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Polycrates(pōlĭk`rətēz), d. c.522 B.C., tyrant of Samos. He established Samian naval supremacy in the Aegean Sea and tried to control the archipelago and mainland towns of Ionia. He dominated the E Aegean, capturing the island of Rhenea (now Rinía) and defeating the Lesbians, who had gone to the aid of Miletus. His tyranny drove the philosopher Pythagoras from Samos. He sent (c.525) 40 ships manned by his main political opponents from Samos to aid the Persian king Cambyses against the Egyptians, but the crews revolted and, with Spartan aid, unsuccessfully warred against Polycrates. Oroetes, Persian satrap of Sardes, lured him to the mainland and crucified him. He did much to aid industry, increase commerce, and encourage the arts.
Date of birth unknown; died circa 523 or 522 B.C. Ancient Greek tyrant of the island of Samos from circa 540.
During Polycrates’ reign, the polis of Samos became unified. As the owner of a bronze workshop, Polycrates pursued external and internal policies in the interests of the merchant and craftsman strata of the population. He initiated the minting of coins by the government and large-scale construction projects. He created a merchant marine fleet and a land army, fought with the cities of Asia Minor and the islands of the Aegean Sea over trade routes, and concluded treaties with Athens, Naxos, and Cyrenaica. The policies of Polycrates met with active resistance from the clan aristocracy, who joined with Sparta and Corinth to mount a rebellion against him. Polycrates was killed by order of the Achaemenids, who feared the increased strength of Samos.