Pisistratus Rules as Tyrant & Reforms The Economy

Market scene, from The Greeks documentary Market scene, from The Greeks documentary

When Pisistratus became tyrant of Athens in 547 BC it marked a change of direction for the city-state and the surrounding land of Attica, which despite its large size and power was overshadowed by many of the other city-states of Greece. During the long period of his rule, Pisistratus sought to correct this.

He began by constructing new public buildings, such as a 'fountain house' to improve the city's water supply, and new temples on the Acropolis. Eager to glorify the city, he introduced major new festivals, including the Panathenaic Festival, a midsummer procession and sports event dedicated to Athene, and the City Dionysia, the first known drama competitions. Promising to help the common people, he also reformed the legal system.

But perhaps his greatest achievement was the transformation of the economy by introducing loans and encouraging farmers to grow 'cash crops', like olives.

A highly prized crop, olives provided cooking oil, lubricant, soap and even fuel, but political instability had always made them too risky a crop to cultivate: an average olive tree took 10 years to produce fruit. Pisistratus' stable reign made growing such crops viable, and before long Athens was producing enough olives to become an export economy. In turn this produced a massive boost to crafts, especially pottery, which was used to transport the harvest.

Pisistratus had literally sown the seeds of future greatness. He died in 527 BC and was succeeded by his son Hippias.