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date: 29 September 2022

Callias, Peace offree

Callias, Peace offree

  • Ugo Fantasia


  • Greek History and Historiography

Updated in this version

Article and bibliography updated to reflect current scholarship on the Peace of Callias. Keywords added.

The Peace of Callias was a mid-5th-century peace treaty, presented by most sources as fully advantageous to Athens, that ended the wars between Athens and Persia. Its historicity is disputed, chiefly because Thucydides (2) does not mention it explicitly. The date of the peace is also controversial, because some evidence points to c. 449 BCE while other sources suggest the 460s; this may mean that the c. 449 BCE agreement was a renewal of an older peace, but the former date seems to be the likelier one for the conclusion of a single peace.

The Ancient Evidence1

Callias (1) son of Hipponicus, brother-in-law of Cimon, is reported by Herodotus (7.151) to have led an Athenian embassy, whose purpose is not specified, to the Persian king Artaxerxes (1) I, probably shortly after his accession to the throne in 465 BCE. Demosthenes (2) in 343 BCE provides the earliest evidence (19 [De falsa leg.].273) for the conclusion of ‘the celebrated Peace’ between Athens and Persia negotiated on behalf of Athens by Callias, who nevertheless on his return was tried on bribery and had to pay a fine of fifty talents. Several 4th-century authors, beginning with Lysias (2.56f.) and Plato (1) (Menex. 241d–242a), refer to this peace without mentioning Callias. In 380 BCE, Isocrates (Paneg. 117f., 120) contrasts it with the King’s Peace, which was much more beneficial to Persia, to underscore the greatness of 5th-century Athens; interestingly, the orator invites his audience to ‘read side by side the treaties (synthekai)’ in order to appreciate the differences. The contrast between the two treaties is echoed by Demosthenes (15 [De Rhod lib.].29) in 351 BCE and again taken up by Isocrates (Panath. 59–61; see also Areopagiticus 80) in 339 BCE. By 330 BCE, as shown by the orator Lycurgus (3), the treaty that ‘fixed for the Persian the boundaries necessary for Greek freedom and prevented his overstepping them’ (Leoc. 73) had become one of the memorabilia of the glorious Athenian past.

None of these sources explicitly dates the peace, but the majority of them imply that it was a direct consequence of the Athenian victory of Eurymedon (c. 467 BCE)2. This tradition, before becoming a commonplace in the later literature (Aristid. Or. 1.209, 273–275; 3.142; 26.10; Euseb. Chron. Ol. 79.4; Amm. Marc. 17.11.3; Himer. Or. 6.29; Suda, s.v. Kimon), is enlarged upon by one of the two fullest extant accounts of the Peace of Callias in Plutarch’s Life of Cimon (13.4–5). According to the biographer, the Persian king was so humbled by the defeat that the Athenians imposed on him by treaty to keep away from the Aegean coast of Asia Minor as far as a horse could travel in a day and not to sail with warships west of the Cyaneae islands, at the entrance of the Black Sea (perhaps near modern-day Kabakos Limanı), and the Chelidoniae islands (modern-day Beş Adalar), at a short distance from Phaselis. However, the historian Callisthenes (FGrH 124 F 16) is reported by Plutarch to have claimed that there had been no treaty after the battle (or, according to a different interpretation, to have omitted to mention it)3, but the king ‘really acted as he did through the fear which that victory inspired’4, and kept off Greece so much so that Pericles and Ephialtes with their fleets sailed beyond the Chelidoniae islands without encountering any opposition. The biographer adds that a text of the treaty was included in the Collection of Decrees by Craterus (2) (FGrH 342 F 13)5 and that the event was commemorated in Athens with the erection of an altar to Eirene, ‘Peace’. (Yet this monument, like the bronze statue of Callias seen by Pausanias (3) [1.8.2], cannot be dated earlier than the 4th century.) It is generally believed that another 4th-century historian, Theopompus (3), denounced the Peace of Callias as an Athenian forgery because the text of the treaty was engraved in Ionic letters, introduced in Athens not before 403/402 BCE (FGrH 115 F 153–155). However, the difficult F 154 leaves open the possibility that the falsification decried by Theopompus was only partial, and F 153 mentions as the counterpart of Athens one King Darius (a name usually, but unjustifiably, expunged from the text); therefore, he is likely to have made reference to the so-called Peace of Epilycus (only mentioned by Andoc. 3.29)6, that was signed in 424/423 BCE between Athens and Darius II, at the moment of the latter’s ascension to the throne, presumably as a confirmation with the new king of the terms of the Peace of Callias.

