A tyrant (), in the modern
English usually refers to:
* English language
* English people
English may also refer to:
Peoples, culture, and language
* ''English'', an adjective for something of, from, or related to England
** English national id ...
usage of the word, is an absolute ruler
who is unrestrained by
Law is a set of rules that are created and are enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. It has been vari ...
, or one who has
A usurper is an illegitimate or controversial claimant to power, often but not always in a monarchy. In other words, one who takes the power of a country, city, or established region for oneself, without any formal or legal right to claim it as ...
a legitimate ruler's sovereignty. Often portrayed as cruel, tyrants may defend their positions by resorting to repressive
means. The original Greek term meant an absolute sovereign who came to power without constitutional right, yet the word had a neutral connotation during the Archaic
and early Classical
[ However, Greek philosopher ] Plato
Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the first institution ... saw ''tyrannos'' as a negative word, and on account of the decisive influence of philosophy on politics, its negative connotations only increased, continuing into the Hellenistic period
In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in Mediterranean history after Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in ....
The philosophers Plato and Aristotle
Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Peripatetic school of phi ... defined a tyrant as a person who rules without law, using extreme and cruel methods against both his own people and others. The '' Encyclopédie
''Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers'' (English: ''Encyclopedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts''), better known as ''Encyclopédie'', was a general encyclopedia publi ...'' defined the term as a usurper of sovereign power who makes "his subjects the victims of his passions and unjust desires, which he substitutes for laws".
In the late fifth and fourth centuries BC, a new kind of tyrant, one who had the support of the military, arose – specifically in Sicily.
One can apply accusations of tyranny to a variety of types of government:
* to government by one individual (in an autocracy
Autocracy is a system of government in which absolute power over a state is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject neither to external legal restraints nor to regularized mechanisms of popular control (except per ...)
* to government by a minority (in an oligarchy, tyranny of the minority)
* to government by a majority (in a democracy, tyranny of the majority
The tyranny of the majority (or tyranny of the masses) is an inherent weakness to majority rule in which the majority of an electorate pursues exclusively its own objectives at the expense of those of the minority factions. This results in oppres ...)
The English noun '' tyrant'' appears in
Middle English (abbreviated to ME) is a form of the English language that was spoken after the Norman conquest of 1066, until the late 15th century. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments following the Old Englis ... use, via Old French
Old French (, , ; Modern French: ) was the language spoken in most of the northern half of France from approximately the 8th to the 14th centuries. Rather than a unified language, Old French was a linkage of Romance dialects, mutually intelligib ..., from the 1290s.
The word derives from Latin ''tyrannus'', meaning "illegitimate ruler", and this in turn from the Greek
Greek may refer to:
Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe:
*Greeks, an ethnic group.
* Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family.
**Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancesto ... ''tyrannos'' "monarch, ruler of a polis
''Polis'' (, ; grc-gre, πόλις, ), plural ''poleis'' (, , ), literally means "city" in Greek. In Ancient Greece, it originally referred to an administrative and religious city center, as distinct from the rest of the city. Later, it also ..."; ''tyrannos'' in its turn has a Pre-Greek origin, perhaps from Lydian. The final ''-t'' arises in Old French by association with the present participles in ''-ant''.
"The word 'tyranny' is used with many meanings, not only by the Greeks but throughout the tradition of the great books."
[ The '' Oxford English Dictionary'' offers alternative definitions: a ruler, an illegitimate ruler (a usurper), an absolute ruler (despot), or an oppressive, unjust, or cruel ruler. The term is usually applied to vicious autocrats who rule their subjects by brutal methods. Oppression, injustice, and cruelty do not have standardized measurements or thresholds.
The Greeks defined both usurpers and those inheriting rule from usurpers as tyrants.] Polybius
Polybius (; grc-gre, Πολύβιος, ; ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic period. He is noted for his work , which covered the period of 264–146 BC and the Punic Wars in detail.
Polybius is important for his analysis of the mixed ... (~150 B.C.) indicated that eventually, any one-man rule (monarchy/executive) governing form would become corrupted into a tyranny.
Old words are defined by their historical usage. Biblical quotations do not use the word tyrant, but express opinions very similar to those of the Greek philosophers, citing the wickedness, cruelty, and injustice of rulers.
* "Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor, but one who hates unjust gain will enjoy a long life." Proverbs 28:15–16
* "By justice, a king gives stability to the land, but one who makes heavy extractions ruins it." Proverbs 29:4
The Greek philosophers stressed the quality of rule rather than legitimacy or absolutism. "Both Plato and Aristotle speak of the king as a good monarch and the tyrant as a bad one. Both say that monarchy, or rule by a single man, is royal when it is for the welfare of the ruled and tyrannical when it serves only the interest of the ruler. Both make lawlessness – either a violation of existing laws or government by personal fiat without settled laws – a mark of tyranny." [
Enlightenment philosophers seemed to define tyranny by its associated characteristics.
