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On this page: Tyrannidos Graphe



Among the early tyrants of Greece those most worthy of mention are : — Cleisthenes of Sicyon, grandfather of the Athenian Cleisthenes, in whose family the government continued for a century since its establishment by Orthagoras, about B. c. 672 (Herod, v. 67, 69) ; Cypselus of Corinth, who expelled the Bacchiadae, b. c. 656, and his son Periander, both remarkable for their cruelty ; their dynasty lasted between seventy and eighty years (Herod, v. 92) ; Procles of Epidaurus (Herod, iii. 50, 52) ; Pantaleon of Pisa, who celebrated the thirty-fourth Olympiad, depriving the Eleans of •the presidency (Pausan. vi. 21, 22) ; Theagenes of Megara, father-in-law to Cylon the Athenian (Thucyd. i. 126) ; Peisistratus, whose sons were the last of the early tyrants on the Grecian conti­nent.

In Sic'ly, where tyranny most flourished, the principal were Phalaris of Agrigentum, who es­tablished his power in b. c. 568, concerning whose supposed epistles Bentley wrote his famous treatise ; Theron of Agrigentum ; Gelon, already mentioned, who, in conjunction with Theron, defeated Hamil-car the Carthaginian, on the same day on which the battle of Salamis was fought ; and Hiero, his brother : the last three celebrated by Pindar. (See Herod, vii. 156, 165, 166.) In Grecian Italy we may mention Anaxilaus of Rhegium, who reigned b.c. 496 (Herod, vi. 23, vii. 165); Cleinias of Croton, who rose after the dissolution of the Py­thagorean league ; (as to which see Polyb. ii. 39; Athen. xii. p. 522, xiv. p. 623 ; Thirlwall, Id. vol. ii. p. 154.) The following also are worthy of notice: Polycrates of Samos (Herod, iii. 39, 56, 120, 125 ; Thucyd. i. 13) ; Lygdamis of Naxos (Herod, i. 61, 64) ; Histiaeus and Aris-tagoras of Miletus. (Herod, iv. 137, v. 23, 30, 37, vi. 29.) Perhaps the last mentioned can hardly be classed among the Greek tyrants* as they were connected with the Persian monarchy. (Wachs­muth, Id. vol. i. pt. i. p. 274.)

The general characteristics of a tyranny were, that it was bound by no laws, and had no recog­nized limitation to its authority, however it might be restrained in practice by the good disposition of the tyrant himself, or by fear, or by the spirit of the age. It was commonly most odious to the wealthy and noble, whom the tyrant looked upon with jealousy as a check upon his power, and whom he often sought to get rid of by sending them into exile or putting them to death. The advice given by Thrasybulus of Miletus to Periander affords an apt illustration of this. (Herod, v. 92.) The tyrant usually kept a body-guard of foreign mercenaries, by aid of whom he controlled the people at home ; but he seldom ventured to make war, for fear of giving an opportunity to his subjects to revolt. The Sicilian sovereigns form an exception to this observation. (Thucyd. i. 17.) He was averse to a large congregation of men in the town, and en­deavoured to find rustic employments for the popu­lace ; but was not unwilling to indulge them with shows and amusements. A few of the better sort cultivated literature and the arts, adorned their city with handsome buildings, and even passed good laws. Thus, Peisistratus commenced building the splendid temple of Jupiter Olympus, laid out the garden of the Lyceum, collected the Homeric poems, and is said to have written poetry himself. Tribute was imposed on the people, to raise a revenue for the tyrant^ to pay his mercenaries, and.


maintain his state. Peisistratus had the tithe of land, which his sons reduced to the twentieth. [telos.]

The causes which led to the decline of tyranny among the Greeks were partly the degeneracy of the tyrants themselves, corrupted by power, indo­lence, flattery, and bad education ; for even where the father set a good example, it was seldom fol­lowed by the son ; partly the cruelties and excesses of particular men, which brought them all into disrepute ; and partly the growing spirit of inquiry among the Greek people, who began to speculate upon political theories, and soon became discon­tented with a form of government, which had no­thing in theory, and little in practice, to recommend it. Few dynasties lasted beyond the third gene­ration. Most of the tyrannies, which flourished before the Persian war, are said to have been over­thrown by the exertions of Sparta, jealous probably of any innovation upon the old Doric constitution, especially of any tendency to ameliorate the con­dition of the Perioeci, and anxious to extend her own influence over the states of Greece by means of the benefits which she conferred. (Thucyd. i. 18.) Upon the fall of tyranny^ the various repub­lican forms of government were established, the Dorian states generally favouring oligarchy, the Ionian democrary. (Wachsmuth, vol. i. pt. i. p. 289 ; Schomann, Id. pp.84, 88—91.)

As we cannot in this article pursue any historical narrative, we will shortly refer to the revival of tyranny in some of the Grecian states after the end of the Peloponnesian war. In Thessaly Jason of Pherae raised himself, under the title of Tayfo, b. c 374, to the virtual sovereignty of his native city, and exercised a most extensive sway over most of the Thessalian states, but this power ceased with Lycophron, b. c. 353. [TAGus.] In Sicily, the corruption of the Syracusans, their intestine dis~ cords, and the fear of the Carthaginian invaders, led to the appointment of Dionysius to the chief military command, with unlimited powers ; by means of which he raised himself to the throne, B. c. 406, and reigned for 38 years, leaving his son to succeed him. The younger Dionysius, far in­ ferior in every respect to his father, was expelled by Dion, afterwards regained the throne, and was again expelled by Timoleon, who restored liberty to the various states of Sicily. (For their history the reader is referred to Xenoph. Hell. ii. 2. § 24 ; Diod. xiv. 7, 46, 665 72, 109, xv. 73, 74, xvi. 5, 16, 36, 68, 69, &c. ; Plut. Dion. and Timol.; Wachsmuth, vol. i. pt. ii. pp. 316—326.) With respect to the dynasty of the Archaenactidae i i the Cimmerian Bosporus, and some of the towns on the coast of the Euxine, see Wachsmuth, vol. i. pt. ii. p. 329. Lastly, we may notice Evagoras of Cyprus, who is panegyrized by Isocrates ; Plu­ tarch of Eretria, Callias and Taurosthenes of Chalcis, who were partisans of Philip against the Athenians. (Plut. Phoc. 12 ; Isocr. Evag.; Wachs­ muth, vol. i. pt. ii. p. 330.) The persons com­ monly called the thirty tyrants at Athens, who ob­ tained the supreme power at the close of the Pelo­ ponnesian war, do not fall within the scope of the present subject. With respect to the Athenian laws against tyranny, and the general feelings of the people, see prodosia. [C. R. K.]


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