The Athenian Tyrannicides: Icons of a Democratic Society

E. Kent Webb
University of Washington

Thucydides informs us that in his day the majority of Athenians believed that in 514 B.C.E. Harmodios and Aristogeiton killed the tyrant Hipparchos and, in effect, ushered in a new era in the polis' history (1). It did not matter that according to the historian's research Hipparchos was not actually the tyrant at the time of his murder-- it was his brother Hippias--or that after the assassination the Peisistratid regime continued to rule Athens for four more years (2). To Athenians, the two men modern historians have dubbed the tyrannicides were so significant that the democratic state celebrated them with bronze statues in the agora, a tomb in the Kerameicos, annual memorial rites (enagismata) as well as a whole host of other honors bestowed upon their descendants(3). In the same spirit various works of classical literature consistently speak of Hipparchos' assassins as state heroes. For instance, before the battle of Marathon, Herodotos has Miltiades address the polemarch with the stirring words, " Today it is up to you, Callimachos, to choose whether you will enslave Athens or free her and thereby leave such a memorial for all posterity as great as the life of Harmodios and Aristogeiton(4)." Clearly the tyrannicides meant a great deal to the Athenians who throughout the democratic era venerated them in what amounted to a civic cult. The question I want to pose is why.

A consideration of the tyrannicides' meaning from this point of view in many ways takes us to the heart of the Athenian democracy's civic identity, for others have long attributed their enduring fame in the fifth and fourth centuries to the fact that the two men were " symbols of democracy " ; that is, not only were Harmodios and Aristogeiton historical figures, but in their commemoration they stood for certain aspects or values of the democratic state (5). Unfortunately no one has clarified exactly what these values or aspects of the democracy were or how the tyrannicides stood for them. It appears to have simply been assumed that the importance of the the two heroes derived solely from the obvious parallel between their murder of the tyrant and the polis' well attested anti-tyrannical ideology(6). Yet when one considers the prominence of the tyrannicides in the democracy's historical conscience, it is worth reconsidering whether the significance of Harmodios and Aristogeiton is adequately expressed by a simple equation with an opposition to one-man rule.

It seems, in other words, that the symbolism of figures so central to a community's identity would have been far more complex and possessive of more than one meaning. I would point out that Harmodios and Aristogeiton were not, strictly speaking, remembered for their murder of Hipparchos alone. There was a popular tradition of this episode in Athenian history which represented not only the assassination but the events precipitating the tyrannicides' attack and the motives of the two men as well (7). Therefore as a first step in an inquiry into the significance of the tyrannicides, we must consider the entire tradition of their deed since the narrative of their attack is what gave these two men their heroic personality. Furthermore, I will argue here that it also made them highly complex symbols within classical Athenian society since the representations which constituted the popular memory of Harmodios and Aristogeiton evoked different aspects of the democracy in a number of different ways (8).

We are exceedingly fortunate that Thucydides has left us a good reflection of the popular memory of the tyrannicides in his digression on Hipparchos' murder in book six of his history (9). Although the historian is explicitly critical of 1) the fact that the majority of Athenians erroneously believed that Hipparchos was the tyrant when killed, and 2) that they were unaware of the exact circumstances in which his assassination took place, the rest of his account of the tyrannicide affair follows the popular tradition(10). Accordingly, the historian relates that Hipparchos' murder was initially prompted by a juntuxian ervtikhn or chance love affair, when the tyrant became enamoured with Harmodios and made an unsuccessful sexual advance. Since Harmodios was already the eromenow or junior lover of Aristogeiton, the latter became deeply jealous and began to plot an attack on the tyranny, fearing that Hipparchos would eventually take Harmodios by force (Bia). Meanwhile, Hipparchos, having been spurned by Harmodios a second time, decided to insult him in some indirect way. As Thucydides writes, " After summoning a maiden-sister of his to serve as a basket-bearer in some [religious] procession, [Hipparchos] had her rejected, declaring that she was never summoned in the first place, because she was unworthy (dia to mh ajian einai)(11)." This act angered not only Harmodios, but further enraged Aristogeiton, so that both began to conspire to overthrow the Peisistratid regime. In the end they failed, only killing Hipparchos before they were dispatched by the tyrant's men (12).

