With increased wealth and more complicated trade relations and social structures, Greek city-states tended to overthrow their traditional hereditary priest-kings; Corinth, the richest archaic polis, led the way. Like the 15th century condottieri of central Italy, the tyrants usually seized power at the head of some popular support. Often they upheld existing laws and customs and were highly conservative as to cult practices, thus maintaining stability with little risk to their own personal security. As in Renaissance Italy, a cult of personality naturally substituted for the divine right of the legitimate royal house.
After the last traditional king of Corinth, Telestes, was assassinated by Arieus and Perantas, there were no more kings; instead prytanes taken from the former royal house of the Bacchidae ruled for a single year each. Cypselus, the son of Eëtion and a disfigured woman named Labda, who was a member of the Bacchiad family, the ruling dynasty, usurped the power in archaic matriarchal right of his mother, became tyrant and expelled the Bacchidae.
According to Herodotus the Bacchiadae heard two prophecies from the Delphic oracle that the son of Eëtion would overthrow their dynasty, and they planned to kill the baby once it was born. However, Herodotus says that the newborn smiled at each of the men sent to kill it, and none of them could go through with the plan. An etiological myth-element, to account for the name Cypselus (cypsele, κυψέλη, "chest") accounted how Labda then hid the baby in a chest, and when the men had composed themselves and returned to kill it, they could not find it. (Compare the infancy of Perseus.) The ivory chest of Cypselus, adorned with gold, was a votive offering at Olympia, where Pausanias gave it a minute description in his 2nd century AD travel guide (Pausanias, 5.18.7).
When Cypselus had grown up, he fulfilled the prophecy. Corinth had been involved in wars with Argos and Corcyra and the Corinthians were unhappy with their rulers. At the time, around 657 BC, Cypselus was polemarch, the archon in charge of the military, and he used his influence with the soldiery to expel the king. He also expelled his other enemies, but allowed them to set up colonies in northwestern Greece. He also increased trade with the colonies in Italy and Sicily. He was a popular ruler, and unlike many later tyrants, he did not need a bodyguard and died a natural death.
He ruled for thirty years and was succeeded as tyrant by his son Periander in 627 BC. The treasury Cypselus built at Delphi was apparently still standing in the time of Herodotus.
Sisyphus had other sons besides Glaucus, the father of Bellerophontes a second was Ornytion, and besides him there were Thersander and Almus. Ornytion had a son Phocus, reputed to have been begotten by Poseidon. He migrated to Tithorea in what is now called Phocis, but Thoas, the younger son of Ornytion, remained behind at Corinth. Thoas begat Damophon, Damophon begat Propodas, and Propodas begat Doridas and Hyanthidas. While these were kings the Dorians took the field against Corinth, their leader being Aletes, the son of Hippotas, the son of Phylas, the son of Antiochus, the son of Heracles. So Doridas and Hyanthidas gave up the kingship to Aletes and remained at Corinth, but the Corinthian people were conquered in battle and expelled by the Dorians.
Aletes himself and his descendants reigned for five generations to Bacchis, the son of Prumnis, and, named after him, the Bacchidae reigned for five more generations to Telestes, the son of Aristodemus. Telestes was killed in hate by Arieus and Perantas, and there were no more kings, but Prytanes (Presidents) taken from the Bacchidae and ruling for one year, until Cypselus, the son of Eetion, became tyrant and expelled the Bacchidae. Cypselus was a descendant of Melas, the son of Antasus. Melas from Gonussa above Sicyon joined the Dorians in the expedition against Corinth. When the god expressed disapproval Aletes at first ordered Melas to withdraw to other Greeks, but afterwards, mistaking the oracle, he received him as a settler. Such I found to be the history of the Corinthian kings.
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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