CRITIAS, Athenian orator and poet, and one of the Thirty Tyrants. In his youth he was a pupil of Gorgias and Socrates, but subsequently devoted himself to political intrigues. In 415 B.C. he was implicated in the mutilation of the Hermae and imprisoned. In 411 he helped to put down the Four Hundred, and was instrumental in procuring the recall of Alcibiades. He was banished (probably in the democratic reaction of 407) and fled to Thessaly, where he stirred up the Penestae (the helots of Thessaly) against their masters, and endeavoured to establish a democracy. Returning to Athens he was made ephor by the oligarchical party; and he was the most cruel and unscrupulous of the Thirty Tyrants who in 404 were appointed by the Lacedaemonians. He was slain in battle against Thrasybulus and the returning democrats. Critias was a man of varied talents—poet, orator, historian and philosopher. Some fragments of his elegies will be found in Bergk, Poetae Lyrici Graeci. He was also the author of several tragedies and of biographies of distinguished poets (possibly in verse).

See Xenophon, Hellenica, ii. 3. 4. 19, Memorabilia, i. 2; Cornelius Nepos, Thrasybulus, 2; R. Lallier, De Critiae tyranni vita ac scriptis (1875); Nestle, Neue Jahrb. f. d. kl. Altert. (1903).