Death to Tyrants!

Death to Tyrants!: Ancient Greek Democracy and the Struggle against Tyranny

David A. Teegarden
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Death to Tyrants!
    Book Description:

    Death to Tyrants! is the first comprehensive study of ancient Greek tyrant-killing legislation--laws that explicitly gave individuals incentives to "kill a tyrant." David Teegarden demonstrates that the ancient Greeks promulgated these laws to harness the dynamics of mass uprisings and preserve popular democratic rule in the face of anti-democratic threats. He presents detailed historical and sociopolitical analyses of each law and considers a variety of issues: What is the nature of an anti-democratic threat? How would various provisions of the laws help pro-democrats counter those threats? And did the laws work?

    Teegarden argues that tyrant-killing legislation facilitated pro-democracy mobilization both by encouraging brave individuals to strike the first blow against a nondemocratic regime and by convincing others that it was safe to follow the tyrant killer's lead. Such legislation thus deterred anti-democrats from staging a coup by ensuring that they would be overwhelmed by their numerically superior opponents. Drawing on modern social science models, Teegarden looks at how the institution of public law affects the behavior of individuals and groups, thereby exploring the foundation of democracy's persistence in the ancient Greek world. He also provides the first English translation of the tyrant-killing laws from Eretria and Ilion.

    By analyzing crucial ancient Greek tyrant-killing legislation, Death to Tyrants! explains how certain laws enabled citizens to draw on collective strength in order to defend and preserve their democracy in the face of motivated opposition.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4853-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    A deciding factor for the survival of a democratic regime in an ancient Greek polis was the capability of its supporters to defeat their domestic opponents in an armed confrontation. If they had that capability, pro-democrats (the dēmos) would have the power (kratos) to impose their will. The polis would thus be governed by a dēmokratia. If pro-democrats did not have such capability, however, anti-democrats would take control of the polis and impose their will. The polis then would be governed by either an oligarchy or a tyranny.¹

    Whether or not the pro-democrats of a given polis could defeat their...

  7. Part I The Invention of Tyrant-Killing Legislation

    • 1 The Decree of Demophantos
      (pp. 15-54)

      The history of democratic governance in Athens nearly ended in 404. In the spring of that year, the Athenians surrendered to the Spartans, thereby losing both the lengthy Peloponnesian War (431–404) and their naval empire. During the following several months, enterprising anti-democrats diligently worked within their network of conspiratorial clubs in order to overthrow the Athenian democracy and establish a politeia inspired by the Spartan system.¹ The conspiracy of the oligarchs culminated in late summer 404, during a notorious meeting of the Athenian assembly wherein the dēmos, under strong pressure from the Spartan admiral Lysander, ratified a decree establishing...

  8. Part II Tyrant-Killing Legislation in the Late Classical Period

    • 2 The Eretrian Tyrant-Killing Law
      (pp. 57-84)

      In the summer of 342, Philip of Macedon commenced large-scale military operations on the island of Euboia in order to support pro-Macedonian regimes in two prominent cities. He first sent Hipponikos with one thousand mercenaries to Eretria. That force crushed the exiled democrats’ fort at Porthmos and secured in power Kleitarchos, Automedon, and Hipparchos, men who recently had overthrown the Eretrian democracy. Later—exactly how much later is unknown—Philip ordered two additional invasions into Eretria in order to assist that puppet regime’s efforts to quash a serious insurgency. It is likely in conjunction with the final (i.e., the third)...

    • 3 The Law of Eukrates
      (pp. 85-112)

      In early August 338, Philip II defeated an Athenian-led coalition in the battle of Chaironeia. The Athenians and their allies—the most important of whom were the Thebans—could not have expected a better chance for victory. They had, first of all, a large number of infantry and cavalry: as many, if not more, than Philip’s 30,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry. Second, their position, a lone line stretching across the river plain, was strong, superior to Philip’s: they could both prevent Philip’s forces from marching southward down the valley and, since they held the important Kerata pass, conduct a safe...

  9. Part III Tyrant-Killing Legislation in the Early Hellenistic Period

    • 4 The Anti-Tyranny Dossier from Eresos
      (pp. 115-141)

      The earliest extant inscriptions from Eresos record punitive actions taken by the Eresian dēmos against tyrants and their descendants. There are, in all, six texts—five of which are fragmentary—written on two nearly identically sized stones.¹ The first two texts concern a trial, ordered by Alexander the Great, of Agonippos and Eurysilaos, two men who ruled Eresos as “tyrants” in 333. The third, fourth, and fifth texts record the official responses to the requests of certain descendants of tyrants—the two aforementioned tyrants and others who ruled as tyrants before Agonippos and Eurysilaos—to return to Eresos: text 3...

    • 5 The Philites Stele from Erythrai
      (pp. 142-172)

      Alexander’s conquest of western Asia Minor marked a dramatic turning point in Erythraian politics. For the previous fifty-four consecutive years (386–332) and for seventy-two of the previous eighty years (412–394 and 386–332), oligarchs controlled that polis.¹ By the end of the 330s, however, the democrats were in control. What many Erythraians likely considered to be the natural and immutable political order had been completely upended.

      This chapter analyzes the Erythraian democrats’ efforts to maintain control of their polis in the face of efforts by their anti-democratic opponents to reinstate the pre-Alexander status quo. The following inscription (I....

    • 6 The Ilian Tyrant-Killing Law
      (pp. 173-214)

      Ilion, the site of legendary Troy, was in a fairly wretched condition by the end of the Classical period. To begin with, it was small and poor. Lykourgos (Leok. 62), for example, called Ilion “uninhabited” (aoikētos). And Strabo (13.1.26), referring to the Ilion of Lykourgos’s day, called it a “village” (kōmē), and noted that its temple of Athena was “small and cheap” (mikron kai euteles).¹ In addition, by the last third of the fourth century, the Ilians had suffered through decades of extreme regional turbulence during which they were controlled by a series of foreign tyrants and other powers. Many...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 215-220)

    The persistence of democracy within the ancient Greek world during the Classical and early Hellenistic periods was an achievement of profound historical significance. In scores of cities, from Attika to Euboia, from the Troad to Karia and beyond, the nonelite masses controlled their state; the elites were forced to share political power. It was the first time in history that democracy became a normal regime type within an international system of independent states. And it would be well over two millennia until anything even remotely like that would happen again. How were Greek pro-democrats able to maintain such a historical...

  11. Appendix The Number and Geographic Distribution of Different Regime Types from the Archaic to the Early Hellenistic Periods
    (pp. 221-236)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-248)
  13. Index
    (pp. 249-261)