©Damen, 2021

Classical Drama and Theatre

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Herodotus records one instance in which Pisistratus dressed up an exceptionally tall and beautiful woman as the goddess Athena and drove her in a wagon through Athens as a way of demonstrating her support of his regime (Histories 1.60):

There was in the Paeanian deme a woman called Phya, three fingers short of six feet, four inches in height, and otherwise, too, well-formed. This woman they equipped in full armor and put in a chariot, giving her all the paraphernalia to make the most impressive spectacle, and so drove into the city; heralds ran before them, and when they came into town proclaimed as they were instructed: “Athenians, give a hearty welcome to Pisistratus, whom Athena herself honors above all men and is bringing back to her own acropolis.” So the heralds went about proclaiming this; and immediately the report spread in the demes that Athena was bringing Pisistratus back, and the townsfolk, believing that the woman was the goddess herself, worshipped this human creature and welcomed Pisistratus. (trans. A.D. Godley)

Whether this story is meant to exemplify his ingenious guile or the Athenians' gullibility, it shows a man who is not scared to use religion to effect his own political ends. The creation of the City Dionysia, as outlined above, conforms well with this view of the tyrant.

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