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date: 04 February 2023


, of Mytilene, c. 650–570 bce


, of Mytilene, c. 650–570 bce
  • Rosalind Thomas


  • Greek Law

Pittacus of *Mytilen (c. 650–570 bce), statesman, lawgiver, and sage. He commanded in the war against Athens for Sigeum, on which Periander of Corinth later arbitrated (see arbitration); helped to overthrow the tyrant Melanchros, then after further complex factional struggles in Mytilene, was elected aisymnētēs for ten years. Alcaeus (1) accused him of being tyrant, but he laid down office and died ten years later. One of his sayings was that ‘painted wood’, i.e. law, was the best protector of the city. His best-remembered law doubled the penalty for all offences if committed while drunk. A moderate reformer, like his contemporary Solon, he was violently attacked by his fellow citizen and former ally Alcaeus, whose family had helped overthrow tyranny but wished to perpetuate the old aristocratic rule.


  • Alcaeus.
  • Strabo 13. 617.
  • Aristotle, Politica 1274b, 1285a–b.
  • Diogenes Laertius, 1. 4.
  • Plato, Protagoras 26 ff.
  • Plutarch, Convivium septem sapientium.
  • D. Page, Sappho and Alcaeus (1955).
  • C. M. Bowra, Greek Lyric Poetry2 (1961), ch. 4.
  • A. Andrewes, The Greek Tyrants (1956).