It is my contention that the actions and reactions of Hipparchos and the two tyrannicides not only formed the narrative of this entire affair, but also connoted other democratic concerns. We can see this initially in Hipparchos, whose representation was a part of an ongoing discourse on tyranny in the democratic state. Others have observed that even though tyranny posed little real threat to the democracy, there was a pervasive fear of the tyrant throughout the classical era (13). In one respect this fear manifested itself in things like legislation outlawing tyrants, the procedure of ostracism initially instituted to exile potential tyrants, or formal curses against all tyrants during meetings of the Assembly and Boule(14). Correspondingly the justification for this fear was a discourse on tyranny in which a series of extremely negative stereotypes came to epitomize one-man rule. In short, in works of history, tragedy and oratory tyrants are consistently represented as violent, greedy, envious individuals who, to cite the most common metaphor for tyrannical rule, enslave their subjects (15). In the words of Theseus in Euripides' Suppliants "a tyrant is a polis' worst enemy/under whom no common laws are observed (16)." Similarly, in Herodotos' famous constitutional debate, the Persian noble Otanes sums up the popular image of the tyrant as someone who "breaks laws, rapes other men's women and puts the innocent to death (17)."

It is then clear that the tyrant in the Athenian conscience was not a real figure but a construction, or a product of a discourse which characterized the tyrant as the antithesis of many of the most important Athenian values (18). In this regard Hipparchos is an example of one of the most common topoi of this discourse: the sexually wanton despot indexing his authority on the bodies of women, daughters and boys. The individual examples are too numerous, and perhaps too lurid, to recount here (19). Nevertheless, in the tyrannicide tradition the representation of Hipparchos is perfectly consistent with this discourse, for he not only tries to gratify his erotic desires in spite of Harmodios' relationship with another man. But when Hipparchos is thwarted, he exercises his authority to exact a measure of petty revenge. Thus, like all tyrants, the tyrannicide narrative represents Hipparchos as above the laws and norms of the polis which protected against this type of insult (20). To Athenians the Peisistratid's lack of self-restraint was nothing less than a symbol of moral and legal anarchy by virtue of the threat his absolute authority posed to all. In effect, Hipparchos represented in sexual terms Aristotle's later theoretical distinction between monarchy and tyranny, in that while a king reigns to protect individual property and honor, a tyrant rules in order to gratify his own desires (21).

In addition, there is a definite relationship between the implications of Hipparchos' actions and the significance of Harmodios and his sister. From a variety of sources, some of which I will point out in a moment, we know that notions of Athenian citizenship for men and women were, among other things, based upon general sociosexual ideals. In brief, the democratic polis insisted on an adherence to traditional sexual customs in order to ensure a high degree of personal autonomy for all of those in its citizen community (22). These sexual conventions moreover were so significant to the community that under most circumstances their transgression was grounds for exclusion from the citizen body (23).

In the case of Harmodios these ideals determined his symbolic significance since the tradition represents the tyrant initially precipitating the assassination by impinging upon the junior tyrannicide's ongoing homoerotic relationship with Aristogeiton. It is fairly common knowledge that Greek culture practiced a form of socially acceptable, ritualized pederasty (24). Nonetheless, hellenic society, and classical Athens in particular, was generally solicitous about male homosexuality (25). The discourse on conventional sexual protocols stipulated that Greek men only adhere to the active role in sexual intercourse, while those who assumed the passive position were assimilated to the female gender and were stigmatized as malakoi or "soft guys"(26). As a result male pederasty was only tolerated under particular, culturally determined conditions.

In Athens these were an elaborate set of rules which Plato describes at length in the Symposium (27). Among other things they included a long public courtship on the part of the older male; a continually demur attitude by the boy who was the object of his affections; and in the end the latter's grudging consent to sexual relations in return for a life-long mentorship on the part of the older man. Undoubtedly Plato's description is marked by a certain idealism; nevertheless, these rituals, no matter how conscientiously they were observed, mediated the basic incongruity of the practice of pederasty with conventional Greek sexual norms. In effect, they protected the younger male from the stigma associated with passive sexual practices and preserved his masculine identity (28).

