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  • Cimon › Who Was
  • Cincinnatus › Who Was
  • Zen Buddhism in Ancient Korea › Origins

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Cimon › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Mark Cartwright
published on 10 April 2016
Greek Trireme (The Creative Assembly)
Cimon (c. 510 – 450 BCE) was an Athenian statesman and, as strategos, frequent commander of the Athenian fleet when the city was at the height of its power. He won military glory by defeating Spartan rival Pausanias and then the Persians in both a land and sea battle to expand the membership and power of the Delian League which he led for over a decade. Not helped by his political rival Pericles, Cimon was later exiled from Athens and never recovered his former political position but he had already done enough to establish a lasting reputation as one of Athens' greatest generals. He is the subject of one of Plutarch’s Lives biographies.


Born around 510 BCE Cimon (also spelt Kimon) was the son of the general and statesman Miltiades who had famously defeated the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE. His mother Hegesipyle, as the daughter of Olorus, king of Thrace, was also well-to-do. Cimon's sister was Elpinice and there were accusations, now supported by some archaeological evidence, of incest between the two, even if she was married to Callias, the prominent politician. Cimon married Isodice of the Athenian aristocratic Alcmaeonid family so that with powerful family connections he was set to rise to the very top of Athens' political pile.


Cimon fought at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE but first comes to political prominence in 479 BCE when he was part of a delegation sent to Sparta. In the following years he was influential in persuading Greek naval powers to join the Delian League, and between 476 and 463 BCE he was frequently made strategos or commanding general of the Athenian fleet and the League as a whole. Amongst his notable victories, he drove the Dolopian pirates out of the Aegean island of Scyros c. 475 BCE. In so doing he won glory by bringing back to Athens the fabled bones of Athens' legendary king Theseus and then made the island an Athenian dependency.


In another successful operation the Spartan general Pausanias was defeated and removed from Byzantium, also c. 475 BCE. Eion in Thrace was another capture for Athens in the same year. There the citizens were enslaved and Cimon set up three Hermes statues in Athens to commemorate the victory. Cimon's star shone even brighter c. 466 when he defeated the Persians at Eurymedon on the southern coast of Asia Minor, twice on the same day in fact, first in a naval engagement and then on land, both times against superior forces. Cimon is credited with improving the effectiveness of the Greek triremewarship by broadening its decks and gangways to allow the transport of more hoplites. In another episode of inventiveness, the general had also had some of his men disguise themselves as Persians using captured clothing to raid an enemy camp.Victory permitted the annexing of more allies to further bolster the Delian League and Cimon's own reputation as one of Athens' greatest commanders.
Cimon also did much for the ordinary citizens of the city too. He rebuilt many public spaces, improved the southern walls of the acropolis, added a water supply to the Academy and trees to the agora and Academy gymnasium, gave the needy handouts, and personally funded a programme to strengthen the Long Walls fortifications which connected Athens to her port, the Piraeus.
Delian League

Delian League

Following victory over the Persians, some historians suggest that Cimon offered to broker a peace deal with Athens' long-time regional rival but that opposing factions in Athens blocked it. The Peace of Callias, c. 450 BCE (proposed by Cimon's brother-in-law), may have been a re-working or even extension of Cimon's original plan. Cimon might have been finished with his old family enemy Persia but he was not done with military expansion and conquered Chersonesus in Thrace and the north-Aegean island of Thasos (along with her gold mines) between 465 and 463 BCE. According to Plutarch the proposal for members of the expanding Delian League, fast becoming the Athenian empire, to pay Athens money instead of ships and men was Cimon's.


