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Cimon was the son of Miltiades. His mother was Hegesipyle, the daughter of Olorus the King of Thrace. His father died in jail because he was unable to pay that fine that was levied against him. The fine passed to Cimon and it was his sister's husband Calias, a very wealthy Athenian, who paid it so that he could marry Cimon's sister Elpinice.

Cimon was said to have been "as brave as Miltiades, as intelligent as Themistocles and juster than either man" Cimon was very wealthy and lived lavishly, he was also very generous to the people, opening his house to all and feeding the hungry. He was imposing, and was said to be able to fill a room with his presence. He was most definetely a brilliant soldier, and was honest and merciful. Cimon was very pro-Spartan, and believed in dual hegemony. He was an oligarch and supported the constitution of Cleisthenes which distributed power between the upper class and middle (hoplite) class.

Cimon served in the Persian Wars and according to Plutarch "In all the qualities that war demands he was fully the equal of Themistocles and his own father Miltiades" Cimon served with great distinction at Salamis.

Cimon entered in to Politics on the staff of Aristides in Byzantium. It was under Aristides that Cimon grew. He entered in to politics in Athens when the people began to grow tired of Themistocles and because of this they promoted Cimon to the highest honours and offices in the state. In the years between the ostracism of Themistocles in 472 and his own loss of prestige in 461 he was the most influential Athenian.

Between the years of 478 and 461 he led the Delian League forces. During the time he freed the Aegean from Persians Cimon was said to be an essential factor in the Athenians ability to leverage control away from the Spartans. The allies were growing tired of the treatement they were receiving from the Spartans, particularly the regent king Pausinas, and turned to the compasionate and kind Cimon. Cimon however was a quite proponent of policies that enabled the transformation from the Delian League to Athenian Empire

In the year 464 Sparta suffered a huge earthquake and the Helots revolted. Cimon led 4,000 Athenian Hoplites to assist the Spartans, but was turned away by them because of fear about their revolutionary Democracy The Athenians were outraged at this and ostracised Cimon in 461. He was ostracised for ten years, but was returned to Athens early because he was needed to serve in battle facing a Peloponnesian invasion. Cimons ostracism was revoked by Pericles one of his main opponents.