What Was a Tyrant in Ancient Greece Quizlet?

In ancient Greece, a tyrant was a ruler who seized power and ruled without the consent of the people. Unlike other forms of government in Greece, such as democracy or oligarchy, where the power was shared amongst the citizens or a select few, respectively, a tyrant had complete control over his subjects.

Origins of Tyranny in Ancient Greece

The term ‘tyrant’ has its origins in ancient Greek history. The first recorded instance of tyranny in Greece was in 657 BCE when Cypselus seized power in Corinth. Cypselus was not a nobleman but rather a merchant who gained the support of commoners and slaves to overthrow the ruling aristocracy.

The Rise to Power

Most tyrants came to power through unconventional means like violence or by manipulating popular support. They would often create alliances with powerful individuals or groups and use them to gain political leverage. Once they were in power, they would consolidate their position by using fear and intimidation.

Tyranny vs. Democracy

Tyranny was different from democracy because it did not involve the participation of all citizens. In democracy, everyone had an equal say in how things were run. In tyranny, only the will of the tyrant mattered.

The Role of Tyrants

Tyrants were known for their ability to bring stability during times of crisis and chaos. They could make quick decisions and implement policies that would benefit their subjects. However, they were also known for their selfishness and disregard for human rights.

  • They would often use coercion and violence to maintain their power.
  • They would tax their subjects heavily to fund lavish lifestyles.
  • They would build grand monuments and public works projects to glorify themselves.

Downfall of Tyranny

Tyranny was often short-lived because the people would eventually rise up against their oppressors. The lack of popular support and the constant fear of assassination made it difficult for tyrants to stay in power for long periods.


In conclusion, a tyrant in ancient Greece was a ruler who seized power and ruled without the consent of the people. Although they were known for bringing stability during times of crisis, their selfishness and disregard for human rights made them unpopular with their subjects. Eventually, the people would rise up against them, leading to their downfall.