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Greek Tyranny Author(s): Mary White Source: Phoenix, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Spring, 1955), pp. 1-18 Published by: Classical Association of Canada Stable URL:

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THE word tyranny in Greek history does not denote one simple, un-

nor should it be assumed that it means a form of

changing institution,

government essentially similar in all the cases to which it is applied. I shall discuss here1 only the earliest tyrannies in the Greek world-the tyrannies of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., which arose under quite different conditions and were, for that reason, different in character

and purpose from the later dictatorships of various times and places in

the Greek world. Tyranny

or dictatorship was, of course, in Greece as

elsewhere a recurring phenomenon. In the late sixth and early fifth centuries it was a device used by Persia to govern the Greek cities of

Asia Minor within the Persian Empire. The famous western tyrants of

Sicily and South Italy appeared in the sixth and especially the fifth and fourth centuries; and there occurred elsewhere shorter or longer periods of tyranny. These belong to a time when in Greece itself conditions had changed; the early tyrannies had been overthrown, and a reaction against tyranny had set in owing to the combined influence of Sparta, who was proud of the fact that she had been always without tyrants

Thuc. 1. 18.1) and had helped in the expulsion of some

of the tyrants, and of Athens where, after the tyranny, the triumphant progress of democracy and imperialism exercised great influence on political thought. These later tyrannies conform to the modern meaning of the term; indeed, the term acquired its technical meaning from their character and from discussions of different types of government by historians and

philosophers, who had them in mind when they described tyranny as a form of demagogy, a perversion of monarchy, oligarchy, or democracy. The earliest tyrants were not demagogues for the simple reason that there was as yet no demos upon whose shoulders they could rise. They

and can more accur-

belong to an earlier stage of political development

ately be described as the successful champions of a growing middle class,

who overthrew the restrictive aristocracies of birth and so freed their cities for a development which under favourable circumstances could

and sometimes did lead to democracy. The early tyrannies are thus sui generis and must be studied in the context of their times to be understood. It is even doubtful whether the term rvpavvos was commonly and generally applied to them in their own

day. The word was still rare at that time and had a variety of

certainly it had no restricted and technical meaning until the end of the

(aite arvpavvevTos


'This paper was read before the American Historical Association in New York on


28, 1954.




9 (1955)





fifth century. Its origins are obscure, it is not a Greek nor Indo-European

term. Whatmough's

it is Lydian and is related to a group of Lydian names: Tvpa-a, Turnus, Tvpaavot and its alternative form Tvpprlvol(the Greek term for the Etrus- cans), Tuscus and the older Tursco, and Turan, the Etruscan name for Venus. The probability of Lydian origin derives some support from the fact that the earliest use of any form of the word in Greek is by Archi- lochos referring to his contemporary, Gyges of Lydia (ca. 687-652 B.c.):3

I care not for the wealth of golden Gyges, nor ever have envied him; I am not jealous

opinion,2 which has won wide acceptance,

is that

of the works of Gods, and I have no desire for lofty

TvpavvlPos); for such things are far beyond my ken.

Here rvpavvis denotes the sovereign power of a wealthy monarch, and is probably simply a synonym for absolute or royal power. Such continues to be one of its common meanings in both poetry and prose. But as early as Alkaios, Theognis, and Solon it has the derogatory sense of despotic power based on fraud or violence. There may be some suggestion of this meaning even in the first use by Archilochos of Gyges, a resourceful usurper who in a palace intrigue killed his predecessor, married his queen, and by a vigorous and devious policy established the Mermnad dynasty as the ruling power in Anatolia (Hdt. 1. 8-12). Alkaios (Frs. 48 and 87) is the first to use the word of a Greek leader.

He applies it to Pittakos, the aesymnetes or dictator elected as mediator

and his brothers were


prominent, and the party of Melanchros and Myrsilos. Aristotle (Politics

form of tyranny, re-



O'iK E p&o

the aristocrats,

among whom Alkaios

1285 a30-b4) describes aesymnetes as an elective

sembling tyranny in being despotic, but resembling kingship in being elective and constitutional. Alkaios has all the aristocratic contempt for

an upstart, and objects to Pittakos because he is low-born, KaKorrarpltas. When he says that all praised Pittakos and set him up as tyrant (CTaraavro 7rpavvov), he uses rvpavvos as a term of personal abuse and not as the

proper word to use of the constitutional

was scarcely more a tyrant in the later accepted sense of the term than was Solon in Athens, who held similar power for the year of his archon-

nature of his position. Pittakos



Ath. Pol.

