Tyrants were unconstitutional monarchs who ruled Greek cities or states in the seventh to the third centuries B.C. Under the rule of these upstarts many cities and states attained their great power and splendour.
They were not necessarily bad or cruel rulers. They were often patrons of the Arts and Literature. But they were usurpers, men who rose to power out of party strife and general unrest.
Dionysius, the Tyrant of Syracuse, started life as a clerk in a public office. He ruled Syracuse, the capital or principal city of Sicily, for thirty years, and concentrated in it the 'greatness and glory of the Greek world in the West'. Timoleon was a Greek general who made himself master of Corinth, and later was chosen by popular vote to attack Syracuse, of which he became the Tyrant, ruling well for many years. Hiero II, another General, rose to be Tyrant and was acclaimed as king, ruling wisely and maintaining peace for fifty years.
The name `tyrannus' (tyrant) is of obscure origin. Today it has acquired a meaning far removed from its original one of 'king' or `monarch', but we have seen in Europe and are seeing in the Middle East and Egypt a remarkable recrudescence of the movement which played such a notable part in Greek history. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and Nasser, all men of the people, with no hereditary rights or claims to kingship, forced their way to supreme authority by a 'will to power' similar to that of the Greek tyrants. History will record the use they made of the authority they obtained.
We are reminded of the tyrant we read of in the Book of Daniel, that king 'who shall do according to his will', who shall exalt himself, and 'magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished'. These tyrants already mentioned prospered till the indignation was accomplished, or will prosper till the indignation be accomplished, and we know what befell some of them.
(Dan. 11. 36; Acts 19. 9)