* "The sovereign is called a tyrant who knows no laws but his caprice." Voltaire in a Philosophical Dictionary
* "Where Law ends Tyranny begins." Locke in Two Treatises of Government
Some authors consider that bad results are relative, and cite some tyrants as examples of such as authoritarian rule might be beneficial limited lasting harm to the country (like ] Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco Bahamonde (; 4 December 1892 – 20 November 1975) was a Spanish general who led the Nationalist faction (Spanish Civil War), Nationalist forces in overthrowing the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War ... of Spain), however there are a very subjective assessment. Those who list or rank tyrants can provide definitions and criteria for comparison or acknowledge subjectivity. Comparative criteria may include checklists or body counts. Accounting for deaths in war is problematic – war can build empires or defend the populace – it also keeps winning tyrants in power.
Qin Shi-Huang Di is the first emperor of China. He united seven separate kingdoms into a single nation. He built the Great Wall and was buried with the terra-cotta soldiers. The Chinese have mixed feelings about him. They're proud of the nation he created, but he was a maniacal tyrant. —
Oppressive leaders have held states together ( Alexander the Great,
Gene Luen Yang
Gene Luen Yang (Chinese Traditional: 楊謹倫, Simplified: 杨谨伦, Pinyin: ''Yáng Jǐnlún''; born August 9, 1973) is an American cartoonist. He is a frequent lecturer on the subjects of graphic novels and comics, at comic book conventions a ... Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz ( sh-Cyrl, Јосип Броз, ; 7 May 1892 – 4 May 1980), commonly known as Tito (; sh-Cyrl, Тито, links=no, ), was a Yugoslav communist revolutionary and statesman, serving in various positions from 1943 until his death ...).
A modern tyrant might be objectively defined by proven violation of international criminal law such as crimes against humanity
Crimes against humanity are widespread or systemic acts committed by or on behalf of a ''de facto'' authority, usually a state, that grossly violate human rights. Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity do not have to take place within the ....
Edward Sexby's 1657 pamphlet, "Killing, No Murder"
outlined 14 key traits of a tyrant, as the pamphlet was written to inspire the assassination of Oliver Cromwell, and show in what circumstances an assassination might be considered honorable. The full document mulls over and references points on the matter from early pre-Christian history, up into the 17th century when the pamphlet was writ. Of the most prevailing traits of tyranny outlined, " Killing No Murder, Killing, No Murder" emphasizes:
# Prior military leadership service – tyrants are often former captains or generals, which allows them to assume a degree of honor, loyalty, and reputability regarding matters of state
# Fraud over force – most tyrants are likely to manipulate their way into supreme power than force it militarily
# Defamation and/or disbanding of formerly respectable persons, intellectuals, or institutions, and the discouragement of refined thinking or public involvement in state affairs
# Absence or minimalization of collective input, bargaining, or debate (assemblies, conferences, etc.)
# Amplification of military activity for the purposes of public distraction, raising new levies, or opening future business pathways
# Tit-for-tat symbiosis in domestic relations: e.g. finding religious ideas permissible insofar as they are useful and flattering of the tyrant; finding aristocrats or the nobility laudable & honorable insofar as they are compliant with the will of the tyrant or in service of the tyrant, etc.
# Pretenses toward inspiration from God
#Pretenses toward a love of God and religion
#Grow or maintain publish impoverishment as a way of removing the efficacy of the people's will
riginal 1657 text: https://archive.org/details/killingnomurderb00sexbuoft/page/n3/mode/2up
In Scotland, Samuel Rutherford's Lex Rex and Alexander Shields' ''A Hind Let Loose'' were influential works of theology written in opposition to tyranny.
Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Dark Ages (), the Archaic peri ... and Sicilian tyrants
Sicilian refers to the autonomous Italian island of Sicily.
