Crisis in the Polis: Two solutions
Tyranny: the view from Corinth
o Living under a very restricted aristocracy in these changing times brought many cities to
a state of political crisis that ultimately led to a takeover by a strong-man or Tyrant
Term used to refer to any ruler who came to power by irregular means
In its archaic usage the word does not necessarily imply that ruler was tyrannical
in modern sense.
Such men broke grip of aristocrats and opened the way for a revised political
Made the Polis the focus of civic authority
People gained a greater share in their own government.
o City of Corinth is best document of the archaic tyrannies
8 century – Corinth ruled by a singled clan in a closed aristocracy – The
Founded Corcyra and Syracuse in a single year
We know Corinth best through its pottery
Earliest form called protocorinthian
o Characterized b motifs: stylized flowers and friezes of hybrid
o Used Black Figure, figures portrayed with black glaze and incised
Vases were tiny.
Later vases show quantity production and Near Eastern Influences
o This type of pottery is classified as Corinthian
Further distinguish between Early, Middle, and Late
75 painters or groups are known. o Metic – free itinerant craftsmen
Enterprising man could attain status as a painter in Corinth
o Not found elsewhere, looked down upon
o They signed their names
Large tile and ceramics factory found in Corinth.
Imported large shipping amphorai – undecorated commercial pots used for
shipping and storage
Dispute over possession of Lelantine plain
o Between Euboean Etreria and Chalcis
Corinth built a new type of warship, the trireme, for use by the Samians
in this war
Chalcis ultimate victor
Corinth’s position weakened by growing power of Argos under its tyrant,
664 – war with own settlement of Corcyra
o First sea battle known to Thucydides
Contributed to increased dissatisfaction with Bacchiad rule
o Cypselus overthrew them.
Growing militarism in this time.
o Significant rise in number of men who could equip themselves
Even sacrificed it to the God.
Portrayed as popular ruler.
Gained popularity through office of Polemarch (Army leader)
o Refused to imprison those who failed to pay fines Accepting security from debtors or providing it for
Killed the last Bacchiad king
o Exiled remaining members and confiscated their property
Built settlements that safeguarded route to Italy and Sicily.
o Also opened up trade with interior of Greece
Had a son named Periander
Built new ports
Built Diolkos – stone runway across the isthmus that enabled ships to be
pulled across to avoid the dangerous sea voyage around the
Increased attention (possibly founded) cult of Demeter and Kore.
Became archetype of an evil tyrant.
Aristotle says that he did not tax the people as the state could live from
its market and harbour dues.
o Tyrants attested in cities of Megara, Sicyon, Epidauros, Mytilene, and somewhat later,
Deal with socioeconomic tensions by the actions of a strongman
Tyrants often popular rulers
Reward supporters by opening citizenship and offices to them.
o Gave opportunities to wealthy middle class.
Sponsored useful public works.
Water supply and temple building were favourite projects .
Also sponsored elaborate and entertaining festivals and games that
celebrated the gods of the whole polis rather than private cults of
Aristocrats By their patronage of poets they advertised their own fame and the
glory of their polis, further increasing civic pride.
In most cases it was only 2 or 3 generation that personal rule began to
become oppressive again.
The Spartan Solution
o Sparta was universally acknowledged by Greeks to be preeminent military power.
o Left no written records
o Society closed to neighbours
o Some scholars call the picture we have “the Spartan mirage” – an illusion not reality
Represents image created by Sparta to intimidate their enemies
o Spartans were Dorians
As were Corinth, Argos, and Knossos.
Spoke Dorian dialect of Greek.
o Command of best land in valley of Eurotas River.
o Lay in the center of Lakonia, or Lakedaimonia
Position of security and isolation
Mountains to the East and West
Isolation a result of deliberate choices
o Lakonia well-populated in the Bronze Age
Sparta home of Menelaus
Mid 10 century a group of Dorians who had been expelled from their
homeland a hundred years earlier returned to reclaim their heritage
Known as Heraklids (Sons of Heracles)
Ancestors of the Spartans
Aggressive and warlike people.
Turned inhabitants of the area into subservient people, helots. Famous for instigating the “Dorian invasion” believed to have been
responsible for destruction of Mycenaean palatial civilization
Somewhere between slave and free
Tied to the land and could not be sold
Not chattel slaves ( not someone’s property)
o Property of the state
o Family members could not be sold away.
Could form stable families
o Took care of land assigned to Spartan citizens
As distance increased they settled in larger groups and had less contact with
Spartans institute the Krypteia, or Secret Service
Selected strongest of their young men under 30.
o Took only knives and food into the countryside.
o Hid by day and killed strong helots or helots with leadership by
Annual declaration of Formal War on Helots
Spartan could kill helots with impunity during this time.
o No pollution
Accompanied Spartan hoplites in battle as servers
Drafted into hoplite corps as Neodamodes
o Inferior status.
“Those living round about” Inferior status
Groups under Spartan control
May have voluntarily subjected themselves.
Others may have been coerced.
Relegated to craft production and trade.
Did not bring high status
Manufactured and repaired the arms and equipment of Spartan army
o Sparta did not share its name with the outlying territory
Citizens called Spartiates or Spartans.
Territory called Lakonia or Lakedaimonia
o Had large quantities of Murex
Lakonians and Taras were primary producers of this dye
Used to color the famous crimson cloaks worn by Spartan hoplite warriors
Conquest of Messenia and its Consequences
o Spartans used too many resources
Looked to the fertile land of the Messenians on the other side of Mount
o 1 Messenian War – 740-720
Spartans were the victors
Messenians who lived in outlying towns became Perioikoi
Those in fertile areas became Helots
Conquest made Sparta wealthy
Built first temple of Artemis Orthia
Most of riches from the war and a continuing trade in slaves
Founding of Taras a consequence of this
During this war that men were sent back. Systia – common meals that Spartans ate together.
Lived and fought together.
Land allotted to wealthy Spartans
Expected half of the crops
Required Helots to deliver the produce themselves
New helots lived in constant hope of regaining freedo