Vol. 21 (2023)

The tyrant and the tallest ears. A renowned herodotean anecdote interpreted in the light of the Lityerses’ myth.

Marcello Valente
Università del Piemonte Orientale

Published 2024-01-31


  • Periander of Corinth,
  • Thrasybulus of Miletus,
  • Herodotus,
  • Aristoteles,
  • Lityerses


The Lityerses’ myth, the illegitimate son of the legendary Midas, king of Phrygia, who killed foreigners by beheading them after wrapping them in sheaves of wheat can be a useful key to interpreting the renowned Herodotean anecdote on the advice given by the tyrant Thrasybulus of Miletus to Periander of Corinth about the way to preserve one’s power by eliminating the most prominent citizens, i.e. the «highest ears». The juxtaposition between this anecdote and the Lityerses’ myth suggests that the Herodotean tale is the genuine version compared to the Aristotelian one which inverts the characters, as the Milesian milieu could more likely than the Corinthian one be aware of the Phrygian legend of Lityerses.