Essay Topic: How did Pisistratus and his sons use religion to solidify support for their government at Athens?
In Ancient Greece religion was a tool used for many different reasons, whether it was to explain the creation of the universe or to explain the occurrences of nature. Religion was a very important aspect of Greek society and culture and through ritualistic practises it allows communities to unify in a common goal to please the Gods. Among the many emperors and tyrants of Athens, it was Pisistratus that allowed religion and religious rituals to flourish in Athens. His sons, Hippias and Hipparchus, had followed in his footsteps to continue ruling Athens but they had lacked to charisma and vision that Pisistratus had. In this essay we will be examining the rise and fall, death and accomplishments of Pisistratus his ruling as the last tyrant of Greece. Followed by his sons who had failed to capture the citizens of Athens as their father did, which lead to their eventual downfall and death.
Pisistratus was a close follower of the Lawgiver Solon, who had reformed the political and cultural policies of Greece and giving them the first set of laws that everyone should abide by. Solon’s laws had protected the poor and eased the suffering of the poor from the tyranny of the noble families but the Solonian reorganization of the constitution had not eliminated bitter aristocratic contentions for control of the archonship, the chief executive post (Plutarch, 30). At this point in time there consisted of three major factors and according to Herodotus the political landscape was about territorial divisions in Attica. There were the men of the Plains, led by Lycurgus, the men of the Coast, led by Megacles and the men of the hills. The hills were the least politically influential and the poorest of the three factions yet that is where Pisistratus’ main political support came from (Ath. Pol.).
In 560 BC Pisistratus became a very popular and successful politician yet he wanted more power and at one point he had devised a stunt that would grant him the power to seize the Acropolis. Pisistratus had slashed himself and the mules of his chariot with a knife then after he drove into the agora (marketplace) with a blood trail following behind him he stated that he had just been the victim of a terrorist attack devised by his enemies (Ath. Pol.). Afraid for his safety the Athenians had voted and agreed to allow him use of a bodyguard armed with clubs. With the aid of the bodyguard appointed by the people he was able to seize the Acropolis and held power briefly in 560/559 BC before he was exiled after one year. To regain his power he had a short-lived marriage with the daughter of Megacles and again acquired temporary power in Athens but Pisistratus knew that he had to win the hearts of the people therefore as Herodotus stated he created a simple-minded way to make his return (Herodotus, Histories 1:60). In 550 BC he had hired a stately women named Phya and had her dressed as the goddess ed and rode beside him in their golden chariot claiming to the people that he had the blessing of Athene but because he had refused to have children with his daughter, Pisistratus was again exiled by Lycurgus and Megacles.
After Pisistratus’ second exile he had left Athens for almost ten years before he had made his third attempt to return to power. During his exile he had made laid a solid foundation for his return. Profiteering from the silver and gold mines of Mt. Panganeum and also gaining military, political strength from aristocrats and nobles in Thebes, Argos, Naxos and other city-states. In 546 BC Pisistratus gathered his army at Marathon, which news had travelled fast into Athens and many lower class citizens such as farmers and the common man had flocked to the aid of Pisistratus after hearing his return. It was at Pallene, which Pisistratus had launched a full assault on the Athenian army during the middle of the day...
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