Theognis of Megara - floruit 544

manuscript tradition for his poetry - other poets incorporated

poetry addressed to Kyrnos, complaints about decline of the aristocracy


The Causes of Tyranny


Military – Pheidon of Argos

The Hoplite Revolution – (Chigi Vase – hoplites in formation)

New Tactics - Phalanx: line of warriors about 8 men deep

New Technology - Argive Shield, Corinthian Helmet

Argive defeat of the Spartans at Battle of Hysiai in 669

Pheidon helps Pisa preside over Olympics in 668


The Poetry of Tyrtaeus (fl. 660-630?) and Hoplite Ideals


Ethnic – Cleisthenes of Sicyon

The Return of the Heraclids and the Dorian Invasion



– traditional Dorian tribes:  Dymanes, Hylleis, and Pamphyloi

– non-Dorian tribe:  Aigialeis

– Cleisthenes’ tribes: Pigs, Donkeys, Swine, Archelaoi (Rulers of the People)


Heroes:  Adrastus vs. Melanippus

1st Sacred War – Sicyon, Thessaly, Athens against Crisa


Economic – Cypselus of Corinth

Aristocratic clan of the Bacchiads

Corinth and trade dominance – colonies and trade routes



PanHellenic Sanctuaries and Festivals

Olympia - the Olympic Festival (776 BCE)

Delphi - the Pythian Festival (582 BCE)

Corinth - the Isthmian Festival (581 BCE)

Nemea - the Nemean Festival (573 BCE)


Tales of Tyrants

Tales of Rise and Fall: olbos - koros - hubris - nemesis







The Ring of Gyges

(Plato, Republic 359d-360e)


            But as for the second point, that those who practice it do so unwillingly and from want of power to commit injustice, we shall be most likely to apprehend that if we entertain some such supposition as this in thought--if we grant to both the just and the unjust license and power to do whatever they please, and then accompany them in imagination and see whither desire will conduct them. We should then catch the just man in the very act of resorting to the same conduct as the unjust man because of the self-advantage which every creature by its nature pursues as a good, while by the convention of law it is forcibly diverted to paying honor to 'equality.' The license that I mean would be most nearly such as would result from supposing them to have the power which men say once came to the ancestor of Gyges the Lydian. They relate that he was a shepherd in the service of the ruler at that time of Lydia, and that after a great deluge of rain and an earthquake the ground opened and a chasm appeared in the place where he was pasturing, and they say that he saw and wondered and went down into the chasm. And the story goes that he beheld other marvels there and a hollow bronze horse with little doors, and that he peeped in and saw a corpse within, as it seemed, of more than mortal stature, and that there was nothing else but a gold ring on its hand, which he took off, and so went forth. And when the shepherds held their customary assembly to make their monthly report to the king about the flocks, he also attended, wearing the ring. So as he sat there it chanced that he turned the collet of the ring toward himself, toward the inner part of his hand, and when this took place they say that he became invisible to those who sat by him and they spoke of him as absent, and that he was amazed, and again fumbling with the ring turned the collet outward and so became visible. On noting this he experimented with the ring to see if it possessed this virtue, and he found the result to be that when he turned the collet inward he became invisible, and when outward visible, and becoming aware of this, he immediately managed things so that he became one of the messengers who went up to the king, and on coming there he seduced the king's wife and with her aid set upon the king and slew him and possessed his kingdom.

            If now there should be two such rings, and the just man should put on one and the unjust the other, no one could be found, it would seem, of such adamantine temper as to persevere in justice and endure to refrain his hands from the possessions of others and not touch them, though he might with impunity take what he wished even from the market place, and enter into houses and lie with whom he pleased, and slay and loose from bonds whomsoever he would, and in all other things conduct himself among mankind as the equal of a god. And in so acting he would do no differently from the other man, but both would pursue the same course. And yet this is a great proof, one might argue, that no one is just of his own will but only from constraint, in the belief that justice is not his personal good, inasmuch as every man, when he supposes himself to have the power to do wrong, does wrong. For that there is far more profit for him personally in injustice than in justice is what every man believes, and believes truly, as the proponent of this theory will maintain. For if anyone who had got such a license within his grasp should refuse to do any wrong or lay his hands on others' possessions, he would be regarded as most pitiable and a great fool by all who took note of it, though they would praise him before one another's faces, deceiving one another because of their fear of suffering injustice. So much for this point.



For Next Week:


Buckley ch. 4

Fornara # 12 (Tyrtaeus), 13 (Helots), 27 (Tegea)

Herodotus VI.50-84

Xenophon, the Politeia of the Spartans

Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus



How did Sparta resolve the problems that other states solved with colonization or tyranny?

What problems did Sparta's solutions produce?

What are the sources for understanding ancient Sparta?  What are their strengths and weaknesses?

What are the differences between Plutarch's account of the Spartan great Rhetra and the evidence he cites from Tyrtaeus?  How do the different branches of government balance one another?

What role did women play in the Spartan community?  How do various sources describe the impact of women's roles in Spartan society?