Wednesday, March 7, 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.

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