Pisistratus

605–527 BC
Civilization: Greek — Athens
   Field of Renown:  statesman — Tyrant
Era:  City States

Pisistratus
ATHENIANS CELEBRATING THE RETURN OF PISISTRATUS
Pisistratus was a Tyrant of Athens, but he was for the most part, a fairly benevolent and fair-minded ruler, regarding most issues except power-sharing. He was a friend and admirer of Solon, and when he came to power he promoted many of Solon's reforms, and treated Solon with the greatest courtesy, but Solon in turn, did not trust him and warned his fellow citizens against the danger of a dictatorship. Pisistratus was so popular with the rural classes however, that these warnings fell on deaf ears.

Pisistratus came to power as an advocate for the rural classes, immediately after Solon left Athens in 565 B.C. His rivals were Megacles, leader of the Alcmaeonidae, and Lycurgus, who represented the coast and merchant parties. Pisistratus was driven out of Athens, but then returned several times, and Megacles was sometimes an ally, and later a rival, and played a role in his alternate banishments and restorations. After Pisistratus was banished for the second time in 556 B.C., he spent many years in Euboea, where he made a great deal of money mining. After ten years he returned again to Athens in triumph, and from that point on, to his death in 528 B.C., he was the undisputed leader of Athens. He succeeded in exiling Megacles and the entire clan of the Alcmaeonidae, and they were not able to return to Athens for an entire generation. Pisistratus reigned for over twenty five years, and during this time, Athens was very prosperous, and became a center for learning, commerce and culture. He instituted the Panatheniac Games, commissioned the first written version of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and promoted drama and scholarship. He was succeeded in his dictatorship by his sons Hippias and Hipparchus.


Key events during the life of Pisistratus:


Year
Event
596 BC
Fought under Solon to reclaim the Island of Salamis for Athens.
565 BC
Solon left Athens, and Pisistratus became the leader of the poor, rural classes.
560 BC
Pisistratus seized the Acropolis with a group of body guards and became a tyrant.
559 BC
Pisistratus was first driven out, then aided in his return, by Megacles, leader of the Alcmaeonidae.
  Marries, but then divorces Megacles' daughter.
556 BC
Driven out of Athens, again by his (now) enemy Megacles.
  Exiled to Euboea, but made a lot of money there in mining.
546 BC
Returned with a large force to Athens and regained power.
  Consolidated power by rulings favoring rural and poor classes. Kept a militia and held hostages.
  Upheld Solon's laws. Instituted Panathenaic Festival. Support the arts, culture, and drama.
  Commissioned the first written editions of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.
528 BC
Died and was succeeded by his sons Hippias and Hipparchus.

Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
Tyrant Pisistratus  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Pisistratus  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland
Pisistratus Becomes Tyrant  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
I Will Be the Greatest  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Charles D. Shaw
Rule of Pisistratus and the Alcmaeonidae  in  The Story of the Greek People  by  Eva March Tappan


Image Links


The Athenians Celebrating the Return of Pisistratus
 in Greatest Nations - Greece


Contemporary
Short Biography
Hippias Exiled son of Pisistratus; helped lead Persian forces against Athens at Marathon.
Solon Rewrote the laws of Athens to better protect poor citizens from the rich.
Megacles Opposed, and then allied himself with Pisistratus. Married Agriste of the Alcmaeonidae clan.
Lycurgus of Athens Political Enemy of Pisistratus.
Lygdamos of Naxos Political Ally of Pisistratus.