Consequently, for Athenians living in the democracy, Hipparchos' attempted seductions of Harmodios, which, as Thucydides states, Aristogeiton feared would be complemented by force (bia), not only fell outside of these ritual parameters, but threatened to effeminize Harmodios in a way that could jeopardize his citizen status (29). We know from a few fourth century forensic speeches that the democracy essentially codified masculine sexual protocols in its sanctions against what Athenian society characterized as male prostitution (30). Aeschines' speech, Against Timarchos, relates that men who subjected themselves sexually to other men could face a charge of prostitution and stood to lose a number of basic citizen rights; namely, male prostitutes could not speak or vote in the Assembly as well as initiate legislation (31). These measures were rationalized by the notion that one who was so given over to the gratification of his sexual desires that he would willfully assume the female sexual role, could be easily corrupted in the exercise of his citizen privileges (32). Accordingly, the sanctions against male prostitution were nothing less than a symbolic exclusion of the sexually passive male from the male citizen community. And Harmodios' symbolic significance in particular lay in the fact that Hipparchos' hubris potentially stood to reduce the young man to the margins of the polis, which were, ideologically speaking, the realm of barbarians, metics and slaves.

In the case of Harmodios' sister, Hipparchos' sexual insult was less direct, but to Athenians, no less obvious than his hubris toward her brother. Thucydides writes that Hipparchos had her disqualified from the procession "on account of her unworthiness." At first glance this phrase seems too general to attribute to it a specific sexual significance. However, as Lavelle has shown, one of the main criterion for an Athenian girl to participate in a religious procession was her social status of parthenos, which is often translated as virgin, but more accurately means a young, unmarried female (33). In Greek patriarchal culture, though, the former distinction was implied by the latter, and the evidence for the life of an unwed girl leaves little doubt that a strict pre-marital virginity was a ubiquitous social ideal (34). Xenophon's oft cited description of the relatively cloistered life of a girl in her father's home is a good indication of Athenian views about female sexuality: its only legitimate expression was within the institution of marriage (35). And, not surprisingly, for civic religious ceremonies participation was only granted to those who adhered to such communal ideals (36). This is why in Menander's Epitrepontes the courtesan Harbrotonon, whose most recent client has ignored her for the last few days, jokes that she could bear the basket (i.e. walk in the procession) for the goddess Athena (37)." A fragment of Philochoros moreover explicitly relates that this privilege was the preserve of parthenoi from the best Athenian families (38).

Hipparchos' dismissal of Harmodios' sister therefore cast aspersion on her sexual purity. In the context of the Athenian democracy, this sort of innuendo symbolized the displacement of the girl outside the female citizen community, since sexual transgressions on the part of Athenian women were met with the most severe sanctions. Like many of the polis' basic social regulations, the democracy attributed to Solon the legal right of a father to expel a promiscuous daughter from his home or even sell her into slavery (39). Whether such dramatic action was always taken in this situation is doubtful; however, both punishments removed the girl from the site from which she derived her citizen status: her father's household (40). Women who lived outside of households presided over by their fathers or husbands were declassed as prostitutes and/or slaves.

Furthermore, these categories of women were not granted the same privileges as female Athenians, especially when it came to participating in religious ceremonies--one of the few public functions allowed female citizens within the classical polis (41). Consider the outrage Neaera's prosecutor expresses over the fact that her daughter, who like Neaera had served as a prostitute, had passed herself off as an Athenian and took part in a particular religious rite. To paraphrase, if Neaera and her daughter are not punished, the prosecutor claims, then the honor of all Athenian women will be tainted by the acts of harlots (42). In fact, along these same lines Aeschines shows us that the democratic polis even inscribed this ideal into its physical landscape with a monument in the city celebrating male violence toward female sexual license. In a fit of sexual moralization the orator proudly mentions the place in the city popularly referred to as the kophn kai ippon, or "the girl and the horse", where one could view the remains of a house in which a father killed his promiscuous daughter by locking her inside with a wild stead (43).

