Their judgment was based more upon blind wishing than upon sound reasoning. For it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to thrust aside what they do not fancy. — Thucydides

Story of the Greeks - Helene Guerber




The Tyrant Pisistratus

Not very long after Solon had given the new laws to the Athenians, the two political parties of the city again began to quarrel. One of these parties was composed wholly of rich men and nobles, or aristoi, from which Greek word is formed our English word "aristocrat;" the other party included the farmers and poor people, or demos, the Greek term which has given rise to the word "democrat."

Among the aristocrats, or nobles, there was a nephew of Solon called Pisistratus. He was very rich; but, instead of upholding his own party, he seemed to scorn the rich, and always sided with the poor. To make friends with the democrats, he pretended to obey the laws with the greatest care, and addressed every man with the utmost politeness.

Once, having killed a man by accident, Pisistratus came of his own free will before the judges of the Areopagus, confessed his crime, and was so humble that he quite disarmed the anger of the people.

As soon as he felt quite sure that he had won many friends among the poor, Pisistratus appeared one day in the market place, covered with blood, which flowed from slight wounds which he had made upon his own body.

His polite manners and kindly words had been only a pretense, however; and he was not only a hypocrite, but also a liar. So he now said that the aristocrats had tried to kill him because he was the friend of the people.

In proof of these words, he pointed to his wounds. The poorer Athenians, who believed him, were very indignant, and began to talk angrily about the wicked nobles, who had hurt Pisistratus only because he was ready to help them.

When Pisistratus cried out that his life was no longer safe, all the democrats exclaimed that they would protect him; and, as they had the right of voting, they then and there said that he should have a bodyguard of fifty armed men to protect him.

Pisistratus pretended to be very grateful for this favor, and, under pretext of choosing his bodyguard, engaged a great number of soldiers. When his plans were all ready, he took possession of the Acropolis by force.

The people now found out, but too late, that Pisistratus had deceived them only to get more power; and that, thanks to the guard they had voted him, he had become master of the town, and held the reins of the government.

The Athenians did not long remain angry with their former favorite, however; for he did all he could to make them happy, and ruled them very wisely. He improved the city by building magnificent temples and other public buildings, and made a great aqueduct, so that the people could have plenty of pure water to drink.

Pisistratus also laid out a public park, the Lyceum, just outside the city walls, so that the Athenians could go there, and enjoy the cool shade of the groves he had planted.

Then he began to collect all the poems of Homer, had them carefully written down, and placed them in a public library, so that the Greeks could read them whenever they pleased. Until then these poems had only been recited, and no written copy existed. Pisistratus, therefore, did a very good work in thus keeping for our enjoyment the greatest epic poems ever composed.

As Pisistratus ruled just as he pleased, without consulting the Tribunal or people, he has been called a tyrant. This word in those days meant "supreme ruler;" but as many of those who followed him made a bad use of their power, and were cruel and grasping, its meaning soon changed, and the word now means "a selfish and unkind ruler."



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Inhabitants of Greece
The Deluge of Ogyges
Founding of Important Cities
Story of Deucalion
Daedalus and Icarus
The Adventures of Jason
Theseus Visits the Labyrinth
The Terrible Prophecy
The Sphinx's Riddle
Death of Oedipus
The Brothers' Quarrel
The Taking of Thebes
The Childhood of Paris
Muster of the Troops
Sacrifice of Iphigenia
The Wrath of Achilles
Death of Hector and Achilles
The Burning of Troy
Heroic Death of Codrus
The Blind Poet
The Rise of Sparta
The Spartan Training
The Brave Spartan Boy
Public Tables in Sparta
Laws of Lycurgus
The Messenian War
The Music of Tyrtaeus
Aristomenes' Escape
The Olympic Games
Milo of Croton
The Jealous Athlete
The Girls' Games
The Bloody Laws of Draco
The Laws of Solon
The First Plays
The Tyrant Pisistratus
The Tyrant's Insult
Death of the Conspirators
Hippias Driven out of Athens
The Great King
Hippias Visits Darius
Destruction of the Persian Host
Advance of the Second Host
The Battle of Marathon
Miltiades' Disgrace
Aristides the Just
Two Noble Spartan Youths
The Great Army
Preparations for Defense
Leonidas at Thermopylae
Death of Leonidas
The Burning of Athens
Battles of Salamis and Plataea
The Rebuilding of Athens
Death of Pausanias
Cimon Improves Athens
The Earthquake
The Age of Pericles
Teachings of Anaxagoras
Peloponnesian War Begins
Death of Pericles
The Philosopher Socrates
Socrates' Favorite Pupil
Youth of Alcibiades
Greek Colonies in Italy
Alcibiades in Disgrace
Death of Alcibiades
Overthrow of Thirty Tyrants
Accusation of Socrates
Death of Socrates
The Defeat of Cyrus
Retreat of the Ten Thousand
Agesilaus in Asia
A Strange Interview
The Peace of Antalcidas
The Theban Friends
Thebes Free Once More
The Battle of Leuctra
Death of Pelopidas
The Battle of Mantinea
The Tyrant of Syracuse
Damon and Pythias
The Sword of Damocles
Dion and Dionysius
Civil War in Syracuse
Death of Dion
Philip of Macedon
Philip Begins His Conquests
The Orator Demosthenes
Philip Masters Greece
Birth of Alexander
The Steed Bucephalus
Alexander as King
Alexander and Diogenes
Alexander's Beginning
The Gordian Knot
Alexander's Royal Captives
Alexander at Jerusalem
The African Desert
Death of Darius
Defeat of Porus
Return to Babylon
Death of Alexander
Division of the Realm
Death of Demosthenes
Last of the Athenians
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Battle of Ipsus
Demetrius and the Athenians
The Achaean League
Division in Sparta
Death of Agis
War of the Two Leagues
The Last of the Greeks
Greece a Roman Province