Kimon (Greek Κίμων, also spelled Cimon in traditional Classical scholarship contexts) (510, Athens-450 BC, Salamis), was an Athenian statesman and general, and a major political figure of the 470s BC and 460s BC in the ancient city-state (polis) of Athens.
Kimon's mother was Hegesipyle, the daughter of Olorus the King of Thrace. Miltiades, Kimon's father, died in jail because he was unable to pay the fine that was levied against him. The fine passed to Kimon and it was his sister's fiancé Callias, a very wealthy Athenian, who paid it so that he could marry Kimon's sister Elpinice.
Kimon was said to have been "as brave as Miltiades, as intelligent as Themistocles and more just than either man". Exceedingly wealthy and living lavishly, Kimon was also reportedly very generous to the people, opening his house to all and feeding the hungry. In addition, he took away the fences from his fields for anyone to eat of the fruits of the land. Part of the Long Walls that once surrounded Athens was financed by Kimon. Physically, Kimon was imposing, and was said to be able to fill a room with his presence. He was most definitely a brilliant soldier, and was honest and merciful. Kimon became renowned for his excellent generalship and innovative stratagems. He was both intelligent and brave. Once after a victory he let the Allied take all adornment from the war prisoners and kept the naked and ill-trained prisoners for the Athenians (presumably as slaves). The Allies made fun of him until the prisoners’ friends and relatives ransomed every one of them at a great price. This left him with enough money to feed his fleet for four months and yet give some of the money to the city.
At this time the two Greek cities Athens and Sparta were rivals. Athens was a democracy and Sparta a military state. They were allied against the Persian empire and the war between the Greek states and the Persians went on between 500 and 449 BC. Cimon was very pro-Spartan, and believed in dual hegemony. He was an oligarch and supported the constitution of Cleisthenes which distributed power between the upper class and middle (hoplite) class.
Kimon served in the Persian Wars and according to Plutarch: "In all the qualities that war demands he was fully the equal of Themistocles and his own father Miltiades". Kimon served with great distinction at the Battle of Salamis.
Kimon entered into politics on the staff of Aristides in Byzantium. It was under Aristides that Kimon grew. He entered into politics in Athens when the people began to grow tired of Themistocles, and because of this they promoted Kimon to the highest honours and offices in the state. When Xerxes's forces approached and Themistocles passed the decree for evacuating Athens in the year 480 BC and to rely primarily on naval power, it was Kimon who led a procession of youths up to the temple of Athena to burn their knightly horse-bridles as offerings, and to subsequently enlist as marines.
In the years between the ostracism of Themistocles in 472 and his own loss of prestige in 461, Kimon was the most influential Athenian. In 475 BC, Kimon won the Athenians’ hearts by avenging Theseus’ death. Kimon found a tomb with bones alleged to be those of Theseus and he carried these in triumph to Athens.
Between 478 and 461 Kimon led the Delian League forces against the Persian Empire. During the time he freed the Aegean Sea from Persians, Kimon was said to be an essential factor in the Athenians ability to leverage control away from the Spartans. The allies were growing tired of the treatment they were receiving from the Spartans, particularly the regent king Pausinas, and turned to the compassionate and kind Kimon. Kimon, however, was quite a proponent of policies that enabled the transformation from the Delian League to Athenian Empire.
In the year 464 Sparta experiened the effects of a huge earthquake and the helots revolted. Kimon led 4,000 Athenian hoplites to assist the Spartans, but was turned away by them because of fear about their revolutionary democracy. The Athenians were outraged at this and ostracised Kimon in 461. He was ostracised for ten years, but was returned to Athens early because he was needed to serve in battle facing a Peloponnesian invasion. Kimon's ostracism was revoked by Pericles, one of his main opponents.
Kimon died around 450 BC while laying siege to Citium during the Salamis, Cyprus campaign (see the Battle of Salamis).
Even on his deathbed, he plotted against his enemies by urging his crew to conceal his death from both allies and Persians. His crew was brought back in safety “under the command of Cimon”, who by then had been dead for thirty days.
After his death he was revered and honored as a superior being.