Sicilian can also refer to:
* Sicilian language, a Romance language spoken on the island of Sicily, its satellite islands, and southern Calabria
* Sicilians, people from or with origins ... were influential opportunists that came to power by securing the support of different factions of a deme
In Ancient Greece, a deme or ( grc, δῆμος, plural: demoi, δημοι) was a suburb or a subdivision of Athens and other city-states. Demes as simple subdivisions of land in the countryside seem to have existed in the 6th century BC and ear .... The word ''tyrannos'', possibly pre-Greek, Pelasgian
The name Pelasgians ( grc, Πελασγοί, ''Pelasgoí'', singular: Πελασγός, ''Pelasgós'') was used by classical Greek writers to refer either to the predecessors of the Greeks, or to all the inhabitants of Greece before the emergenc ... or eastern in origin, then carried no ethical censure; it simply referred to anyone, good or bad, who obtained executive power in a polis
''Polis'' (, ; grc-gre, πόλις, ), plural ''poleis'' (, , ), literally means "city" in Greek. In Ancient Greece, it originally referred to an administrative and religious city center, as distinct from the rest of the city. Later, it also ... by unconventional means. Support for the tyrants could come from fellow oligarchs, from the growing middle class or from the peasants who had no land or were in debt to the wealthy landowners.
The Greek tyrants stayed in power by using mercenary soldiers from outside of their respective city-state. To mock tyranny, Thales wrote that the strangest thing to see is ''"an aged tyrant"'' meaning that tyrants do not have the public support to survive for long.
Aesymnetes ( Greek: , from , ''aisa'', a "just portion", hence "a person who gives everyone their just portion") was the name of an ancient Greek elected office similar to, and sometimes indistinguishable from, tyrant. The plural is ''aesymnetai' ... (plural aesymnetai) had similar scope of power to the tyrant, such as Pittacus of Mytilene
Pittacus (; grc-gre, Πιττακός; 640 – 568 BC) was an ancient Mytilenean military general and one of the Seven Sages of Greece.
Pittacus was a native of Mytilene and son of Hyrradius. He became a Mytilenaean general who, wit ... (c. 640–568 BC), and was elected for life or for a specified period by a city-state in a time of crisis – the only difference being that the aesymnetes was a constitutional office and were comparable to the Roman dictator
A Roman dictator was an extraordinary magistrate in the Roman Republic endowed with full authority to resolve some specific problem to which he had been assigned. He received the full powers of the state, subordinating the other magistrates, con .... Magistrates in some city-states were also called aesymnetai.
Some Greek tyrants, when they seized power, represented themselves as championing underclasses against
Aristocracy (, ) is a form of government that places strength in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class, the aristocrats. The term derives from the el, αριστοκρατία (), meaning 'rule of the best'.
At the time of the word .... For instance, the popular imagination remembered Peisistratus
Pisistratus or Peisistratus ( grc-gre, Πεισίστρατος ; 600 – 527 BC) was a politician in ancient Athens, ruling as tyrant in the late 560s, the early 550s and from 546 BC until his death. His unification of Attica, the triangular ... for an episode – related by (pseudonymous) Aristotle
Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Peripatetic school of phi ..., but possibly fictional – in which he exempted a farmer from taxation because of the particular barrenness of his plot.
Peisistratus' sons Hippias and Hipparchus
Hipparchus (; el, Ἵππαρχος, ''Hipparkhos''; BC) was a Greek astronomer, geographer, and mathematician. He is considered the founder of trigonometry, but is most famous for his incidental discovery of the precession of the equ ..., on the other hand, were not such able rulers, and when the disaffected aristocrats Harmodios and Aristogeiton slew Hipparchus, Hippias' rule quickly became oppressive, resulting in the expulsion of the Peisistratids in 510 BC, who resided henceforth in Persepolis
, native_name_lang =
, alternate_name =
, image = Gate of All Nations, Persepolis.jpg
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, caption = Ruins of the Gate of All Nations, Persepolis.
, map =
, map_type ... as clients of the Persian Shahanshah (King of kings).
One of the earliest known uses of the word tyrant (in Greek) was by the poet
Archilochus (; grc-gre, Ἀρχίλοχος ''Arkhilokhos''; c. 680 – c. 645 BC) was a Greek lyric poet of the Archaic period from the island of Paros. He is celebrated for his versatile and innovative use of poetic meters, and is the e ..., who lived three centuries before Plato, in reference to king Gyges of Lydia
Gyges (, ; Lydian: ; Akkadian: , ; grc, Γύγης, Gugēs; la, Gygēs; reigned c. 680-644 BC) was the founder of the Mermnad dynasty of Lydian kings and the first known king of the Lydian kingdom to have attempted to transform it into .... The king's assumption of power was unconventional.
