24 May Of these races then Croesus was informed that the Athenian was held subject and torn with faction by Peisistratos 64 the son of Hippocrates, who then was despot of the Athenians.
59. Of these races then Croesus was informed that the Athenian was held subject
and torn with faction by Peisistratos 64 the son of Hippocrates, who then was despot
of the Athenians. For to Hippocrates, when as a private citizen he went to view the
Olympic games, a great marvel had occurred. After he had offered the sacrifice, the
caldrons which were standing upon the hearth, full of pieces of flesh and of water,
boiled without fire under them and ran over. And Chilon the Lacedemonian, who
chanced to have been present and to have seen the marvel, advised Hippocrates first
not to bring into his house a wife to bear him children, and secondly, if he happened
to have one already, to dismiss her, and if he chanced to have a son, to disown him.
When Chilon had thus recommended, Hippocrates, they say, was not willing to be
persuaded, and so there was born to him afterwards this Peisistratos; who, when the
Athenians of the shore 65 were at feud with those of the plain, Megacles the son of
Alcmaion being leader of the first faction, and Lycurgos the son of Aristolaïdes of
that of the plain, aimed at the despotism for himself and gathered a third party. So
then, after having collected supporters and called himself leader of the men of the
mountain-lands, 66 he contrived a device as follows:—he inflicted wounds upon
himself and upon his mules, and then drove his car into the market-place, as if he
had just escaped from his opponents, who, as he alleged, had desired to kill him
when he was driving into the country: and he asked the commons that he might
obtain some protection from them, for before this he had gained reputation in his
command against the Megarians, during which he took Nisaia and performed other
signal service. And the commons of the Athenians being deceived gave him
those 67 men chosen from the dwellers in the city who became not indeed the spear-
men 68 of Peisistratos but his club-men; for they followed behind him bearing
wooden clubs. And these made insurrection with Peisistratos and obtained
possession of the Acropolis. Then Peisistratos was ruler of the Athenians, not having
disturbed the existing magistrates nor changed the ancient laws; but he administered
the State under that constitution of things which was already established, ordering it
fairly and well.
60. However, no long time after this the followers of Megacles and those of
Lycurgos joined together and drove him forth. Thus Peisistratos had obtained
possession of Athens for the first time, and thus he lost the power before he had it
firmly rooted. But those who had driven out Peisistratos became afterwards at feud
with one another again. And Megacles, harassed by the party strife, 69 sent a
message to Peisistratos asking whether he was willing to have his daughter to wife
on condition of becoming despot. And Peisistratos having accepted the proposal and
made an agreement on these terms, they contrived with a view to his return a device
the most simple by far, as I think, that ever was practised, considering at least that it
was devised at a time when the Hellenic race had been long marked off from the
Barbarian as more skilful and further removed from foolish simplicity, and among
the Athenians who are accounted the first of the Hellenes in ability. 70 In the deme
of Paiania there was a woman whose name was Phya, in height four cubits all but
three fingers, 71 and also fair of form. This woman they dressed in full armour and
caused her to ascend a chariot and showed her the bearing in which she might best
beseem her part, 72 and so they drove to the city, having sent on heralds to run before
them, who, when they arrived at the city, spoke that which had been commanded
them, saying as follows: "O Athenians, receive with favour Peisistratos, whom
Athene herself, honouring him most of all men, brings back to her Acropolis." So
the heralds went about hither and thither saying this, and straightway there came to
the demes in the country round a report that Athene was bringing Peisistratos back,
while at the same time the men of the city, persuaded that the woman was the very
goddess herself, were paying worship to the human creature and receiving
61. So having received back the despotism in the manner which has been said,
Peisistratos according to the agreement made with Megacles married the daughter
of Megacles; but as he had already sons who were young men, and as the
descendants of Alcmaion were said to be under a curse, 73 therefore not desiring
that children should be born to him from his newly-married wife, he had commerce
with her not in the accustomed manner. And at first the woman kept this secret, but
afterwards she told her mother, whether in answer to her inquiry or not I cannot tell;
and the mother told her husband Megacles. He then was very indignant that he
should be dishonoured by Peisistratos; and in his anger straightway he proceeded to
compose his quarrel with the men of his faction. And when Peisistratos heard of that
which was being done against himself, he departed wholly from the land and came
to Eretria, where he took counsel together with his sons: and the advice of Hippias
having prevailed, that they should endeavour to win back the despotism, they began
to gather gifts of money from those States which owed them obligations for favours
received: and many contributed great sums, but the Thebans surpassed the rest in the
giving of money. Then, not to make the story long, time elapsed and at last
everything was prepared for their return. For certain Argives came as mercenaries
from the Peloponnesus, and a man of Naxos had come to them of his own motion,
whose name was Lygdamis, and showed very great zeal in providing both money
62. So starting from Eretria after the lapse of ten years 74 they returned back; and
in Attica the first place of which they took possession was Marathon. While they
were encamping here, their partisans from the city came to them, and also others
flowed in from the various demes, to whom despotic rule was more welcome than
freedom. So these were gathering themselves together; but the Athenians in the city,
so long as Peisistratos was collecting the money, and afterwards when he took
possession of Marathon, made no account of it; but when they heard that he was
marching from Marathon towards the city, then they went to the rescue against him.
