A tyrant (Greek τύραννος, tyrannos) was originally one who used the power of the populace in an unconventional way to seize and control governmental power in a polis. Tyrants were a group of individuals who took over many Greek poleis during the uprising of the middle classes in the sixth and seventh centuries BC, ousting the aristocratic governments. Plato and Aristotle define a tyrant as, "one who rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others".
In common usage, the word "tyrant" carries connotations of a harsh and cruel ruler who places his or her own interests or the interests of an oligarchy over the best interests of the general population, which the tyrant governs or controls. The Greek term carried no pejorative connotation during the Archaic and early Classical periods but was clearly a bad word to Plato, and on account of the decisive influence of political philosophy its negative connotations only increased down into the Hellenistic period, becoming synonymous with "Authenteo" - another term which carried authoritarian connotations around the turn of the first century A.D. During the seventh and sixth centuries BC, tyranny was often looked upon as an intermediate stage between narrow oligarchy and more democratic forms of polity. However, in the late fifth and fourth centuries, a new kind of tyrant, the military dictator, arose, specifically in Sicily.
Famous quotes containing the word tyranny:
“The vulgarest tool that Tyranny could want,
With just enough of talent, and no more,
To lengthen fetters by another fixed,
And offer poison long already mixed.”
—George Gordon Noel Byron (17881824)
“Unless the people can choose their leaders and rulers, and can revoke their choice at intervals long enough to test their measures by results, the government will be a tyranny exercised in the interests of whatever classes or castes or mobs or cliques have this choice.”
—George Bernard Shaw (18561950)
“As usurpation is the exercise of power, which another hath a right to, so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which no body can have a right to. And this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private separate advantage.”
—John Locke (16321704)