5.2. eiXovro Kolvi 8LaXX\aKTrlv KaL &pXoovra26Xova).


1181-1182; 1204), Solon three times (Fr. 23, lines 6, 9, 19; cf. Fr. 10, 3-4 where the word is not used but the idea is present), both poets in the

sense of despotic rule but neither referring to a particular individual. In the fifth century, when the tyrants had been driven out and, in

uses various forms of the term in three passages


2JoshuaWhatmough, The Foundations of Roman Italy (London 1937) 231.

3Archilochos, Fr. 22, E.

Diehl, AnthologiaLyrica Graeca3 (Leipzig 1952) 3. 10-11.

referredto by the numbersof this,

The other fragments of the lyric poets cited will be

or for Alkaios the second, edition. The translation is by J.

Iambus (Loeb Classical Library, London 1931) 2. 110, Fr. 25.

M. Edmonds, Elegy and




Athens especially, democracy had won its glorious victories over the Persian, in whose train had been the ex-tyrant Hippias and the other

Peisistratidai, all forms of one-man rule were execrated, Persian monarchy and Greek tyranny alike. This can be seen in the honours paid to Har-

modios and Aristogeiton

became the

tyrannicides, their statues were set up in the Agora, and in the scolion

or drinking song celebrating their deed the refrain reads:

who murdered Hipparchos. They

OTETOrbv pavvov KaveT?7v


Tr 'ASOvasErotLao'LrTv

When they slewthe tyrant and gaveequal lawsto Athens.4

Here tyranny is specifically contrasted with isonomia, an earlier term for democracy.

towards absolute





a similar attitude

power. They use the word tyrannos frequently, both of the power of the

gods-Zeus, Apollo, and Eros-and

contains the suggestion of a newly acquired or dangerously arbitrary power which is likely to be irresponsibly misused. Sometimes this is explicit, as in Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus 873:

of human princes; almost always it


VTreVL rTvpavvov

Pridebreeds tyranny.

In other passages there can be seen an effective double entendre between the conventional meaning of king and the derogatory meaning of despot. Although the Attic use of the word was becoming increasingly coloured with this derogatory meaning, the Ionic continued to have both senses. The two fifth-century historians, the Ionian Herodotos and the Athenian Thucydides illustrate this. Herodotos applies it constantly to oriental kings and their power, occasionally even to governors or satraps, and regularly to the various Greek tyrants, in fact to one-man rule of any kind with no implication about the character of the rule. But in other places, and these are the more emphatic, it is despotic power as opposed to freedom (eXevOepil 1. 62.2), or to oligarchic government (IooKparia 5. 92. a2); and in the famous Persian debate on the virtues of democracy, oligarchy, and monarchy (3. 80-82) it is significant that Otanes, who recommends democracy, uses both tobvvapxos and TrVpavvosinterchangeably of one-man rule while Dareios, who recommends the retention of the monarchy, uses ,oOvvapxosonly. Thucydides, on the other hand, restricts

4C.M. (now Sir Maurice)Bowra, Greek LyricPoetry(Oxford1936) 415-421.Fora

full discussion of the tyrannicide cult see F. Jacoby, Atthis (Oxford 1949) 158-164 and notes; K. Schefold, "Kleisthenes," MusHelv 3 (1946) 59-86; V. Ehrenberg, "The Origins of Democracy," Historia 1 (1950) 530-534; G. W. Williams, "The Curse of the Alk- maionidai II," Hermathena 79 (1952) 4-11; G. Vlastos, "Isonomia," 4AP 74 (1953)





the term to the well known tyrants of Greece and the West or to tyranny as an illegal and despotic form of government. The two most striking passages in the latter sense describe the Athenian Empire: Perikles'


Xagl3ev.LevaiLKov 5OKEl etvai, &etvaL 6U ErTLKiLvvvov.), "For what you hold is,

in the



(2. 63. 2: cwsrvpavviSa 'yap

8srlexere aVOrTv,Xv

to speak somewhat plainly,

but to let it go is unsafe," is echoed by Kleon later, in his speech about

to take it perhaps was wrong,

a tyranny;

the punishment

of Mitylene

(3. 37. 2: ort Tvpavvl6a eXETrrvY apXrv).

