The Debacle at Tanagra

A few years after Cimon was ostracized, the Athenians faced a minor war at Tanagra. Tanagra was a minor city barely outside Attica. The Spartans had sent an army there and, obviously, the Athenians couldn't afford to have a Spartan force sitting alongside their border like that. The Athenians assembled their army and marched off to beat up the Spartans.

The two armies duly assembled in their lines outside Tanagra, and faced each other, ready to commence the battle, when who should show up but Cimon.

Now Cimon was ostracized, which meant exiled from Attica for 10 years on pain of death. But Tanagra was outside Attica, so Cimon had every right to turn up for the battle. Cimon stepped into the Athenian line, intending to fight as a common soldier.

Suddenly Pericles had a problem. Cimon was the arch-enemy of Pericles in politics, and Cimon was a great soldier. If Cimon displayed outstanding valour in the coming fight, the fickle Athenians might invite him back.

Pericles demanded Cimon go away.

Cimon pointed out he had every right to be there. Cimon also had an underlying motive: Cimon's ostracism had been for excessive friendliness with Sparta. If Cimon, in full view of his fellow Athenians, slaughtered a few Spartans it would give the lie to the indictments against him.

Pericles knew this perfectly well. He insisted that Cimon go away.

Cimon refused.

Things got a teensy bit violent, which is liable to happen when everyone involved in an argument is wearing armour and carrying spears and swords.

The Spartans stood and watched in bemusement while their enemy the Athenians began hacking away at each other. The friends of Pericles were determined to drive away Cimon. The friends of Cimon were equally determined he should remain.

Cimon was eventually forced from the field, after which the officially scheduled battle could commence.

Nicolaos will, of course, find himself stuck in the middle of this debacle. It can't appear for many books down the road, but I'm really looking forward to writing this scene.


Elizabeth said...

Ha! Such a great anecdote. I look forward to reading the scene. Even if it is many books down the road. :)

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Elizabeth.

A big advantage I have is so many strange things happened in this period. It's all good material!

When I find things like this during research I tuck them away for later use. And then start thinking furiously how I can insert them into the story arc.

Trisha Leigh said...

This has the potential to be pretty funny in a novel, "teensy" bit of violence aside. One of my instructors mentioned the name Pericles yesterday and it made me smile!

Gary Corby said...

Hi Trisha! You'll probably hear the name Pericles a few more times before you're done.

Yep, I hope it comes out funny. It would probably be a bit Flashman-like. But if it doesn't, well, there's always the delete button. So useful to a writer.

_*rachel*_ said...

I'd read the whole book just for that scene.

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Rachel! I'll try not to disappoint.

Amalia T. said...

Hahahahahaha! I can just imagine the Spartan's laughing at the Athenians while picking dirt from under their nails and waiting for them to finish. That's going to make an INCREDIBLY AWESOME scene.

Oh, Athens. You are so silly sometimes. This is part of what I love about this time of history. Stories like this abound. I think part of it is that most of the history is so anecdotal in its recording that more of this stuff got preserved than otherwise might have. Nobody is trying to record "JUST THE FACTS." You have these astounding asides that just make you go "Are you serious?" and then the author just goes right back to his narrative like it was a totally normal and expected event. Just like how Homer goes off on tangents about these random minor guys (or random minor guy's horses) from wherever right before they get hacked to bits on the field at Troy. well. Not just like, maybe, but similarly.

dipylon said...

The single funniest ostrakon found is on Kimon: it says "KIMON MILTIADOU ELPINIKEN LABON" (Kimon son of Miltiades, along with Elpinike). Elpinike was his sister, and apparently quite the power player. So some poor guy wrote "Kimon, go to exile AND TAKE YOUR EFFIN' SIStAH WITH YOU!".

Gary Corby said...

OK, I hadn't heard of that one. That is funny.

In the early drafts of The Pericles Commission, I used Elpinice for the name of Diotima's mother. I changed her name to Euterpe when I realized the real Elpinice might end up as a character. Elpinice married Callias, who appears regularly.