), an Athenian of noble family and commanding presence, won the prize for the double course (δίαυλος
) at the Olympic games, in B. C. 640, and married the daughter of Theagenes, tyrant of Megara. Excited.apparently and encouraged by these advantages, and especially by his powerful alliance, he conceived the design of making himself tyrant of Athens, and having consulted the Delphic oracle on the subject, was enjoined to seize the Acropolis at the principal festival of Zeus. Imagining that this must refer, not to the Athenian Διάσια
(see Dict. of Ant.
p. 333), but to the Olympic games, at which he had so distinguished himself, he made the attempt during the celebration of the latter, and gained possession of the citadel with his partisans, who were very numerous. Here, however, they were closely besieged, the operations against them being conducted, according to Thucydides, by the nine archons; according to Herodotus, by the Prytanes of the Naucrari. (See Dict. of Ant.
p. 633; Arnold's Thucydides,
vol. i. Append. iii. p. 664.)
At length, pressed by famine, they were driven to take refuge at the altar of Athena, whence they were induced to withdraw by the archon Megacles, the Alcmaeonid, on a promise that their lives should be spared.
But their enemies put them to death as soon as they had them in their power, some of them being murdered even at the altar of the Eumenides. Plutarch relates besides that the suppliants, by way of keeping themselves under the protection of Athena, fastened a line to her statue and held it as they passed from her shrine. When they had reached the temple of the Eumenides the line broke, and Megacles and his colleagues seized on the accident as a proof that the goddess had rejected their supplication, and that they might therefore be massacred in full accordance with religion. Thucydides and the Scholiast on Aristophanes (Aristoph. Kn. 443
) tell us, that Cylon himself escaped with his brother before the surrender of his adherents.
According to Suidas, he was dragged from the altar of the Eumenides, where he had taken refuge, and was murdered. Herodotus also implies that he was slain with the rest. His party is said by Plutarch to have recovered their strength after his death, and to have continued the struggle with the Alcmaeonidae up to the time of Solon.
The date of Cylon's attempt is uncertain. Corsini gives, as a conjecture, B. C. 612; while Clinton, also conjecturally, assigns it to 620. (Hdt. 5.71
; Thuc. 1.126
; Suid. s. v. Κυλώνειον ἄγος
; Plut. Sol. 12
; Paus. 1.28