Cimon's political career then took a blow in 463 BCE when Pericles formally charged him with corruption. Specifically, he was accused of taking bribes from Alexander I King of Macedon so as not to invade. Acquitted, Cimon was then sent to aid Sparta deal with their helot revolt. The Spartans sent the commander's hoplite army back home, though, afraid of their intentions. As a consequence, in 461 BCE, Cimon, who was always thought to have held Spartan sympathies, suffered a vote of ostracismand was exiled from Athens for 10 years. The commander's reputation for lavish parties and expensive public works had not been helpful in turning public opinion either.
In 457 BCE Cimon did offer his services at Tanagra against a joint force of Sparta and Boeotians but was refused; Athens lost the battle. When he had served his 10-year sentence, Cimon did finally return to his home city and he brokered a peace with Sparta. Then, still fighting Persians until the end, he died either in battle or from disease on Cyprus in 450 BCE. As Plutarch summarized, "He was as brave as Miltiades and as intelligent as Themistocles, and he is generally admitted to have been a juster man than either ( Cimon, 146)."

Cincinnatus › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Donald L. Wasson
published on 04 April 2017
Cincinnatus (ohkylel @twitter)
Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was a Roman consul (460 BCE) and dictator (458 and 439 BCE), a legendary figure in the early days of the Republic. He responded to a call from the city fathers, left his plow lying in the fields, donned his senatorial toga, and led the Roman forces to victory over the invading Aequi, only to return to his small farm fifteen days later. For generations, he served as the symbol to Romans young and old of what a loyal citizen ought to aspire.
Although Cincinnatus has long been considered a heroic representation of the virtuous Roman citizen, there are some historians who doubt the story altogether, claiming it to be nothing more than a myth. Yet, while there are many who may not accept the story as genuine, they contend that it does not really matter whether or not it is true. As with any myth or legend, the story of the heroic Cincinnatus served a useful purpose by rallying the citizens of the fledgling Republic together as one, demonstrating that a loyal citizen must place the matters of the state over his own self-interest.



According to the accepted version of the story, Cincinnatus was a patrician and former consul who had fallen on difficult times, finding himself farming a small plot of four acres along the right bank of the Tiber River, later called Quinctian Meadows ( prataQuinctia ) in his honor. It was 458 BCE and the young Roman Republic was being besieged by its neighbors. This time it was the Aequi, a small tribe located in central Italy east of Rome. The Roman army under the leadership of the less-than-capable consul Lucius Minucius Esquilinus Augurinus was trapped on Mt. Algidus in the Alban Hills southeast of Rome. With few alternatives - the consul Gaius Nautius Rutilus was equally incapable - Rome turned to the elderly Cincinnatus and offered him the position of dictator. A dictator or magister populi was appointed in times of extreme emergency, serving for only six months;however, during this period he held complete authority.
According to the 1st-century BCE Roman historian Livy in his History of Rome, Cincinnatus was plowing his field (others believe he was digging a ditch) when approached by a delegation from Rome. The former consul was unanimously chosen because "in him were the courage and resolution equal to the majestic authority of that office" (3.26). Livy added,
After mutual salutations he was requested to put on his toga that he might hear the mandate of the senate, and they expressed the hope that it might turn out well for him and for the State. He asked then, in surprise, if all was well, and bade his wife, Racilia, bring him his toga quickly from the cottage. (3.26)
After an appeal for the blessings of the gods upon the Republic and "to save his old age from bringing loss or dishonor upon his country in her trouble," he listened as the delegation informed him of the danger facing Rome (3.26). With some hesitation, Cincinnatus, still questioning why he had been chosen, accepted the appointment and left with the delegation. Upon entering the city, he advanced to the assembly, proclaiming a suspension of all public and private business and ordering the shops to be closed. Next, he requested all men of military age to arrive at the Campus Martius fully armed with five days of rations.Victory, according to the legend, was swift, and a limited peace with the Aequi was reached. Livy wrote of the battle and the requests of the defeated Aequi, "… not to make their extermination the price of victory, but to allow them to surrender their arms and depart" (3.29). Unfortunately, the Aequi would return in 457 and 455 BCE; another reason why many believe the story to be untrue.


