Peisistratus of Athens (rules 546-27 BCE)

(from list of weekly goals)

3. Film. I’ve spent all my time for watching films instead reading Greek history. My parents are fed up with the book, because I leave it in the kitchen, and my father began reading it and said it was intensely boring, he said he read one page three times and still didn’t know what it was about, and asked if I did, and dared me to tell him, and it was about the construction of Odysseus’s house, everything from the dung pile to the unusually large central room with a space circling the ceiling for the smoke to leave. They’ve been removing it from the kitchen. But I’m making decent progress, and I’ve found a character that I find fascinating, and he also happens to be one of our Occidental villains, because he’s the tyrant who overthrew Solon’s democratic reforms. Now, I’ve read Plutarch’s chapter on Lycurgus, which may be the source of utopic fantasies of Sparta–but the truth is, even reading Durant’s negative depiction of Sparta, I’m still impressed, because as cruel and isolated as the place was, it sounds like a society filled with contented people, but then, I’ve never thought individuality was very wonderful to begin with, it’d be nice to just be normal and happy, and I can’t recall what Huxley’s people in ‘Island’ were like. But a society based on strength and beauty, that sounds to me ideal. Whatever. I can’t escape the creature I was born as. Anyway, the point is, democratic Athens birthed all that culture, but it’s celebrated over Sparta in the same way that we celebrate the English over the Spanish, in the same way that we celebrate the Greeks over the Trojans, all three examples that make me quite uncomfortable. So, Solon is celebrated over Peisistratus, the bringer of democracy over the tyrant. Tyrant? Or, rather, the executor of Solon’s reforms? The democracy could not persist beyond Solon because he embodied it in the same way that George Washington himself represented the United States, and beyond his death the country may have disbanded except for the creation of Washington DC as an idol of sorts, complete with its radiating spokes, its avenues, reminiscent of Louis XIV or the legend of Samson. And, the fact is that the tyranny of Peisistratus in some ways concluded as a republic because the people loved him, and I think there’s further evidence of this by virtue of their ousting his son from power after not agreeing with his method of rule, that is, they were uncomfortable with a monarchy once it became apparent that’s what it was. And as Peisistratus left the state essentially in order with Solon’s laws, including the divisions of power. Through him, arts flourished, such as the setting down of ‘Homer’s’ works as we now know them, and the basis for theatre as an art form. The state flourished, the lower classes grew wealthier and the upper classes retained their wealth–it was ideal, and it’s no wonder that Plato preaches against democracy. While Peisistratus gained his power by fairly indecent means, faking an attempt on his life in order to secure himself a bodyguard of 50, that he builds to 400, and then overthrows the government, his wisdom and what seems to be a dedication to securing the happiness of his people, proves that perhaps the route to democracy is impossible in only an instant, that it takes a generation acclimated to the ideas, and then a generation forcefully held to them by a system of both rewards and punishments, through dictatorship, before it can take root in a culture. And perhaps that goes for anything, as we see in Russia, where communism was fact for probably thousands of years before the revolution took place, and so a few years of democracy are difficult to swallow. But I know nothing of Russia. Well, okay, I know nothing of anything, actually.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: