Xanthippus was born to an aristocratic family at Athens. In the days after Cleisthenes' democratic reforms (508 B.C. ), Xanthippus began his political career by marrying Cleisthenes' niece Agariste. Agariste and Xanthippus had three children, the youngest of whom was the future leader Pericles, born in 494 B.C.
With family wealth and connections, Xanthippus rose to political prominence in 489 B.C., when he prosecuted the soldier-statesman Miltiades on a charge of deceiving the people. With Miltiades' downfall, Xanthippus briefly became the foremost politician in Athens, but was himself soon on the defensive, probably at the hands of the left-wing leader Themistocles. In 484 B.C. Xanthippus was ostracized by the Athenians.
Although the normal term of banishment in an ostracism was 10 years, Xanthippus was recalled early, in the state emergency created by the Persian king Xerxes' invasion of Greece (480 B.C. ). Elected as a general for the year 479 B.C., Xanthippus commanded the Athenian contingent at the land battle of Mycale, where the Greeks liberated Ionia. Elected general again, for 478 B.C., he led a Greek fleet against the Persian-held fortress in the seige of Sestos, on the Hellespont; after a grueling encounter, Xanthippus captured the city and crucified the hated Persian governor. Xanthippus returned to great acclaim at Athens, but died within a few years, perhaps from injuries received at Sestos. By 472 B.C. the young Pericles had inherited his father's estate (the other son had died) and was embarked on his own political career.
Sacks, David. "Xanthippus." Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World.
New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1995. Facts On File, Inc. Ancient History & Culture.
- *1 'The life of Alcibiades' by Plutarch (5.99)