The heyday of the Archaic period tyrants came in the early 6th century BC, when Cleisthenes
Cleisthenes ( ; grc-gre, Κλεισθένης), or Clisthenes (c. 570c. 508 BC), was an ancient Athenian lawgiver credited with reforming the constitution of ancient Athens and setting it on a democratic footing in 508 BC. For these accomplishme ... ruled Sicyon in the Peloponnesus
The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos,(), or Morea is a peninsula and geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the Isthmus of Corinth land bridge whi ... and Polycrates ruled Samos
Samos (, also ; el, Σάμος ) is a Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea, south of Chios, north of Patmos and the Dodecanese, and off the coast of western Turkey, from which it is separated by the -wide Mycale Strait. It is also a separat .... During this time, revolts overthrew many governments in the Aegean world. Chilon
Chilon of Sparta ( grc, Χείλων) (fl. 6th century BC) was a Spartan and one of the Seven Sages of Greece.
Chilon was the son of Damagetus, and lived towards the beginning of the 6th century BC. Herodotus speaks of him as contemporary ..., the ambitious and capable ephor of Sparta, built a strong alliance amongst neighbouring states by making common cause with these groups seeking to oppose unpopular tyrannical rule. By intervening against the tyrants of Sicyon, Corinth and Athens, Sparta thus came to assume Hellenic leadership prior to the Persian invasions. Simultaneously Persia
Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmen ... first started making inroads into Greece, and many tyrants sought Persian help against popular forces seeking to remove them.
Corinth hosted one of the earliest of Greek tyrants. In
Corinth ( ; el, Κόρινθος, Kórinthos, ) is the successor to an ancient city, and is a former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, which is located in south-central Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform, it has been part of ..., growing wealth from colonial enterprises, and the wider horizons brought about by the export of wine and oil, together with the new experiences of the Eastern Mediterranean brought back by returning mercenary
A mercenary, sometimes also known as a soldier of fortune or hired gun, is a private individual, particularly a soldier, that joins a military conflict for personal profit, is otherwise an outsider to the conflict, and is not a member of any ... hoplites
Hoplites ( ) ( grc, ὁπλίτης : hoplítēs) were citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greek city-states who were primarily armed with spears and shields. Hoplite soldiers used the phalanx formation to be effective in war with fewer soldiers. The fo ... employed overseas created a new environment. Conditions were right for Cypselus
Cypselus ( grc-gre, Κύψελος, ''Kypselos'') was the first tyrant of Corinth in the 7th century BC.
With increased wealth and more complicated trade relations and social structures, Greek city-states tended to overthrow their traditional her ... to overthrow the aristocratic power of the dominant but unpopular clan of Bacchiadae
The Bacchiadae ( grc, Βακχιάδαι ''Bakkhiadai''), a tightly knit Doric clan, were the ruling family of ancient Corinth in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE, a period of Corinthian cultural power.
Corinth had been a backwater .... Clan members were killed, executed, driven out or exiled in 657 BC. Corinth prospered economically under his rule, and Cypselus managed to rule without a bodyguard
A bodyguard (or close protection officer/operative) is a type of security guard, government law enforcement officer, or servicemember who protects a person or a group of people — usually witnesses, high-ranking public officials or officers, .... When he then bequeathed his position to his son, Periander, the tyranny proved less secure, and Periander required a retinue of mercenary soldiers personally loyal to him.
Nevertheless, under Cypselus and Periander, Corinth extended and tightened her control over her colonial enterprises, and exports of Corinthian pottery flourished. However, tyrants seldom succeeded in establishing an untroubled line of succession. Periander threw his pregnant wife downstairs (killing her), burnt his concubines alive, exiled his son, warred with his father-in-law and attempted to castrate 300 sons of his perceived enemies. He retained his position. Periander's successor was less fortunate and was expelled. Afterward, Corinth was ruled by a lackluster oligarchy, and was eventually eclipsed by the rising fortunes of Athens and Sparta.
Athens hosted its tyrants late in the Archaic period. In
Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is both the capital and largest city of Greece. With a population close to four million, it is also the seventh largest city in the European Union. Athens dominates ..., the inhabitants first gave the title of tyrant to Peisistratos
Pisistratus or Peisistratus ( grc-gre, Πεισίστρατος ; 600 – 527 BC) was a politician in ancient Athens, ruling as tyrant in the late 560s, the early 550s and from 546 BC until his death. His unification of Attica, the triangular ... (a relative of Solon, the Athenian lawgiver) who succeeded in 546 BC, after two failed attempts, to install himself as tyrant. Supported by the prosperity of the peasantry and landowning interests of the plain, which was prospering from the rise of olive oil exports, as well as his clients from Marathon, he managed to achieve authoritarian power. Through an ambitious program of public works, which included fostering the state cult of Athena
Athena or Athene, often given the epithet Pallas, is an ancient Greek goddess associated with wisdom, warfare, and handicraft who was later syncretized with the Roman goddess Minerva. Athena was regarded as the patron and protectress of v ...; encouraging the creation of festivals; supporting the Panathenaic Games in which prizes were jars of olive oil; and supporting the Dionysia
The Dionysia (, , ; Greek: Διονύσια) was a large festival in ancient Athens in honor of the god Dionysus, the central events of which were the theatrical performances of dramatic tragedies and, from 487 BC, comedies. It was the s ... (ultimately leading to the development of Athenian drama), Peisistratus managed to maintain his personal popularity.
