From 501/0 B.C., the office of the polemarch was superseded by Ten Generals (strategoi), usually one from each tribe. They held office for one year, after which they were eligible for re-election. The annual election of generals took place in spring and their term coincided with the Attic year, that is from midsummer to midsummer. These generals were monitored by the Assembly of Citizens and the Council of Five Hundred for the duration of each presidency.

The increase in the Generalsí prestige during the 5th century B.C. was largely due to the frequent military expeditions for which the Generals directed both land and sea operations. In special cases, one General might be appointed autokrator and have full command. During peacetime, the generals were engaged in financial administration of the naval forces. For this reason, they frequently met with the Council of Five Hundred, whose meetings they had the right to attend. They were further responsible for the mobilisation of citizens and metics, and the management and maintenance of warships. When cases of desertion arose, they would bring the case to court and preside over the trial.


Generals in the 5thcentury B.C., such as Themistocles, Aristides, Cimon, Pericles, Cleon, Nicias and Alcibiades had to combine military and political skills. During the 4thcentury B.C., with the decline of Athenian military and naval power, the office of General ceased to be a path to political influence. However, at the same time, a breed of distinctly military Generals started to emerge. Examples include Iphicrates, Timotheus, Chares and Chabrias, and for that reason their functions started to separate off (Aristotle, The Athenian Constitution 61). With this separation of the political and the military, Athenian political life started to assume a new character, one which would come to establish itself in the second half of the 4thcentury B.C.



| introduction | political development of classical Athens | Athenian constitution | generals | Classical period

Note: Click on the icons for enlargements and explanations.
Underlined links lead to related texts; those not underlined ones are an explanatory glossary.