Even this brief account of the history of the term indicates that there is no certainty that the tyrants of the seventh and sixth centuries were so called by their contemporaries. If they were, it denoted their absolute power, or was a term of censure and abuse; it was not a technical de- scription of a type of government. In the fifth century it is applied to them, but has two other distinct uses: as a synonym for royal or absolute power, and as a synonym for ill gotten or despotically exercised power. Only by the end of the century is the latter restricted and technical meaning established. When it was the fashion to regard Ionia as the pioneer in all things

Greek, it was thought

that Greek tyranny was modelled on Gyges of

Lydia, and the probable Lydian origins of the word and its first appli- cation to him were cited as corroborative evidence. On this theory the idea of tyranny first took root in the Greek cities of Asia Minor, perhaps in Ephesos where we hear of Melas the son-in-law of Gyges, or in Miletos

where Thrasyboulos was a famous tyrant; thence it spread to mainland Greece. But Melas is nothing but a name, and Thrasyboulos was a contemporary of Periander, who belonged to the second generation of tyranny in Corinth. What evidence we have points in the opposite direction, to the conclusion that the earliest tyrants were in Greece

the Kypselids in Corinth, the Ortha- in Megara. Whether the career and

methods of Gyges provided a pattern for the Isthmian tyrants can be only a conjecture from the fact that during and after Gyges' reign Greek-Lydian relations first became frequent and close. On the other hand it is certain that the conditions which gave rise to these tyrannies

were peculiarly Greek, and bear little relation to anything we know, or

itself, the group at the Isthmus, gorids in Sikyon, and Theagenes

circumstances attending the palace revolution and

can guess, of the

change of dynasty in Lydia. In the Isthmian cities Dorian aristocracies had succeeded the

kingships kingships which still

established at the time of the Dorian invasions,

persisted at Argos and Sparta. We know more of the Corinthian aristo-

cracy than of the others; they were the Bacchiads, a group of Heraklid

land-owning families who intermarried among themselves and

monopolized all political power in Corinth. They were an able and vigorous group who in the early days of the colonial movement to the





West planted two of the most famous and successful colonies, Corcyra and Syracuse in 733 B.C. They seem to have been the first to see the com- mercial possibilities opened up by this Greek expansion to the West, and instead of remaining merely a land-owning aristocracy, solving the problems of growth by continuing to export population in colonies, they encouraged Corinth to supplement her limited agricultural resources by


and trade.



6. 20,



of them:




&Kapir6oavro,"they fearlessly reaped the fruits of commerce." It is signifi- cant that Corinth sent out only the two early colonies; thereafter it is her pottery, Proto-Corinthian, one of the loveliest of the 'Orientalizing' wares, which appears in ever increasing quantities not merely in the West but throughout the Greek markets. Corinth became famous for her innovations in naval architecture and ca. 704 (Thuc. 1. 13. 3) lent one of her shipwrights to Samos to build four ships of the new style. This was probably the penteconter, a type of ship which, with its fifty rowers as well as sails, was much less dependent on winds and currents and could make faster and safer journeys than the older ships.5 The very success of the Bacchiads in availing themselves of and adapting themselves to the expanding opportunities of the early seventh century was their undoing. The twin claims of land and birth upon which an aristocracy relies for its exclusive political control were challenged by the appearance of a growing middle class. This middle class was not an


there seems to have been no such clear distinction.6 Both groups had

both agricultural and mercantile interests, and land was still the

form of security. Inevitably, as some families outside the aristocratic

group grew wealthy and prominent, intermarriages took place. Alkaios and Theognis, themselves die-hard aristocrats, complain bitterly of such marriages, which corrupt noble blood with base-born stock. The new prosperity was reflected in a change of military equipment

and tactics. Hoplite tactics replaced the older long-range type

in which the aristocratic cavalry had borne the burden and heat of the day, supported by a lightly armed and poorly trained militia. Although less expensive than cavalry equipment, hoplite armour was much heavier

and more expensive than that formerly used by the fighters in the ranks,

and hoplite tactics involved long training and

body of fighters whose success

effective cooperation. The middle classes

and this gave added force to their resentment



mercantile group in contrast to a land-owning aristocracy;




drilling by a compact






contributed the hoplite phalanx,

against the aristocratic

right to interpret justice.

Greece, voices


of political


power and exclusive



the earliest

of mainland

5Rhys Carpenter, "The GreekPenetrationof the Black Sea," AJA 52 (1948) 1-10.

