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Hippias of Athens (Ancient Greek: Ίππίας ό Άθηναϊος) was one of the sons of Peisistratus, and was tyrant of Athens in the 6th century BC.

Hippias succeeded Peisistratus in 527 BC, and in 525 BC he introduced a new system of coinage in Athens. His brother Hipparchus, who may have ruled jointly with him, was murdered by Harmodius and Aristogeiton (the Tyrannicides) in 514 BC (from which act we have the term “Harmodius blow,” one of the few movements of the Ancient Greek fencing art for which we have evidence). Hippias executed the Tyrannicides and became a bitter and cruel ruler.

The Alcmaeonidae family, who Peisistratus had exiled in 546 BC, had built a new temple at Delphi, then bribed the priestess to command the Spartans to help them overthrow Hippias. A Spartan force under Anchimolius was sent to help, but Hippias and his family, the Pisistratidae, allied themselves with Cineas of Thessaly, and the Spartans and Alcmaeonidae were at first defeated. A second attempt, led by Cleomenes I of Sparta, successfully entered Athens and trapped Hippias on the Acropolis. They also took the Pisistratidae children hostage, and Hippias was forced to leave Athens in order to have them returned safely. He was expelled from Athens in 510 BC. Shortly before the end of his rule, he married his daughter, Archedike, to Aiantides, son of Hippoklos, the tyrant of Lampsakos, to facilitate his access to Darius’ court at Susa.

The Spartans later thought that a free, democratic Athens would be dangerous to Spartan power, and attempted to recall Hippias and reestablish the tyranny. Hippias had fled to Persia, and the Persians threatened to attack Athens if they did not accept Hippias; nevertheless the Athenians preferred to remain democratic despite the danger from Persia. Soon after this, the Ionian Revolt began. It was put down in 494 BC, but Darius I of Persia was intent on punishing Athens for their role in the revolt. In 490 BC Hippias, still in the service of the Persians, led Darius to Marathon, Greece. According to Herodotus, Hippias had a dream that the Persians would be defeated, and they in fact were defeated at the Battle of Marathon although many historical texts believe that Hippias saw many omens for victory on both sides. (From Wikipedia via Herodotus and Thucydides)

This image is of a statue of the Tyrranicides, the high–handed one being Harmodius delivering a powerful overhand cut.
Harmodius blow Equally important is his brother Aristogeiton’s pose—using his chiton as a shield to cover his brother’s open side, a move that may well be characteristic of phalanx fighting and the training to prepare for it. Men are often shown fighting with sword and chlamys (no one would have an aspis or shield on them in day to day life!) and the heavy folds of wool would offer a great deal of protection (we’ve tried it at Hoplologia). The Harmodius blow is also a very useful one, as it allows the fighter to place all of his weight behind an overhead smash and pivot forward on his foot, ready to “take the place” of the man he hacks down. Aristogeiton is covering his brother’s aggressive move—a suggestion that they had to penetrate the bodyguard to get to the tyrant!

Sadly, these are not the original statues, which were cast around 507 BC and destroyed by the Persians in the sack of the Acropolis. Nor are these the marble re-makes from 470 BC, but 2nd c. BCE Roman copies of the marbles. Nonetheless, these statues are thought by art historians to have the poses and stature of the originals.