Thirty Tyrants

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Thirty Tyrants,

oligarchy of ancient Athens (404–403 B.C.). It was created by LysanderLysander
, d. 395 B.C., Spartan naval commander and statesman. Toward the end of the Peloponnesian War he was made admiral and built up the Spartan fleet so that it defeated (407 B.C.) the Athenians off Notium. Later he was responsible for the capture (405 B.C.
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 under Spartan auspices after the Peloponnesian War. CritiasCritias
, c.460–403 B.C., Athenian political leader and writer. A relative of Plato, he was an aristocrat and had early training in philosophy with Socrates and wrote poems and tragedies.
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 and TheramenesTheramenes
, c.455–404? B.C., Athenian statesman. He helped to establish (411 B.C.) the oligarchical Four Hundred but was later active in overthrowing them. He fought in the Peloponnesian War, notably in the battle of Cyzicus (now in Turkey) and in the capture of Byzantium.
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 were prominent members. It was overthrown at Piraeus (now Piraiévs) by ThrasybulusThrasybulus
, d. c.389 B.C., Athenian statesman. A strong supporter of the democratic and anti-Spartan party, he successfully opposed (411 B.C.) the oligarchical Four Hundred and later had Alcibiades recalled.
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Thirty Tyrants


an oligarchical board consisting of 30 members who held power in Athens from April to December 404 B.C. The Thirty Tyrants were elected by the Assembly under pressure from Sparta after the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 B.C.). Led by Critias, they were implacable foes of democracy. They limited citizenship with full rights, which they based on stringent property qualifications, to 3,000 Athenians, none of whom, however, was ever called to sit in the Assembly. They also condemned at least 1,500 persons to death and confiscated their property. A revolt against the Thirty Tyrants was instigated at Piraeus, the harbor of Athens, by returning exiled democrats under Thrasybulus. Critias was killed, and his supporters fled from Athens. The city then reestablished democracy.

References in classic literature ?
From his brother Lysias we learn that he fell a victim to the Thirty Tyrants, but no allusion is here made to his fate, nor to the circumstance that Cephalus and his family were of Syracusan origin, and had migrated from Thurii to Athens.
Four Hundred" and "Thirty Tyrants" for the reforms in 411
Working from Plato's seminal text on shame, the Gorgias, Tarnopolsky follows the winding path of Socrates' elenchus through the dialogue, as the argument progresses down a devolving path that parallels the devolving quality of interlocutor--from the good-natured, well-intended rhetorician Gorgias, to his brazen student Polus, to the intimidating Callicles, one of the Thirty Tyrants, puppets of Sparta who shamed their city, a champion of freedom, by victimizing foreigners and citizens.
Phillips concludes by analyzing changes in homicide laws under the Thirty Tyrants and information unearthed from Lysias about playing by the rules and dealing with cyclical vengeance.
He also had been closely associated with some highly controversial figures, among them Critias, who had been executed for crimes committed when he was one of the thirty tyrants, and Alcibiades, who was thought to have been involved in a set of sacrilegious acts just before the Athenians sent their ill-fated expedition off to Sicily.
Socrates was determined to do what he thought right, even if that meant disagreeing with the majority of people, or indeed obeying orders given to him by the regime of the Thirty Tyrants. But he was not a conscientious objector in the modern fashion; he was willing to fight in defense of his city and served as a hoplite in the first phase of the Peloponnesian War.
The result was civil strife, defeat by the Spartans, and replacement of the discredited democracy by rule of the so-called Thirty Tyrants. The depressing story is spelled out with unmatched brilliance in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian Wars.
He does, however, quote Montaigne: 'To the men who told Socrates, "The thirty tyrants have condemned you to death", he replied, "And nature, them"', which provides a pertinent comment on Donne's poem.
Therefore also the stand on the Pnyx, which had stood so as to look off towards the sea, was afterwards turned by the Thirty Tyrants so as to look inland, because they thought that maritime empire was the mother of democracy, and that oligarchy was less distasteful to tillers of the soil (Them.
Thucydides reports that not only hoplites but also 'many of the people in Piraeus climbed up the wall and began to tear it down'.(19) More frequently remembered was the support which metics, foreigners, and slaves offered when the Thirty Tyrants were overthrown in 404/3.
Again, in his account of the law courts after the restoration of the Athenian democracy following the fall of the Thirty Tyrants in 403 B.C., Mitford fervently castigates the necessity of persuasive oratory in order to ensure success, at the same time lamenting that 'no salutary influence of the wiser few could easily effect the mass'.
He was capable of passionate oratory, as exemplified in his own most famous speech, "Against Eratosthenes," denouncing one of the Thirty Tyrants for his part in the reign of terror that followed the collapse of Athens in 404.