| Famous Men of Greece|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of thirty-five of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Greece, from legendary times to its fall in 146 B.C. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
PISISTRATUS THE TYRANT
 WHEN Solon came back from his travels he found that a young
kinsman of his, named
Pisistratus, was trying to make himself master of
Athens. Pisistratus was rich and gave away a great deal of
money, and in every possible way showed himself friendly to
the people. His large and beautiful garden was thrown open
to them, as if it were a park. Men and women of the
working-classes were allowed to sit under his shade trees
and their children played among his flowers. When the poor
were ill he had
 nice things cooked for them in his own kitchen, and often in
the heat of summer he sent to the sick a present of snow,
which was a rare luxury. If a poor man died Pisistratus
often paid the expense of burying him. Poor people in
Athens were very much pleased by this, because they believed
that if a person were not properly buried his soul would
have to wander a hundred years up and down the bank of the
IN A GREEK HOME
One day, after the kindness of Pisistratus had made him the
idol of the Athenians, he drove his chariot rapidly into the
market-place. A crowd immediately gathered about him, for
they saw that something was the matter. In a state of great
excitement he showed some wounds,—which he had really made
upon himself, but which he pretended he had received while
he was driving along the high road.
"Men of Athens!" he cried, "See what my enemies have done to
me because I am a friend of the people." All saw the blood
on his face and of course believed what he said. They were
very angry, and one of them proposed in the public Assembly
that in future fifty men, armed with clubs, should be paid
by the State to guard Pisistratus.
Solon begged the people to vote against this. But they had
made up their minds and Solon could not dissuade them. The
guard was ordered, and
 Pisistratus took good care that there should be in it a
great many more than fifty men. Very soon he had a company
of soldiers who were ready to do whatever he ordered. So,
just as Solon had feared, he seized the Acropolis, a high, rocky hill which was the citadel of Athens, and made
himself master of the city.
After a while the people grew tired of him and he had to
leave Athens. However, he came back and regained his power
by playing a trick on the people. A very tall and beautiful
girl, in full armor, rode into the city standing at his side
in a chariot. Minerva herself was said to be bringing
Pisistratus back. When the chariot came into view the people
shouted with joy and welcomed their old friend.
Soon he was banished a second time, but again recovered his
power, and from that day to the time of his death he had
full sway over the city.
ALL the states of Greece had in time become republics, except
Sparta, and when anyone took the power of a king in any of
these states he was called a tyrant. Thus Pisistratus was
called the Tyrant of Athens, and yet he was by no means so
harsh a ruler as the world might lead us to think. But he
 was strict. When he got control of Athens it was full of
lazy people who lounged all day about the market-place.
Pisistratus put all such people to work upon the roads or
There were no public schools or libraries in Athens, but
Pisistratus did his best to give the people a chance to read
and to educate themselves. Books in his days were not
printed, but written, and they were so expensive that few
people could buy them. Pisistratus had a large collection
and he invited all persons, rich or poor, to go to his
library and read.
He did another thing for which the Greeks were grateful.
For more than two hundred years before his time the poems of
Homer had been recited all over Greece. Traveling
minstrels sang them before guests in banquet halls, or
before public gatherings. Every one loved these poems, and
many people knew parts of them by heart. Pisistratus
employed learned men to help him write them and put them in
proper order. The verses about the Trojan War were arranged
to make up the poem called the Iliad, and those about the
wanderings of Ulysses to make up the poem called the
A READING FROM HOMER
Athens never had a wiser or better ruler than Pisistratus.
He died 527 B.C.
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