Diodorus Siculus (12.4.4–6; see also Diod. Sic. 12.26.2), the other major source for the Peace of Callias, reported (certainly from Ephorus) that c. 449 BCE, immediately after the victorious Athenian expedition to Cyprus during which Cimon died of illness, Artaxerxes I ordered his generals to begin negotiations with the Athenians, which culminated in the conclusion of a peace treaty with an Athenian embassy led by Callias. The boundaries that the Persians were not to overstep were the Cyaneae islands and Phaselis and a three days’ march from the coast, but Diodorus mentions as additional terms the autonomy for the Greeks of Asia and the Athenians’ pledge not to attack the Persian king’s domains. A similar, more condensed version is provided by Aristodemus (3) (FGrH 104 F1.13), an author notoriously dependent on Ephorus.

The Historical Problem

Herodotus’s and Thucydides’s failure to mention unambiguously the conclusion of a formal peace between Athens and Persia, as well as the variety of the reported terms and the criticism by Theopompus, have often been viewed as proofs of its non-historicity. Several scholars (though nowadays fewer than in the past) still assume that the Peace of Callias was 4th-century Athenian propaganda as a foil to the King’s Peace, or that the treaty alluded to in many ancient sources was a late, probably mid-4th-century, construction from a de facto truce or an informal (verbal) covenant which was vaguely known to have regulated the relations between Athens and Persia at about the middle of the 5th century BCE.7 As for Thucydides, however, the absence of any explicit reference to the peace would not be the sole omission in his history of Pentekontaetia or Graeco-Persian relations.8 Admittedly, only a cessation of Athenian-Persian hostilities is implied by the observation of the Mytilenaeans that some time after the foundation of the Delian League the Athenians were ‘relaxing’ their hostility to Persia while enslaving their allies (3.10.4). But at least one passage of his History (8.56.4) cannot be understood except by assuming that in 412/411 BCE the Athenians thought that an explicit ban on the king’s fleet moving freely along the Aegean coasts of Asia was still in force.9 As for Theopompus, his argument, even if he truly referred to the Peace of Callias, can easily be countered: Athenian inscriptions in Ionic lettering do exist in the 5th century, or he may have seen a 4th-century copy of the treaty drawn up after the destruction of the original stele (or even he may not have denied outright the existence of a peace).

On the whole, the historical considerations tip the scales in favour of the authenticity thesis. The widespread reluctance to accept Plutarch’s dating of the peace in the late 460s is motivated by the fact that in subsequent years Athenian politics towards Persia did not undergo any significant change, as evidenced by the demanding expedition to Egypt (c. 460–454 BCE), the forays of Athenian fleets into the Eastern Mediterranean recorded by Callisthenes, and Cimon’s last campaign in Cyprus and Egypt c. 450 BCE. After c. 449 BCE, on the contrary, despite the occasional support given by the Persians to the enemies of Athens in the cities of the Delian League (Thuc. 1.115.4; 3.34), direct hostilities between Athens and Persia ceased completely until at least c. 413 BCE, when Athens’ support to Amorges, who had revolted against Darius II (Andoc. 3.29; see also Thuc. 8.5.5; 28.2; 54.3), provided the Persian king with an additional reason for siding with Sparta in the last years of the Peloponnesian War. Moreover, at the beginning of the second half of the 5th century, Athens’ relations with her allies seem to have gone through a crisis, apparently because of the end of the war whose prosecution had officially prompted the birth of the Delian League. Judging by the extant tribute lists (Athenian) of these years, the tribute of one of the years immediately following 450/449 BCE may not have been collected, and normality seems to have been restored no earlier than 446/445 BCE.10 Such a situation can hardly be explained by a de facto truce or an informal agreement11; indeed, the conclusion of a formal peace c. 449 BCE (probably signed by Callias and the western satraps, as it was normal in the relations with the king: see Thuc. 8.58.1; Diod. Sic. 12.4.4–5) provides the best interpretative key of these events. The allusions to a present state of war with ‘the barbarians’ at the time (c. 447 BCE) of the debate on the Periclean building program (Plut. Per. 12.2–3) are too vague to disprove the existence of a peace. On the other hand, the fact that in 427 BCE ‘Ionia was unfortified’ (Thuc. 3.33.2), sometimes adduced as evidence for the peace, can actually be explained otherwise. Finally, no certain chronological reference point can be derived from the so-called Congress Decree, moved by Pericles in a situation of peace (Plut. Per. 17), whose date too is highly controversial.

