Pittacus, one of the seven wise men of Greece, born in Mytilene in Lesbos about 652 B. 0., died there in 569. He was the son of a Thracian, Hyrradius, and a Lesbian woman, and is first mentioned as engaged in a conspiracy with the brothers of the poet Alcaeus, by which Melanchrus, tyrant of Mytilene, was slain about 612. About this time also he commanded the Mytileneans in a war with the Athenians for the possession of Sigeum in the Troad. Though the Mytileneans were defeated, Pittacus slew Phrynon, the leader of the enemy, an Olympic victor, whom he overcame by entangling him in a net. For his conduct he was offered great rewards, but would take only so much land as he could throw his spear over; this he set apart for religious use, and it was known to a late age as " the Pittacian land." Mytilene was soon after agitated by the conflict between several successive tyrants and the aristocratic party, the latter of which was led by Alcseus and his brother. These were at length worsted and banished, but kept Mytilene in a state of alarm by their efforts to return, so that the inhabitants finally chose Pittacus, who belonged to the democratic party, as a ruler with absolute power, under the title of msymnetes, an office which differed-from that of tyrant in being elective.
This office Pittacus administered, apparently very wisely, from 589 to 579; but his enemies accused him of tyranny, and the lost poems of Alcaaus abounded with bitter invectives against him. He enacted, among other laws, that offences committed in a state of intoxication should be visited with double penalties. The maxim, (" Know your opportunity "), is attributed to him. He was celebrated as an elegiac poet; but only a few lines of his are extant, preserved by Diogenes Laertius.