So far in this essay I have attempted to illustrate the relationship between the representations which constituted the tyrannicide tradition and the larger discourses on tyranny and sexuality which in and of themselves were part of the unique identity of the Athenian democracy. In this way one can see that the symbolism of the tyrannicides possessed a certain complexity that a simple equation with the polis' general anti-tyrannism does not adequately convey. However, the preceding discussion is by no means an exhaustive examination of the symbolic resonance the tyrannicides may have had in the classical polis. More specifically, we have only considered the relations of similarity between representations of the tyrannicide tradition and those of certain other discourses, when I would contend that these same representations can be linked to even more uniquely democratic discourses through their relations of form (44).

In other words, the tyrannicides not only signified the aforementioned values and ideals, but by virtue of these connotations also evoked part of the structure of the democratic state. The image of Hipparchos threatening to displace Harmodios and his sister outside of the citizen community figured the division between citizen and non-citizen in sexual terms. In the context of the democracy such symbolism would have had a definite resonance, since in the words of one scholar, the polis was "obsessed" about maintaining the legal and political separation between citizens and the polis' sizable community of resident aliens (45). In fact, throughout the entire classical era Athenians jealousy guarded the privilege of citizenship in part because the democracy was predicated on the equal distribution of social and political privileges among its members (46).

In this regard the tyrannicides were no less than icons of Athenian democratic society since, like all icons, they ultimately referred not to the reality of Athenian life, but ideals of communal hierarchy and social division (47). In the terminology of Roland Barthes, the tyrannicides were signs which were isomorphic with the democracy's ideology of an exclusive citizen community, and thus legitimated the distinction between those who could identify with the democratic polis and those who could not (48). On a final, curious note, it did not matter that, historically speaking, there was also some question about Harmodios and Aristogeiton's own status as Athenians. For in book six of his Histories, Herodotos describes the Phoenician origins and Boeotian provenance of the tyrannicides' Gephyraioi clan (49). Nevertheless, as Barthes explained, when representations become icons in order to figure a social order, historical connotations are ignored, while ideology fills the content of the sign (50). In effect, I am asserting that this was another one of the functions of the tyrannicides: to serve as icons which propagated a particular view of their polis and the world. It is also the manner in which these two heroes expressed the uniquely democratic identity of Classical Athenian society (51).

