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The name in Ancient Greek is Πεισίστρατος (Peisistratos). The standard spelling in English is Peisistratus; an alternate spelling (also used in Latin) is Pisistratus.

Peisistratos of Athens

Peisistratos of Athens (ca. 607-528 BC) was a Greek statesman who became the Tyrant of Athens following a (quite popular) coup and ruled in 561, 559-556 and 546-528 BC.

Peisistratos was the son of a man called Hippocrates, and was named for the Peisistratos in the Odyssey. A friend of the Athenian lawgiver Solon, he assisted Solon in his endeavours, and fought bravely in the conquest of Salamis. When Solon left Athens, Peisistratos became leader of the party of the Highlands (poorer, rural people) in 565 BC. Peisistratos used a clever scheme, calling for bodyguards after he pretended to be attacked. Those bodyguards were composed of the people of the Highlands whom had entered Athens. In 560 BC he seized the Acropolis with this group of bodyguards, becoming turannos (tyrant). His rule did not last - he was driven out by Lycurgus, Megacles and others from the party of the Coast within the year. He returned in 559 BC with the help of Megacles, who had split from Lycurgus. Megacles had allied with Pisistratus on the condition that Pisistraus marry Megacles' daughter. The Athenians were persuaded by Megacles that Athena was bringing Peisistratos home and Peisistratos returned from exile in a carriage accompanied by a tall woman disguised as Athena in a suit of armor. Later, Megacles was angered by the fact that Peisistratos refused to have children with his daughter, and Peisistratos was again exiled in 556 BC by Lycurgus and Megacles. He went to Euboea and remained there for almost ten years, becoming quite rich through mining. He returned to Athens in 546 BC with a considerable force and regained power with the support of Lygdamos of Naxos. This time he worked well to retain his position.

Peisistratos rewarded Lygdamos by making him tyrant of Naxos. Peisistratos consolidated his power by favouring rural citizens with new land laws, but he also kept a large force of mercenaries and took hostages. He kept the democratic forms introduced by Solon but ensured that family members held the highest offices. Pisistratus promoted the cults of Athena and Dionysus. He began the construction of the temple to Athena on the Acropolis and also promoted a number of other public works including the Lyceum, temples to Apollo and to Zeus as well as the Fountain of the Nine Springs. He also supported literature and the arts. The Panathenaic Festival (reintroduced shortly before his reign) and the city Dionysia festival flourished during his time. Athenian coinage was introduced by about 550 BC, and may reflect policy of his, though there is no reference in contemporary documents to such. According to tradition, Pisistratus commissioned the first standard written editions of the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, which had previously been passed down orally or "cribbed" in private copies.

Peisistratos was succeeded by his son Hippias. But his other son, Hipparchus, is also mentioned together with Hippias, suggesting some form of joint rule.

Peisistratos has been credited with the development of the first welfare state through his policy of providing a land loan to the underprivileged in society as part of an effort to encourage autarky.


Herodotus. Histories

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