Now the tyrannies reached their greatest height in the time of Polycrates and his brother Syloson. Polycrates was such a brilliant man, both in his good fortune and in his natural ability, that he gained supremacy over the sea; and it is set down,1
as a sign of his good fortune, that he purposely flung into the sea his ring, a ring of very costly stone and engraving, and that a little later one of the fishermen brought him the very fish that swallowed it; and that when the fish was cut open the ring was found; and that on learning this the king of the Egyptians, it is said, declared in a kind of prophetic way that any man who had been exalted so highly in welfare would shortly come to no happy end of life; and indeed this is what happened, for he was captured by treachery by the satrap of the Persians and hanged. Anacreon the melic poet lived in companionship with Polycrates; and indeed the whole of his poetry is full of his praises. It was in his time, as we are told, that Pythagoras, seeing that the tyranny was growing in power, left the city and went off to Egypt and Babylon, to satisfy his fondness for learning; but when he came back and saw that the tyranny still endured, he set sail for Italy and lived there to the end of his life. So much for Polycrates.