Hippias

Hippias (Greek: Ἱππίας): tyrant of Athens (r.528/527-510 BCE).

The temple of Zeus (finished in the Roman age); in the distance the Acropolis.

Hippias was the eldest son of Pisistratus, the first tyrant of Athens, whom he succeeded in 528/527. The Pisistratid tyranny was generally considered to have been quite moderatenote and Hippias even appears to have recalled - or reconciled himself with - the exiled family of the Alcmeonids. One of then, Cleisthenes, was archon in 525/524.

Like all tyrants, Hippias tried to present his power and unite the city by means of large building projects. The west side of the agora was remodelled and a beginning was made with the temple of Zeus Olympius (which would not be completed until the Roman period). Unlike his father, Hippias was interested in the Acropolis: the temple of Athena Polias (the predecessor of the Parthenon) was renovated, propylees were added, and to the south, a temple was dedicated to Dionysus Eleuthereus. Other building projects are known from Eleusis, Piraeus, and Thorikos.

In 514, Harmodius and Aristogeiton (the “tyrannicides”) assassinated Hippias' brother Hipparchus.note Hippias' response was merciless: many people were sent into exile or killed.note Cleisthenes, exiled again,note bribed the Pythian priestess of Delphi to tell the Spartans that they ought to help the Athenians liberate themselves.note

The Spartans obeyed. After a failed first operation,note the Spartan king Cleomenes I besieged Hippias on the Acropolis, expelled the tyrant, and handed over power to the Athenian magistrates (511/510 BCE).note This was the beginning of the Athenian democracy.

The Thessalians offered him the city of Iolkos and the Macedonians offered him Anthemus,note but Hippias settled in Sigeum at the entrance of the Hellespont. Trying to find support, he visited Sparta,note and eventually went to Sardes and Susa, where he asked help from the king of Persia, Darius I the Great.note Indeed, the Persians tried to bring him back, but their expeditionary force was defeated at Marathon (490 BCE).note Hippias must have died soon after.

This page was created in 2018; last modified on 2 December 2018.