E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
did not originally mean a despot, but an absolute prince, and especially one who made himself absolute in a free state. Napoleon III. would have been so called by the ancient Greeks. Many of the Greek tyrants were pattern rulers, as Pisistratos and Pericles, of Athens; Periander, of Corinth; Dionysios the Younger, Gelon, and his brother Hiero, of Syracuse; Polycrats, of Samos; Phidion, of Argos, etc. etc. (Greek, turannos, an absolute king, like the Czar of Russia.)
Tyrant of the Chersonese. Miltiads was so called, and yet was he, as Byron says, Freedoms best and bravest friend. (See THIRTY TYRANTS.)
A tyrants vein. A ranting, bullying manner. In the old moralities the tyrants were made to rant, and the loudness of their rant was proportionate to the villainy of their dispositions. Hence to out-Herod Herod is to rant more loudly than Herod; to oerdo Termagant is to rant more loudly than Termagant. (See PILATE, VOICE.)