Among the terms of the peace treaty there was surely the prohibition on the king overstepping by sea the aforementioned northern and southern boundaries and by land a certain distance from the coast, in exchange for the Athenian commitment to abstain from attacks on the king’s territory. One of the reported clauses (Isoc. Paneg. 120) was the Athenian power of ‘fixing some of the tributes’; it is not clear what this means exactly, but it seems to imply that the treaty did not simply establish the autonomy of the Greek cities of Asia, as claimed by Diodorus and a few other sources, but that there were at least a few Greek cities still subject to the Persian king and that the treaty perhaps limited the king’s discretion in fixing their tributes (by the way, this is a good argument in favour of the historicity of the peace: an Athenian forger would probably have hidden this anything-but-exciting reality).12

An ingenious reconstruction has been formulated which attempts at reconciling all the extant evidence about the date of the peace13: a formal peace was concluded soon after Eurymedon between Athens and Xerxes I and confirmed under Xerxes’ successor just before Cimon’s eclipse, then renounced by the Athenian leaders who were in power during his ostracism, and finally renewed in 449 BCE after the return of Cimon and the expedition to Cyprus. No ancient source attests explicitly this sequence of events, except perhaps an entry in the Suda lexicon (s.v. Kallias), which states that Callias ‘secured the boundaries laid down in the peace concluded under Cimon’. However, if the authority for this version was—as it has been claimed—Ephorus, it is surprising to find no trace of it in the account of Diodorus, who indeed stresses (11.62.2) the Persian rearmament after their defat at Eurymedon.14 A different explanation for the birth of the tradition that places the conclusion of the peace in the aftermath of Eurymedon could be that Callias really went to Persia in the late 460s to stipulate a treaty, but that the negotiations did not get the expected outcome (this might explain both the silence of Herodotus about the goal of his mission and the trial he underwent after his return to Athens). Subsequently, the historical peace of c. 449 came to be conflated with the earlier embassy of Callias because of the splendour of the Athenian victory in the epoch-making battle of Eurymedon and the involvement of Cimon in both campaigns of c. 467 and c. 450 BCE (a tendency to an overlapping between these two campaigns can be recognized in some sources, notably Diodorus). A stele bearing the text of the Peace of Callias is very likely to have existed by 380 BCE, but how it was related to the original treaty or whether all the 4th-century sources refer to the same text or which document Craterus exactly saw, are all questions that are impossible to answer.

Primary Texts

The most important primary sources cited in the article, available both in Greek and in English translation on Perseus Digital Library, are, in roughly chronological order: Herodotus, The Histories; Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War; Andocides, Speeches; Plato, Dialogues; Lysias, Speeches; Isocrates, Speeches; Demosthenes, Speeches; Lycurgus, Against Leocrates; Theopompus of Chios, (fragments from) The History of Philip (not available on Perseus Digital Library); Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library; Plutarch, Parallel Lives; Pausanias, Description of Greece; Suda Lexicon.


