Peisistratos of Athens was a Greek statesman who became the Tyrant of Athens following a quite popular coup and ruled in 561, 559-556 and 546-528 BC.
Peisistratos was the son of a philosopher and teacher called Hippocrates, and was named after the youngest son of Nestor in the Odyssey called Peisistratos.
The he assisted Solon in his endeavours, and fought bravely in the conquest of Salamis. When Solon left Athens, Peisistratos became leader of the party of the Highlands (poor, rural people) in 565 B.C. Peisistratos used a clever scheme, calling for bodyguards after he pretended to be attacked. Those bodyguards were composed of the people of the Highlands who had entered Athens. In 561 B.C. he seized the Acropolis with this group of bodyguards, becoming turannos (tyrant). His rule did not last - he was driven out by Lycurgus, Megacles and others from the party of the Coast within the year. He returned in 559 B.C. with the help of Megacles, who had split from Lycurgus. Megacles had allied with Peisistratus on the condition that Peisistratos marry Megacles' daughter.
Peisistratus then entered Athens in a chariot and brought a tall woman to play Athena in a suit of armour with him proclaiming to the citizens that Athena had brought Peisistratus back to Athens as protectarate for the citidel. He won the citizens over and they allowed him to become tyrant again. This event should be seen less as Peisistratus trying to pull the wool over the eyes of his fellow Athenians and more like a modern politician might use a movie star to give confirmation that he should become leader. It seems very doubtfull to believe that Athenians really did believe that she was Athena.
Later, Megacles was angered by the fact that Peisistratos refused to have children with his daughter, and Peisistratos was again exiled in 556 BC by Lycurgus and Megacles. He went to Euboea and remained there for almost ten years, becoming quite rich through mining. He returned to Athens in 546 BC with a considerable force and regained power with the support of Lygdamos of Naxos. This time he worked well to retain his position. Peisistratus rewarded Lygdamos by making him tyrant of Naxos.
Consolidating his power by favouring rural citizens with new land laws, Peisistratus also kept a large force of mercenaries and took hostages. He kept the democratic forms introduced by Solon but ensured that family members held the highest offices. Peisistratus promoted the cults of Athena and Dionysus. He began the construction of the temple to Athena on the Acropolis and also promoted a number of other public works including the Lyceum, temples to Apollo and to Zeus as well as the Fountain of the Nine Springs. He also supported literature and the arts, and was given to pederasty, having himself an eromenos, Charmus. The Panathenaic Festival (reintroduced shortly before his reign) and the city Dionysia festival flourished during his time. Athenian coinage was introduced by about 550 BC, and may reflect policy of his, though there is no reference in contemporary documents to such.
Peisistratus was succeeded by his son Hippias. But his other son, Hipparchus, is also mentioned together with Hippias, suggesting some form of joint rule.
Peisistratos has been credited with the development of the first welfare state through his policy of providing a land loan to the underprivileged in society as part of an effort to encourage autarky. According to a story first mentioned by the Latin author Cicero, Pisistratus ordered the writing down of the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, which had previously been transmitted orally.