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Letters and CommunitiesStudies in the Socio-Political Dimensions of Ancient Epistolography$
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Paola Ceccarelli, Lutz Doering, Thorsten Fögen, and Ingo Gildenhard

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198804208

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198804208.001.0001

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Tyrants, Letters, and Legitimacy

Tyrants, Letters, and Legitimacy

Chapter:
(p.103) 3 Tyrants, Letters, and Legitimacy
Source:
Letters and Communities
Author(s):

Sian Lewis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198804208.003.0004

The chapter explores the part played by letters in how tyrants in the world of fifth- and fourth-century BCE Greece exercised power, with a specific emphasis on processes of decision-making and the role of state institutions that embedded the ruler within the wider political community. The focus is on the place and function of letters in the traditions surrounding the rulers of Syracuse (Dionysius I and II, Timoleon, and, moving into the Hellenistic period, Agathocles). A nuanced picture emerges: whereas the classical tyrants did not attempt to impose a model of rule through written communication within their poleis, where traditional oral methods of rule continued, in communications outside the polis tyrants moved gradually towards the letter as part of the consolidation of their rule.

Keywords:   classical Greece, tyrants, political communities, epistolary communication, Syracuse, Dionysius I, Dionysius II, Dion, Timoleon, Agathocles

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