Lecture 16 – Tyrants & Democrats
Life of Solon by Plutarch & “Political Verses” by Solon March 14 2012
-Internal divisions w/I Greece and Athens – now the other is in the same group…
Athens vs Sparta
Philosopher vs others
-When the alterity is us vs us, it is more problematic because run the risk of losing what unites us
(“what makes us, us”)
-Athenian culture was defined against many others….there were also those who shared the poleis
but NOT cit
Slaves and tyrant
Athenians prided themselves on elutheria and defined it w/i two extremes…
o Mostly barbarians
o Almost everyone had slaves
o NO rights at all (could own insignificant amt )
o NO autonomy: couldn’t marry w/o master’s permission, can’t say no to
master’s sexual advances etc.
o Goes AGAINST elutheria (meaning you own your own body) because slaves
were literally the property of the master.
Citizens could bring a court case of hubris if someone hit you, or made
it seem like they were better than you. If you assaulted a slave, they
couldn’t bring a case against you BUT the slave’s master could bring a
case against you.
o Regardless, it wasn’t good to beat your slaves -> made you look bad.
o Some slaves became quite literate: could read, some slaves had the
responsibility of a lot of land.
o By PHUSIS they were meant for the use of another person. Aristotle called
them “living tool”
o The only free person in a tyranny is the tyrant, everyone else is a slave
o TOTAL power, eleutheria, pleasure etc (which in a democracy would be
owned by solely the tyrant)
o Usually associated w/ barbarian BUT many Greek cities were ruled by tyrant Citizens of a democracy were in the middle of these two extremes
Overthrow of tyranny….
Pisistraus -> prevailed over the other aristocrates
o Wounds himself, claims other ppl did it, asks for body guard, uses body guard
to take over the acropolis. His enemies unite kick him out. Pisistraus comes
back with a woman acting like Athena who “wanted” Pisistraus to be King.
Enemies kick him out eventually then pisstraus comes back again with an
army to take over AThens
o So seizes power THREE times in illegimate
o Unable to extend rule into next generation
His sons: Hippias -> good vs Hipparchus -> bad
Hippa falls in love with Harmodius who was the Aristogeniton
who ends up killing Hipparchus in a fit of sexual jealous
This myth shows that Atheniens from the beginning were
Tyrant haters. Tyranny is shown via sex: Hippa takes
Harmodius even if he is boyfriend if someone else BUT
Aristogeniton shows that no one can force an Athenian down
Foundation of Athenian democracy
Their descendents even got tax breaks!
-Solon = founder of democracy
laid the laws that eventually became the foundation for Athenian democracy
Athenians projected a lot of mythology onto him
Embodies Greek values as opposed to the Barbarians power and wealth
Anti-tyrannical stance in his politics and his writing
Plutarch describes the political situation when Solon came to power
o Violent power struggles + economic inequality
These were the situations that were at had in other Greek cities & they
ended up having a tyranny…it was really just luck that Athens didn’t
have a tyranny
o Appealed to the rich and the poor because he didn’t have a big stake in either