many so
suspicious, and so helped to procure impunity for the few, by
confirming the commons in their mistrust of one another.
At this juncture arrived Pisander and his colleagues, who lost no
time in doing the rest. First they assembled the people, and moved
to elect ten commissioners with full powers to frame a constitution,
and that when this was done they should on an appointed day lay before
the people their opinion as to the best mode of governing the city.
Afterwards, when the day arrived, the conspirators enclosed the
assembly in Colonus, a temple of Poseidon, a little more than a mile
outside the city; when the commissioners simply brought forward this
single motion, that any Athenian might propose with impunity
whatever measure he pleased, heavy penalties being imposed upon any
who should indict for illegality, or otherwise molest him for so
doing. The way thus cleared, it was now plainly declared that all
tenure of office and receipt of pay under the existing institutions
were at an end, and that five men must be elected as presidents, who
should in their turn elect one hundred, and each of the hundred
three apiece; and that this body thus made up to four hundred should
enter the council chamber with full powers and govern as they judged
best, and should convene the five thousand whenever they pleased.
The man who moved this resolution was Pisander, who was throughout
the chief ostensible agent in putting down the democracy. But he who
concerted the whole affair, and prepared the way for the
catastrophe, and who had given the greatest thought to the matter, was
Antiphon, one of the best men of his day in Athens; who, with a head

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