Journal of Hellenic Studies 124:65-74 (2004)

Xenophon's account of Euphron, tyrant at Sicyon from 368 to 366, appears to present him as a typical fourth-century 'new tyrant', dependent on mercenaries and concerned solely with his own power. But why did Xenophon choose to recount Euphron's actions and fate at such length, and why does he insist so strongly that he was a tyrant? Xenophon's interest in Euphron is part of his general approach to tyranny in the Hellenica, which depicts a series of individuals and regimes, all described as tyrannies. The model of tyranny with which Xenophon operates is broader and more inclusive than we would expect, contrasting with the narrow, constitutional idea of tyranny defined by Aristotle. Understanding this has two consequences. It allows us to appreciate Euphron in a new light, giving credit to the positive tradition about his support for the Sicyonian democracy and his posthumous heroization; we can see the debate which existed in his own time about his role and position. It also raises the question of why Xenophon recognized tyranny in so many places, and was so keen to emphasize his construction of these regimes. We need to situate him within the evolution of ideas about tyranny, since the concept of tyranny is largely constructed by historians: Herodotus 'created' tyranny in the aftermath of the Persian Wars, while Thucydides developed the concept from the individual to the general, as this better fitted his Athenocentric model. Xenophon, in contrast, was reflecting contemporary debates over the interpretation of different types of ruler and regime, and developing his own theory of tyranny. Therefore to see a 'new tyranny' movement in the fourth century is misplaced: an examination of Euphron reveals the complexities of self-presentation in fourth-century Greek politics
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DOI 10.2307/3246150
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