Tyranny: Wikis

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In modern usage, the word "tyrant" carries connotations of a harsh and cruel ruler who places his or her own interests or the interests of a small oligarchy over the best interests of the general population, which the tyrant governs or controls. Many individual rulers or government officials are accused of tyranny, with the label almost always a matter of controversy.

The word derives from Latin tyrannus, meaning "illegitimate ruler", and this in turn from the Greek τύραννος, týrannos, meaning "sovereign, master",[1] although the latter was not pejorative and applicable to both good and bad leaders alike.

In classical politics, a tyrant is one who has taken power by his or her own means as opposed to hereditary or constitutional power. This mode of rule is referred to as tyranny.

Contents

Historical forms

In ancient Greece, tyrants were influential opportunists that came to power by securing the support of different factions of a deme. The word "tyrannos" then carried no ethical censure; it simply referred to anyone, good or bad, who obtained executive power in a polis by unconventional means. Support for the tyrants came from the growing middle class and from the peasants who had no land or were in debt to the wealthy land owners. It is true that they had no legal right to rule, but the people preferred them over kings or the aristocracy. The Greek tyrants stayed in power by using mercenary soldiers from outside of their respective city-state.

Cypselus, the first tyrant of Corinth in the 7th century BC, managed to bequeath his position to his son, Periander. Tyrants seldom succeeded in establishing an untroubled line of succession. In Athens, the inhabitants first gave the title to Peisistratus in 560 BC, followed by his sons, and with the subsequent growth of Athenian democracy, the title "tyrant" took on its familiar negative connotations. The murder of the tyrant Hipparchus by Aristogeiton and Harmodios in Athens in 514 BC marked the beginning of the so-called "cult of the tyrannicides" (i.e., of killers of tyrants). Contempt for tyranny characterised this cult movement. The attitude became especially prevalent in Athens after 508 BC, when Cleisthenes reformed the political system so that it resembled demokratia (ancient participant democracy as opposed to the modern representative democracy).

The Thirty Tyrants whom the Spartans imposed on a defeated Attica in 404 BC wouldn't be classified as tyrants in the usual sense.

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Aesymnetes

An aesymnetes (pl. aesymnetai) had similar scope of power to the tyrant, such as Pittacus of Mytilene (c. 640-568 BC), and was elected for life or for a specified period by a city-state in a time of crisis—the only difference being that the aesymnetes was a constitutional office and was comparable to the Roman dictator. Magistrates in some city-states were also called aesymnetai.

Archaic tyrants

The heyday of the Archaic period tyrants came in the early 6th century BC, when Cleisthenes ruled Sicyon in the Peloponnesus and Polycrates ruled Samos. During this time, revolts overthrew many governments in the Aegean world. Simultaneously Persia first started making inroads into Greece, and many tyrants sought Persian help against forces seeking to remove them.

Populism

Greek tyranny in the main grew out of the struggle of the popular classes against the aristocracy or against priest-kings where archaic traditions and mythology sanctioned hereditary and/or traditional rights to rule. Popular coups generally installed tyrants, who often became or remained popular rulers, at least in the early part of their reigns. For instance, the popular imagination remembered Peisistratus for an episode - related by (pseudonymous) Aristotle, but possibly fictional - in which he exempted a farmer from taxation because of the particular barrenness of his plot. Peisistratus' sons Hippias and Hipparchus, on the other hand, were not such able rulers, and when the disaffected aristocrats Harmodios and Aristogeiton slew Hipparchus, Hippias' rule quickly became oppressive, resulting in the expulsion of the Peisistratids in 510 BC.

Sicilian tyrants

The tyrannies of Sicily came about due to similar causes, but here the threat of Carthaginian attack prolonged tyranny, facilitating the rise of military leaders with the people united behind them. Such Sicilian tyrants as Gelo, Hiero I, Hiero II, Dionysius the Elder, Dionysius the Younger, and Agathocles maintained lavish courts and became patrons of culture.

