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This was the way, therefore, in which the tyranny of Peisistratus was originally set up and this is a list of the changes that it underwent. [2] Peisistratus's administration of the state was, as has been said,1 moderate, and more constitutional than tyrannic; he was kindly and mild in everything, and in particular he was merciful to offenders, and moreover he advanced loans of money to the poor for their industries, so that they might support themselves by farming. [3] In doing this he had two objects, to prevent their stopping in the city and make them stay scattered about the country, and to cause them to have a moderate competence and be engaged in their private affairs, so as not to desire nor to have time to attend to public business.2 [4] And also the land's being thoroughly cultivated resulted in increasing his revenues; for he levied a tithe from the produce. [5] And for this reason he organized the Local Justices,3 and often went to the country on circuit in person, inspecting and settling disputes, in order that men might not neglect their agriculture by coming into the city. [6] For it was when Peisistratus was making an expedition of this kind that the affair of the man on Hymettus cultivating the farm afterwards called Tax-free Farm is said to have occurred. He saw a man at farm-work, digging mere rocks, and because of his surprise ordered his servant to ask what crop the farm grew; and the man said, "All the aches and pains that there are, and of these aches and pains Peisistratus has to get the tithe." The man did not know who it was when he answered, but Peisistratus was pleased by his free speech and by his industry, and made him free from all taxes. [7] And in all other matters too he gave the multitude no trouble during his rule, but always worked for peace and safeguarded tranquillity; so that men were often to be heard saying that the tyranny of Peisistratus was the Golden Age of Cronos; for it came about later when his sons had succeeded him that the government became much harsher. [8] And the greatest of all the things said of him was that he was popular and kindly in temper. For he was willing to administer everything according to the laws in all matters, never giving himself any advantage; and once in particular when he was summoned to the Areopagus to be tried on a charge of murder, he appeared in person to make his defence, and the issuer of the summons was frightened and left. [9] Owing to this he remained in his office for a long period, and every time that he was thrown out of it he easily got it back again. For both the notables and the men of the people were most of them willing for him to govern, since he won over the former by his hospitality and the latter by his assistance in their private affairs, and was good-natured to both. [10] And also the laws of Athens concerning tyrants were mild at those periods, among the rest particularly the one that referred to the establishment of tyranny. For they had the following law: 'These are the ordinances and ancestral principles of Athens: if any persons rise in insurrection in order to govern tyrannically, or if any person assists in establishing the tyranny, he himself and his family shall be disfranchised.'4

1 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 14.3.

2 This policy will be found expressed in general formulae in Aristot. Pol. 1311a 13, Aristot. Pol. 1318b 6, Aristot. Pol. 1319a 30, Aristot. Pol. 1320b 7.

3 See Aristot. Ath. Pol. 26.5, Aristot. Ath. Pol. 53.1.

4 The genuineness of section 10 may be questioned.

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hide References (8 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 5.69
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
    • Hyperides, Against Demosthenes, Hyp. 5 3
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (6):
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 14.3
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 53.1
    • Aristotle, Politics, 5.1311a
    • Aristotle, Politics, 6.1318b
    • Aristotle, Politics, 6.1319a
    • Aristotle, Politics, 6.1320b
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