6See A. Andrewes, "Probouleusis: Sparta's Contribution to the Technique of Govern-



to their

own ends. The answer of the Bacchiads to both criticism and demands was the frequent answer of a privileged class, greater harshness and repression. When, in addition, Corinth was unsuccessful in wars with her neighbours Argos and Megara and her colony Corcyra, the situation was ripe for a

revolution. Kypselos brought the discontent to a head for his own

personal advantage

classes. The stories of Kypselos' parentage, of his rise to power, and of his policy thereafter all stress that hatred of the oppression of the Bac- chiads was the sentiment that rallied support for him. Claims to rule

based on the prestige of birth are notoriously hard to break, and a strong personality, able,resourceful, and ruthless,is needed to initiate a successful revolution. Kypselos was a man of these qualities. Nicolaus of Damascus

became polemarch, in which office the mildness of

says that

his judicial decisions contrasting with the harsh decisions of the Bacchiads

made him popular so that he was able to make himself tyrant without the usual bodyguard.7 We may be sceptical of some of the details of the

story, but there is little reason to doubt that Kypselos had the loyal support of the middle-class hoplite soldiers. The first thing he did was to kill or drive out the Bacchiads, some of whom fled to Corcyra, Sparta, and the West. Periander, Kypselos' son and successor, displayed the same implacable hatred of the Bacchiads. They were expelled from their refuge in Corcyra, and a son of Periander installed as regent. It seems clear, therefore, that the Corinthian tyranny arose in protest against the Bacchiad monopoly of power, and that the studied policy of the Kypselids was to break that power for ever.



animated by hostility to the aristocratic Dorian families, and themselves belonged to the fourth and non-Dorian tribe. The renaming of the tribes (Hdt. 5. 68), to us a childishly spiteful gesture, was Kleisthenes' telling

attack upon the prestige of the Dorian aristocracy. Orthagoras, the founder of the tyranny, is described as the son of a cook or a butcher (ua,yetpos). As a young man he distinguished himself in his military

service with the repPlro6XoL, frontier guards, became their commander, and eventually polemarch. Then with the help of the hoplites he seized the


gathering storm of protest


princes who twist justice

and seized power with the support of the middle










of Thea-

genes, but the little there is is significant. Aristotle says in the Politics

(1305a) that Theagenes secured power after


the flocks and

herds of the wealthy. In the Rhetoric (1357b) he says that,

poor who hated the wealthy, he obtained a bodyguard and so became

For Megara there is less evidence about the establishment


urged by

7Nic. Dam. Fr. 57, F.

8p. Ox. 11. 1365, Jacoby, FGH IIA,



(Berlin 1926) 356-357.





tyrant. It should be remembered that Megara in the seventh century had founded a group of colonies at and around the Bosporus, the two most famous being Chalkedon, an agricultural colony in a quiet bay on the

southern shore, and seventeen

shore at the gates of the Euxine in a position to control the trade in and

out of the Black Sea. Megara had an aristocracy which, like the Bac- chiads, had exploited the possibilities of colonization; their flocks and herds and the wool trade, as Ure suggests,9 were an important part of their wealth. Aristotle's evidence indicates that in Megara too the tyranny was a movement to overthrow aristocracy.

on the northern

years later Byzantion

tyrannies are the earliest Greek tyrannies, so far as

can be inferred from the evidence we have. They begin in the second half of the seventh century; Kypselos is usually dated ca. 655, Orthagoras about the same time, and Theagenes in the 630's.1? It seems to me that, if it is correct to say that tyranny in these places was a movement against the aristocracies of birth led and supported by

a rising middle class, its geographic position is significant. The Isthmus, lying between the Corinthian and Saronic gulfs, stands at the centre of the principal trade routes: the route to the West which had been

opened up by the early colonial movement,

to Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, and to the Black Sea. Here the impact

of new developments was most quickly and most acutely felt, and brought in its wake political change. The idea spread eastward, and many cities in Asia Minor seem to have had tyrannies in the early sixth

century. What we know of Thrasyboulos of Miletos and the

Mitylene in which the poet Alkaios participated suggests that in these places also it was a reaction against aristocracy. In Samos, where I have attempted to show that the tyranny began as early as the 560's with the

piratical activities of Aiakes," it was the overthrow of the landowners,

the 7yEuo6'poL, which gave Aiakes the opportunity to seize personal power. In Athens, tyranny appeared with Peisistratos in 561/60 under special

circumstances which I shall discuss later. Although the first

in the newer cities of the West arose in the early part of the sixth

it was not until the end of the century and the beginning of the fifth

century that most of the cities had tyrants. By

become simply a designation for personal power or dictatorship and had

lost its former significance as a symptom of social and political

ment. Similarly the later tyrannies in Asia Minor supported by Lydia

These Isthmian

and the routes to the East,





this time tyranny had


9P. N. Ure, The Origin of Tyranny (Cambridge 1922) 266-267.