He was followed by his sons, and with the subsequent growth of Athenian democracy
Democracy (From grc, δημοκρατία, dēmokratía, ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government in which the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation ("direct democracy"), or to choose gove ..., the title "tyrant" took on its familiar negative connotations. The murder of Peisistratus' son, the tyrant Hipparchus
Hipparchus (; el, Ἵππαρχος, ''Hipparkhos''; BC) was a Greek astronomer, geographer, and mathematician. He is considered the founder of trigonometry, but is most famous for his incidental discovery of the precession of the equ ... by Aristogeiton and Harmodios in Athens in 514 BC marked the beginning of the so-called "cult of the tyrannicide
Tyrannicide is the killing or assassination of a tyrant or unjust ruler, purportedly for the common good,
and usually by one of the tyrant's subjects. Tyrannicide was legally permitted and encouraged in the Classical period. Often, the term tyra ...s" (i.e., of killers of tyrants). Contempt for tyranny characterised this cult movement. Despite financial help from Persia, in 510 the Peisistratids were expelled by a combination of intrigue, exile and Spartan arms. The anti-tyrannical attitude became especially prevalent in Athens after 508 BC, when Cleisthenes
Cleisthenes ( ; grc-gre, Κλεισθένης), or Clisthenes (c. 570c. 508 BC), was an ancient Athenian lawgiver credited with reforming the constitution of ancient Athens and setting it on a democratic footing in 508 BC. For these accomplishme ... reformed the political system so that it resembled '' demokratia
Demokratia ( el, δημοκρατία ) is a direct democracy, as opposed to the modern representative democracy.
It was used in ancient Greece, most notably Athens
Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ...''. Hippias (Peisistratus' other son) offered to rule the Greeks on behalf of the Persians and provided military advice to the Persians against the Greeks.
The Thirty Tyrants whom the Spartans imposed on a defeated Attica in 404 BC would not be classified as tyrants in the usual sense and were in effect an oligarchy
Oligarchy (; ) is a conceptual form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These people may or may not be distinguished by one or several characteristics, such as nobility, fame, wealth, education, or corporate, r ....
The best known Sicilian tyrants appeared long after the Archaic period. The tyrannies of Sicily came about due to similar causes, but here the threat of Carthaginian attack prolonged tyranny, facilitating the rise of military leaders with the people united behind them. Such Sicilian tyrants as
Gelon also known as Gelo ( Greek: Γέλων ''Gelon'', ''gen.'': Γέλωνος; died 478 BC), son of Deinomenes, was a Greek tyrant of the Sicilian cities Gela and Syracuse, and first of the Deinomenid rulers.
Gelon was the son ..., Hiero I
Hieron I ( el, Ἱέρων Α΄; usually Latinized Hiero) was the son of Deinomenes, the brother of Gelon and tyrant of Syracuse in Sicily from 478 to 467 BC. In succeeding Gelon, he conspired against a third brother, Polyzelos.
During hi ..., Hiero II
Hiero II ( el, Ἱέρων Β΄; c. 308 BC – 215 BC) was the Greek tyrant of Syracuse from 275 to 215 BC, and the illegitimate son of a Syracusan noble, Hierocles, who claimed descent from Gelon. He was a former general of Pyrrhus of Epirus an ..., Dionysius the Elder, Dionysius the Younger, and Agathocles of Syracuse maintained lavish courts and became patrons of culture. The dangers threatening the lives of the Sicilian tyrants are highlighted in the moral tale of the " Sword of Damocles".
Macedonia (; grc-gre, Μακεδονία), also called Macedon (), was an ancient kingdom on the periphery of Archaic and Classical Greece, and later the dominant state of Hellenistic Greece. The kingdom was founded and initially ruled by ...ian hegemony
Hegemony (, , ) is the political, economic, and military predominance of one state over other states. In Ancient Greece (8th BC – AD 6th ), hegemony denoted the politico-military dominance of the ''hegemon'' city-state over other city-states. ... in the 4th and 3rd century BC a new generation of tyrants rose in Greece, especially under the rule of king Antigonus II Gonatas
Antigonus II Gonatas ( grc-gre, Ἀντίγονος Γονατᾶς, ; – 239 BC) was a Macedonian ruler who solidified the position of the Antigonid dynasty in Macedon after a long period defined by anarchy and chaos and acquired fame for ..., who installed his puppets in many cities of the Peloponnese. Examples were Cleon of Sicyon, Aristodemus of Megalopolis, Aristomachus I of Argos, Abantidas of Sicyon, Aristippus of Argos, Lydiadas of Megalopolis, Aristomachus II of Argos, and Xenon of Hermione.
