The Chronology of Anaxagoras' Athenian Period and the Date of His Trial

In: Mnemosyne
Author: J. Mansfeld
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Several influential literary sources connect the attack upon Anaxagoras with attacks upon Phidias, Aspasia and Pericles [relative chronology] and associate these attacks as a whole with the origins of the Peloponnesian war [absolute chronology]. Since the attack upon Phidias pace Philochorus as supported by the evidence of the digging at Olympia has to be dated to 438/7, this absolute chronology cannot be right. The relative chronology, however, can be defended, which entails that the attack upon Anaxagoras by Diopeithes should be dated to 438/7.-First, I shall discuss such data about Anaxagoras' trial as are provided by the biographical tradition, especially Diogenes Laertius, who summarizes a good part of it. Next, I shall discuss the evidence concerned with the attacks upon Pericles and his associates as provided by the historiographical tradition, viz. Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch, both deriving from Ephorus. Philochorus' evidence as to the chronology of Phidias' career will be discussed in connection with the problem of the absolute vs. the relative chronology as a whole. An argument directed against the modern hypothesis that Phidias' statue of Athena was dedicated during the Great Panathenaea of 438/7 follows. In the course of this argument, it will be necessary to have a closer look at the technical, administrative and religious aspects of the installation of such a statue. The Dracontides/Hagnon decree, aimed at Pericles, can be proved to have been associated with the attacks upon Phidias. This, again, combined with considerations derived from the legal responsibilities of the commissioners in charge of the statue, permits us to date the decree to 438/7. The relative chronology of Ephorus and Plutarch will be defended by an argument purporting to show that the attacks upon Pericles and his associates are inextricably bound up with one another, which allows us to date the Diopeithes decree, too, to 438/7. Next, I shall argue that the trial of Anaxagoras is a historical fact, and that it should probably be dated to 437/6. Finally, the tradition about Anaxagoras' sojourn at Lampsacus will be studied, and a chronology of his career as a whole will be proposed.

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