Peisander of Athens

Peisander, (Πείσανδρος), an Athenian, of the demus of Acharnae. From a fragment of the Babylonians of Aristophanes (ap. Schol. ad Arist. Av. 1556) it would seem that he was satirised in that play as having been bribed to join in bringing about the Peloponnesian war (comp. Arist. Lysistr. 490; Schol. ad Arist. Pac. 389). Rapacity, however, was fair from being the only point in his character which exposed him to the attacks of the comic poets. In the fragment of the Astratevtoi or Androgynai of Eupolis, which thus speaks of him, --

Πείσανδρος εἰς Πακτωλὸν ἐστρατεύετο,
Κἀνταῦθα τῆς στρατιᾶς κάκιστος ἦν ἀνήρ, --

his expedition to the Pactolus has indeed been explained as an allusion to his peculating propensities ; but others, by an ingenious conjecture, would substitute Σπάρτωλον for Πακτωλὸν, and would understand the passage as an attack on him for cowardice in the unsuccessful campaign of the Athenians against the revolted Chalcidians, in 429 BC (Thuc. ii. 79; comp. Meineke, Fragm. Com. Graec.. vol. i. p. 177, ii. pp. 435, 436). It further appears, from a notice of him in the Symposium of Xenophon (ii. 14), that in 422 BC he shrunk pusillanimously from serving in the expedition to Macedonia under Cleon (Thuc v. 2). If for this he was brought to trial on an ἀστρατείας γραφή, of which, however, we have no evidence, it is possible, us Meineke suggests (Fragm. Com. Graec. vol. i. p. 178; comp vol. ii. pp 501, 502), that the circumstance may be alluded to in the following line of the Maricas of Eupolis, --

ἄκουε νῦν Πείσανδρος ὡς ἀπόλλυται.

To about this period, too, Meineke would refer the play of the comic poet, Plato, which bears Peisander's name, and of which he formed the main subject. Aristophanes ridicules him also for the attempt to cloak his cowardice under a gasconading demeanour ; and he gave further occasion for satire to Aristophanes, Eupolis, Hermippus, and Plato, by his gluttony and his unwieldy bulk, the latter of which procured for him the nicknames of ὀνοκίνδιος and ὔνος κανθήλιος (donkey-driver and donkey), names the more appropriate, as the donkeys of Acharnae, his native demus, were noted for their size (Arist. Pax, 389, Av. 1556; Meineke, Fragm. Com. Gaec. ll. cc., vol. ii. pp. 384, 385, 648, 685; Ath. x. p. 415, e; Ael. V. H. i. 27, H. A. iv. 1; Suid. s. vv. Δειλότερος τοῦ παρακύπτοντος, Εἴ τι Πεισάνδρου, Πεισάνδρου δειλότερος, Ἀρκάδας μιμούμενοι; Hesych. s. v. Ἀχαρνικοὶ ονοι). With this disreputable character he possessed we find him in 415 BC appointed one of the commissioners (ζητηταὶ) for investigating the mystery of the mutilation of the Hermae, on which occasion he joined with Charictls in representing the outrage as connected with a conspiracy against the people, and thus inflaming the popular fury (Thuc. vi. 27-29, 53, 60, &c.; Andoc. die Myst. pp. 5, 6). In B. C. 414 he was archon eponymus (Diod. xiii. 7); and towards the end of 412 he comes before us as the chief ostensible agent in effecting the revolution of the Four Hundred, having been sent about that time to Athens from the army at Samos to bring about the recall of Alcibiades and the overthrow of the democracy, or rather, according to his own professions, a modification of it. On his arrival, he urged these measures on his countrymen as the only means of obtaining the help of Persia, without which they could not hope to make head against the Lacedaemonians; and at the same time he craftily suggested that it would be at their own option to recur to their old form of government after the temporary revolution had served its purpose. The people, pressed by the emergency, gave a reluctant consent, and entrusted Peisander and ten others with discretionary power to treat with Tissaphernes and Alcibiades. At his instigation also they took away the command of the fleet from Phrynichus and Scironides, who were opposed to the new movement, and the former of whom he accused of having betrayed Amorges and caused the capture of lasus (comp. Thuc. viii. 28). Before be left Athens, Peisander organised a conspiracy among the several political clubs (έταιρίαι) for the overthrow of the democracy, and then proceeded on his mission. The negotiation, however, with Tissaphernes failed, and he returned with his colleagues to Samos. Here he strengthened his faction in the army, and formed an oligarchical party among the Samians themselves. He then sailed again to Athens, to complete his work there, establishing oligarchy in all the cities at which he toced is course. Five of his fellow envoys accompanied him, while the remainder were emplayed in the same way in other quarters. On his a al at Athens with a body of heavy-armed drawn from some of the states which he had revolutionised, he found that the clubs had almost effected his object already, principally by means of assassination and the general terror thus produced. When matters were fully ripe for the final step, Peisander made the proposal in the assembly for the establishment of the Four Hundred. In all the measures of this new government, of which he was a member, he took an active part; and when Theramenes, Aristocrates, and others withdrew from it, he sided with the more violent aristocrats, and was one of those who, on the counter-revolution, took refuge with Agis at Deceleia. His property was confiscated, and it does not appear that he ever returned to Athens (Thuc. viii. 49, 53, 54, 56, 63-77, 89-98 ; Diod. xiii. 34; Plut. Alc. 26; Aristot. Rhet. iii. 18. § 6, Polit. v. 4, 6, ed. Bekk.; Schol. ad Aesch. de Fals. Ley. p. 34; Lys. περὶ σηκοῦ, p. 108, c. Erat. p. 126; Isocr. Areop. p. 151, c, d).

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