Ancient Greece: A Sketch of Its Art, Literature & Philosophy Viewed in Connexion with Its External History from Earliest Times to the Age of Alexander the Great

By H. B. Cotterill | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE AGE OF PEISISTRATUS AND THE RISE OF PERSIA (560-500)

SECTIONS: POETS AND PHILOSOPHERS: THE ORDERS OF GREEK ARCHITECTURE: SCULPTURE, DOWN TO THE PERSIAN WARS

TO the student of comparative politics the history of Athens from 560 to 500 is especially attractive, for during this period, while the democratic constitution framed by Solon still continued to exist, as Thucydides says, in its essential features, the state was for many years under the absolute control of a single man and his heirs, who, although the power was seized by the usual methods, may be regarded rather as constitutional rulers than as despots. That Athens for a time lost her liberty and emerged from the trial stronger and better prepared to face the foe of Hellas cannot but be of deep interest, but the phenomena of political evolution form by no means the main subject of Greek history. Such phenomena are due to ever-recurring influences working on average human nature, and they may be traced under various conditions in the stories of many another nation;1 but genius has ever something new to tell us, and from Greek genius we may learn what we cannot learn from any other source. I shall therefore content myself with giving a brief account of the reign, or tyranny, of Peisistratus and his sons and of the reforms of Cleisthenes, and shall reserve more of the space at my disposal for matters of greater importance.

When Solon returned to Athens (c. 562) dissension was at

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1
By a strange coincidence the same year ( 510) saw the banishment of the Tarquins from Rome and of the Peisistratidae from Athens.

-172-

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