Against these rulers, in 280 BC the democratic cities started to join forces in the Achaean League
The Achaean League (Greek: , ''Koinon ton Akhaion'' "League of Achaeans") was a Hellenistic-era confederation of Greek city states on the northern and central Peloponnese. The league was named after the region of Achaea in the northwestern Pe ... which was able to expand its influence even into Corinthia, Megaris, Argolis
Argolis or Argolida ( el, Αργολίδα , ; , in ancient Greek and Katharevousa) is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Peloponnese, situated in the eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula and part of the trip ... and Arcadia. From 251 BC under the leadership of Aratus of Sicyon
Aratus of Sicyon (Ancient Greek: Ἄρατος ὁ Σικυώνιος; 271–213 BC) was a politician and military commander of Hellenistic Greece. He was elected strategos of the Achaean League 17 times, leading the League through numerous mi ..., the Achaeans liberated many cities, in several cases by convincing the tyrants to step down, and when Aratus died in 213 BC, Hellas had been free of tyrants for more than 15 years. The last tyrant on the Greek mainland, Nabis of Sparta, was assassinated in 192 BC and after his death the Peloponnese was united as a confederation of stable democracies in the Achaean League.
Roman historians like Suetonius,
Publius Cornelius Tacitus, known simply as Tacitus ( , ; – ), was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars.
The surviving portions of his two major works—the ..., Plutarch, and Josephus
Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος, ; 37 – 100) was a first-century Romano-Jewish historian and military leader, best known for ''The Jewish War'', who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Roman Judea—to a father of priestly ... often spoke of "tyranny" in opposition to "liberty". Tyranny was associated with imperial rule and those rulers who usurped too much authority from the Roman Senate
The Roman Senate ( la, Senātus Rōmānus) was a governing and advisory assembly in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the city of Rome (traditionally founded in .... Those who were advocates of "liberty" tended to be pro-Republic and pro-Senate. For instance, regarding Julius Caesar and his assassins, Suetonius wrote:
Citizens of the empire were circumspect in identifying tyrants. "... Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher, and academic skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during the political crises that led to the estab ...'s head and hands erecut off and nailed to the rostrum of the Senate to remind everyone of the perils of speaking out against tyranny." There has since been a tendency to discuss tyranny in the abstract while limiting examples of tyrants to ancient Greek rulers. Philosophers have been more expressive than historians.
Josephus identified tyrants in Biblical history (in Antiquities of the Jews) including Nimrod
Nimrod (; ; arc, ܢܡܪܘܕ; ar, نُمْرُود, Numrūd) is a biblical figure mentioned in the Book of Genesis and Books of Chronicles. The son of Cush and therefore a great-grandson of Noah, Nimrod was described as a king in the land of ..., Moses
Moses hbo, מֹשֶׁה, Mōše; also known as Moshe or Moshe Rabbeinu (Mishnaic Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ, ); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, Mūše; ar, موسى, Mūsā; grc, Mωϋσῆς, Mōÿsēs () is considered the most important pro ..., the Maccabees
The Maccabees (), also spelled Machabees ( he, מַכַּבִּים, or , ; la, Machabaei or ; grc, Μακκαβαῖοι, ), were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of Judea, which at the time was part of the Seleucid Empire ... and Herod the Great
Herod I (; ; grc-gre, ; c. 72 – 4 or 1 BCE), also known as Herod the Great, was a Roman Jewish client king of Judea, referred to as the Herodian kingdom. He is known for his colossal building projects throughout Judea, including his reno .... He also identified some later tyrants.
In the classics
Tyranny is considered an important subject, one of the "Great Ideas" of Western thought. The classics contain many references to tyranny and its causes, effects, methods, practitioners, alternatives... They consider tyranny from historical, religious, ethical, political and fictional perspectives. "If any point in political theory is indisputable, it would seem to be that tyranny is the worst corruption of government – a vicious misuse of power and a violent abuse of human beings who are subject to it."
While this may represent a consensus position among the classics, it is not unanimous – Thomas Hobbes dissented, claiming no objective distinction, such as being vicious or virtuous, existed among monarchs. "They that are discontented under monarchy, call it tyranny; and they that are displeased with aristocracy, call it oligarchy: so also, they which find themselves grieved under a democracy, call it anarchy..."
