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Periander (ruled 627-587): famous tyrant of Corinth.

Periander of Corinth
Periander of Corinth

In the course of the late seventh and sixth century, when Greece was experiencing rapid social and political changes, many Greek towns were ruled by tyrants or sole rulers. Often, these men were aristocrats who had usurped extra powers, sometimes relying on a group of wealthy nouveaux riches. Although the word "tyrant" sounds very negative to us, this was not the case in ancient Greece.

The tyrant of Corinth, Periander, was a respected man and was reckoned among the Seven sages. His rule started in 627 BCE, lasted forty years, and saw a great economic boom. He appointed his son Lycophron as tyrant of Corcyra, which became an important trade partner. He also built the diolkos (portage) across the Isthmus and allied his town to the rich city of Miletus. He was the patron of several artists, e.g. the poet Arion.

Unfortunately, he survived his children, except for Lycophron. When he asked him to become his successor, the Corcyrans killed Lycophron. Periander retaliated by sending the sons of the Corcyrans to Lydia, where they became eunuchs at the court of king Alyattes.


A biography was included in the Lives of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius (here).

This page was created in 2005; last modified on 24 June 2018.