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Tyrant

did not originally mean a despot, but an absolute prince, and especially one who made himself absolute in a free state. Napoleon III. would have been so called by the ancient Greeks. Many of the Greek tyrants were pattern rulers, as Pisistratos and Pericles, of Athens; Periander, of Corinth; Dionysios the Younger, Gelon, and his brother Hiero, of Syracuse; Polycrates, of Samos; Phidion, of Argos, etc. etc. (Greek, turannos, an absolute king, like the Czar of Russia.)

Tyrant of the Chersonese.
Miltiade was so called, and yet was he, as Byron says, “Freedom's best and bravest friend.” (See Thirty Tyrants.)

A tyrant's vein.
A ranting, bullying manner. In the old moralities the tyrants were made to rant, and the loudness of their rant was proportionate to the villainy of their dispositions. Hence to out-Herod Herod is to rant more loudly than Herod; to o'erdo Termagant is to rant more loudly than Termagant. (See Pilate, Voice.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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