1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cypselus
CYPSELUS, tyrant of Corinth (c. 657–627 B.C.), was the son of Aeëtion and Labda, daughter of Amphion, a member of the ruling family, the Bacchiadae. He is said to have derived his name from the fact that when the Bacchiadae, warned that he would prove their ruin, sent emissaries to kill him in his cradle, his mother saved him by concealing him in a chest (Gr. κυψέλη). The story was, of course, a subsequent invention. When he was grown up, Cypselus, encouraged by an oracle, drove out the Bacchiadae, and made himself master of Corinth. It is stated that he first ingratiated himself with the people by his liberal conduct when Polemarch, in which capacity he had to exact the fines imposed by the law. In the words of Aristotle he made his way through demagogy to tyranny. Herodotus, in the spirit of 5th-century Greeks, which conventionally regarded the tyrants as selfish despots, says he ruled harshly, but he is generally represented as mild, beneficent and so popular as to be able to dispense with a bodyguard, the usual attribute of a tyrannis. He pursued an energetic commercial and colonial policy (see Corinth), and thus laid the foundations of Corinthian prosperity. He may well be compared with the Athenian Peisistratus in these respects. He laid out the large sums thus derived on the construction of buildings and works of art. At the same time he wisely strove to gain the goodwill of the powerful priesthoods of the great sanctuaries of Delphi and Olympia. At Delphi he built a treasure-house for Corinthian votive offerings; at Olympia he dedicated a colossal statue of Zeus and the famous “chest of Cypselus,” supposed to be identical with the chest of the legend, of which Pausanias (v. 17-19) has given an elaborate description. It was of cedar-wood, gold and ivory, and on it were represented the chief incidents in Greek (especially Corinthian) mythology and legend. Cypselus was succeeded by his son Periander.