Notes

(1) 1.20.1-2.
(2) 6.54.1-59.1.
(3) References to the statues: Arist. Rhet. 1368a17; MP 70; Ar. Ekkl. 681-2; Lys. 625-35; Pliny NH 34.17, 69-70; Paus. 1.8.5; Arrian Anab. 3.16.7-8; an original group executed by Antenor was set up in 509 (pace Pliny NH 34.17), but was taken by Xerxes during the Persian invasion in 480. Three years later these were replaced by a subsequently more famous set by Kritios and Nesiotes (MP 70; Paus. 1.8.5; Arrian Anab 3.16.7-8). See S. Brunnsaker, The Tyrant Slayers of Kritios and Nesiotes (Stockholm 1970). For the tomb (probably a cenotaph) in the Kerameicos: Paus. 1.29.15. For the memorial rites: Arist. Ath. Pol. 58.1-2. For the honors for the tyrannicides' descendants: IG i 77; Is. 5.47; cf. M. Oswald, "The Prytaneion Decree Re-examined," AJP 72 1951, 24-46.
(4) 6.109. Cf. Pl. Symp. 182c and Aes. 1.132, 140 almost one hundred years later.
(5) Cf. V. Ehrenberg, "The Origins of Democracy," Historia 1 1950, 515-48, G. Vlastos, "Isonomia," AJP 74 1953, 337-66; C. Fornara, "The Cult of Harmodios and Aristogeiton," Philologus 114 1970, 155-80; S. Brunnsaker, The Tyrant-Slayers of Kritios and Nesiotes (Stockholm 1971); H.W. Plecket, "Isonomia and Cleisthenes: A Note," Talanta 4 1972, 63-81; B. Lavelle, The Sorrow and the Pity: A Prolegomenon to a History of Athens Under the Peisistratids c. 560-510 B.C. (Stuttgart 1993).
(6) Cf. V.J. Rosivach, "The Tyrant in Athenian Democracy," QUCC 30 1988, 43-57 or Lavelle 1993.
(7) In fact, I would strongly contend that one cannot even consider the significance of the tyrannicides without taking into account the entire story of their attack on Hipparchos since the precipitating events and the passions they enflamed justified the assassination to Athenians, or, in another sense, gave the two men their heroic personality. The tyrannicides thus were synonymous with their popular tradition since the narrative of the entire affair gave them meaning in a way that simply recalling that they killed Hipparchos would not. For the essential role of narrative in the representation of past events see H. White, "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality," in On Narrative, ed. W.J.T. Mitchell (Chicago 1981). For discussions of the tyrannicide tradition and its sources see M. Hirsch, "Die athenischen Tyrannenmörder in Sage und Volkslegende," Klio 20 1926, 129-67; F. Jacocy, Atthis: the Local Chronicles of Ancient Athens (Oxford 1949); M. Lang, "The Murder of Hipparchus," Historia 3 1954-55, 395-407; T. Fitzgerald, "The Murder of Hipparchus: A Reply," Historia 6 1957, 275-86; C. Fornara, "The 'Tradition' About the Murder of Hipparchus," Historia 17 1968, 400-24.
(8) In other words a semiotic analysis of the memory of the tyrannicides is in order since the representations which constituted the tradition of their deed were at basis signs which undoubtedly evoked other signs in discourses not at first glance associated with the tyrannicides. This principle has been more or less conceded by all those who accept that the tyrannicides' symbolized the democracy's opposition to tyranny since what is really being asserted here is that the sign of their murder of the tyrant Hipparchos evoked the general sign of anti-tyrannism expressed in the democracy's discourse on one-man rule. For a theoretical discussion of semiotics or the operation of signs see, among others, C.S. Pierce, Collected Papers Vol. II: Elements of Logic (Cambridge 1960); R. Barthes, Mythologies (New York 1972); U. Eco, A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington 1976); J. Deely, Introducing Semiotic (Bloomington 1982); Frontiers in Semiotics, eds. J. Deely, B. Williams and F. Kruse (Bloomington 1986); T. Sebeok, A Sign is Just a Sign (Bloomington 1991). For the application of semiotic theory to the interpretation of social phenomena: R. Hodge and G. Kress, Social Semiotics (New York 1988).
Semiotics found its initial interdisciplinary application in social anthropology, in particular in the work of C. Geertz; see especially, Interpretation of Culture (New York 1972). For an overview of this transformation of the study of culture see J.L. Dolgin, D.S. Kemnitzer and D.M. Schneider, "As People Express Their Lives, So They Are..." in Symbolic Anthropology: A Reader in the Study of Symbols and Meanings, eds. Dolgin, Kemnitzer and Schneider (New York 1977) Geertz's innovation and eloquence eventually attracted historians, especially social historians, to his methods (See R. Walters, "Sign of the Times: Clifford Geertz and Historians" Social Research 47 1980, 537-56). Perhaps the most notable example of the self conscious use of semiotics to interpret historical phenomena is R. Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre (New York 1985). For a somewhat similar example in ancient history see W.C. Connor, "Tribes, Festivals and Processions: Civic Ceremonial and Political Manipulation in Archaic Greece," JHS 107, 1987, 40-50, though outside of one reference to Geertz, Connor does not demonstrate a complete awareness of the provenance of his methodology.
