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Harmodius & Aristogeiton
(532 - 514 BC ) Greece

Harmodius

Athenian patriots

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Harmodius and AristogeitonThe lovers Harmodius and Aristogeiton are credited with overthrowing tyranny in Athens and as founders of democracy. Harmodius was the eromenos, the youngest one.

"Now the attempt of Aristogeiton and Harmodius arose out of a love affair, which I will narrate at length; and the narrative will show that he Athenians themselves give quite an inaccurate account of their own tyrants, and of the incident in question, and know no more than other Hellenes. Pisistratus died at an advanced age in possession of the tyranny, and then, not as is the common opinion Hipparchus, but Hippias (who was the eldest of his sons) succeeded to his power.

"Harmodius was in the flower of his youth, and Aristogeiton, a citizen of the middle class, became his lover. Hipparchus made an attempt to gain the affections of Harmodius, but he would not listen to him, and told Aristogeiton. The latter was naturally tormented at the idea, and fearing that Hipparchus, who was powerful, would resort to violence, at once formed such a plot as a man in his station might for the overthrow of the tyranny. Meanwhile Hipparchus made another attempt; he had no better success, and thereupon he determined, not indeed to take any violent step, but to insult Harmodius in some underhand manner, so that his motive could not be suspected.

[Digression in praise of the political administration of the Pisistratids.]

"When Hipparchus found his advances repelled by Harmodius he carried out his intention of insultmg him. There was a young sister of his whom Hipparchus and his friends first invited to come and carry a sacred basket in a procession, and then rejected her, declaring that she had never been invited by them at all because she was unworthy. At this Harmodius was very angry, and Aristogeiton for his sake more angry still. They and the other conspirators had already laid their preparations, but were waiting for the festival of the great Panathenasa, when the citizens who took part in the procession assembled in arms; for to wear arms on any other day would have aroused suspicion. Harmodius and Aristogeiton were to begin the attack, and the rest were immediately to join in, and engage with the guards. The plot had been communicated to a few only, the better to avoid detection; but they hoped that, however few struck the blow, the crowd who would be armed, although not in the secret, would at once rise and assist in the recovery of their own liberties.

killing of the tyrant

"The day of the festival arrived, and Hippias went out of the city to the place called the Ceramicus, where he was occupied with his guards in marshalling the procession. Harmodius and Aristogeiton, who were ready with their daggers, stepped forward to do the deed. But seeing one of the conspirators in familiar conversation with Hippias, who was readily accessible to all, they took alarm and imagined that they had been betrayed, and were on the point of being seized. Whereupon they determined to take their revenge first on the man who had outraged them and was the cause of their desperate attempt. So they rushed, just as they were, within the gates. They found Hipparchus near the Leocorium, as it was called, and then and there falling upon him with all the blind fury, one of an injured lover, the other of a man smarting under an insult, they smote and slew him. The crowd ran together, and so Aristogeiton for the present escaped the guards; but he was afterwards taken, and not very gently handled (i.e. tortured). Harmodius perished on the spot."
(Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, Book 6 - trans. by B. Fowett)

Harmodius

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Illustrations: Harmodius and Aristogeiton. Attic Black-figure Vase - ca 400 BC - The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Harmodius and Aristogeiton group, casting in Pushkin museum
Red-figure stemnos: Harmodius and Aristogiton kill the tyrant Hipparchus - ca 470 BC - Martin Wagner Museum, Würzburg
Statuette, created by artist Malcolm Lidbury for 2016 LGBT History & Art Project Cornwall UK

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