Roman tyrants

Roman historians like Suetonius, Tacitus, Plutarch, and Josephus often spoke of "tyranny" in opposition to "liberty". Tyranny was associated with imperial rule and those rulers who usurped too much authority from the Roman Senate. Those who were advocates of "liberty" tended to be pro-Republic and pro-Senate. For instance, regarding Julius Caesar and his assassins, Suetonius wrote:

Therefore the plots which had previously been formed separately, often by groups of two or three, were united in a general conspiracy, since even the populace no longer were pleased with present conditions, but both secretly and openly rebelled at his tyranny and cried out for defenders of their liberty.[2]

Niccolò Machiavelli, building on this opposition, conflates all rule by a single person (whom he generally refers to as a "prince") with "tyranny," regardless of the legitimacy of that rule, in his Discourses on Livy. He also identifies liberty with republican regimes; whether he would include so-called "crowned republics" (such as modern constitutional monarchies) is somewhat unclear from the text.

Philistine "Seren"

The term "Seren", frequently appearing in the Bible as the title of the rulers of the five Philistine city-states, is considered by some historians to be derived from or related to the Greek "tyrannos". In contemporary Israel, this is used as a military rank.

In the arts

Ancient Greeks, as well as the Roman Republicans, became generally quite wary of anyone seeking to implement a popular coup. Shakespeare portrays the struggle of one such anti-tyrannical Roman, Marcus Junius Brutus, in his play Julius Caesar.

Modern forms

There are a number of rulers who loosely fit the definition of tyrant described above, a harsh and cruel ruler who places his or her own interests or the interests of a small oligarchy over the best interests of the general population. Robert Mugabe’s [3] harsh reaction to the rising tide of opposition in Zimbabwe or Alexander Lukashenko’s[4] treatment of Poles living in Belarus and his generalized lack of tolerance toward opposition make both leaders tyrants at particular points of time during their tenure, according to definition given here.

See also

References

  1. ^ tyrant, Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition; Eric Partridge in Origins suggests a variety of anterior etymologies in Indo-European and other languages
  2. ^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Julius Caesar 80
  3. ^ Kirchick, James (2007, 30 Sept). Mugabe: A Tyrant from the Start. LA Times
  4. ^ Hitchens, Peter (2008, 19 July). The comb-over Soviet-style tyrant who could soon be one of the West's favourite allies. Daily Mail UK

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Tyranny is a despotic or autocratic form of government, in which the exercise of power is concentrated in one individual without being impeded by constitutional safeguards. Its modern form is dictatorship.

