As the early Greek states made the transition from aristocracy to democracy, a number of states were ruled by tyrants – individuals who seized and wielded power. However, the Greek word for tyrant simply means ‘sole ruler’; often the tyrants arose as people’s champions, who stood up for their rights against the aristocracy. The tyrant’s rule was unconstitutional, and so they had to justify their power, usually by providing more efficient government than traditional rulers. Trade and commerce often benefited, and many tyrants embarked on large-scale building projects. One of the earliest tyrants was Kypselidai of Corinth, who drove out the members of the ruling aristocratic clan by 657 BCE. Corinth prospered under his rule, consolidating its economic power and creating colonies. However, succession in most tyrannies was not secure, and often the death of a tyrant ushered in a period of conflict.
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