Within 15 days, Cincinnatus had left his farm, led the Roman army to victory, and returned to the plow. Of course, he could not return home without celebration. Following a parade of the defeated enemy commanders, Cincinnatus's own conquering Roman soldiers and a display of the captured booty, the victorious dictator's chariot made its way through the city, beginning at the Campus Martius (Field of Mars ), proceeding past the Circus Maximus, up the Via Sacra to the Temple of Jupiterwhere appropriate sacrifices were made. The city celebrated with a Roman triumph. Livy wrote, "It is said that tables spread with provisions stood before all the houses, and the feasters followed the chariot with songs of triumph and the customary jests and lampoons" (3.29). Relinquishing his position of dictator, Cincinnatus returned to his farm.


According to a second myth, Cincinnatus was again summoned from the plow during the Maelius-controversy in 439 BCE.Supposedly, the plebian Spurius Maelius was rumored to be attempting tyranny against the Republic. For the past year, Rome had been caught in a terrible famine. To oversee the grain supply, the Senate appointed the old former consul Minucius who was found incapable of supplying enough grain for the people. Many believed at that time that wealthy Maelius purposely bought large amounts of wheat outside the city, hoping to either sell it to the people of Rome at low prices (or even giving it away free), thereby winning their favor. The city's patricians felt he was planning to establish himself in a monarchy.
Maelius Before Cincinnatus

Maelius Before Cincinnatus

Again, as appointed dictator, Cincinnatus called for Maelius to appear before him, but Maelius refused. It was at this point Cincinnatus ordered his death. Years later, the 1st-century BCE statesman and orator Cicero referred to Maelius in his essay The Joys of Farming as a usurper. According to Cicero's account of the incident, Cincinnatus was recalled and expected to resolve the problem, and solve it he did. "His were the orders, as dictator, upon which his Master of the Horse, Gaius Servilius Ahala, caught Spurius Maelius attempting to make himself king, and put him to death" (236).


Why is Cincinnatus considered by so many to be a hero? Are any of the stories about him true? The answer to both questions given by many is that it does not really matter. Of course, not everyone believed him to be heroic, even during his lifetime, there were many in Rome who would not call him a hero. Many plebians would definitely not consider him heroic for his opposition to the rights of both the plebians and poor of the city. Livy wrote of their reaction to the dictator's arrival in the city, "…they were by no means so pleased to see Quinctius; they regarded the power with which he was invested as excessive, and the man himself more dangerous than his power" (3.26). To many others, however, he was the model of the ideal Roman.He had gained glory and dignity through his victory over the Aequi, but out of duty and loyalty, he relinquished the power of dictator, caring more for the good of the state than his personal prestige.
This unselfish act represented both the virtues of a true Roman as well as the greatness of the Republic. These virtues included leading a simple life, being patriotic and committed to Roman values, being even-handed, and forgoing riches.However, many patriotic Romans questioned the validity of the stories concerning Cincinnatus. Even Cicero, who wrote of the dictator's recall in 439 BCE, raised some doubt to the supposed legendary exploits when he wrote,
But I want to talk about my own affairs, so let us return to the farmers. In those days, Senators lived on their farms - if we are to believe the story that the men sent to tell Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus of his appointment as dictator found him at the plough (sic). (236)
Again, are the stories true? It does not seem to be important. The Romans were a proud people who looked to their past, often an ideal one, to establish and vindicate themselves and their rise to power. They looked to the rich history of their Greekneighbors with envious eyes. With Greek colonies having been on the Italian peninsula for generations, Romans had been in constant contact with the rich Hellenistic civilization, philosophy, art, literature, and even religion. They adopted much from the Greek culture even hiring Greek tutors for their children. Virgil ’s Aeneid even connected Rome's past with one of the greatest Greek legends, the Trojan War. Cincinnatus gave the Romans a home-grown hero. He left the plow to lead Roman forces to victory and without a second thought returned to his farm, forgoing the power of a dictator. What could be more heroic than that?

