Wednesday, 7 March 2018

The Aristotelian and Epicurean Tyrants of Athens

A vital landmark in history of philosophy are the years 88–86 B.C., when first a Peripatetic philosopher, Athenion, and then an Epicurean, Aristion, briefly gained absolute power in Athens, both siding with Mithridates against the Roman army led by Sulla. Ironically during the reign of the two philosophers Athens lost its status as world’s center of philosophy.

Athenion was reigning when Sulla laid a crippling siege on Athens. At the end of the siege the Roman troops sacked the city, and Aristion, who was then in power, was executed on Sulla’s command.

There is considerable difference of opinion among historians on whether Athenion and Aristion were same person or two different tyrants who acquired power in quick succession. According to Posidonius, the tyrant’s name was Athenion and he was a Peripatetic philosopher. But Pausanias, Appian, and Plutarch, call him Aristion, and Appian says that Aristion was an Epicurean.


Paul Marks said...

What were their policies? Or with the pressures of war, did they not have time for domestic policy?

Anoop Verma said...

We hardly know anything about Athenion and Aristion, who were perhaps just one person. We know about them only through some stray references that have been made in the works of the Roman era historians and philosophers. There is no evidence to show that they tried to implement Aristotelian or Epicurean ideas in their system of governance. In any case, they came to power when Athens was under siege by Sulla's army and the city was soon lost. It is said that Athenion was the son of a father who had studied Aristotelian philosophy.