(9) 54.1-59.1. In all likelihood Thucydides' digression was the first written account of this event. There is no evidence of an earlier redacted version in spite of Jacoby's (1948) plumping for one in Hellanikos' Atthis. Further, even if the atthidographer did say something about the tyrannicides, all Jacoby can assert is that his version mirrored the popular oral tradition. For an analysis of Thucydides' digression this is as much as saying that there was no other written version of these events and that Hellankos had no influence on Thucydides' account. In writing about the tyrannicides therefore Thucydides was reliant on and responding to the popular oral tradition. For Thucydides' estimation of his Mytilenean contemporary: 1.97.2. As for the far more brief account of the tyrannicides in the Aristotelian Ath. Pol. 18.1-4, it frankly has no bearing on our topic since both Fornara 1968 and Brunnsaker 1970 have more than adequately shown that the Ath. Pol.'s differences with Thucydides are not a reflection of any other popular version. Instead (contra Lang 1954-55) they are an attempt by the author of the Ath. Pol., who is already heavily reliant on Thucydides' digression, to try and "correct" the historian as well as exonerate Hipparchos of any wrong doing, through his own demonstrably erroneous deductions about these events.
(10) Thucydides states these two criticisms explicitly in 1.20.1-2 and then demonstrates the erroneousness of such popular misconceptions about Hipparchos' murder when he returns to the tyrannicides in 6.54.1-59. Illustrating these two specific instances of the inaccuracy of the popular memory of the past is therefore Thucydides' "thesis" in his digression on the tyrannicides. Other scholars, viz. Lang 1954-55, Fitzgerald 1957 and especially Fornara 1968, have enormously confused this issue by claiming for one reason or another that Thucydides' real purpose in the digression is to show how the murder of Hipparchos occurred not on account of any sort of political principle with which the democracy identified, but because of a love affair (the juntuxian ervtixhn: see below). In this way the historian's digression is considered to be both a correction of popular belief - which allegedly did not include anything about a love affair - as well as an implicit criticism of the democracy's veneration of Harmodios and Aristogeiton as civic heroes. However, this interpretation simply ignores Thucydides' explicit criticisms of the popular memory of the tyrannicides in book one, in favor of an allegedly implicit criticism (a questionable methodology), and it wrongly assumes that the personal insult which resulted from the love affair would denegrate the tyrannicides in the eyes of Athenians. In fact, as I will illustrate below, Athenians generally conceived of tyranny as a form of political authority which expressed itself - and in effect demonstrated its illegitimacy - in the form of personal insults suffered at the hands of a despot. Therefore Harmodios and Aristogeiton's motivations for killing the tyrant were as legitimate as any (Cf. V. Rosivach 1988). Moreover, Aeschines, whose forensic speeches are one of the best sources of evidence for popular attitudes and beliefs, praises Harmodios and Aristogeiton for "their chaste and lawful love" (1.142). This sort of reference would have been meaningless if the tyrannicides were not remembered for Hipparchos' sexual aggression which in part precipitated their attack. Furthermore, it is ridiculous to claim that such a popular knowledge of the erotic episode in the tradition was due to Thucydides' account published c. 400. In spite of classicists' veneration of the historian's work, in the fourth century it could not have had that sort of popular impact or appeal. In my opinion the most sound and thorough discussion of the tyrannicide tradition is still Hirsch 1926.
(11)6.56.1.
(12) Thucydides of course does not offer such a straight forward exposition of the tradition, but interrupts the narrative to justify his criticisms of it. Thus in my opinion the tradition is only reflected in 6.54.1-4, 56.1-2, 57.4. It is important to note that the entire explanation of the denouement of the conspiracy should be attributed solely to Thucydides since he explains how, in a most unheroic fashion, Harmodios and Aristogeiton botched their own assassination plans. Since Athenians felt that Hipparchos was the tyrant in 514 they must have believed that the tyranncides killed him in the manner they intended. Thucydides, however, wants to show that the attack was a rash act instead. This is the manner in which Thucydides denegrates the tyrannicides, not by imputing the juntixuan ervtixhn into the tradition as scads of scholars have come to believe.
