In La tirannide in Grecia antica, Filippo Canali de Rossi offers a brief survey of Greek tyranny, with special emphasis on Athens and Corinth, and argues that tyranny emerged as the result of gradual development out of aristocracy.
De Rossi traces the discussions of tyranny in Thucydides and Aristotle before proceeding to discussions of tyranny more generally at Athens and Corinth. Subsequently, de Rossi focuses on the tyrannies of Pisistratus and Cypselus, almost as case-studies of tyranny generally, and balances, in his consideration of Athens, discussion of more historical and more theoretical questions, such as the chronology of the Pisistradids and how tyrants remain in power, respectively, with the goal of resolving these more theoretical questions, to the extent possible, through consideration of the historical record.
De Rossi’s discussion of tyranny at Corinth is more ample than his discussion of tyranny at Athens. It focuses not just on tyranny proper, but offers a wide-ranging consideration of aspects of economic and political life at Corinth, with exploration of such topics as commerce, sacred prostitution, shipping and navigation, and Corinth’s commercial relations with the Near East and Italy. De Rossi devotes considerable attention to the history of Corinth prior to Cypselus. In order to show a degree of continuity between the Corinth of Cypselus and that prior, de Rossi addresses the chronology of the rulers of Corinth prior to Cypselus, Corinth’s archaeological record, to the extent that it is useful to this inquiry, and Corinth’s place in myth and the Dorian invasion.
Subject to expansion in a contemplated second volume on Greek tyranny (x) and not organized into chapters or precisely defined subdivisions, de Rossi’s book is, by his own admission, prone to digression and does not always partake of a systematic, logical organization or structuring (“la trattazione mantiene un filo logico non sistematico, aperto alle digressioni….” [x]). De Rossi’s assessment of his work is accurate. The book makes many interesting observations, but is not always as focused as possible. Given the book’s emphases, scholars interested in Corinth may find the book more engaging than scholars of tyranny generally. In, approximately, the second half of the book, de Rossi’s discussion of the relation between Corinth’s history prior to Cypselus and myth becomes the dominant focus of the book, almost, at times, to the exclusion of discussion of tyranny itself.