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Peisistratos , ( ancient Greek Πεισίστρατος , Latin Pisistratus , * probably around 600 BC; † 528/527 BC) became the founder of the Peisistratiden tyranny in Athens through an armed coup .

Traditional history

There are no contemporary literary sources on Peisistratos. According to later tradition, he was the son of Hippocrates (not to be confused with the doctor of the same name ) and a distant, younger relative of Solons , the Athenian reformer in archaic times . He was born around 600 BC. On his father's estate in Brauron . According to Herodotus , as with many tyrants, his birth was preceded by ominous omens.

After Solon had left Athens (allegedly 565 BC), Peisistratos appeared as a ruler with a following that, according to Herodotus, mainly came from the Attic mountainous country. He was in competition with two other renowned nobles, Lycurgus and Megakles , who, according to Herodotus, had their respective following in the Attic plain or in the coastal strip. Probably 561 BC He stormed the Acropolis with a troop of armed supporters and allowed himself to be proclaimed a tyrant by pretending that his enemies were trying to kill him. He could not last long, however, because only shortly afterwards he was chased out of his position by the two competitors.

But soon afterwards, according to Herodotus, luck turned back in favor of Peisistratos when Megakles parted ways with Lycurgus and joined Peisistratos on the condition that he would marry his daughter. Peisistratos agreed and was supposedly able to regain power through a ruse: he drove through Athens in a cart, next to a woman disguised as Athena . Megakles convinced the stunned Athenians, so it is said that this was really the patron goddess of the city. The Athenians took this as a sign and accepted Peisistratos as a tyrant .

But Peisistratos did not hold this position for long. Herodotus reports that after a while, Megakles became angry because Peisistratos refused to father children with his daughter. So he rejoined Lycurgus and drove away Peisistratos again. He settled on Euboea and came to a considerable fortune in silver mining, with which he was able to finance a mercenary force for the violent return to Athens after ten years of exile. With the help of the Lygdamis of Naxos , he was able to break the resistance of the defenders. It was not until the third attempt that he became a permanent ruler and tyrant, because this time he was able to prevail over his opponents in the battle of Pallene and ruled from 546/545 BC. 18 years until his death.

Athenian drachma from 545-510 BC. Chr.
Athenian obolus from the time 545-525 BC Chr.

After he had rewarded Lygdamis with the tyranny of Naxos and no longer had to face any opposition, since most of the other aristocrats cooperated or went into exile, a generally quiet period began under Peisistratos: he helped the poor small farmers with loans and let the Solonic legal system continue to exist. He surrounded himself with a life guard made up of mercenaries and used his position to influence the occupation of important offices. Peisistratos promoted the religious cults, started a large temple of Zeus , the Olympieion (which Emperor Hadrian completed centuries later) and massively supported the worship of Athena and Dionysus . He was also apparently devoted to the visual arts and supported numerous artists. One of the first libraries can also be traced back to him. Above all, however, the Attic economy flourished under his rule, as he stimulated it, among other things, with the introduction of coinage in Attica (around 550 BC) and with the support of large-scale celebrations. However, the attribution of these measures to Peisistratos is historically not beyond doubt. Whether he had a regular tax levied, as the later sources claim, is also controversial.

After the death of Peisistratos (528/27 BC) his sons Hippias and Hipparchus followed him in rule until the tyranny was ended by Sparta in 510 .



Individual evidence

  1. Gellius , Noctes atticae 7, 17, 1. Isidore of Seville , Etymologiae 6,3,3.