(13) Cf. A. Andrews, The Greek Tyrants (London 1956); H. Berve, Die Tyrannis bei den Griechen (Munich 1967); Rosivach 1988.
(14) For legislation against tyranny: Andoc. 1.96-98; see M. Ostwald, "The Athenian Legislation against Tyranny and Subversion," TAPA 86 1955, 103-28. For the anti-tyrannical intentions behind ostracism: Ath. Pol. 22.3-6; Philochoros FGrH 328F30. For curses before meetings of the Assembly and Boule see the parody in Ar. Thes. 335-339 and its analysis by P.J. Rhodes, The Athenian Boule (Oxford 1972), 36-37. Curses were also included in the heliastic oath (Dem. 24.149) and according to Andoc. 1.96 were a part of ceremonies in the tribes and individual demes.
(15) For a tyrant's bia: Solon fr. 29, 29b; Thuc. 1.95.1-3; 6.54.3; Andoc. 4.27; Xen. Mem. 1.2.44; Pl. Resp. 569b, Isoc. 8.143; Dem. 10.4. For a tyrant's: Theognis 1181; Soph. Ant. 1056 Anon. Iamb. 13; Eur. Phoen. 549-553; Pl. Resp. 344a; Xen. Hiero 8, 10; Cyr. 1.3.18; Isoc. 12.243. For the tyrant's fyonow: Hdt. 3.80.4-5; Eur. Suppl 444-445; Xen. Hier. 7, 12. For the metaphor of enslavement: Soph. OT 408-410; Eur. Pheon. 520; Herc. 251; Critias TrGF 19 Snell; Xen. Hell. 7.3.8; Dem. 10.4; Lyc. Leoc. 61.
(16) 429-30.
(17) 3.80.5.
(18) Cf. D. Lanza, Il tiranno e il suo pubblico (Torino 1977) and Rosivach 1988.
(19) E.g. Hdt. 1.8-12: Candaules exposure of his wife; 1.61.1: Peisistratos will only have sex with Megacles' daughter ou kata nomon; 5.92: Periander's necrophilia; Isoc. On Nic. 6: Aristodemos of Cumae's sexual predation of women and children; Arist. Pol. 1311a22f. a list of stories of various tyrants' sexual hubris; for more cf. Eur. Suppl. 444-445; Xen. Hier. 7, 12; Arist. Pol.1314b24-45; Alkiphron 2.35.
(20 For the tyrant existing above all laws and legal review: Aeschyl. Prom. 326; Hdt. 3.80.3; Arist. Pol. 1295a20; Soph. Ant. 506-7.
(21) Pol. 1311a5-6.
(22) For discussions of this principle see K.J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality (New York 1978); M. Foucault, The Use of Pleasure (Paris 1984); D. Halperin, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality (New York and London 1990); J. Winker, "Laying Down the Law: The Oversight of Mens' Sexual Behavior in Classical Athens," in Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World (Princeton 1990) 171-210.
(23) Winkler 1990 in particular discusses this fact.
(24) Supra n. 20.
(25) A point well made by D. Cohen, Law, sexuality and society: the enforcement of morals in classical Athens (Cambridge 1991).
(26) Pl. Resp. 1.458b; cf. Xen. Mem. 2.1.1-5; 3.7.1; Hdt. 6.11-14; Pl. Grg. 494c-e. On Athenian sexual conventions and their role in gender determinations see in particular D. Halperin 1990 and J. Winkler 1990 above.
(27) Pl. Symp. 182af. Plato, in fact, compares the complexity (poikilh) of Athenian conventions surrounding male pederasty favorably with other areas of Greece who are less bounded by rules and ritual procedures and, in the eyes of the philosopher, are either culturally corrupt (Ionia) or less civilized (Thessaly).
(28) J. Bremmer, "An Enigmatic Indo-European Rite: Paederasty," Arethusa 13 1980 279-98, tries to read Greek pederasty as an ancient Indo-European heritage. For a discussion of ritualized homosexuality in another cultural context see G. Herdt, Guardians of the Flute (New York 1981).
(29) Cf. the implications of the law against hubris: S.G. Cole, "Greek Sanctions Against Sexual Assault," CP 79 1984, 97-113. In the account of the tyrannicides in the Ath. Pol. 18.1 the tyrant's brother Thettalus even calls Harmodios a malakon.
(30) See Winkler 1990.
(31) Aes. 1.21.
(32) Aes. 1.29; Dem. 45.79.
(33)B. Lavelle, "The Nature of Hipparchos' Insult of Harmodios," AJP 107, 318-31.
(34) G. Sissa, Greek Virginity (Paris 1988), argues that a girl could remain a parthenos and comprimise her virginity only if her sexual deviance was effectively hidden from public knowledge.
(35) Xen. Oec. 7.3f.
(36) For discussion of the social significance of these ceremonies for parthenoi see A. Brelich, Paides e Parthenoi (Rome 1969); C. Calame, Les Choeurs des jeunes filles en Grece archaique (Urbino 1977).
(37) 438-41.
(38) FGrH 328F8; cf. Hesychios s.v. kaneforein; scholion Ar. Ach. 1.242a; Photios s.v. kaneforien.
(39) Plut. Sol. 22.
