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Ancient History Sourcebook:
Documents of The Rise of Hellenic Tyranny, c. 650-550 BCE
Corinth and Athens


Herodotus, The Histories, Book V, ''92

Sosicles the Corinthian exclaimed: "Surely the heaven will soon be below, and the earth above, and men will henceforth live in the sea, and fish take their place upon dry land, since you, Lacedaemonians, propose to put down free governments in the cities of Greece, and to set up tyrannies in their stead. There is nothing in the whole world so unjust, nothing so bloody, as a tyranny....If you knew what tyranny was as well as ourselves, you would be better advised than you now are in regard to it. The government at Corinth was once an oligarchy, and this group of men, called the Bacchiadae, held sway in the city, marrying and giving in marriage among themselves....Eventually, Cypselus, the son of Aetion, [one of the Bacchiadae] became master of Corinth. Having thus got the tyranny, he showed himself a harsh ruler---many of the Corinthians he drove into banishment, many he deprived of his fortune, and a still greater number of their lives. His reign lasted thirty years, and was prosperous to its close; insomuch that he left the government to Periander, his son....Where Cypselus had spared any, and had neither put them to death nor banished them, Periander complete what his father had left unfinished. One day he stripped all the women of Corinth stark naked, for the sake of his own wife Melissa....


Plutarch, The Life of Solon, '' 29-31

When Solon was gone, the citizens began to quarrel; Lycurgus headed the Plain; Megacles, the son of Alcmaeon, those to the Seaside; and Pisistratus the Hill-party, in which were the poorest people, the Thetes, and greatest enemies to the rich; insomuch that, though the city still used the new laws, yet all looked for and desired a change of government, hoping severally that the change would be better for them, and put them above the contrary faction. Affairs standing thus, Solon returned, and was reverenced by all, and honored; but his old age would not permit him to be as active, and speak in public, as formerly; yet, by privately conferring with the heads of the factions, he endeavored to compose the differences, Pisistratus appearing the most tractable; for he was extremely smooth and engaging in his language, a great friend to the poor, and moderate in his resentments; and what nature had not given him, he had the skill to imitate; so that he was trusted more than the others, being accounted a prudent and orderly man, one that loved equality...Thus he deceived the majority of people.

Now when Pisistratus, having wounded himself, was brought into the market-place in a chariot, and stirred up the people, as if he had been thus treated by his opponents because of his political conduct, a great many were enraged and cried out. After this, the people were eager to protect Pisistratus, and met in an assembly, where one Ariston making a motion that they should allow Pisistratus fifty club-bearers for a guard to his person, Solon opposed it. But observing the poor bent to gratify Pisistratus, and tumultuous, and the rich fearful and getting out of harm's way, he departed...Now, the people, having passed the law, took no notice of the number of his club-bearers, until he seized the Acropolis. When that was done, and the city was in an uproar, Megacles, with all his family, fled...


Source:

From:

Herodotus, The History, George Rawlinson, trans., (New York: Dutton & Co., 1862)

Plutarch, Plutarch's Lives, (The "Dryden Plutarch"), (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1910).

Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text.


This text is part of the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, August 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu