Died 527 b.c.e.
Tyrant of athens
Descendant of Solon. Pisistratus (also spelled Peisistratus) was born into an aristocratic Athenian family in the sixth century b.c.e.; an ancestor served as an archon in 669-668, and one of his mother’s relatives was Solon. He distinguished himself in the war with Megara (570-565) and attempted to seize power in Athens in 560 and 556. At one point he slashed himself and drove his chariot into the agora (marketplace) to show the people how his enemies had attacked him. In 546 he finally succeeded in taking control of the city.
Golden Age. Pisistratus ruled Athens by the use of force, but as a turannos (tyrant) he was benevolent and law-abiding. Aristotle called his reign the “golden age”; it was noted for the expansion of industry and commerce, domestic tranquility, and neutrality in foreign affairs. A consummate politician, Pisistratus made a point to please the city population as well as the rural majority.
Achievements. During this period Athens grew from a conglomeration of villages into a city, and Pisistratus beautified the marketplace and improved the water supply by building an aqueduct. In rural affairs, he made loans to small farmers for tools and equipment and instituted a system of traveling judges to hear country cases on the spot. Under his reign, religious festivals such as the Panathenaea and the City Dionysia were introduced or expanded. He financed these extensive programs by revenues from the mines at Mount Pangaeum and Laurium in addition to a 5 percent tax on all agricultural products. Pisistratus died in 527 b.c.e. and was succeeded by his sons Hippias and Hipparchus. His encouragement of Athenian prosperity helped to make the city a contending power in Greece.
Antony Andrewes, The Greek Tyrants (London: Hutchinson’s University Library, 1956).