(Πεισίστρατος). An Athenian, son of Hippocrates, named after Pisistratus, the youngest son of Nestor , since the family of Hippocrates was of Pylian origin, and traced their descent to Neleus, the father of Nestor. The mother of Pisistratus (whose name we do not know) was first cousin to the mother of Solon. Pisistratus grew up equally distinguished for personal beauty and for mental endowments. The relationship between him and Solon naturally drew them together, and a close friendship sprang up between them. He assisted Solon (q.v.) by his eloquence in persuading the Athenians to renew their struggle with the Megarians for the possession of Salamis, and he afterwards fought with bravery in the expedition which Solon led against the island. When Solon, after the establishment of his constitution, retired for a time from Athens, the old rivalry between the parties of the Plain, the Highlands, and the Coast broke out into open feud. The party of the Plain, comprising chiefly the landed proprietors, was headed by Lycurgus; that of the Coast, consisting of the wealthier classes not belonging to the nobles, by Megacles, the son of Alcmaeon ; the party of the Highlands, which aimed at more of political freedom and equality than either of the two others, was the one at the head of which Pisistratus placed himself, because they seemed the most likely to be useful in the furtherance of his ambitious designs. His liberality, as well as his military and oratorical abilities, gained him the support of a large body of citizens. Solon, on his return, quickly saw through the designs of Pisistratus, who listened with respect to his advice, though he prosecuted his schemes none the less diligently. When Pisistratus found his plans sufficiently ripe for execution, he one day made his appearance in the agora with his mules and his own person exhibiting recent wounds, pretending that he had been nearly assassinated by his enemies as he was riding into the country. An assembly of the people was forthwith called, in which one of his partisans proposed that a body-guard of fifty citizens, armed with clubs, should be granted to him. It was in vain [p. 1266]
that Solon opposed this; the guard was given him. Through the neglect or connivance of the people, Pisistratus took this opportunity of raising a much larger force, with which he seized the citadel, B.C. 560, thus becoming what the Greeks called τύραννος of Athens. See the account in Aristotle,
Having secured to himself the substance of power, he made no further change in the constitution or in the laws, which he administered ably and well. His first usurpation lasted but a short time. Before his power was firmly rooted, the factions headed by Megacles and Lycurgus combined, and Pisistratus was compelled to evacuate Athens. He remained in banishment six years. Meantime the factions of Megacles and Lycurgus revived their old feuds, and Megacles made overtures to Pisistratus, offering to reinstate him in the tyranny if he would connect himself with him by receiving his daughter in marriage. The proposal was accepted by Pisistratus, and the following stratagem was devised for accomplishing his restoration, according to the account of Herodotus: A maiden named Phya, of remarkable stature and beauty, was dressed as Athen in a full suit of armour, and placed in a chariot, with Pisistratus by her side. The chariot was then driven towards the city, heralds being sent on before to announce that Athen in person was bringing back Pisistratus to her Acropolis. The report spread rapidly, and those in the city believing that the woman was really their tutelary goddess, worshipped her, and admitted Pisistratus. Pisistratus nominally performed his part of the contract with Megacles; but, in consequence of the insulting manner in which he treated his wife, Megacles again made common cause with Lycurgus, and Pisistratus was a second time compelled to evacuate Athens. He retired to Eretria in Euboea, and employed the next ten years in making preparations to regain his power. At the end of that time he invaded Attica with the forces he had raised, and also supported by Lygdamis of Naxos with a considerable body of troops. He defeated his opponents near the temple of Athen at Pallen, and then entered Athens without opposition. Lygdamis was rewarded by being established as tyrant of Naxos, which island Pisistratus conquered (see Lygdamis).
Having now become tyrant of Athens for the third time, Pisistratus adopted measures to secure the undisturbed possession of his supremacy. He took a body of foreign mercenaries into his pay, and seized as hostages the children of several of the principal citizens, placing them in the custody of Lygdamis in Naxos. He maintained at the same time the form of Solon's institutions, only taking care, as his sons did after him, that the highest offices should always be held by some member of the family. He not only exacted obedience to the laws from his subjects and friends, but himself set the example of submitting to them. On one occasion he even appeared before the Areopagus to answer a charge of murder, which, however, was not prosecuted. Athens was indebted to him for many stately and useful buildings. Among these may be mentioned a temple to the Pythian Apollo, and a magnificent temple to the Olympian Zeus, which remained unfinished for several centuries, and was at length completed by the emperor Hadrian. Besides these, the Lyceum, a garden with stately buildings a short distance from the city, was the work of Pisistratus, as also the Fountain of the Nine Springs. Pisistratus also encouraged literature in various ways. It was apparently under his auspices that Thespis introduced at Athens his rude form of tragedy (B.C. 535), and that dramatic contests were made a regular part of the Attic Dionysia. It is to Pisistratus that tradition ascribes the first written text of the whole of the poems of Homer, as to which see Flach, Peisistratos und seine literarische Thtigkeit (Tbingen, 1885); and the article Homerus, pp. 838-39. Pisistratus is also said to have been the first person in Greece who collected a library, to which he generously allowed the public access.
By his first wife Pisistratus had two sons, Hippias and Hipparchus. By his second wife, Timonassa, he had also two sons, Iophon and Thessalus, who are rarely mentioned. He had also a bastard son, Hegesistratus, whom he made tyrant of Sigeum after taking that town from the Mitylenaeans. Pisistratus died at an advanced age in 527, and was succeeded in the tyranny by his eldest son Hippias; but Hippias and his brother Hipparchus appear to have administered the affairs of the State with so little outward distinction that they are frequently spoken of as though they had been joint tyrants. They continued the government on the same principles as their father. Thucydides (vi. 54) speaks in terms of high commendation of the virtue and intelligence with which their rule was exercised till the death of Hipparchus. Hipparchus inherited his father's literary tastes. Several distinguished poets lived at Athens under the patronage of Hipparchus, as, for example, Simonides of Ceos, Anacreon of Teos, Lasus of Hermion, and Onomacritus.
After the murder of Hipparchus in 514, an account of which is given under Harmodius, a great change ensued in the character of the government. Under the influence of revengeful feelings and fears for his own safety, Hippias now became a morose and suspicious tyrant. He put to death great numbers of the citizens, and raised money by extraordinary imposts. His old enemies the Alcmaeonidae, to whom Megacles belonged, availed themselves of the growing discontent of the citizens; and after one or two unsuccessful attempts they at length succeeded, supported by a large force under Cleomenes, in expelling the Pisistratidae from Attica. Hippias and his connections retired to Sigeum in 510. The family of the tyrants was condemned to perpetual banishment, a sentence which was maintained even in after times, when decrees of amnesty were passed. Hippias afterward repaired to the court of Darius, and looked forward to a restoration to his country by the aid of the Persians. He accompanied the expedition sent under Datis and Artaphernes, and pointed out to the Persians the plain of Marathon as the most suitable place for their landing. He was now (490) of great age. According to some accounts, he fell in the battle of Marathon; according to others, he died at Lemnos on his return. Hippias was the only one of the legitimate sons of Pisistratus who had children; but none of them attained distinction. On Pisistratus, see the monographs by Flach (1885) and Tpffer (1886).