The Rise of Tyranny in Ancient Greece

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The Archaic period (800-500 B.C) in Greece saw the rise of the Tyrant due to social, political, and economic discontent among the polis and Greek colonies. The Tyrant was initially viewed favorably by Greeks, but later became associated with cruelty and oppression. Many notable Tyrants arose during this period, such as Cypeslus, Cleisthenes of Sicyon, and Pisistratus. The decline of aristocratic rule fueled the rise of the Tyrant, marking a turning point in Greece’s political development. Colonization and economic expansion caused a shift in society that led to dissatisfaction from excessive taxation, worsening economic conditions, and social inequalities. This led to warfare between the ruling aristocrats and the rest of the population, aided by the rise of the middle class and the hoplite soldier. The importance of acquiring money became more evident, leading to the establishment of tyrannies in nearly all the cities.

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The Rise of Tyranny: The Archaic period saw (800 – 500 B. C) the rise of the Tyrant as a result of the social, political and economic discontent of the polis and the Greek colonies. Initially the Tyrant “in the ancient Greek sense was a man who, without any hereditary or official right to rule, seized control of his city” and was viewed favourably amongst the Greeks. (Estensen –get booklet for foot note) The rise of the Tyrant was due to the widespread dissatisfaction that came from the oppressive aristocratic rule coupled with the results of colonisation and economic expansion.

It was not until the tyrants became cruel and oppressive in their rule that the modern conations of the word were adopted by the Greeks, Herodotus captures the later formed opinion well in his histories when he states: “There is nothing in the whole world so unjust, nothing so bloody, as tyranny… ” (Herodotus, The history, Book V, “92) Many Tyrants are accounted for during this period the most notable being Cypeslus, Cleisthenes of Sicyon and Pisistratus within the scopes of these Tyrants are the achievements of both themselves along with their predecessors and successors.

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The Archaic period saw the decline of aristocratic rule fuelling the rise of the tyrant, A. Andrews expresses it best “ The tyrants mark a turning point in the political development of Greece, the moment when an old order was breaking down and a new order was not yet established” (3 pg 6 reference for foot note. ) The aristocratic rule had seen the control of all religious, military and political functions. As city- states grew, citizen became more political active and desired to have the laws written down.

Some aristocrats acted on this demand creating lawgivers, like the Athenian Draco. However the severity of Draco’s law crated social, political and economic discontent as his successor Solon describes “All the common people were weighed down with the debts owed to a few rich men” (4 see sheet. ) The rise of the Tyrant was a direct result of colonisalism and economic expansion, during this period there was a social, political and economic shift.

This shift was caused by citizens disatisfacetion from the aristrcrates excessive taxation alon with the worsening economic conditions. These condition were felt strongly by teh lower classes, many of whom sought hope in the opportunities of colonisation. Colonisation was initially a great solution as it saw the increate of the lucrative trade industry. This new industry saw the rise of the ‘middle class’, a new social group who obtained wealth but no political standing.

This caused disease and created socieo – economic and political warefate between the ruling Aristorcys and the rest of the population. This warefare was aided by a new money econmy and a shift in warfare, from single combat to th hoplite phalanx and the readily avalible panoply. The surplus of money posed by the middle class saw the rise of the hipolite solider, which adied the tryrant in his seizer. Thucydides explains “ as the importance of acquiring money became more and more evident tyrannies were established in nearly all the cities. ’ (5 see pg 6)

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