Toppling Tyrants: Thrasybulus and the Thirty

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After the loss of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BCE), Athens’ democratic government was deposed and replaced by an oligarchy known as The Thirty Tyrants. Prominent democrats were murdered and their property seized; many others fled. Soon, the killings extended to resident foreigners (Metics), who were often merchants, and others whose property was an attractive prize for the oligarchs. Infighting within The Thirty led to a power struggle and ever increasing strife for the Athenian population. Thrasybulus, a former general in the Athenian army, assembled a force outside of the city that eventually defeated The Thirty. Following his victory and a truce agreement, Thrasybulus makes a speech in which he uses rhetoric to expound on the most important aspects of living in a regulated society. He also proposes that any soldiers who fought for the democracy who were resident foreigners be given citizenship. Students will consider turning points and decision-making in the historical narrative and contemplate how to apply Thrasybulus’ leadership in the face of strife to modern examples of conflict and tyranny.

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