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image of Mnemosyne

We possess an array of contemporary evidence relating to the fifth-century Deinomenid tyrants of Sicily. Epinician poetry and physical monuments that the tyrants themselves commissioned still survive. The poems and dedications celebrate the tyrants at roughly the same time, sometimes in response to the same events. These documents do not demonstrate the constitutional or legal position of the historical tyrants. Instead they allow us a view into how the tyrants represented themselves as political actors in different contexts and before different audiences. Whether occasioned by an athletic or martial victory, both poetry and monuments depicted the tyrants as panhellenic figures who benefited their city and their subjects. Yet when placed side by side, the poetry and monuments reveal a striking disconnect between the representation of political power within their respective genres. The poets tackled the problem of tyranny head on. Before a local audience, epinician poetry portrayed the tyrant Hieron as a benevolent epic king. The monuments erected at Olympia and Delphi took a less direct approach. While celebrating the Deinomenids as private benefactors of the panhellenic sanctuaries, the dedicatory inscriptions avoided explicit articulation of the tyrants' political status at home.


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