The violence of the Thirty Tyrants

Andrew Wolpert

in Ancient Tyranny

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780748621255
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651047 | DOI:
The violence of the Thirty Tyrants

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The Thirty Tyrants carried out a systematic campaign of political murder unparalleled in the history of classical Athens. Although it may not be surprising that the oligarchs remained in power for such a brief period of time, it is difficult to understand how the Thirty thought that they could maintain their grip on Athens through such means. What led the Thirty onto a path of violence until they eventually set out against Eleusis to execute as many of its inhabitants as they could apprehend? What did the Thirty hope to accomplish from such despotism? Violence was a necessary and integral part of their rule that was inevitable once the Thirty plotted to overthrow the democracy and replace it with a narrow oligarchy. This chapter argues that violence was not, as the sources suggest, merely opportunism or villainy, but a necessary strategy in allowing the regime to seize and hold power, breaking the will of the people to resist, but also containing the seeds of its own downfall.

Keywords: Thirty Tyrants; Athens; violence; political murder; oligarchy; democracy; Eleusis; despotism

Chapter.  4716 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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