These then were going in full force to fight against the returning exiles, and the
forces of Peisistratos, as they went towards the city starting from Marathon, met
them just when they came to the temple of Athene Pallenis, and there encamped
opposite to them. Then moved by divine guidance 75 there came into the presence
of Peisistratos Amphilytos the Arcarnanian, 76 a soothsayer, who approaching him
uttered an oracle in hexameter verse, saying thus:
"But now the cast hath been made and the net hath been widely
And in the night the tunnies will dart through the moon-
63. This oracle he uttered to him being divinely inspired, and Peisistratos, having
understood the oracle and having said that he accepted the prophecy which was
uttered, led his army against the enemy. Now the Athenians from the city were just
at that time occupied with the morning meal, and some of them after their meal with
games of dice or with sleep; and the forces of Peisistratos fell upon the Athenians
and put them to flight. Then as they fled, Peisistratos devised a very skilful counsel,
to the end that the Athenians might not gather again into one body but might remain
scattered abroad. He mounted his sons on horseback and sent them before him; and
overtaking the fugitives they said that which was commanded them by Peisistratos,
bidding them be of good cheer and that each man should depart to his own home.
64. Thus then the Athenians did, and so Peisistratos for the third time obtained
possession of Athens, and he firmly rooted his despotism by many foreign
mercenaries and by much revenue of money, coming partly from the land itself and
partly from about the river Strymon, and also by taking as hostages the sons of those
Athenians who had remained in the land and had not at once fled, and placing them
in the hands of Naxos; for this also Peisistratos conquered by war and delivered into
the charge of Lygdamis. Moreover besides this he cleansed the island of Delos in
obedience to the oracles; and his cleansing was of the following kind:—so far as the
view from the temple extended 77 he dug up all the dead bodies which were buried
in this part and removed them to another part of Delos. So Peisistratos was despot
of the Athenians; but of the Athenians some had fallen in the battle, and others of
them with the sons of Alcmaion were exiles from their native land.
Such then, were Solon's reasons for his departure from the country. After his
retirement the city was still torn by divisions. For four years, indeed, they lived in
peace; but in the fifth year after Solon's government they were unable to elect an
Archon on account of their dissensions, and again four years later they elected no
Archon for the same reason. Subsequently, after a similar period had elapsed,
Damasias was elected Archon; and he governed for two years and two months,
until he was forcibly expelled from his office. After this, it was agreed, as a
compromise, to elect ten Archons, five from the Eupatridae, three from the
Agroeci, and two from the Demiurgi, and they ruled for the year following
Damasias. It is clear from this that the Archon was at the time the magistrate who
possessed the greatest power, since it is always in connexion with this office that
conflicts are seen to arise. But altogether they were in a continual state of
internal disorder. Some found the cause and justification of their discontent in the
abolition of debts, because thereby they had been reduced to poverty; others
were dissatisfied with the political constitution, because it had undergone a
revolutionary change; while with others the motive was found in
personal rivalries among themselves. The parties at this time were three in
number. First there was the party of the Shore, led by Megacles the son of
Alcmeon, which was considered to aim at a moderate form of government; then
there were the men of the Plain, who desired an oligarchy and were led by
Lycurgus; and thirdly there were the men of the Highlands, at the head of whom
was Pisistratus, who was looked on as an extreme democrat. This latter party was
reinforced by those who had been deprived of the debts due to them, from
motives of poverty, and by those who were not of pure descent, from motives of
personal apprehension. A proof of this is seen in the fact that after the tyranny
was overthrown a revision was made of the citizen-roll, on the ground that many
persons were partaking in the franchise without having a right to it. The names
given to the respective parties were derived from the districts in which they held
Pisistratus had the reputation of being an extreme democrat, and he also had
distinguished himself greatly in the war with Megara. Taking advantage of this, he
wounded himself, and by representing that his injuries had been inflicted on him
by his political rivals, he persuaded the people, through a motion proposed by
Aristion, to grant him a bodyguard. After he had got these 'club-bearers', as they
were called, he made an attack with them on the people and seized the Acropolis.