(40) On the nature of female citizenship in Athens: C. Patterson, "Hai Attikai: The Other Athenians," Helios 13.2, 49-67; N. Lorraux, Children of Athena (Paris 1981).
(41) For the limited public role of Athenian women see J. Gould, "Law, Custom and Myth: Aspects of the Social Position of Women in Classical Athens," JHS 100, 38-59.
(42) [Dem.] 59.113.
(43) 1.182.
(44) For a concise discussion of the different types of symbols and different means of symbolization see T. Sebeok, Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics (Toronto and Buffalo 1994).
(45) J.K. Davies, "Athenian Citizenship: The Descent Group and Its Alternatives," CJ 73 1978, 105-21.
(46) Davies cites all of the relevant evidence for this phenomenon. Suffice it if for purposes of illustration I cite Pericles' very restrictive citizenship law of 451 (see C. Patterson, Pericles' Citizenship Law of 451-0 B.C. (New York 1981) for discussion) and the two diachfhsai, or purging of the citizen rolls, in 445/4 (Philochoros FGrH F119; Plut. Per. 37.4) and 345/4 (Dem. 57.1f.). Cf. Ar. Wasps 715-18 on the severity of the legal statute (grafh jeniaw) designed to punish the illegitimate assumption of citizen privileges.
(47) For a definition of inconicity see U. Eco, "Introduction to a Semiotics of Iconic Signs," VS: Quaderni di Studi Semiotici 2 1972, 1-15. Generally an icon is a sign which evokes other signs through a similarity of form. Thus it is a second order of symbolization totally dependent on the first order symbolic meaning of any given sign or set of signs.
(48) 1972.
(49) 6.57-61. There are even indications in this digression that the Gephyraioi were still not fully integrated into Athenian society in Herodotos' time.
(50) Or in Barthes own words: "The signifier of myth [read icon] presents itself in an ambiguous way: it is at the same time meaning and form, full on one side and empty on the other. As meaning, the signifier already postulates a reading...[it] is already complete, it postulates a kind of knowledge, a past, a memory, a comparative order of facts, ideas, decisions. When it becomes form, the meaning leaves its contengency behind; it empties itself, it becomes impoverished, history evaporates, only the letter remains. There is here a paradoxical permutation in the reading operations, an abnormal regression from meaning to form, from linguistic sign to the mythical signifier." (117).
Perhaps Barthes most famous example of this semiotic process is his analysis of the picture of the French negro soldier saluting what Barthes assumed was the tricolour on the cover of Paris-Match. In this image Barthes saw not only a representation of military allegiance to country but the symbolization of the French imperiality through the form of the image. In other words the relation between flag and saluting soldier evoked that between the empire and those over which it exercised its dominion. Accordingly the form or icon of a willing African soldier saluting the colonial power's flag legitimized an order which was based on historical conquest and continued political oppression.
I am therefore arguing that in the narrative text of the tyrannicide tradition possessed the same function as the visual text of the cover of Paris-Match. Its representations on one level of symbolization were given meaning by a set of significant discourses within the democracy. Yet on another level the form of these representations, i.e. the relationships it figured, connoted the ongoing, highly charged discourse on the boundaries of the democratic polis, which in this instance manifested itself in popular historical tradition, but also can be witnessed (passim Davies 1977) in Athenian literature and law.
(51) Herodotos' digression about the foreign origins of Gephyraioi illustrates one more feature of the sign observed by people such as Derrida (Of Grammatology 1974). That is that the meaning of the sign always changes according to context and function: it slips from one set of either denotative or connotative set of meanings to another as it is read in the context of different congregations of signs. In this manner the clan history of Harmodios and Aristogeiton problematizes the ideology of Athenina autochthony and ethnic purity on which the exclusiveness of the citizen community was built since the two men could in another semiotic context (i.e. the Histories of Herodotos) stand for an undeniably foreign element within the boundaries of Attica and the citizenbody of the democratic state. Therefore the emancipatory power of such an analysis lies in the fact that such signs can ultimately deconstruct any and all ideologies which appropriate them for their own end.


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