The Age of Tyrants: The History of the Early Tyrants in Ancient Greece

ISBN: 9781540421142

Tyranny in ancient Greece was not a phenomenon limited to any particular period. Tyrants could be found in power throughout Greece, ruling poleis from the seventh century BC right through to the second century BC, when Roman domination effectively put an end to this form of government throughout the Hellenistic world. That said, the heyday of tyranny was undoubtedly the seventh and sixth centuries BC, and it is in this period, known as the Age of Tyrants, that large numbers of tyrannies arose, particularly in the Peloponnese. The Age of Tyrants ended on the Greek mainland with the expulsion of the Peisistratidai in 510 BC, but it continued in other parts of the Greek world, particularly in the Greek cities of Sicily, where tyranny did not finally end until the removal of Dionysius II of Syracuse in 344 BC. In Asia Minor, tyranny survived the Persian conquest until the days of the Roman conquest.

The governments of the majority of the Greek states in the Archaic and Classical periods were in the hands of local aristocrats, and it is a modern preoccupation with the Athenian democracy or Sparta's unique system that has tended to obscure this fact. Oligarchy was the norm, and political power derived from wealth and birth. As the wealth of city states grew, so, too, did the number of citizens who, despite personal wealth, found themselves outside the very limited aristocratic elite that conspired to maintain the political power of the few.

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