n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - Nostalgia in Diodorus Siculus (16.82.5 & 16.83.1) : Wishing for the tyrant of integrity ?

Supplement 4
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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When the word 'tyrant' makes its first appearance in Greek history during the archaic period (c. 600-480 BC), it has a distinctly neutral meaning, being merely used to describe a ruler who did not assume the title of king. Only later did the name take on a negative connotation, most often in the subsequent generations of rule by the tyrant's family through dynastic succession. Polycrates of Samos, Pisistratus of Athens, Cypselus of Corinth, Cleisthenes of Sicyon and Gelon of Syracuse were not remembered by later commentators such as Herodotus or Thucydides as oppressive rulers; on the contrary, for the most part they were praised for their positive efforts on behalf of their states and fellow citizens. Their successors such as Hippias at Athens, Periander at Corinth, Hieron II and Thrasybulus in Syracuse, however, acquired poor reputations. Through their more autocratic rule and hence corrupted principles, they lost the favour of their subjects and were either expelled or hated or feared by the people they ruled over. Greek tyrants could evidently be regarded as men who either possessed integrity or, in lacking this virtue, represented the negative of that ideal state.

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