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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The wall of Polycrates


Polycrates (Greek: Πολυκράτης), son of Aeaces, was the tyrant of Samos from c. 538 BC to 522 BC.

He took power during a festival of Hera with his brothers Pantagnotus and Syloson, but soon had Pantagnotus killed and exiled Syloson to take full control for himself. He then allied with Amasis II, pharaoh of Egypt, as well as the tyrant of Naxos Lygdamis. With a navy of 100 penteconters and an army of 1,000 archers, he plundered the islands of the Aegean Sea and the cities on the Ionian coast of Asia Minor, defeating and enslaving the navies of Lesbos and Miletus. He also conquered the small island of Rhenea, which he chained to nearby Delos as a dedication to Apollo.

He had a reputation as both a fierce warrior and an enlightened tyrant. On Samos he built an aqueduct, a large temple of Hera (the Heraion, to which Amasis dedicated many gifts), and a palace later rebuilt by the Roman emperor Caligula. In 522 BC he celebrated an unusual double festival in honour of the god Apollo of Delos and of Delphi; it has been suggested that the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, sometimes attributed to Cynaethus of Chios, was composed for this occasion.[1] Polycrates was certainly a patron of the poets Anacreon, and Ibycus[2] and of the Crotonian doctor Democedes.

According to Herodotus, Amasis thought Polycrates was too successful, and advised him to throw away whatever he valued most in order to escape a reversal of fortune. Polycrates followed the advice and threw a jewel-encrusted ring into the sea; however, a few days later, a fisherman caught a large fish that he wished to share with the tyrant. While Polycrates' cooks were preparing the fish for eating, they discovered the ring inside of it. Polycrates told Amasis of his good fortune, and Amasis immediately broke off their alliance, believing that such a lucky man would eventually come to a disastrous end.

From Wikipedia


  1. I told the story of an enlightened tyrant this morning but it was nothing like the story you tell here.

    Not sure that my vertigo would be very good up quite this high, but the view and the advantage over an enemy would be astounding!!

  2. Enlightened though he might have been, I'm not certain I would have enjoyed him as a dinner guest. This is such interesting history, well narrated, and beautifully illustrated. That must have been quite a hike to get up there and take that shot. Thank you!

  3. That's a lot of history in one post.

  4. How beautiful and I enjoyed reading the story!

  5. Thank you very much all of you for your visits and your wonderfull comments.I would like to apologise for having not enough time to come visit and comment too. I am living (flying) in few days and there are alot of thinks to do with work and family.So I am flying to Samos for two weeks to relax and make many many new photos!!
    I will try in bettwenn to make some new posts if possible from an internet cafe. Regards and see you soon :))

  6. Very powerful shot...I get the willies just looking at it, not being very fond of high places!

  7. He sounds like a horrid person alright. It's a good thing he did some good public works. But still, I don't think I'd want a leader like him.

    Fascinating history — thank you! I really enjoy things like this.

  8. Strange post about a fearsome man. Nice to know you're flying home with the intention of taking new photos. Have a good trip and a nice stay!