'?For the usual chronology see H. T. Wade Gery, CAH3

pp. 548-570

H. R. W. Smith, "The Hearst Hydria,"

Archaeology, Vol. 1, No.

and the note on pp. 764-765.

10 (1944) 241-290.

(Cambridge 1929) Chap. 22.6,


University of California Publications in Classical

For a later dating

of the


1"The Duration of the Samian Tyranny," JHS 74 (1954) 36-43.



or Persia were an artificial prolongation of the earlier institution and cease to have any real interest for us.


examined the circumstances under which the first tyrannies

arose, we now ask what was the nature of a tyrant's power. Was it a form of government based on constitutional enactments; if so, what was the constitutional formula; if not, wherein did a tyrant's power lie? The evidence is discouragingly scanty and vague, but there is none to suggest that tyranny was a form of government with any constitutional pattern of its own. The opposite seems more likely, that the tyrants did not make any radical changes in the constitutions of their cities. How,

then, did they work? Basically I think it was by a change of personnel. The families of the former aristocracies were killed, expelled, or suppressed, except for the few who were willing to make their peace and work with the tyrants. They were replaced by the supporters of the tyrants, the people who had grown prosperous in the period of expansion, who made up the hoplite armies, and had helped the tyrant to set himself up. That they were capable of taking responsibility is clear from the fact that their respective cities continue to grow more prosperous and vigor- ous. Far from there being any sign of even a temporary retrogression caused by inexperience, there is expansion and development in every sphere. In Corinth, although the Bacchiads were expelled, yet the city's commerce grew, Proto-Corinthian pottery was succeeded by the Cor- inthian styles, Early, Middle, and Late, which until about 550 dominated the pottery markets of the whole Greek world. In Sikyon Kleisthenes' non-Dorian tribe became the Rulers and the Dorian tribes were degraded, yet Sikyon in the first half of the sixth century became for the only time in its history a Greek power of the first rank. And so one could continue through the whole list. The tyrants doubtless drew for their personnel upon that class which had gained experience and wealth but had hitherto been excluded from political power, and the event amply demonstrated their capacity. Did the tyrant himself hold any one of the regular offices? Again the evidence is incomplete. For Corinth and Sikyon there are only the traditions that Kypselos and Orthagoras held military posts with the hoplite armies when they seized power. For Samos there is one valuable piece of evidence, the inscription on the seated statue dedicated by Aiakes or his successors which reads: "Dedicated by Aiakes son of Bryson who secured the booty for Hera KarTaTrv rl-rTaavw, "when he was CtrfT&ra'S." This perhaps indicates that Aiakes held the position of CertLrTrs while he exercised what later generations would call a tyranny. The most interesting evidence is for Athens. Both Aristotle (Ath. Pol.

16. 2. 8) and Thucydides

were careful not to disturb the existing

laws of Solon, but Thucydides adds this significant reservation: 7rXjv KaO'

(6. 54. 6) are emphatic

that the Peisistratids

embodied in the




o6ov aLel rva

e7reEMXrovToaOfUv atrsV

kv rals

'pXaOs elvaL-"except




as they took care that some of themselves should always hold the archon- ships." Here we see how the tyranny worked. The archonships were held by the party of the tyrants, and the archons became life members of the Areopagos at the end of their year of office. The archons were the chief executive magistrates of Athens at this time, and the Areopagos in the words of Aristotle (,th. Pol. 8. 4.) "still supervised the greater and more important parts of public life." Through control of these two branches of the administrative machinery the policy of the tyrants could be carried out without further violence to the Solonian constitution. Peisis- tratos himself had probably been polemarch when he captured Nisaea from Megara in the Megarian wars and was thus already a member of the Areopagos before he became tyrant. The archon list inscribed on stone ca. 425 B.C., a portion of which was discovered in the American excavations of the Agora and published in 1939,12 shows that Hippias, the eldest son and heir of Peisistratos, became archon in 526/5 as soon as possible after his father's death, and that his son, the younger Peisis- tratos, was archon in 522/1. Two other names in the list are interesting. Kleisthenes was archon in 525/4, indicating that the Alkmaionid family, which had gone into exile when Peisistratos seized power, had become temporarily reconciled to the tyranny and had returned to hold office in

