|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
PISISTRATUS BECOMES TYRANT
 SOLON did not expect the laws he made to please each of the three
parties in Attica. So he was not greatly surprised that
while the Plain and the Coast were more or less content, the
Hill was dissatisfied and even rebellious.
Pisistratus wished to help the Hill folk, who were shepherds
and herdsmen, and he hoped at the same time to fulfil his
own ambition, which was to become tyrant of Athens.
Solon did not think that it was good for the State to have a
tyrant at its head. He warned the people again and again
that Pisistratus would take away their freedom. But it was
in vain that he spoke, no one would listen to him.
One day as Pisistratus drove in a chariot to the
market-place, the citizens saw to their horror that he had
been wounded. They crowded round his chariot begging to be
told what had happened. This was what Pisistratus wished.
He pointed to his wounds, telling them that the men of the
Plain had attacked him, because he was defending the rights
of the poor Hill folk. But Pisistratus was deceiving the
people, for he had given himself these wounds that he might
gain the sympathy of the people and be voted a bodyguard.
Lest he should be killed outright by his enemies, the
citizens agreed that he should have a guard of fifty
At first Pisistratus seemed content with his guard, but
after a time he began to add to its number now one, then
another, until he knew that he was strong enough to defy his
 enemies. He then seized the Acropolis and soon made himself
master of the State.
The leaders of the Plain and the Shore were forced to flee,
and the people, in spite of the warnings of Solon, were
amazed at the cunning and the boldness Pisistratus had
Solon himself felt that all he had done for the State was
undone when a tyrant ruled at Athens.
Old as he now was, he was brave enough to go to the
market-place to upbraid the citizens for their folly in
having allowed Pisistratus to deceive them, and to beg them
not to lose their freedom without a struggle. "You might
with ease," he said, "have crushed the tyrant in the bud;
but nothing now remains but to pluck him up by the roots."
It is said that he even begged the people to take up arms
against Pisistratus, but they were not bold enough to defy
So Solon went home sadly, gathered together his arms and
laid them on the threshold of his house, saying, "I have
done my part to maintain my country and my laws, and I
appeal to others to do likewise."
Here is a verse from one of the poems which he wrote at this
"If now you suffer do not blame the Powers,
For they are good and all the fault is ours.
All the strongholds you put into his hands,
And now his slaves must do what he commands."
His friends feared that Pisistratus would punish Solon for
his bold words and actions, perhaps even take his life, so
they begged him to leave the country, but he refused to go.
When they asked him why he was not afraid, and to what he
trusted to save him from the anger of the tyrant, he
answered simply, "To my old age."
And his trust was well founded, for Pisistratus treated
Solon with kindness and with respect. He even asked his
advice in matters of State.
 But the overthrow of his reforms was more than the old
lawgiver could bear, and two years later, when he was eighty
years of age, he died. It is said that by his own wish his
ashes were scattered on Salamis, the island which he had won
Pisistratus was a good tyrant. For five years he ruled,
doing all that he could for the welfare of the State. But
his enemies, although they saw that Athens grew more
prosperous under his control, were ever plotting to get rid
of him. At the end of five years the Plain and the Coast
joined together and succeeded in driving Pisistratus from
But Megacles, the leader of the Coast, quarrelled with the
Plain, and he then offered to help Pisistratus to return to
It was by a strange trick that the Athenians were persuaded
once more to allow the tyrant to rule.
In one of the villages of Attica, Megacles knew of a woman
named Phya, who was taller and more stately than most Greek
women. He ordered Phya to be clad in armour, such as was
worn by the goddess Athene, and then seating her in his
chariot he drove to Athens. Before the chariot went a
herald to proclaim that the goddess Athene was herself
coming to bid them open their gates to Pisistratus and to
restore him to power.
The story tells that the Athenians believed that Phya was
indeed the goddess, and they hastened to obey her behests.
Pisistratus was allowed to enter the city and rule it as
For six years all went well, then the tyrant quarrelled with
Megacles, who again joined the Plain, and Pisistratus was
expelled for the second time.
But the tyrant was a patient and a persistent man. For ten
years he lived in a province called Thrace, keeping in touch
all the time with the Hill. In 535 B.C. he was back again
in Attica, with no goddess to help him, but with a band of
hired soldiers to strengthen his party.
 The Athenian army was sent against the invaders, but
Pisistratus pretended that he did not mean to fight. So the
Athenians, thinking themselves safe, sat down to their
midday meal. Then, while they were eating and drinking, the
tyrant fell upon them, scattering them with but little loss
on either side. As the Athenians fled, the sons of
Pisistratus, Hippias and Hipparchus, rode after them, crying
aloud that all who went quietly home would be pardoned. The
citizens saw that it was useless to resist, so Pisistratus
entered Athens as tyrant for the third time.
During the next eight years Pisistratus devoted himself to
making Athens the most beautiful city of the world. He
ordered that a new feast should be held in honour of the
gods, and he began to build a magnificent temple to Zeus,
which he did not live to finish. Many learned men were
invited to Athens, and poets and historians were encouraged
to write and to read their works to the people. It is even
said that Pisistratus collected a library, which he urged
the citizens to use, but of this we cannot be sure.
Then, thinking perhaps that Athens was strong enough to defy
her enemies, the tyrant ordered the walls of the city to be
pulled down. So that for half a century Athens, like
Sparta, was an unwalled town.
In many of the States where tyrants ruled, Pisistratus had
formed allies, and he even offered his friendship to Sparta,
the State that despised tyrants and would not allow them to
rule in Peloponnesus.
Pisistratus died in 527 B.C., and was succeeded by his two
sons, Hippias and Hipparchus.
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