Nobody wants to be ruled by a tyrant, at least not in the the modern sense of the word. The modern day definition of tyranny is described as a “cruel and oppressive government or rule.” A tyrant is thought of as someone who rules with absolute power and has no regard for the people they rule. The only concern of a modern day tyrant is doing whatever it takes rather it be moral or not to preserve their own status and expand their power and wealth. In ancient times before democracy a tyrant was seen much differently.
Tyranny, in a pre-modern sense referred to “an autocratic form of rule in which one individual exercised power without any legal restraint.” In pre-modern times a tyrant was someone who ruled with absolute power and who came into power by their own efforts or elected to rule. So for ancient civilizations a tyrant was not necessarily a bad or malicious ruler, it really depended on the specific tyrant.
In Waller R. Newell’s article, “To defeat a tyranny today, look to the past” it dives into many different modern day examples of “tyranny” and that it is challenging democracy. This articles categorizes three different types of tyrant: tyrants who run their countries like Mafia dons, tyrants who want acclaim and influence, and totalitarian tyrants.
Tyrants who run their countries like Mafia dons are said to be the “oldest type in their class” and also the most frequently represented. This type of tyrant is the most popular type of modern day tyrant usually the one represented in a film or play. It refers to the rich and cruel sexual deviant. This definition is probably the most stereotypical form of the word.
The tyrant who wants acclaim and influence is one of the most recognized in today’s world. In the article they give an example of Frederick the Great who achieved sovereignty over most of Prussia in the late 1700s. These types of tyrants want to expand territory and build prosperous states which actually benefit ordinary people.
Then, there are tyrants who are totalitarians. These are your tyrants like Rogue, Bolshevik, and Hitler. These tyrannies usually involve some type genocide against a lower class or race. Totalitarian tyrants usually want a type of “collectivist utopia submerging the individual in a monolithic, all-encompassing state.”
The way tyrant is used in the article is almost spot on with what we think of as a tyrant today. This idea of a man who seems to have absolute power using it to pursue his own personal agenda or goals is prevalent in all the forms presented in the article. These ideas of modern day tyrants shy far away from the ancient definition. The most relatable quality about these modern day examples of tyranny is that these tyrants do come to power by their own resolve.