When Pisistratus cried out that his life was no longer safe, all the democrats exclaimed that they would protect him; and, as they had the right of voting, they then and there said that he should have a bodyguard of fifty armed men to protect him.
Pisistratus pretended to be very grateful for this favor, and, under pretext of choosing his bodyguard, engaged a great number of soldiers. When his plans were all ready, he took possession of the Acropolis by force.
The people now found out, but too late, that Pisistratus had deceived them only to get more power; and that, thanks to the guard they had voted him, he had become master of the town, and held the reins of the government.
The Athenians did not long remain angry with their former favorite, however; for he did all he could to make them happy, and ruled them very wisely. He improved the city by building magnificent temples and other public buildings, and made a great aqueduct, so that the people could have plenty of pure water to drink.
Pisistratus also laid out a public park, the Lyceum, just outside the city walls, so that the Athenians could go there, and enjoy the cool shade of the groves he had planted.
Then he began to collect all the poems of Homer, had them carefully written down, and placed them in a public library, so that the Greeks could read them whenever they pleased. Until then these poems had only been recited, and no written copy existed. Pisistratus, therefore, did a very good work in thus keeping for our enjoyment the greatest epic poems ever composed.
As Pisistratus ruled just as he pleased, without consulting the Tribunal or people, he has been called a tyrant. This word in those days meant “supreme ruler;” but as many of those who followed him made a bad use of their power, and were cruel and grasping, its meaning soon changed, and the word now means “a selfish and unkind ruler.”