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Greek Tyranny$
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Sian Lewis

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9781904675532

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781904675532.001.0001

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Tyrants and Kings

Tyrants and Kings

(p.102) Chapter 5 Tyrants and Kings
Greek Tyranny

Sian Lewis

Liverpool University Press

This chapter considers the question of whether monarchy was the logical evolution of tyranny. It argues that while Hellenistic monarchy was indeed a new phenomenon, it is not the case that all tyrants metamorphosed into kings once presented with the opportunity: in fact many were distinctly uneasy about adopting royal titles or symbols. Tyrants were a creation of the polis and ruled in concert with the polis; they often reshaped a city according to their own will, but even when ruling a wider area, retained their connection with their home city. They needed to be attentive to the people in a way that the Hellenistic kings did not, facing an ever-present possibility of overthrow from within. The chapter looks at three examples to illustrate this relationship – Agathocles, who reveals the complexity of classical Greek ideas about kingship; the Sicyonian tyrants of the third century, where the pressure of political circumstances actually fostered tyranny; and finally Hieron, the ‘good king’ of Sicily – all of whom had to negotiate the distinction between tyranny and monarchy.

Keywords:   tyranny, Agathocles, polis, Hellenistic period, monarchy, political community, Sicyonian tyrants, Hieron

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