of Corinth, was, according to Herodotus (5.92
), a son of Aeetion, who traced his descent to Caeneus, the companion of Peirithous. Pausanias (2.4.4
,17.2, and 100.18) describes Cypselus as a descendant of Melas, who was a native of Gonusa near Sicyon, and accompanied the Dorians against Corinth.
The mother of Cypselus belonged to the house of the Bacchiadae, that is, to the Doric nobility of Corinth.
According to the tradition followed by Herodotus, she married Aeetion, because, being ugly, she met with no one among the Bacchiadae who would have her as his wife. Her marriage remained for some time without issue, and when Aeetion consulted the oracle of Delphi about it, a son was promised to him, who should prove formidable to the ruling party at Corinth. When the Bacchiadae were informed of this oracle, which at the same time threw light upon a previous mysterious oracle, they resolved for their own security to murder the child-of Aeetion.
But the persons who were sent out for this purpose were moved by the smiles of the infant, and spared his life.
Afterwards, however, they made a second attempt, but they now could not find the child, for his mother had concealed him in a chest (κυψέλη
), from which he derived his name, Cypselus. When he had grown up to manhood, he came forward as the champion of the demos against the nobles, and with the help of the people he expelled the Bacchiadae, and then established himself as tyrant. (Aristot. Pol. 5.8
The cruelties which he is charged with at the beginning of his reign were the result of the vehement opposition on the part of the Bacchiadae, for afterwards his government was peaceful and popular, and Cypselus felt so safe among the Corinthians that he could even dispense with a body-guard. (Aristot. Pol. 5.9
; Polyaen. 5.31
.) Like most other Greek tyrants, Cypselus was very fond of splendour and magnificence, and he appears to have accumulated great wealth.
He dedicated at Delphi the chapel of the Corinthians with a bronze palm-tree (Plut. Conv. Sept Sap.
21, Symp. Quaest.
8.4); and at Olympia he erected a golden statue of Zeus, towards which the wealthy Corinthians were obliged to pay an extraordinary tax for the space often years. (Strab. viii. pp. 353, 378; comp. Pseud. Aristot. Econ. 2.2
; Suid. and Phot. s. v. Κύψελος
.) Cypselus ruled at Corinth for a period of thirty years, the beginning of which is placed by some in B. C. 658, and by others in 655.
He was succeeded in the tyranny at Corinth by his son Periander.
The celebrated chest of Cypselus, consisting of cedar wood, ivory, and gold, and richly adorned with figures in relief, of which Pausanias (5.17
, &c.) has preserved a description, is said to have been acquired by one of the ancestors of Cypselus, who kept in it his most costly treasures.
It afterwards remained in the possession of his descendants, and it was in this chest that young Cypselus was saved from the persecutions of the Bacchiadae. His grateful descendants dedicated it in the temple of Hera at Olympia, where it was seen by Pausanias about the end of the second century after Christ. (Comp. Miller, Archaeol. d. Kunst.
§ 57. 2, &c.; Thiersch, Epoch.
p. 166, &c.)