of Acragas (modern Agrigento), Sicily
for his cruelty. He is
alleged to have roasted his victims alive in a bronze
bull, their shrieks
representing the animal's bellow
ing. A statue of a bull of some kind seems to
have existed, but the facts surrounding its use have been embellished
example, the supposed designer of the bull, Perilaus
, or Perillus
, was said to
have been the first man executed in it.
After assuming the responsibility for building the temple of Zeus Atabyrios,
in the citadel at Acragas, Phalaris armed his workers and seized power. Under
his rule Acragas seems to have prospered and to have expanded its territory.
The splendid layout of the city probably belongs to his time. Eventually
Phalaris was overthrown by Telemachus, the ancestor of Theron (tyrant 488-472
BC). It is said that the deposed tyrant was burned to death in his own bronze
Contrary to the legends that stress the cruelty of Phalaris, he was
represented by the sophists of the Roman Empire as a humane and cultured man.
The famous 148 Letters of Phalaris were proved by the great English classical
scholar Richard Bentley, in his Dissertation on the Letters of Phalaris
(1699), to have been written much later by a sophist or rhetorician, possibly
Adrianus of Tyre (d. c. AD 193).