d. 522 BC

Polycrates came to power in 535 B.C. when he and his two brothers, along with their followers, took the city of Samos by force, during a festival. He consolidated power by murdering one of his brothers, and exiling the other. Once he had established himself as tyrant, he set about making Samos a great naval power by building a 100 ship navy, by far the largest of any Greek city at the time. During the next ten years he had naval engagements with may Aegean Islands and colonies, including Naxos, Rheneia, Miletus, and Lesbos and was very successful in his endeavors. Under his leadership, Samos became very prosperous, and one of the great cultural and commercial centers of Greece. It was after many years of uninterrupted success and prosperity, that the story of the Ring of Polycrates allegedly took place, which true or otherwise, is the story by which Polycrates is best known. It relates the story of how Polycrates tries to ward of the jealousy of the Gods, by tossing away his most valuable possession, and how in an highly unlikely course of events, it is returned to him. He is thereby warned that the God's jealously will not be so easily assuaged, and that a more tragic fate awaits him. In spite of these warnings, he later fell into the clutches of his mortal enemy, Oroetes, then a Persian Governor on the mainland of Asia Minor, and was put to a gruesome death, supposedly due to the implacably jealousy of the Gods.

Key events during the life of Polycrates:

535 BC
With brothers Pantagnotus and Syloson, took over
  Polycrates kills Pantagnotus and exiles Syloson—becomes sole tyrant of Samos.
  Builds fleet of 100 ships and dominates the islands the Ionian Sea.
  Enters into and alliance with Amasis II, king of Egypt.
  Amyais II breaks off alliance with Polycrates, supposedly due to fear of the Gods.
525 BC
Cambyses invades Egypt; Polycrates offers Naval Support.
  Polycrates reign continues prosperous, and Samos becomes a cultural and economic center of Greece.
515 BC
Oroetes, Governor of Lydia, invites Polycrates for a visit and puts him to death.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
The Provinces  in  Darius the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Ring of Polycrates  in  Historical Tales: Greek  by  Charles Morris
The Ring of Polycrates  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Charles D. Shaw
Greek Colonies: The Tyrants  in  The Story of the Greek People  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

The King and the Fisherman
 in Stories of the Ancient Greeks

Short Biography
Amasis II Second to last king of Egypt, died before Egypt was overrun by Cambyses.
Democedes Greek physician, valuable slave of Darius. Schemed and plotted to return to Greece.
Cambyses Eldest son of Cyrus. Invaded Egypt, killed brother, then died.
Pythagoras Philosopher and mathematician; invented the Pythagorean Theorem.
Oroetes Persian Governor of Sardis. Enemy of Polycrates.
Syloson Brother of Polycrates. Attempted to take back Samos after death of Polycrates.