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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Anytus, Greek Politician and General - and lover of Alcibiades

Anytus (Greek Ἄνυτος), son of Anthemion, was one of the prosecutors of Socrates. An unsubstantiated legend has it that he was banished from Athens after the public felt guilty about having Socrates executed.We know that he was one of the leading supporters of the democratic forces in Athens (as opposed to the oligarchic forces behind the Thirty Tyrants). Plato also depicts Anytus as an interlocutor in his dialogue the Meno.

Anytus was a powerful, upper-class politician in ancient Athens, one of the nouveaux riches.Anytus served as a general in the Peloponnesian war: He lost Pylos to the Spartans during the war, and was charged with treason. According to Aristotle he was later acquitted by bribing the jury. Anytus won favor after this by playing a major role in overthrowing the Thirty Tyrants. Though Anytus lost much money and provisions during this eight month battle, he made no attempts to regain it back; this also helped his reputation with the Athenians. He came from a family of tanners, successful from the time of his grandfather. Socrates refers to his son's education in the Apology.

Both Anytus and Socrates were lovers of the young Alcibiades, but Alcibiades treated Anytus with great contempt. Once when Anytus had invited him to dinner, Alcibiades arrived late and already drunk. Seeing the table laid with gold and silver dishes, Alcibiades ordered his slaves to take half of the dishes back to his own house. Having played this prank, Alcibiades departed immediately, leaving Anytus and his other guests greatly surprised. When the guests began to rebuke Alcibiades, Anytus excused him, saying that he loved the boy so much that he would have suffered Alcibiades to take the other half of the dishes, too.

In 403 BCE, Anytus supported the Amnesty of Eucleides, which stated that no one who committed a crime before or during the Thirty Tyrants could be prosecuted.

Anytus seems to have had at least two motivations for prosecuting Socrates: Socrates constantly criticised the democratic government of which Anytus was a leader. Anytus may have been concerned that Socrates' criticism was a threat to the newly reestablished democracy. Socrates taught Anytus' son and Anytus perhaps blamed Socrates' teachings for poisoning his son's mind or taking him away from the career path his father had set for him. Xenophon has Socrates forecast that the boy will grow up vicious if he studies a purely technical subject such as tanning. And Xenophon tells us that the son became a drunk.

Source: Wikipedia
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