A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B.C

By George Grote; J. M. Mitchell et al. | Go to book overview

3 [XXX]

GRECIAN AFFAIRS DURING THE GOVERNMENT OF PEISISTRATUS AND HIS SONS AT ATHENS

WE now arrive at what may be called the second period of Grecian history, beginning with the rule of Peisistratus at Athens and of Crœsus in Lydia.

It has been already stated that Peisistratus made himself despot of Athens in 560 B.C. He died in 527 B.C., and was succeeded by his son Hippias, who was deposed and expelled in 510 B.C., thus making an entire space of fifty years between the first exaltation of the father and the final expulsion of the son. These chronological points are settled on good evidence. But the thirty-three years covered by the reign of Peisistratus are interrupted by two periods of exile, one of them lasting not less than ten years, the other five years; and the exact place of the years of exile, being nowhere laid down upon authority, has been differently determined by the conjectures of chronologers. 1 Partly from this half-known chronology, partly from a very scanty collection of facts, the history of the half-century now before us can only be given very imperfectly. Nor can we wonder at our ignorance, when we find that even among the Athenians themselves, only a century afterwards, statements the most incorrect and contradictory respecting the Peisistratids were in circulation, as Thukydidês distinctly, and somewhat reproachfully, acquaints us.

More than thirty years had now elapsed since the promulgation of the Solonian Constitution, whereby the annual Senate [Council] of Four Hundred had been created, and the public assembly (preceded in its action as well as aided and regulated by this Senate [Council]) invested with a power of exacting responsibility from the magistrates after their year of office. The seeds of

1 The Ath. Pol. has a fairly elaborate account of the period contained in this chapter, and, among other details, gives the lengths of Peisistratus' three periods of rule and his two exiles. The dates given are, however, like many others in the treatise, self-contradictory. As no certain solution has been offered by the critics, and as the discussion has a purely academic interest, it is unnecessary here to discuss the matter (see J. E. Sandys on Ath. Pol., c. xiv., note; Bury, Class. Rev., February, 1895 and Busolt, ii., 2, p. 258). It may be mentioned, however, that some authorities (e.g., Beloch in Rhein. Mus., xlv., 1890, pp. 465 et seq., Meyer, Gesch. d. Alt. ii., pp. 772, 773) are inclined to hold that the whole story of alternate rule and exile is open to serious doubt, and that Peisistratus may perhaps not have experienced so many vicissitudes. - ED.

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