While Pisistratus was thus governing Athens to suit himself, Solon was traveling in Asia, where he met several interesting persons of whom you will hear in ancient history.
Solon had gone away for ten years, hoping that the Athenians would strictly obey his laws. During that time he had no news of his native land; for there were no post offices or newspapers in those days, and people neither wrote nor received letters except when something very important happened.
On coming back to Athens, Solon was very sorry to learn that it was Pisistratus, his own kinsman, who had taken the power of the archons; but when he saw how wisely Pisistratus governed the people, and how careful he was to make them happy and improve them, he freely forgave him, and remained on good terms with him until he died.
Pisistratus went on ruling the Athenians for thirtythree years, and when he died they mourned him greatly. In their grief for their loss, they allowed his sons, Hippias and Hipparchus, to succeed him, without raising any objections.
These young men were very careful at first to follow their father’s good example; but they soon began to neglect business for pleasure, and, instead of thinking of the people’s good, they spent much of their time in feasting and drinking.
In those days there dwelt at Athens two young men named Harmodius and Aristogiton. They were intimate friends, and were loved by all on account of their good qualities, and more especially because they were so anxious to increase the glory and prosperity of their native city.
Harmodius had a sister who was as good as she was beautiful: so the people, hoping to please him, chose her to carry a basket of flowers in the great religious procession which took place in Athens every year.
One of the tyrants, Hipparchus, was very jealous of Harmodius, because the people loved him so much. He therefore tried to annoy the young man in every way; and when he heard that his sister had been chosen to bear the flowers, he rudely forbade her presence at the feast.
This was a great insult, for none but wicked women were forbidden to appear; and, as Hipparchus had thus publicly disgraced the girl, her brother was very angry.
His friend, Aristogiton, was as angry as he; and the two young men, consulting together, decided that as long as these men ruled, the Athenians would be treated badly, and that it would be well to get rid of them soon.