1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pittacus

PITTACUS, of Mytilene in Lesbos (c. 650–570 B.C.), one of the Seven Sages of Greece. About 611, with the assistance of the brothers of the poet Alcaeus, he overthrew Melanchrus, tyrant of Lesbos. In a war (606) between the Mytilenaeans and Athenians for the possession of Sigeum on the Hellespont he slew the Athenian commander Phrynon in single combat. In 589 his fellow citizens entrusted Pittacus with despotic power (with the title of Aesymnetes) for the purpose of protecting them against the exiled nobles, at the head of whom were Alcaeus and his brother Antimenides. He resigned the government after holding it for ten years, and died ten years later. According to Diogenes Laërtius, who credits him with an undoubtedly spurious letter to Croesus (with whom his connexion was probably legendary), Pittacus was a writer of elegiac poems, from which he quotes five lines. His favourite sayings were: “It is hard to be good,” and “Know when to act.”

See Herodotus v. 27, 94; Diog. Laërt i. 4; Lucian, Macrobii, 18; Strabo xiii. 600, 617–618; Aristotle, Politics, ii. 12, iii. 14; T. Bergk, Poetae lyrici graeci.