the early years of Hippias' rule, only to go into exile again probably after the murder of Hipparchos. Miltiades, archon in 524/3, belonged to the Philaid family which from the beginning had been willing to cooperate with the tyranny. For Athens then we have enough evidence to say with some assurance that the tyrants worked through the regular magistrates and council, without disturbing the constitution. But this was only their modus


real power was neither dependent upon these offices nor

circumscribed by them. They held a personal power far surpassing any office by virtue of their successful overthrow of the aristocracy, their

successful leadership of their supporters, and the benefits of their policy to the city as a whole. Usually, at least by the second generation, the tyrant took the precaution of having a bodyguard, for fear was not a negligible factor in their success. Although the scale is larger and the machinery more complex, Augustus' power in the early Principate offers many analogies. His prestige was won by the victory of Actium,

and his victory

brought a new personnel into the Roman oligarchy of

office. Although he was careful to take only certain specific offices and

powers and proclaimed that he had restored the republic, no one was under any delusion as to the extent of his real power, which pervaded every aspect of the life of the empire, and was even greater because not

12The fragment is published with a photograph and commentary by B. D. Meritt in


8 (1939)





explicit. There are many similarities between tyranny and principate, and a tyranny in the smaller context of the city state needed less ma-

chinery. To take another analogy closer in time though perhaps less similar in character, Perikles' power in fifth-century Athens during the last fifteen years of his life when he was continuously elected general was much greater than the generalship. It rested in his ability to carry with him the Ekklesia in all questions of policy. As Thucydides says (2. 65. 9) Athens was in name a democracy, in reality it was government by the

first citizen. The Ekklesia had by the constitutional

thenes, Ephialtes, and Perikles himself become sovereign, and he who led the city must lead it. In the earlier period before the demos had such

power, it was through archons and Areopagos that

work. We ask next; what did the tyrants try to do and how much did they achieve? In the first place, they led their cities to greater material prosperity, by encouraging a diversified economy in which agriculture continued to hold an important place but was supplemented by an ever- increasing development of such crafts as pottery, metal work, and textiles, and of export trade with the ship-building and mercantile activity which must accompany it. Corinth provides a good illustration. There, using the excellent clay which is one of Corinth's most valuable natural resources, the many small establishments of the Potters' Quarter, the Kerameikos, produced vast quantities of all kinds of pottery and terracotta figurines to flood the Greek markets; roof-tile factories made and exported the special type of roof-tiles invented in Corinth; terracotta architectural decorations for temples and public buildings were shipped abroad and have been found in such places as Thermon and Kalydon in Aetolia; perfume was made to fill the thousands of little decorated aryballoi or perfume bottles, one of the most common types of Corinthian pottery. Other exports were perishable and less easy to trace, but from literary sources we know that Corinth was famous for bronzes and other metal work, and textiles. Some of the bronzes survive and are discussed and illustrated by Payne in Necrocorinthia. There is also the famous

changes of Kleis-

the tyrants


golden bowl

Museum of Fine Arts.

means of exchange to


and the

silver coinage in

Greece itself, the silver turtles. The beginning of Corinth's

now dated about 600 B.C., and was

probably the second example of coinage in European Greece, to be followed shortly by Athens.13

the winged Pegasos as its device is

Greek cities in Asia Minor. Aegina had issued the first

coinage had been invented

dedicated by the Kypselids at Olympia, now in the Boston

previous generation

in Lydia



The Kypselids gave Corinth her first coinage, a

this mercantile development.