The first part of Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri (; – 14 September 1321), probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri and often referred to as Dante (, ), was an Italian poet, writer and philosopher. His ''Divine Comedy'', originally called (modern Italian: '' ...'s '' The Divine Comedy'' describes tyrants ("who laid hold on blood and plunder") in the seventh level of Hell, where they are submerged in boiling blood. These include Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun
Attila (, ; ), frequently called Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. He was also the leader of a tribal empire consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths, Alans, and Bulgars, among others, in Central an ..., and share the level with highway robbers.
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli ( , , ; 3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527), occasionally rendered in English as Nicholas Machiavel ( , ; see below), was an Italian diplomat, author, philosopher and historian who lived during the Renaissance. ... conflates all rule by a single person (whom he generally refers to as a "prince") with "tyranny", regardless of the legitimacy of that rule, in his '' Discourses on Livy''. He also identifies liberty with republic
A republic () is a "state in which power rests with the people or their representatives; specifically a state without a monarchy" and also a " government, or system of government, of such a state." Previously, especially in the 17th and 18th ...an regimes. Sometimes he calls leaders of republics "princes". He never uses the word in '' The Prince
''The Prince'' ( it, Il Principe ; la, De Principatibus) is a 16th-century political treatise written by Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli as an instruction guide for new princes and royals. The general theme of ''The ...''. He also does not share in the traditional view of tyranny, and in his Discourses he sometimes explicitly acts as an advisor to tyrants.
Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a northeastern Mediterranean civilization, existing from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of classical antiquity ( AD 600), that comprised a loose collection of cu ..., as well as the Roman Republicans, became generally quite wary of many people seeking to implement a popular coup. Shakespeare
William Shakespeare ( 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's nation ... portrays the struggle of one such anti-tyrannical Roman, Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus (; ; 85 BC – 23 October 42 BC), often referred to simply as Brutus, was a Roman politician, orator, and the most famous of the assassins of Julius Caesar. After being adopted by a relative, he used the name Quintus Ser ..., in his play '' Julius Caesar''.
In Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter III, Augustus was shown to assume the power of a tyrant while sharing power with the reformed senate. "After a decent resistance, the crafty tyrant submitted to the orders of the senate; and consented to receive the government of the provinces, and the general command of the Roman armies..." Emperors "humbly professed themselves the accountable ministers of the senate, whose supreme decrees they dictated and obeyed." The Roman Empire "may be defined as an absolute monarchy disguised by the forms of a commonwealth." Roman emperors were deified. Gibbons called emperors tyrants and their rule tyranny. His definitions in the chapter were related to the absolutism of power alone – not oppression, injustice or cruelty. He ignored the appearance of shared rule.
In the Enlightenment, thinkers applied the word tyranny to the system of governance that had developed around
Aristocracy (, ) is a form of government that places strength in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class, the aristocrats. The term derives from the el, αριστοκρατία (), meaning 'rule of the best'.
At the time of the word ... and monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state for life or until abdication. The political legitimacy and authority of the monarch may vary from restricted and largely symbolic (constitutional monarchy), .... Specifically, John Locke
John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "father of liberalism". Considered one of ... as part of his argument against the " Divine Right of Kings
In European Christianity, the divine right of kings, divine right, or God's mandation is a political and religious doctrine of political legitimacy of a monarchy. It stems from a specific metaphysical framework in which a monarch is, befor ..." in his book '' Two Treatises of Government'' defines it this way: "Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to; and this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage." Locke's concept of tyranny influenced the writers of subsequent generations who developed the concept of tyranny as counterpoint to ideas of human rights
Human rights are moral principles or normsJames Nickel, with assistance from Thomas Pogge, M.B.E. Smith, and Leif Wenar, 13 December 2013, Stanford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyHuman Rights Retrieved 14 August 2014 for certain standards of hum ... and democracy
Democracy (From grc, δημοκρατία, dēmokratía, ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government in which the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation ("direct democracy"), or to choose gove .... Thomas Jefferson referred to the tyranny of King George III of Great Britain in the Declaration of Independence
A declaration of independence or declaration of statehood or proclamation of independence is an assertion by a polity in a defined territory that it is independent and constitutes a state. Such places are usually declared from part or all of th ....
Lists of tyrants
* List of ancient Greek tyrants numbering several hundred plus those of Syracuse.
List of tyrants of Syracuse
A ''list'' is any set of items in a row. List or lists may also refer to:
* List (surname)
* List College, an undergraduate division of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America
* SC Germania List, German rugby unio ... numbering about 20.
