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Periander

(c. 627—587 bc)


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Tyrant of Corinth c.627–587 bc, after his father Cypselus; he was for many the typical oppressive tyrant; see tyranny. Advice that he should eliminate rivals is said by Herodotus to have been given to Periander by Thrasybulus of Miletus, who walked silently through a field of corn lopping off ears that were taller than the rest. Unlike his father, Periander recruited a bodyguard; he sent 300 Corcyraean boys to Lydia for castration as punishment when Corcyraeans killed his son (see corcyra); he himself killed his wife Melissa, made love to her corpse and took the fine clothes off Corinthian women to burn for her spirit. There was also, however, a more favourable tradition: he was in many lists of the seven sages. The burning of clothes probably reflects a more general attack on luxury, and restrictions on slave ownership may have been similar; his measures against idleness are a misinterpreted memory of the labour which his extensive building programme required: among other things, he constructed the diolkos, and levied dues upon the use of it. If Cypselus had not brought Corcyra under control after the Bacchiads fled there, Periander did, and installed his son as tyrant; this is the context of the joint Corinthian/Corcyraean foundations of Apollonia in Illyria and Epidamnus. He founded Potidaea, the only Corinthian colony in the Aegean. He had a warlike reputation; probably his activity in particular lay behind Thucydides 2's account of early naval affairs, which attributes more or less the naval practices of his own day, including suppression of piracy, to Corinth. He attacked Epidaurus and captured its tyrant, his own father‐in‐law. He arbitrated between Athens and Mytilene in their dispute over Sigeum. He advised Thrasybulus 1 during his successful resistance to the Lydian siege of Miletus. On his death, the tyranny passed to his nephew Cypselus, who was soon killed.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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