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Classical tyrants and the assembly

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This article examines the interactions between classical tyrants and the assembly, and their wider implications for our understanding of the nature of tyrannical rule, applying the theory of plebiscitary politics as formulated by Hammer. I suggest that tyrants, rather than devaluing or sidelining the popular assembly, deliberately preserved it as one element of a continuing dialogue with the demos which underpinned their rule. Taking as examples the rulers of Syracuse, Dionysius I and Agathocles, I show how tyrants used the assembly as a means of reinforcing their power, and in the case of Dion, how a failure to carry the assembly could be disastrous. I also show that the citizens in turn recognised the reciprocal nature of the relationship which assemblies engendered in the tyrannical polis.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-77
Number of pages21
JournalDialogues d'Histoire Ancienne
Issue numberS21
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2021

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ID: 272953298