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Ἁρμόδιος). An Athenian who, together with Aristogīton (Ἀριστογείτων), became the cause of the overthrow of the Pisistratidae. The names of Harmodius and Aristogiton were immortalized by the gratitude of the Athenians. Aristogiton was a citizen of the middle class; Harmodius a youth distinguished by the comeliness of his person. They were both perhaps remotely allied to one another by blood, and were united by ties of the closest intimacy. The youth had received an outrage from Hipparchus, which roused both the resentment and the fears of his friend, lest Hipparchus should abuse his power to repeat the insult. But Hipparchus, whose pride had been wounded by the conduct of Harmodius, contented himself with an affront aimed at the honour of his family. By his orders, the sister of Harmodius was invited to take part in a procession, as bearer of one of the sacred vessels. When, however, she presented herself in her festal dress, she was publicly rejected, and dismissed as unworthy of the honour. This insult stung Harmodius to the quick, and kindled the indignation of Aristogiton. They resolved to engage in the desperate enterprise of overthrowing the ruling dynasty. They communicated their plan to a few friends, who promised their assistance; but they hoped that, as soon as the first blow should be struck, they would be joined by numbers, who would joyfully seize the opportunity of recovering their freedom. The conspirators fixed on the festival of the Panathenaea as the most convenient season for effecting their purpose. This festival was celebrated with a procession, in which the citizens marched armed with spears and shields, and was the only occasion on which, in time of peace, they could assemble under arms without exciting suspicion. It was agreed that Harmodius and Aristogiton should give the signal by stabbing Hippias, while their friends kept off his guards, and that they should trust to the general disposition in favour of liberty for the further success of their undertaking. When the day came, the conspirators armed themselves with daggers,

Harmodius and Aristogiton. (Copies in the Naples Museum.)

which they concealed in the myrtle-boughs that were carried on this occasion. But while Hippias, surrounded by his guards, was in the Ceramicus, directing the order of the procession, one of the conspirators was observed to go up to him, for he was easy of access to all, and to enter into familiar conversation with him. The two friends, on seeing this, concluded that they were betrayed, and that they had no hope left but of revenge. They instantly rushed into the city, and, meeting Hipparchus, killed him before his guards could come up to his assistance. These, however, arrived in time to avenge his death on Harmodius. Aristogiton escaped for the moment through the crowd, but was afterwards taken. When the news was brought to Hippias, instead of proceeding to the scene of his brother's murder, he advanced with a composed countenance towards the armed procession, which was yet ignorant of the event, and, as if he had some grave discourse to address to them, desired them to lay aside their weapons, and meet him at an appointed place. He then ordered his guards to seize the arms, and to search every one for those which he might have concealed upon his person. All who were found with daggers were arrested, together with those whom, on any other grounds, he suspected of disaffection. Aristogiton was put to death, according to some authors, after torture had been applied to wring from him the names of his accomplices. It is said that he avenged himself by accusing the truest friends of Hippias. The mistress of Aristogiton, one Leaena (q.v.), whose only crime was to have been the object of his affection, underwent the like treatment. She was afterwards celebrated for the constancy with which she endured the most cruel torments (Herod.v. 55; vii. 123; Thuc.i. 20; vi. 54 foll.). These events took place in B.C. 514.

After the expulsion of Hippias the tyrannicides received almost heroic honours. Statues were erected to them at the public expense, and their names never ceased to be repeated with affectionate admiration in the popular songs of Athens, which assigned them a place in the Islands of the Blessed, by the side of Achilles and Tydides; and when an orator wished to suggest the idea of the highest merit and of the noblest services to the cause of liberty, he never failed to remind his hearers of Harmodius and Aristogiton. No slave was ever called by their names. Plutarch has preserved a reply of Antipho , the orator, to Dionysius the elder, of Syracuse. The latter had asked the question, which was the finest kind of bronze? “That,” replied Antipho , “of which the statues of Harmodius and Aristogiton were made.” He lost his life in consequence. Their statues, made by Antenor and set up in the Agora, were carried away by Xerxes when he took Athens in B.C. 480, but were restored by Alexander the Great.

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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.55
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.20
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