This happened in the archonship of Comeas, thirty-one years after the legislation
of Solon. It is related that, when Pisistratus asked for his bodyguard, Solon
opposed the request, and declared that in so doing he proved himself wiser
than half the people and braver than the rest,-wiser than those who did not see
that Pisistratus designed to make himself tyrant, and braver than those who saw
it and kept silence. But when all his words availed nothing he carried forth his
armour and set it up in front of his house, saying that he had helped his country
so far as lay in his power (he was already a very old man), and that he called on all
others to do the same. Solon's exhortations, however, proved fruitless, and
Pisistratus assumed the sovereignty. His administration was more like a
constitutional government than the rule of a tyrant; but before his power was
firmly established, the adherents of Megacles and Lycurgus made a coalition and
drove him out. This took place in the archonship of Hegesias, five years after the
first establishment of his rule. Eleven years later Megacles, being in difficulties in
a party struggle, again opened-negotiations with Pisistratus, proposing that
the latter should marry his daughter; and on these terms he brought him back to
Athens, by a very primitive and simple-minded device. He first spread abroad a
rumour that Athena was bringing back Pisistratus, and then, having found a
woman of great stature and beauty, named Phye (according to Herodotus, of the
deme of Paeania, but as others say a Thracian flower-seller of the deme of
Collytus), he dressed her in a garb resembling that of the goddess and brought
her into the city with Pisistratus. The latter drove in on a chariot with the woman
beside him, and the inhabitants of the city, struck with awe, received him with
In this manner did his first return take place. He did not, however, hold his power
long, for about six years after his return he was again expelled. He refused to
treat the daughter of Megacles as his wife, and being afraid, in consequence, of a
combination of the two opposing parties, he retired from the country. First he led
a colony to a place called Rhaicelus, in the region of the Thermaic gulf; and thence
he passed to the country in the neighbourhood of Mt. Pangaeus. Here he
acquired wealth and hired mercenaries; and not till ten years had elapsed did he
return to Eretria and make an attempt to recover the government by force. In this
he had the assistance of many allies, notably the Thebans and Lygdamis of
Naxos, and also the Knights who held the supreme power in the constitution
of Eretria. After his victory in the battle at Pallene he captured Athens, and when
he had disarmed the people he at last had his tyranny securely established, and
was able to take Naxos and set up Lygdamis as ruler there. He effected the
disarmament of the people in the following manner. He ordered a parade in full
armour in the Theseum, and began to make a speech to the people. He spoke for
a short time, until the people called out that they could not hear him, whereupon
he bade them come up to the entrance of the Acropolis, in order that his voice
might be better heard. Then, while he continued to speak to them at great length,
men whom he had appointed for the purpose collected the arms and locked them
up in the chambers of the Theseum hard by, and came and made a signal to him
that it was done. Pisistratus accordingly, when he had finished the rest of what he
had to say, told the people also what had happened to their arms; adding that
they were not to be surprised or alarmed, but go home and attend to their
private affairs, while he would himself for the future manage all the business of
Such was the origin and such the vicissitudes of the tyranny of Pisistratus. His
administration was temperate, as has been said before, and more like
constitutional government than a tyranny. Not only was he in every respect
humane and mild and ready to forgive those who offended, but, in addition, he
advanced money to the poorer people to help them in their labours, so that they
might make their living by agriculture. In this he had two objects, first that they
might not spend their time in the city but might be scattered over all the face of
the country, and secondly that, being moderately well off and occupied with their
own business, they might have neither the wish nor the time to attend to public
affairs. At the same time his revenues were increased by the thorough cultivation
of the country, since he imposed a tax of one tenth on all the produce. For the
same reasons he instituted the local justices,' and often made expeditions in
person into the country to inspect it and to settle disputes between individuals,
that they might not come into the city and neglect their farms. It was in one of
these progresses that, as the story goes, Pisistratus had his adventure with the
man of Hymettus, who was cultivating the spot afterwards known as 'Tax-free
Farm'. He saw a man digging and working at a very stony piece of ground, and
being surprised he sent his attendant to ask what he got out of this plot of land.
