© 2020

Tyranny from Ancient Greece to Renaissance France

  • Offers a brief and accessible intellectual history of tyranny, useful for reflection on the current political climate

  • Features historical analyses of tyranny from both well-known and lesser-known writers, along with a brief biography of each

  • Appeals to students and scholars of history, political science, and political philosophy


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Antique Understandings of Tyranny

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Orest Ranum
      Pages 17-23
    3. Orest Ranum
      Pages 25-29
  3. Three Medieval Commentators on Tyranny

  4. Recovering Plato and Aristotle on Tyranny in the Renaissance

  5. A Time of Troubles in France, 1570–1605

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 101-101

About this book


This Palgrave Pivot examines how prominent thinkers throughout history, from ancient Greece to sixteenth-century France, have perceived tyrants and tyranny. Ancient philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle were the first to build a vocabulary for tyrants and the forms of government they corrupted. Thirteenth century analyses of tyranny by Thomas Aquinas and John of Salisbury, revived from Antiquity, were recast as short observations about what tyrants do. They claimed that tyrants govern for their own advantage, not for the people. Tyrants could be usurpers, increase taxes, and live in luxury. The list of tyrannical actions grew over time, especially in periods of turmoil and civil war, often raising the question:  When can a tyrant be legitimately deposed or killed? In offering a brief biography of these political philosophers, including Machiavelli, Erasmus, More, Bodin, and others, along with their views on tyrannical behavior, Orest Ranum reveals how the concept of tyranny has been shaped over time, and how it still persists in political thought to this day.

Orest Ranum is professor emeritus at the Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, USA, and the author of several books including Artisans of Glory(1980), The Fronde, a French Revolution (1993), and Les bienfaits, la gratitude et l'action politique (2018).


political corruption abuse of power tyrannical rulers tyrannical politics Aristotle Plato Xenophon Thomas Aquinas Machiavelli Erasmus royal absolutism

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

About the authors

Orest Ranum is professor emeritus at the Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, USA, and the author of several books including Artisans of Glory (1980), The Fronde, a French Revolution (1993), and Les bienfaits, la gratitude et l'action politique (2018)

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Tyranny from Ancient Greece to Renaissance France
  • Authors Orest Ranum
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Pivot, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-43184-6
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-43187-7
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-43185-3
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIII, 178
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Classical Studies
    Political History
    Political Philosophy
    Intellectual Studies
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