Phalaris was the first tyrant of Akragas. He probably reigned from 570 to 554 BC, for sixteen years.
Despite the fact that under his leadership the city considerably expanded its territorial boundaries, sources tell of a cruel and controversial individual accused of taking power by force. One day, he was asked to build a Temple dedicated to Zeus on the city Acropolis ;
During the Thesmophoria festival, while the Akragantine people were celebrating, he armed the labourers who were working on his site and ruthlessly ordered them to attack the city and its inhabitants. No one expected an attack at a time of celebration and therefore it was not difficult for Phalaris to seize power.
Another story passed on about the tyrant is that of his famous bull: it is said that Phalaris asked an Athenian blacksmith and smelter, Perillo, to create a torture machine that he himself had designed. It was a bronze bull, hollow inside, where the tyrant would throw people he wanted to torture and kill inside. A fire was lit under the bull and the victims were literally roasted inside it, where their tormented screams echoed through the air like roars. History has it that the wickedness of Phalaris knew no limits: once the bull was built, the tyrant had Perillo, the same craftsman who had built it, to be the first to try it.
When his tyranny fell – thought to have been at the hands of Telemachus, Theron’s ancestor – in revenge, he too was shut inside the bull and a great fire lit beneath it.