  • Meritt, B. D., H. T. Wade-Gery, and M. F. McGregor. The Athenian Tribute Lists 3 (1950): 275–300.
  • Badian, Ernst. “The Peace of Callias”. In From Plataea to Potidaea. Studies in the History and Historiography of the Pentecontaetia. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993, 1–72.
  • Bloedow, Edmund F. “The Peace of Callias”. Symb. Osl. 67 (1992): 41–68.
  • Bosworth, Albert B. “Plutarch, Callisthenes and the Peace of Callias”. JHS 110 (1990): 1–13.
  • Cawkwell, George L. “The Peace between Athens and Persia”. Phoenix 51 (1997): 115–130.
  • Day, Joseph W. The Glory of Athens. The Popular Tradition as Reflected in the Panathenaicus of Aelius Aristides. Chicago: Ares Publisher, 1980, 140–171, 181–195.
  • Holladay, A. J. “The Détente of Kallias?” Hist. 35 (1986): 503–507.
  • Meiggs, Russell. The Athenian Empire. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972, 129–151, 487–496.
  • Meister, Klaus. Die Ungeschichtlichkeit des Kalliasfriedens und deren historische Folgen. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1982.
  • Meister, Klaus. Einführung in die Interpretation historischer Quellen. Schwerpunkt: Antike. Bd. 1: Griechenland. Paderborn: Verlag F. Schöningh, 1997, 152–164.
  • Meyer, Forschungen 2 (1899): 1–25, 71–82.
  • Samons II, Loren J. “Kimon, Kallias and Peace with Persia”. Hist. 47 (1998): 129–140.
  • Schrader, Carlos. La Paz de Calias: testimonios e interpretación. Barcelona: Universidad de Barcelona, Instituto de Estudios Helénicos, 1976.
  • Sordi, Marta. “La vittoria dell’Eurimedonte e le due spedizioni di Cimone a Cipro”. RSA 1 (1971): 33–48.
  • Stockton, David. “The Peace of Callias”. Hist. 8 (1959): 61–79.
  • Wade-Gery, Henry T. “The Peace of Kallias”. In Athenian Studies Presented to W. S. Ferguson. Harv. Stud. Supplement 1 (1940): 121–156.
  • Walsh, John. “The Authenticity and the Dates of the Peace of Callias and the Congress Decree”. Chiron 11 (1981): 31–63.


  • 1. An overview in SdA 22 (1975), 64–69, no. 152; Fornara 97–103, no. 95 (with an English translation of almost all primary sources on the Peace of Callias).

  • 2. Klaus Meister, Die Ungeschichtlichkeit des Kalliasfriedens und deren historische Folgen (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1982), 6–18. A quite opposite point of view has been maintained by P. J. Stylianou, “The Untenability of Peace with Persia in the 460s B.C.”, in Meletai kai Ypomnemata, vol. 2 (Leucosia: Archbishop Makarios III Foundation, 1992), 339–371.

  • 3. On what Callisthenes might really have said, see Meyer, Forschungen, 2 (1899), 2–7; and Albert B. Bosworth, “Plutarch, Callisthenes and the Peace of Callias”, JHS 110 (1990): 5–10.

  • 4. This statement is echoed by Just. Epit. 2.15.20: ‘(Cimon) forced Xerxes to withdraw in fear into his kingdom’.

  • 5. See Donatella Erdas, Cratero il Macedone. Testimonianze e frammenti (Rome: Tored, 2002), 169–77.

  • 6. W. Robert Connor, Theopompus and Fifth-Century Athens (Washington, DC: The Center for Hellenic Studies, 1968), 77–94; and Bosworth, “Plutarch”, 11f.

  • 7. For the latter point of view, see esp. Christian Habicht, ‘Falsche Urkunden zur Geschichte Athens im Zeitalter der Perserkriege’, Hermes 89 (1961): 25f.; and Carlos Schrader, La Paz de Calias: testimonios e interpretación (Barcelona: Universidad de Barcelona, Instituto de Estudios Helénicos, 1976), 170–203.

  • 8. For Persia in Thucydides’ History see now Josef Wiesehöfer, “. . . Keeping the Two Sides Equal”: Thucydides, the Persians and the Peloponnesian War’, in Brill’s Companion to Thucydides, ed. Antonios Rengakos and Antonis Tsakmakis (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006), 657–667.

  • 9. HCT 5 (1981), 134f.; and Hornblower, Comm. on Thuc. 3 (2008), 923f.

  • 10. David M. Lewis, “The Thirty Years’ Peace”, in CAH 2d ed., vol. 5 (1992), 123–125, 129f. But see, for a different explanation for the disorder of the lists in those years, Stephen V. Tracy, ‘The Wrongful Execution of the Hellênotamiai (Antiphon 5.69–71) and the Lapis Primus’, CPhil. 109 (2014): 1–10.

  • 11. A point stressed by Ernst Badian, “The Peace of Callias”, From Plataea to Potidaea. Studies in the History and Historiography of the Pentecontaetia (Baltimore-London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 10.

  • 12. Russel Meiggs, The Athenian Empire (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 147f.; and Badian, ‘The Peace of Callias’, 50f.

  • 13. Badian, “The Peace of Callias”.

  • 14. Parmeggiani, Giovanni, Eforo di Cuma. Studi di storiografia greca (Bologna: Pàtron, 2011), 404, n. 47.