Learn more about Tyrant

Jump to: navigation, search
This article discusses rulers and autocrats. For other uses, see Tyrant (disambiguation).
For the Star Wars ship, see Tyranny (Star Wars).
Forms of government

This series is part of
the Politics series

List of forms of government

Politics Portal · edit

A tyrant (Latin tyrannus, from Greek τύραννος týrannos) possesses absolute power through the people in a state or in an organization: one refers to this mode of rule as a tyranny. In ancient Greece, tyrants were generally aristocrats who had gained power over the others by getting the support of the poor people by giving them land, freeing them from slavery, etc.


[edit] Historical forms

In the original Greek meaning, the word "tyrant" carried no ethical censure; it simply referred to anyone who overturned the established government of a city-state (usually through the use of popular support) to establish himself as dictator, or to the heir of such a person. Support for the tyrants came from the growing class of business people and from the peasants who had no land or were in debt to the wealthy land owners. It is true that they had no legal right to rule, but the people preferred them over kings or the aristocrats. The Greek tyrants stayed in power by using mercenary soldiers from outside of their respective city state. [1]

Cypselus, the first tyrant of Corinth in the 7th century BC, managed to bequeath his position to his son, Periander. Tyrants seldom succeeded in establishing an untroubled line of succession. In Athens, the inhabitants first gave the title to Pisistratus of Athens in 560 BC, followed by his sons, and with the subsequent growth of Athenian democracy, the title "tyrant" took on its familiar negative connotations. The Thirty Tyrants whom the Spartans imposed on a defeated Attica in 404 BC would not class as tyrants in the usual sense. The murder of the tyrant Hipparchus by Aristogeiton and Harmodios in Athens in 514 BC marked the beginning of the so-called "cult of the tyrannicides" (i.e. of killers of tyrants). Contempt for tyranny characterised this cult movement. The attitude became especially prevalent in Athens after 508 BC, when Cleisthenes reformed the political system so that it resembled demokratia (ancient participant democracy as opposed to the modern representative democracy).

The heyday of the classical Hellenic tyrants came in the early 6th century BC, when Cleisthenes ruled Sicyon in the Peloponnesus, and Polycrates ruled Samos. During this time, revolts overthrew many governments in the Aegean world. Simultaneously Persia first started making inroads into Greece, and many tyrants sought Persian help against forces seeking to remove them.

An aisymnetes (pl. aisymnetai) was a type of tyrant or dictator, such as Pittacus of Mytilene, elected for life or a specified period by a city-state in a time of crisis. Magistrates in some city-states were also called aisymnetai.<ref>http://www.fofweb.com/Onfiles/Ancient/AncientDetail.asp?iPin=HLAG0026</ref>

Greek tyranny in the main grew out of the struggle of the popular classes against the aristocracy or against priest-kings where archaic traditions and mythology sanctioned hereditary and/or traditional rights to rule. Popular coups generally installed tyrants, who often became or remained popular rulers, at least in the early part of their reigns. For instance, the popular imagination remembered Pisistratus for an episode (related by [pseudo-]Aristotle, but possibly fictional) in which he exempted a farmer from taxation because of the particular barrenness of his plot. Pisistratus' sons Hippias and Hipparchus, 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.

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 Gelo, Hiero I, Hiero II, Dionysius the Elder, and Dionysius the Younger maintained lavish courts and became patrons of culture.

Later ancient Greeks, as well as the Roman Republicans, became generally quite wary of anyone seeking to implement a popular coup. Shakespeare portrays the struggle of one such anti-tyrannical Roman, Marcus Junius Brutus, in his play Julius Caesar.

[edit] Etymology

There may be a connection with the biblical Hebrew word seren = "captain of the Philistines": see Philistine language.

[edit] Modern forms

The term "tyrant", used literally or metaphorically, now carries connotations of cruel despots who place their own interests or the interests of a small oligarchy over the "best" interests of the general population which they govern or control. Many individual rulers or government officials get accused of tyranny, with the label almost always a matter of controversy.

Some Marxist and socialist thinkers such as Noam Chomsky argue that modern capitalism is a form of institutionalised tyranny- that the small capitalist class has disproportionate control of the world's economy and that this control is used against the interests of the working class.

[edit] See also

Look up tyrant in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

[edit] External links

Forms of Government and Methods of Rule: Autocratic and Authoritarian

Autocratic: Despotism | Dictatorship | Tyranny | Absolute monarchy (Caliphate | Despotate | Emirate | Empire | Imamate | Khanate | Sultanate | Other monarchical titles) | Enlightened absolutism

Other Authoritarian: Military dictatorship (often a Junta) | Oligarchy | Single-party state (Communist state | Fascist(oid) state (e.g. Nazi Germany)) | de facto: Illiberal democracy


ca:Tirania de:Tyrann es:Tiranía (Grecia Antigua) fr:Tyran he:טיראניה nl:Tiran ja:僭主 nn:Tyrann pl:Tyran pt:Tirania ru:Тиран sv:Tyrann


Personal tools
what is world wizzy?
  • World Wizzy is a static snapshot taken of Wikipedia in early 2007. It cannot be edited and is online for historic & educational purposes only.