How Could Tyrants in Ancient Greece Keep Power?

In Ancient Greece, tyrants were rulers who seized power through unconstitutional means. They were not necessarily unpopular, as some were able to maintain their power for extended periods of time. Let’s take a look at how these tyrants were able to keep their grip on power.

Control of the Military

One key factor in the success of many Ancient Greek tyrants was their control over the military. They often came to power with the backing of a loyal army or through forceful means.

Once in power, they made sure to keep that army under their control. This gave them the ability to put down any uprisings or challenges to their rule.

Rewards and Patronage

Tyrants also maintained their power by doling out rewards and patronage to those who supported them. This could take many forms – from financial rewards to political appointments. By keeping their supporters happy, they ensured that they had a solid base of support and could fend off any challenges from rival factions.

Public Works Projects

Many tyrants also sought to gain support by investing in public works projects -such as roads, aqueducts or temples- that would make life better for their citizens. These projects could be expensive, but they were viewed as a way for the ruler to show his commitment to improving life for his subjects.

Propaganda and Control of Information

Tyrants also made sure that they controlled the flow of information within their realm. They would use propaganda – such as speeches or writings -to promote themselves and justify their rule. At the same time, they would silence any dissenting voices or suppress any information that might threaten their grip on power.

The Case of Pisistratus

One good example of an Ancient Greek tyrant who used these tactics successfully was Pisistratus. He became the ruler of Athens in 546 BC and managed to hold onto power for over a decade. He did this by controlling the military, rewarding his supporters with land and political positions, investing in public works projects like the Panathenaic Way, and using propaganda to promote his rule.


In conclusion, Ancient Greek tyrants were able to maintain their power through a combination of military control, patronage, public works projects, propaganda and control of information. These tactics allowed them to keep their subjects in line and fend off any challenges to their rule.