1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pheidon

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PHEIDON (8th or 7th century B.C.), king of Argos, generally, though wrongly, called “tyrant.” According to tradition he flourished during the first half of the 8th century B.C. He was a vigorous and energetic ruler and greatly increased the power of Argos. He gradually regained sway over the various cities of the Argive confederacy, the members of which had become practically independent, and (in the words of Ephorus) “reunited the broken fragments of the inheritance of Temenus.” His object was to secure predominance for Argos in the north of Peloponnesus According to Plutarch, he attempted to break the power of Corinth, by requesting the Corinthians to send him 1000 of their picked youths, ostensibly to aid him in war, his real intention being to put them to death, but the plot was revealed. Pheidon assisted the Pisatans to expel the Elean superintendents of the Olympian games and presided at the festival himself. The Eleans, however, refused to recognize the Olympiad or to include it in the register, and shortly afterwards, with the aid of the Spartans, who are said to have looked upon Pheidon as having ousted them from the headship of Greece, defeated Pheidon and were reinstated in the possession of Pisatis and their former privileges. Pheidon is said to have lost his life in a faction fight at Corinth, where the monarchy had recently been overthrown. The affair of the games has an important bearing on his date. Pausanias (vi. 22, 2) definitely states that Pheidon presided at the festival in the 8th Olympiad (i.e. in 748 B.C.), but in the list of the suitors of Agariste, daughter of Cleisthenes of Sicyon, given by Herodotus, there occurs the name of Leocedes (Lacedas), son of Pheidon of Argos. According to this, Pheidon must have flourished during the early part of the 6th century. It has therefore been assumed that Herodotus confused two Pheidons, both kings of Argos. The suggested subst1tution in the text of Pausanias of the 28th for the 8th Olympiad (i.e. 668 instead of 748) would not bring it into agreement with Herodotus, for even then Pheidon's son could not have been a suitor in 570 for the hand of Agariste. But the story of Agariste's wooing resembles romance and has slight chronological value. On the whole, modern authorities assign Pheidon to the first half of the 7th century. Herodotus further states that Pheidon established a system of weights and measures throughout Peloponnesus, to which Ephorus and the Parian Chronicle add that he was the first to coin silver money, and that his mint was at Aegma. But according to the better authority of Herodotus (i. 94) and Xenophanes of Colophon, the Lydians were the first coiners of money at the beginning of the 7th century, and, further, the oldest known Aeginetan coins are of later date than Pheidon. Hence, unless a later Pheidon is assumed, the statement of Ephorus must be considered unhistorical. No such difficulty occurs in regard to the weights and measures, it is generally agreed that a system was already in existence in the time of Pheidon, into which he introduced certain changes. A passage in the Aristotelian Constitution of Athens (x. 2) states that the measures used before the Solonian period of reform were called “Pheidonian.”

See Herodotus vi. 127; Ephorus in Strabo viii. 358, 376; Plutarch, Amatoriae narrationes, 2; Marmot partum, ep. 30; Pollux ix. 83; Nicolaus Damascenus, frag. 41 (in C. W. Muller's Frag hist graecorum, iii); G Grote, History of Greece, pt ii. ch. 4, B. V. Head, Historia Numorum (1887); F. Hultsch, Griechische und romische Metrologie (1882); G Rawlinson's Herodotus, appendix, bk 1, note 8. On the question of Pheidon's date, see J. B. Bury, History of Greece, ii 468 (1902); J. P. Mahaffy, Problems in Greek History, ch 3 (1892), J. G. Frazer's note on Pausanias vi 22, 2, and especially G. Busolt, Griechische Geschichte (2nd ed, 1893), ch. iii 12. C. Trieber, Pheidon von Argos (Hanover, 1880), and J. Beloch, in Rheinisches Museum, xlv. 595 (1890), favour a later date, about 580.