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"I WILL BE GREATEST"
YOUNG man said, "I will rule Athens and be the greatest man within her
walls." This youth was named Pisistratus.
His mother was first cousin to Solon's mother. He and Solon were friends,
and when the lawgiver led the attack on Salamis, this young man fought by
his side. His father left him plenty of money, a fine house, large and
beautiful gardens. He had a handsome face, a noble form, a rich voice, and a
powerful mind. Knowing that he had these gifts, he was determined to be the
ruler and leader of his native city.
There were three parties in Athens, each trying to gain and hold the
governing power. The rich landowners called themselves "the Plain." The
"Coast" party were men who were rich, but not noble. The other party, who
called themselves "the Highlands," were in favor of freedom and equality. To
this party most of the poor belonged. Pisistratus joined them, for he
thought they had most votes. To please the people he opened his gardens to
He said, "Why should I keep for myself all these shady walks, these marble
statues, these cool and sparkling fountains? If they are mine, that only
gives me the
 right to say that the people of Athens shall enjoy them. The gates shall not
be closed. The lanes, the paths, the seats, are free to the public."
When he walked out he had with him two or three young men, whom he called
his purse-bearers. They gave money to every poor man they met.
He was a brave soldier and a good speaker, and the people liked him for this
and for his generosity. He became the leading citizen of Athens. Many men
who were opposed to him were banished.
One day he went into the market-place, wounded and bleeding. He declared
that his enemies had attacked him while riding in the country. Solon said
that the wounds were very slight, and that Pisistratus had cut and stabbed
But the people cried out, "Let the friend of the people have a bodyguard.
Let him have fifty men with clubs to go with him everywhere."
This was ordered, but Pisistratus raised a much larger force, took the
citadel, and was master of Athens.
A number of citizens left the city. Solon took his helmet, spear, and sword,
and laid them down in the street before the door of his house. "I can do no
more," he said to the people. "You would not listen to me. There are my
arms, no longer of any use."
Pisistratus made no change in the laws and governed well, but his enemies
finally drove him out, and he was gone six years. Then one of the leaders
went to him and said, "Marry my daughter, and I will take you back to Athens
and to power." He agreed, and this was their
 plan. They found a very tall and beautiful country girl, a garland seller,
whom they dressed in armor like Athene. She entered a chariot with
Pisistratus and drove toward Athens. Heralds went before, shouting, "Ye men
of Athens, the great goddess Athene is coming, and with her is your beloved
leader and true friend." The people believed this, and Pisistratus became
again the ruler.
He did not treat his wife well, and her father, with others, drove him out
For ten years he tried to get back. The Greek cities gave him money, Thebes
giving most of all. At last he landed with an army at Marathon. Friends
hurried to him; his enemies marched out to meet him. The two camps were near
together. The Athenians ate their dinner; then some of the soldiers went to
sleep, while others played ball. Pisistratus led his troops against them and
they ran like frightened sheep.
He did not follow, but sent his sons on horseback to say, "Have no fear, go
quietly home, and you shall not be disturbed." They obeyed, and Pisistratus
entered Athens, never to leave it while he lived.
His enemies, of course, were driven away. But he obeyed the laws, and made
everybody else obey. He sent poor people out of the city to work on farms,
and gave oxen and seed to those who had none. Other poor men he employed in
erecting temples and public buildings.
He laid out a public garden called the Lyceum, built a splendid fountain
over the "Nine Springs," founded a free public library, and gave pensions to
men hurt in the wars.
 He ordered the religious festivals to be well observed, brought Thespis and
his actors from the country into the city, and gathered into one book the
songs and poems of Homer. Peace, beauty, order, and gladness filled the city
during the rest of his long life. He had kept his word that he would be the
greatest man in Athens. When he died his son Hippias took his place.