Roulette Checkmate

Phye, Goddess Persona


“Having first spread a rumor that Athena was bringing Peisistratus
back, he found a tall and beautiful woman, according to Herodotus a
member of the Paeanian deme, but according to some accounts a Thracian flower-girl from Collytus named Phye, dressed her up to look like the goddess, and brought her to the city with him, and Peisistratus drove in a chariot with the woman standing at his side, while the people in the city marvelled and received them with acts of reverence.”
Aristotle, Athenian Constitution (ed. H. Rackham) 14.1

This quote describes a woman in the role of an actress. Though
Peisistratus may have taken avantage of the common notion of how
goddesses worked, it also reflects the notions that the Minoan women who seemed to have performed this role.

“Then Megacles, harassed by factional strife, sent a message to Pisistratus offering him his daughter to marry and the sovereign power besides. [3] When this offer was accepted by Pisistratus, who agreed on these terms with Megacles, they devised a plan to bring Pisistratus back which, to my mind, was so exceptionally foolish that it is strange (since from old times the Hellenic stock has always been distinguished from foreign by its greater cleverness and its freedom from silly foolishness) that these men should devise such a plan
to deceive Athenians, said to be the subtlest of the Greeks. There was in the Paeanian deme a woman called Phya, three fingers short of six feet, four inches in height, and otherwise, too, well-formed. This woman they equipped in full armor and put in a chariot, giving her all the paraphernalia to make the most impressive spectacle, and so drove into the city; heralds ran before them, and when they came into town proclaimed as they were instructed: [5] “Athenians, give a hearty welcome to Pisistratus, whom Athena herself honors above all men and is bringing back to her own acropolis.” So the heralds went about proclaiming this; and immediately the report spread in the demes that Athena was bringing Pisistratus back, and the townsfolk, believing that the woman was the goddess herself, worshipped this human creature and welcomed Pisistratus.”
Herodotus, 1.60.1.

Rather, Pisistratus’ ‘Athena’ is as fraudulent as Polyneices’ ‘Justice’. She seems to be the military champion of Athens and leads back a man who was once military champion of Athens against Megara. She is in truth Phye of Paiania, and leads back one whose thoughts are on tyranny.[51] She is also the conventional substitute woman in a story of deceit.[52] Her name Phye means ‘growth’ or ‘stature’ and when accompanied by her size and beauty recalls the Homeric formula for physical excellence.[53] Yet her growth may be another manifestation of the tyrant’s own plant imagery (cp. 1.60.1, 64.1) and she comes from a country deme in his domain.[54]

Phye seems to have been used by Peisistratos for his own ends. Peisistratos lived until about 527 or 528 and was a tyrant of Athens from 546 to 527/8 BC. He was a populist who reduced the power of the aristocracy in Athens. Her act can be seen more sympathetically in the contect of the development of the theater at the time. The theater was enabled by an attmpt to impersonate the deities of the time. Aeschylus, it should be noted, lived from 525 BCE to 56 BCE. So theater in ancient Greece was not fully formed when Phye performed.