Periander (//; Greek: Περίανδρος), also known as Periander the Great (625 BCE - c. 587 BCE), was the Second Tyrant of the Cypselid dynasty that ruled over Corinth. Periander’s rule brought about a prosperous time in Corinth’s history, as his administrative skill made Corinth one of the wealthiest city states in Greece. Several accounts state that Periander was a cruel and harsh ruler, but others claim that he was a fair and just king who worked to ensure that the distribution of wealth in Corinth was more or less even. He is often considered one of the Seven Sages of Greece, men of the 6th century BCE who were renowned for centuries for their wisdom. (The other Sages were most often considered to be Thales, Solon, Cleobulus, Chilon, Bias, and Pittacus.)
Periander was the second tyrant of Corinth and the son of Cypselus, the founder of the Cypselid dynasty. Cypselus’ wife was named Cratea. There were rumors that she and her son Periander had an illicit affair. Periander married Lyside, daughter of Procles and Eristenea (whom he often referred to as Melissa). They had two sons: Cypselus, who was said to be weak-minded, and Lycophron, a man of intelligence. According to the book Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Periander, in a fit of rage, kicked his wife or threw her down a set of stairs so hard that she was killed. Grief for his mother and anger at his father drove Lycophron to take refuge in Corcyra. When Periander was much older and looking to have his successor at his side, he sent for Lycophron. When the people of Corcyca heard of this, they killed Lycophron rather than let him depart. The death of his son caused Periander to fall into a despondency that eventually led to his death. Periander was succeeded by his nephew, Psammetichus, who ruled for just three years and was the last of the Cypselid tyrants.
Periander built Corinth into one of the major trading centers in Ancient Greece. He established colonies at Potidaea in Chalcidice and at Apollonia in Illyria, conquered Epidaurus, formed positive relationships with Miletus and Lydia, and annexed Corcyra, where his son lived much of his life. Periander is also credited with inventing a transport system, the Diolkos, across the Isthmus of Corinth. Tolls from goods entering Corinth’s port accounted for nearly all the government revenues, which Periander used to build temples and other public works, and to promote literature and arts. He had the poet Arion come from Lesbos to Corinth for an arts festival in the city. Periander held many festivals and built many buildings in the Doric style. The Corinthian style of pottery was developed by an artisan during his rule.
Writing and Philosophy
Periander was said to be a patron of literature, who both wrote and appreciated early philosophy. He is said to have written a didactic poem 2,000 lines long. The following is a list of sayings commonly attributed to him:
- Never do anything for money; leave gain to trades pursued for gain.
- Whoever wishes to wield absolute power in safety should be guarded by the good will of his countrymen, and not by arms.
- It is as dangerous to retire voluntarily as to be dispossessed.
- Rest is beautiful.
- Rashness has its perils.
- Gain is ignoble.
- Democracy is better than tyranny.
- Pleasures are transient, honors are immortal.
- Be moderate in prosperity, prudent in adversity.
- Be the same to your friends whether they are in prosperity or in adversity.
- Whatever agreement you make, stick to it.
- Betray no secret.
- Correct not only the offenders but also those who are on the point of offending.
- Practice makes perfect.
- Be farsighted with everything.
- Nothing is impossible to industry.
- Live according to your income.
- The mind still longs for what it has missed, and loses itself in the contemplation of the past.
- He who assists the wicked will in time rue it.
- He who has once made himself notorious as utterly unprincipled, is not credited even when he speaks the truth.
- He who trusts himself for safety to the care of a wicked man, in seeking succour meets with ruin.
- However exalted our position, we should still not despise the powers of the humble.
- Judge of a tree by its fruit, not by its leaves.
- Liars pay the penalty of their own misdeeds.
- Relaxation should at times be given to the mind, the better to fit it for toil when resumed.
- Success brings many to ruin.
- The soft speeches of the wicked are full of deceit.
- The success of the wicked tempts many to sin.
- Those who plot the destruction of others often perish in the attempt.
- To counsel others, and to disregard one's own safety, is folly.
- Unless your works lead to profit, vain is your glory in them.
- Witty remarks are all very well when spoken at a proper time: when out of place they are offensive.
- The useful and the beautiful are never separated.
Periander is referenced by many of his contemporaries in relation to philosophy and leadership. Most commonly he is mentioned as one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece, a group of philosophers and rulers from early Greece, but some authors leave him out of the list. In Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes Laertius, a philosopher of the 3rd century CE, lists Periander as one of these seven sages. Ausonius also refers to Periander as one of the Sages in his work The Masque of the Seven Sages.
Some scholars have argued that the ruler named Periander was a different person from the sage of the same name. Diogenes Laertius writes that "Sotion, and Heraclides, and Pamphila in the fifth book of her Commentaries say that there were two Perianders; the one a tyrant, and the other a wise man, and a native of Ambracia. And Neanthes of Cyzicus makes the same assertion, adding, that the two men were cousins to one another. And Aristotle says, that it was the Corinthian Periander who was the wise one; but Plato contradicts him." 
- "Seven Wise Men of Greece".
- LAERTIUS, DIOGENES. "Life of Periander".
- Gentleman of Cambridge. "The history of Periander, King of Corinth". printed: and sold by J. Roberts in Warwick-Lane. Retrieved 1731.
- "Corinth, Ancient".
- "Periander of Corinth on Moral Law".
- "SEVEN SAGES OF ANCIENT GREECE".
- Ausonius. "The Masque of the Seven Sages".
- Pausanias. "Description of Greece".