Sourced

  • All hereditary government is in its nature tyranny. An heritable crown, or an heritable throne, or by what other fanciful name such things may be called, have no other significant explanation than that mankind are heritable property. To inherit a government, is to inherit the people, as if they were flocks and herds.
    • Thomas Paine The Rights of Man (1791), pt. 2; cited from The Political Writings of Thomas Paine (Charlestown: George Davidson, 1824) vol. 2, p. 166.
  • As soon as the prince sets himself up above law, he loses the king in the tyrant. He does, to all intents and purposes, unking himself by acting out of and beyond that sphere which the constitution allows him to move in; and in such cases he has no more right to be obeyed than any inferior officer who acts beyond his commission.
    • Jonathan Mayhew A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers (1750); cited from John Wingate Thornton (ed.) The Pulpit of the American Revolution (New York: Sheldon, 1860) pp. 94-5.
  • Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.
  • Britannia fertilis provincia tyrannorum.
    • Britain, a province fertile in tyrants.
    • St. Jerome, Epistola 133.9; translation from Arthur Wade-Evans The Emergence of England and Wales (Cambridge: W. Heffer, 1959) p. 119.
  • Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.
  • Est ergo tyranni et principis hæc differentia sola, quod hic legi obtemperat, et ejus arbitrio populum regit, cujus se credit ministrum.
    • Between a tyrant and a prince there is this single or chief difference, that the latter obeys the law and rules the people by its dictates, accounting himself as but their servant.
    • John of Salisbury Policraticus Bk. 4, ch. 1.; John Dickinson (trans.) The Statesman's Book of John of Salisbury [1]
  • Even despotism does not produce its worst effects, so long as Individuality exists under it; and whatever crushes individuality, is despotism, by whatever name it may be called, and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.
  • I consider that in no government power can be abused long. Mankind will not bear it. If a sovereign oppresses his people to a great degree, they will rise and cut off his head. There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny, that will keep us safe under every form of government.
  • La tyrannie est toujours mieux organisée que la liberté.
    • Tyranny is always better organized than freedom.
    • Charles Péguy Œuvres en prose: 1909-1914 (Paris: Gallimard, 1959) p. 1018; Ann and Julian Green (trans.) Basic Verities, Prose and Poetry (New York: Pantheon, 1943) p. 153.
  • Les despotes eux-mêmes ne nient pas que la liberté ne soit excellente; seulement ils ne la veulent que pour eux-mêmes, et ils soutiennent que tous les autres en sont tout à fait indignes.
    • Despots themselves don't deny that freedom is a wonderful thing, they only want to limit it to themselves; they argue that everyone else is unworthy of it.
    • Alexis de Tocqueville L'Ancien régime et la révolution (Paris: Michel L évy Frères, [1856] 1859) p. 21; François Furet and Françoise Mélonio (eds.), Alan S. Kahan (trans.) The Old Regime and the Revolution vol. 1, p. 88.
  • Nature has left this tincture in the blood,
    That all men wou'd be tyrants if they cou'd.
    • Daniel Defoe The History of the Kentish Petition, Addenda, line 11; cited from The Shortest Way with Dissenters, and Other Pamphlets (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974) p. 100.
  • Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    • Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Creighton, dated April 3, 1887; cited from David Mathew Acton: The Formative Years (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1946) p. 185.
    • Usually misquoted as "All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
  • Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.
    • From an anonymous tribute to John Bradshaw, current in America by 1773; cited from Charles Symmons The Life of John Milton (London: Whittaker, [1806] 1822) p. 229.
    • Sometimes wrongly said to be inscribed on Bradshaw's gravestone.
  • The fundamental article of my political creed is, that despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratical council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor; equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody, and in every respect diabolical.
  • The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.
    • Wole Soyinka The Man Died (New York: Harper & Row, 1972) p. 13
  • 'Tis time to fear, when tyrants seem to kiss.
  • Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends tyranny begins!

External links

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
(Redirected to Street Cries/Tyranny article)

From Wikisource

Street Cries
IV. Tyranny

by Sidney Lanier
This is the fourth poem of Lanier’s collection Street Cries. Lanier composed this poem in Prattville, Alabama, in 1868.

      “Spring-germs, spring-germs,
I charge you by your life, go back to death.
This glebe is sick, this wind is foul of breath.
      Stay: feed the worms.

      “Oh! every clod
Is faint, and falters from the war of growth
And crumbles in a dreary dust of sloth,
      Unploughed, untrod.

      “What need, what need,
To hide with flowers the curse upon the hills,
Or sanctify the banks of sluggish rills
      Where vapors breed?

      “And—if needs must—
Advance, O Summer-heats! upon the land,
And bake the bloody mould to shards and sand
      And dust.

      “Before your birth,
Burn up, O Roses! with your dainty flame.
Good Violets, sweet Violets, hide shame
      Below the earth.

      “Ye silent Mills,
Reject the bitter kindness of the moss.
O Farms! protest if any tree emboss
      The barren hills.

      “Young Trade is dead,
And swart Work sullen sits in the hillside fern
And folds his arms that find no bread to earn,
      And bows his head.

      “Spring-germs, spring-germs,
Albeit the towns have left you place to play,
I charge you, sport not. Winter owns to-day,
      Stay: feed the worms.”


Simple English

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