5. If a Fake Goddess Doesn’t Work, Try Again, This Time With an Army
Peisistratos’ mummery with the fake goddess did not work. The other Athenians saw through it, and chased him and his followers out of town. In exile, Peisistratos bought silver and gold mines in northern Greece, and got rich off their proceeds. Investing his wealth in mercenaries, he returned to Athens and tried again, this time with a well-equipped private army instead of a girl dressed up as a goddess. It worked, and in 546 BC, he overthrew the government and had himself proclaimed tyrant. Peisistratos suppressed the feuding factions, and championed the lower classes. His tyranny was a wild success.
Peisistratos exiled his aristocratic enemies. He confiscated their land holdings, broke them up into small farms, and redistributed them to his followers, thus cementing their support. He also loaned small farmers money for tools, lowered taxes, standardized currency, and enforced the laws even-handedly. He promoted the growing of olives and grapes, encouraged commerce and craftsmen, built an aqueduct, implemented a public buildings program, and beautified Athens. Culturally, he funded popular religious rites such as the Dionysia and promoted theater and the arts. By the time Peisistratos died, circa 527 BC, Athens was peaceful and more prosperous than it had ever been, with a growing and increasingly affluent middle class.