Within the

and came into use first

laFor this later dating of the early coinages see E. S. G. Robinson,





71 (1951)


"Coins from the



Corinth built and maintained a navy of both warships and merchant ships. A canal was cut through the isthmus between Leucas and the

mainland so that ships would not have to sail outside Leucas. Periander planned a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth but was unable to carry

it out. To secure raw materials and to safeguard the routes to the West

against any interference from a hostile Corcyra, the Kypselids planted

a series of colonial foundations

north-west coast of Greece: Leucas, Ambracia, and Anaktorion just north of the Corinthian Gulf, and Apollonia north of Corcyra. Potidaia on the Isthmus of Pallene in Chalkidike was clearly designed to secure timber from Macedonia and minerals. In each a member of the Kypselid family was placed as viceroy (as was done also in Corcyra itself by Periander when he expelled the exiled Bacchiads), and the colonies were kept under strict Corinthian control. This control was maintained long after the end of the tyranny; in the fifth century even their coins were certainly sometimes and may usually have been minted in Corinth and were the Corinthian 'colts' with distinguishing letters for each colony.

of a new and imperialist type on the

The second aspect of tyrant policy which I wish to emphasize arises

directly out of this mercantile development,

city of Corinth must have grown enormously during the seventy-odd years of the tyranny. Many people were employed in the various small industrial and commercial businesses and had to live in the immediate

area of the city and its harbours. It was in this period and due to these causes that what we think of as the typical city-state came into being.

A Greek city-state consists not only of the urban and harbour area with

its industrial establishments, shops and market place, civic offices, temples and public buildings, and the population employed by all these businesses, but also of the country and its villages with the agricultural population. Until the time of mercantile expansion the urban area was little more than the seat of government and the city cults, and a place of

refuge in case of attack; the country and villages were more important. The situation changed at this period and the urban centre of the city- state began to be built up with a much larger population earning its

living therein. Water supplies, drainage, streets, market places, public buildings, new temples, and city walls appear, the outward and visible signs of the new city-state. Little of this remains in Corinth, so thoroughly was it destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.c., except for the Potters' Quarter with a few remains of a city wall, and the two fountain-houses of Peirene and Glauke, the earliest structures of which belong to the tyrants. A good and abundant water supply was one of the first needs

of a growing population in a country like Greece which is short of water.

and aqueducts are

It is, therefore, not surprising that fountain-houses

among the best known public works of the tyrants. The choice by the Kypselids of the winged horse Pegasos as the device for their coins was an

that is, urbanization. The




ingenious piece of propaganda for the fountain of Peirene, which in legend gushed forth where Pegasos struck his hoof as he mounted into the

air. The temple of Apollo, the only other early building left in Corinth, was built a little later than the period of the tyranny but was part of the same policy and testifies to the resources accumulated by the tyrants. In the third place, the tyrants made their cities powers of the first rank by a vigorous foreign policy, a munificent generosity to the influ-


Greek shrines, and an enlightened

patronage of the arts. The

Kypselids treated on equal terms with the kings of Lydia and Egypt, arbitrated in disputes between cities, and maintained friendly relations with other tyrants. Their dedications at Delphi and Olympia excited the admiration of future generations. Their patronage of the arts was a deliberate part of their policy; they needed artists and craftsmen for the designing and executing of pottery, metal work, textiles, and terra- cottas; architects and sculptors for the new buildings and for their dedications at home and abroad. They were equally interested in attracting poets to their courts. The result was a brilliant period in the development of both arts and literature. The Samian tyrants of the sixth century displayed equal vigour and resource in their policies. The most acute problem for them from the middle of the century onward was foreign relations: how to preserve their independence in the face first of Kroisos' threat to conquer the islands as well as the coasts of Asia Minor, then, when Kroisos fell and Asia Minor became part of the Persian Empire, of Persia's more relentless

pressure. Aiakes built a strong navy of penteconters, and cultivated close relations with Egypt, so that Samos was in a position to fall heir to the vacant thalassocracy when the previous thalassocrat, Phokaia, was ruthlessly subjected to Persia. Aiakes apparently (Hdt. 1. 169) made token submission to Persia, but Persia, without a navy of her own until she conquered Phoenicia and Egypt, was in no position to interfere with Samos' virtually independent control of the Aegean sea-lanes. Polykrates inherited both navy and foreign policy. He converted the navy of pente- conters into a navy of triremes, the new type of warship,14 and improved

the harbour of Samos by building the mole which Herodotos


Kambyses' attack on Amasis forced him to choose between Persia and Egypt. He seized every opportunity of strengthening his position in the Aegean: by alliance with Lygdamis of Naxos, by subjecting some of the islands and dedicating Rhenaia to the Delian Apollo, whose festival he celebrated, and by giving refuge to Arkesilaos of Cyrene.15Polykrates'

(3. 60)