Tyrant (6th century BC)
Peisistratos, son of Hipparchus of the House of Philaidae was a Tyrant who ruled Athens for almost 30 years. A charismatic and ingenious leader, Peisistratos ruled with prudence and justice until his death, converting Athens into a thriving city-state unlike any other. Many of Athens’ works and temples were built under his supervision.
Before succeeding in becoming Tyrant of Athens, Peisistratos had attempted twice in imposing himself as ruler of Athens. While his attempts only resulted in a very short-lived tyranid, Peisistratos would solidify himself as Tyrant of Athens only after his 3rd attempt. In his first attempt, he occupied the Acropolis with his army of bodyguards before being apprehended and exiled by Lycurgus and Megacles. In his second attempt, with the help of Megacles, Peisistratos used the former’s wife as a means to seize Athens’ control, but his plans were thwarted, forcing him again into exile in Eretria.
During his exile in Eretria, Peisistratos received funding and support from other city-states, who supplied him with soldiers. He was able to defeat Athens’ army and impose himself as Tyrant of Athens in 545 BC. In the time of his governance, Athens underwent a period of massive overhaul, improvement and extraordinary development.
Peisistratos kept Solon’s laws, organized Athens’ oeconomy with the money used from the Thracian mines as well as from his own lands in Euvia and supported the agriculture by establishing the agricultural loan. He vigorously supported the poor by redistributing the land, imposed heavier taxation on the rich and on every product that was sold. Furthermore, Peisistratus built streets and improved the city’s water system. His foreign affair policy with other city-states was radical at the time, with Athenian products such as wine, oil, perfumes and pottery being exported to Egypt, Asia Minor and other nations outside of Greece for the first time. He established strong connections with Sparta, Delos and Argos, large city-states of powerful influence over Greece by strengthening Athens’ fleet and cementing its authority in the Aegean Sea.
As a man of high spiritual cultivation, Peisistratos made it one of his top priorities to promote the arts and to beautify the city. One of his most important works was collecting, copying and preserving all the works of Homer and Orpheus so that they would never be lost. He reorganized the Panathenian Games, built libraries open to the public, constructed temples of insuperable beauty and renovated the Temple of Athena Polias on the Acropolis. Moreover, there was an attempt to construct the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, a plan that came into fruition many years later. So much was his love for letters that it is postulated he had the greatest library in all of Greece at the time.
Peisistratos proved to be one of the greatest hegemons of Athens, as well as of all of Greece. Under his leadership, Athens became one of the most influential city-states of the Mediterranean, proving that the importance lies not on the political system itself but rather on the statesman that governs the state. Athens had flourished with tyranid, not with democracy.
- “Pisistratus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
- Πεισίστρατος (605-527 π.Χ.). Λόγιος Ἑρμῆς. www.logiosermis.net. Web. September 26, 2018.