* 100 throughout history, including 40 from the 20th century
* 13 20th century tyrants
* 30 tyrants of the late 20th century
* 20 tyrants of the early 21st century
There are also numerous book titles which identify tyrants by name or circumstances.
Among English rulers, several have been identified as tyrants by book title: John, King of England
John (24 December 1166 – 19 October 1216) was King of England from 1199 until his death in 1216. He lost the Duchy of Normandy and most of his other French lands to King Philip II of France, resulting in the collapse of the Angevin Empi ... (who signed the Magna Carta), Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for his six marriages, and for his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon) annulled. His disagr ... and Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English politician and military officer who is widely regarded as one of the most important statesmen in English history. He came to prominence during the 1639 to 1651 Wars of the Three K ....
Methods of obtaining and retaining power
The path of a tyrant can appear easy and pleasant (for all but the aristocracy). A 20th-century historian said:
Hence the road to power in Greece commercial cities was simple: to attack the aristocracy, defend the poor, and come to an understanding with the middle classes. Arrived at power, the dictator abolished debts, or confiscated large estates, taxed the rich to finance public works, or otherwise redistributed the overconcentrated wealth; and while attaching the masses to himself through such measures, he secured the support of the business community by promoting trade with state coinage and commercial treaties, and by raising the social prestige of the bourgeoisie. Forced to depend upon popularity instead of hereditary power, the dictatorships for the most part kept out of war, supported religion, maintained order, promoted morality, favored the higher status of women, encouraged the arts, and lavished revenues upon the beautification of their cities. And they did all these things, in many cases, while preserving the forms of popular government, so that even under despotism the people learned the ways of liberty. When the dictatorship f the tyranthad served to destroy the aristocracy the people destroyed the dictatorship; and only a few changes were needed to make democracy of freemen a reality as well as a form.
Ancient Greek philosophers (who were aristocrats) were far more critical in reporting the methods of tyrants. The justification for ousting a tyrant was absent from the historian's description but was central to the philosophers.
In the ''
A republic () is a "state in which power rests with the people or their representatives; specifically a state without a monarchy" and also a " government, or system of government, of such a state." Previously, especially in the 17th and 18th ...'', Plato
Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the first institution ... stated: "The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness. ..This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector".
Tyrants either inherit the position from a previous ruler, rise up the ranks in the military/party or seize power as entrepreneurs. Early texts called only the entrepreneurs tyrants, distinguishing them from "bad kings". Such tyrants may act as renters, rather than owners, of the state.
The political methods of obtaining power were occasionally supplemented by theater or force. Peisistratus of Athens blamed self-inflicted wounds on enemies to justify a bodyguard which he used to seize power. He later appeared with a woman dressed as a goddess to suggest divine sanction of his rule. The third time he used mercenaries to seize and retain power.
Lengthy recommendations of methods were made to tyrants by Aristotle (in ''Politics'' for example) and
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli ( , , ; 3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527), occasionally rendered in English as Nicholas Machiavel ( , ; see below), was an Italian diplomat, author, philosopher and historian who lived during the Renaissance. ... (in '' The Prince
''The Prince'' ( it, Il Principe ; la, De Principatibus) is a 16th-century political treatise written by Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli as an instruction guide for new princes and royals. The general theme of ''The ...''). [ These are, in general, force and fraud. They include hiring bodyguards, stirring up wars to smother dissent, purges, assassinations, and unwarranted searches and seizures. Aristotle suggested an alternative means of retaining power – ruling justly.]
The methods of tyrants to retain power include placating world opinion by staging rigged elections, using or threatening to use violence, and seeking popular support by appeals to patriotism
Patriotism is the feeling of love, devotion, and sense of attachment to one's country. This attachment can be a combination of many different feelings, language relating to one's own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or histor ... and claims that conditions have improved.
* List of ancient Greek tyrants
Political repression is the act of a state entity controlling a citizenry by force for political reasons, particularly for the purpose of restricting or preventing the citizenry's ability to take part in the political life of a society, thereby ...
* State terrorism
State terrorism refers to acts of terrorism which a state conducts against another state or against its own citizens.Martin, 2006: p. 111.
There is neither an academic nor an international legal consensus regarding the proper def ...
Jona Lendering (born 29 October 1964) is a Dutch historian and the author of books on antiquity, Dutch history and modern management. He has an MA in history from Leiden University and an MA in Mediterranean culture from the Amsterdam Free U ... at livius.org.
Loretana de Libero, Die archaische Tyrannis
Bryn Mawr Classical Review
Victor Parker, ''A History of Greece, 1300 to 30 BC''
Ancient Greek titles
Ancient Roman government
Ancient Greek government
Positions of authority