What would an educated, bilingual Roman of Nero's time say of Nero to mean that he was a 'tyrant' etc. in our sense—i.e. a bad, unjust, arbitrary ruler—in (a) Latin and (b) Greek?


I understand that neither τύραννος, δεσπότης, nor dictātor implies, at least in its primary sense, that the one so named ruled badly. For example, Oedipus was τύραννος without being tyrannical in our sense. Were there other words for the purpose, or had one of the three acquired a secondary meaning?

1 Answer 1


Have a look here, under II: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0059%3Aentry%3Dtyrannus

Tyrannus means "tyrant" in the modern sense at least since Cicero.

  • Thanks. According to the Middle Liddell entry on this page perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/…, the word 'soon came to imply reproach' in Greek too. But was there no word whose primary meaning was 'bad ruler' so you wouldn't have to add, 'And I don't mean like Pisistratus'?
    – Catomic
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 12:41

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