Zen Buddhism in Ancient Korea › Origins

Ancient Civilizations

by Mark Cartwright
published on 16 November 2016
Buddhism was introduced from China to ancient Korea in the 4th century BCE and adopted as the official state religion by the Kingdoms of Baekje, Goguryeo, and Silla. The faith split into separate divisions across Asia, one of the most important being Seon (Son) Buddhism, also called Chan Buddhism, but better known in the western world by its Japanese pronunciation, Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhism emphasised the necessity of meditative contemplation ( son ) in order to reach full enlightenment and claimed that scriptures could not fully express the principles which must be grasped by the individual mind alone. Over time this branch split into many sub-branches with some shunning scriptures all together and others conceding at least some necessity for intellectual studies.
Gilt-bronze Silla Maitreya

Gilt-bronze Silla Maitreya


Having arrived in China with the Indian monk Bodhidharma in the 6th century CE, Zen Buddhism reached the Korean peninsula sometime in the late 7th or early 8th century CE. It was brought by the monk Pomnang (c. 632-646 CE) who had studied in Tang China. One of the first Zen monasteries was built by the monk Sinhaeng (d. 779 CE) and the faith was further spread by the work of another monk, Toui (d. 825 CE), who founded the Mt. Kaji sect at Porimsa. The strict monastic discipline required to fully practise this version of Buddhism did not prevent it gaining popularity, especially from the 9th century CE when the Nine Mountain Schools ( kusanmun ) flourished. These were so named for the nine most important monasteries which promoted Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhism became especially popular with landed gentry (the hojok ) as its individualism appealed to their own anxiety to be independent of the central government.


As with other branches of Buddhism, there was a hierarchy of priests and entrance examinations for those wishing to enter the monastic life. The lowest rank was Monk Designate ( taeson ) while the highest was Great Seon Mentor ( taesonsa ). Although Zen Buddhism had many versions, the historian K. Pratt presents the following ideas central to meditative Buddhism, as summarised in A History of Chinese Philosophy, vol II (1953):
  • Ultimate truth is inexpressible.
  • Spiritual cultivation is not possible.
  • In the last resort, nothing is gained.
  • There is nothing much in Buddhist teaching.
  • The dao [path] lies in carrying water and chopping wood. (433)
Enlightenment was available to all and could arrive through meditation as inside everyone is the nature of Buddha. During meditation, to help the mind free itself of clutter and remove the outer layers of worldly desire, sutras (Buddha's sermons) were chanted and Buddha's name recited. Another method to help the mind concentrate was the contemplation of koans – unsolvable or nonsense problems. This approach was introduced to Korea by the monk Chinul (1158-1210 CE), and it was thought that by having the mind endlessly revolve around such problems enlightenment would arrive in an unexpected and brilliant flash of inspiration.
Buddha Statue, Seokguram Grotto

Buddha Statue, Seokguram Grotto

As the study of texts was considered less important than the notion of passing on knowledge from teacher to student, the Zen masters were greatly venerated. This was especially so following the death of a master ( sonsa ), and great monuments were erected in their honour, notably stupas. These contained the ashes of the deceased and were often accompanied by a stone stele describing the monk's achievements. The oldest such stupa, set up to honour the monk Yomgo, was built in 790 CE, while one of the most impressive is that of Toyun, founder of the Mt. Saja sect (one of the Nine Mountain sects), at Ssangbongsa in Hwasun. The inscription stones are not only a valuable source of history but they are an important record of Korean calligraphy too. One such stone was written by the great scholar-monk Choe Chiwon.


Zen Buddhism was often at odds with the other major form of Buddhism in ancient Korea, Kyo Buddhism, which stressed the importance of scriptural studies as opposed to meditation to achieve enlightenment. Taejo of Goryeo (r. 918-943 CE), the founder of that dynasty, instructed his successors to support both forms of Buddhism. Then the monk Uicheon (1055-1101 CE) went a step further and famously attempted but ultimately failed to bridge the gap between these two major branches of Buddhism. Another monk, Chinul (1158-1210 CE), was more successful in combining the two approaches as epitomised by his famous maxim: 'sudden enlightenment followed by gradual cultivation.' Chinul's unifying and inclusive form of Buddhism is known as Chogye Buddhism, and it became the official state religion of Korea and remains popular today.
This article was made possible with generous support from the British Korean Society.


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