The Chronology of the Pentekontaetia

The Chronology of the Pentekontaetia by Ron K. Unz
Classical Quarterly 36 (1986) pp. 68-85

The true chronology of the Pentekontaetia is difficult, perhaps impossible, to establish conclusively. The events between 477 and 432 were of the greatest possible importance: these years saw the creation of the Athenian empire and a precipitous decline in Spartiate manpower, drastic political realignments involving nearly every state in Hellas, and military activity often rising to a crescendo scarcely matched at the peak of the Peloponnesian War. Indeed, one might strongly argue that the fifty-odd years prior to 432 had a substantially greater historical significance than the three decades of war which followed, as well as a greater degree of political and military drama. But the Pentekontaetia lacks the unifying historical narrative of a Herodotus, let alone a Thucydides, and this one deficiency has caused events of the utmost significance to fade into near obscurity. There is scarcely a single political or military occurrence during the Fifty Years which can be dated to closer than a year or two, and in some cases, proposed dates have ranged over the better part of a decade. With no firm chronological framework, historical analysis degenerates into guesswork and speculation, especially if even the relative order of events is in dispute. In cognizance of this need, this paper seeks to present portions of a new chronology of the Pentekontaetia, one differing in several very significant features from those previously suggested. The severely limited nature of the available evidence precludes any hope of firmly establishing the validity of any one dating scheme over its rivals; the best we can hope for is plausibility.

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