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Defining a Tyrant

The definition of a Tyrant has, for the vast majority of recorded history, has been a term of negative connotation, and this is due to the initial defining that took place from Ancient Greece.  From modern day articles posted on the internet, to the Athenian Constitution written over 3 thousand years ago, we see a seemingly universal approach and understanding of what a tyrant is, and what negative side effect come with this type of leadership.  However, by the original use of the term, it was used to just describe a ruler who gained a position of absolute authority without the say of the people.  So how did we get to the current situation regarding the term tyrant?

Looking back to some of the earliest writing available for study, we can see the term tyrant used in the Athenian Constitution.  In the very first few section we get a description of this man, Solon, who accomplished a ton of work for Athens.  At the end of his hard work, they make this very peculiar comment, “A man who was so moderate and public-spirited in all his other actions, that when it was within his power to put his fellow-citizens beneath his feet and establish himself as tyrant…”1.  What is most fascinating is the clear and intentional painting of just how negative it would have been for this person, Solon, to assume power and become a Tyrant.

Moreover, by this time Solon would have been of at least some measurable favor by the people around him, but still walked away from power.  This implies that even with a population that supports a tyrant’s rising, it would be a negative event.  That point of view, so strictly against a ruler of such power, completely shaped the entire definition from that point forward.  There is not good Tyrant, only bad and this has been made clear by the democratic peoples who lived in Athens at this time.

Looking at issues today, we can see that the lasting impact from those conclusions thousands of years ago still hold true today.  Pierre Lemieux, an online blogger, posted a recent argument that he had online with another person who had opposing political opinions with.  It was in this aftermath posting that Lemieux echoed the concepts of old regarding a tyrant, “a tyrant can be adored by some part of the population and even a large part is illustrated by tyrants of ancient Greece.”2.  As we have already discovered, this means that it is still an extreme insult to be considered a tyrant.   

            In summary, from a modern day blogger to the authors of Athens’ constitution, we all have collectively accepted the dark connotations associated with the term.  This is not an easily definitive idea that is a simple as people might think initially, and we in the modern age simply take in lots of assumptions on the matter.  Remembering the original context and intentions behind a word can help us determine a better understanding of the modern day, and ancient, implications associated with it.

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(word count 519) **56 from quotes**

One thought on “Defining a Tyrant

  1. Your post was noticeably accurate to the prompt. You didn’t waste time expressing your perspective and showing the relation from the past to now. I personally didn’t understand the quote you entered, but that’s just me. I dont think it held back your post at all, I knew what you were trying to say, maybe just a word was off or missing. Defining a tyrant is definitely universal as you said, we all pretty much have set mental on what we think a tyrant is and how they act as rulers. We’ve never witnessed one but with the similarities in the history of their actions way they rule, we are not wrong to view them the way we do. The shift from the defining a tyrant as somehow who succeeded without the people’s input or support of the democracy as you said was where the negative connotations came from, I agree. I think you could have focused more on the fact that the Democracies are a also a huge reason for the connotations considering they hated tyrants the most, they are for the people and tyranny is against everything they support. A supporting argument about the people of the democracy and how they felt about a tyrant taking over could have strengthened this post a lot more. Overall, great post in MY opinion, I dont hand out the grades though.


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