Harmodius and Aristogiton, having decided to get rid of the tyrants, told their plans to a few of their friends. Secret meetings were held at the house of a brave lady called Leaena (“the lioness”), who was the only woman in the plot.
As the Athenians were in the habit of attending the feast in armor, the young men waited until then to carry out their plans. They mingled with the crowd, found a good place near the tyrants, and all at once drew their swords from their scabbards and attacked their enemies.
Harmodius was so quick that he managed to kill Hipparchus; but, before his companions could join and protect him, he was cut down by the tyrants’ guards.
Aristogiton, his friend, rushed forward to save him, but was made prisoner, and dragged before Hippias, who bade him tell the names of his companions. The young man at first refused to speak; but after a while, pretending to yield, he named some of the tyrants’ friends who were helping him oppress the Athenians.
The tyrant, in dismay, sent for the accused, and had them and Aristogiton killed without trial. When he found out his mistake, he again tried to learn the names of the real conspirators. He knew that Harmodius and Aristogiton had often visited Leaena: so he had her imprisoned and tortured, to make her tell the names of the conspirators, because he wanted to kill them all as he had killed Aristogiton.
The brave woman, knowing that the lives of several young men depended upon her, and that a single word might cause their death, resolved not to utter a sound. In spite of the most awful tortures, she therefore kept her mouth tightly closed; and when she was finally set free, they found that she had bitten off her tongue for fear of betraying her friends.
Poor Leaena did not live long after this; and when she died, she was buried in a beautiful tomb, over which her friends put the image of a lioness without a tongue, to remind the people of her courage.
The Athenians were very sorry for her death, and mourned the brave youths Harmodius and Aristogiton for a long time; but the tyranny of the son of Pisistratus daily grew more cruel and disagreeable.