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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Charēs Angelēthen : biography of a fourth-century strategos Parker, Richard Wayne


Khares of Angele was an Athenian military magistrate and mercenary soldier for over forty years in the mid-fourth century B.C. For two decades between the outbreak of the Social War and the battle of Khaironeia he was Athens' pre-eminent military leader. The ancient sources dealing with this era of Greek history mention him with great frequency and his role in the events of his times provoked strong comments and vivid portraits from contemporary writers. In modern interpretations of fourth-century history Khares is cited as an example of the increasing trend in the city-state towards professionalism and specialization. He is commonly referred to as the quintessential example of the fourth-century mercenary adventurer, or condottiere, who increasingly operated beyond the control of, and without regard for, his home government. These factors have often been considered important in contributing to the decline of Athens as a political power and to the breakdown in the ideal of the Classical city-state. Despite his long presence at the hub of the political history of the later fourth century, there has been no systematic attempt to study his career in its entirety for almost 140 years. Scholars who encounter this important figure in Athenian history have relied on selected, isolated incidents or on vague reports in the orators and other sources to form opinions about Khares, and to make generalizations about him and other military and political leaders on that basis without regard to the rest of the available evidence. This study seeks to provide a full and detailed account of the entire career of Khares in order to create a balanced and complete foundation on which his role in the history of Athens and Greece in the fourth century may be fairly and accurately assessed. It is believed that a detailed survey of his whole career in its historical, social and literary context will contribute to a better appreciation of the relationship between military magistrates and the Athenian democracy, an improved understanding of Athenian politics and a keener awareness of certain problems facing the city-states in this period as well as their representation in the sources. This study is divided into three parts. The first part, consisting of two chapters, surveys the magisterial and military career of Khares. The second part, also consisting of two chapters, examines Khares relationships with other politically active Athenians. The third part, comprising one chapter, investigates the contemporary literary sources that mention Khares in an attempt to determine what, if any, motivations or bias they may have had in their characterizations of him. In the first part the evidence shows clearly that Khares was a popular and durable elected magistrate, accountable and obedient to his government. The evidence does not support the notion that he was a mercenary adventurer at any time while engaged in his career as strategos. In fact, he accepted service as a mercenary only after his days as an elected magistrate at Athens were over, and then he consistently served against the Macedonians. This activity fits the pattern of similarly motivated Athenian military men, who resisted Macedonian domination as foreign mercenaries when their city no longer could. In the second part the evidence indicates that Khares was allied with other politically prominent Athenians only for short periods of time in order to achieve specific and limited political goals. He is consistently characterized as one of, or in co-operation with those characterized as, the demotikoi. His career was not dependent on any of the major political figures. In the third part the severely negative portraits of Khares are seen to have been motivated by personal animosity and political expediency. Contributing to this tradition is the conventional nature of ancient oratory and the pervasive literary influence over that genre exercised by Isokrates, whose malevolence can be explained on personal grounds.

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