'Aches and pains', said the man; 'and that's what Pisistratus ought to have his
tenth of'. The man spoke without knowing who his questioner was; but Pisistratus
was so leased with his frank speech and his industry that he granted him
exemption from all taxes. And so in matters in general he burdened the people as
little as possible with his government, but always cultivated peace and kept
them in all quietness. Hence the tyranny of Pisistratus was often spoken
of proverbially as 'the age of gold'; for when his sons succeeded him
the government became much harsher. But most important of all in this
respect was his popular and kindly disposition. In all things he was accustomed to
observe the laws, without giving himself any exceptional privileges. Once he was
summoned on a charge of homicide before the Areopagus, and he appeared in
person to make his defence; but the prosecutor was afraid to present himself and
abandoned the case. For these reasons he held power long, and whenever he was
expelled he regained his position easily. The majority alike of the upper class and
of the people were in his favour; the former he won by his social intercourse with
them, the latter by the assistance which he gave to their private purses, and his
nature fitted him to win the hearts of both. Moreover, the laws in reference to
tyrants at that time in force at Athens were very mild, especially the one
which applies more particularly to the establishment of a tyranny. The law ran as
follows: 'These are the ancestral statutes of the Athenians; if any persons shall
make an attempt to establish a tyranny, or if any person shall join in setting up a
tyranny, he shall lose his civic rights, both himself and his whole house.'
Thus did Pisistratus grow old in the possession of power, and he died a natural
death in the archonship of Philoneos, three and thirty years from the time at
which he first established himself as tyrant, during nineteen of which he was in
possession of power; the rest he spent in exile. It is evident from this that the
story is mere gossip which states that Pisistratus was the youthful favourite of
Solon and commanded in the war against Megara for the recovery of Salamis. It
will not harmonize with their respective ages, as any one may see who will reckon
up the years of the life of each of them, and the dates at which they died. After
the death of Pisistratus his sons took up the government, and conducted it on the
same system. He had two sons by his first and legitimate wife, Hippias and
Hipparchus, and two by his Argive consort, Iophon and Hegesistratus, who was
surnamed Thessalus. For Pisistratus took a wife from Argos, Timonassa, the
daughter of a man of Argos, named Gorgilus; she had previously been the wife
of Archinus of Ambracia, one of the descendants of Cypselus. This was the origin
of his friendship with the Argives, on account of which a thousand of them were
brought over by Hegesistratus and fought on his side in the battle at Pallene.
Some authorities say that this marriage took place after his first expulsion from
Athens, others while he was in possession of the government.
Greece in its world
Let’s start with an important representation of Greek and Persian:
What does this indicate about how the Greeks viewed the Persians?
We do know how ordinary Persians dressed because of a mummy preserved in salt:
They dress quite differently from the Greeks largely because they were originally nomadic herders. Hence they wore trousers.
The Greeks thought that trousers were effeminate.
The Persians are related to the peoples who settled in India. They spoke an Indo-European language.
The development of the Greek polises or city states took place in a world in which ‘civilisations’ had been in existence for about 2,500 years.
What do we mean by civilisation?
Urban concentration of population, political centralisation, developed religion that distinguishes between the ‘up there’ and the ‘down here’, systematic warfare, hierarchy and inequality, monumental architecture, production of a surplus sufficient to support the above.
All of this followed from the development of agriculture that transformed not just food production but the way in which people viewed the world.
Maissels: development of four major agrarian civilisations from about 3,000 BCE. These were Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus valley, China: they all developed in different ways.
Two civilisations are of significance for Greece: Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Egypt: unified about 3100 BC along the Nile River.
- Based on irrigation using water from the river.
- Centralised bureaucratic empire run by a divine king, and for a long time largely insulated from the outside world.
- Only with the New Kingdom after 1550 BC did the Egyptians become an aggressive military power that they conquered an empire in Palestine and Syria.
Southern Iraq, Sumer, saw the rise of collection of some 35 city states around 2800 BC.
- Based on irrigation from the Euphrates.
- City states based on one particular God or Goddess and his or her temple. Temple collected and redistrib
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