Nota Bene: The Downside of Being a Tyrant

Dio Chrysostom, The Sixth Oration: On Diogenes or Tyranny 35-37

“[Diogenes] did not think it right to compare himself to the king of the Persians more—for there was a great difference. The king happened to be the most tried man of all since he dreaded poverty among so much wealth, feared sickness when he could not refrain from what caused it, worried terribly about death even as he believed that everyone was conspiring against him, including his children and brothers. For  these reasons, he took no pleasure from eating, even though the greatest delicacies were available, nor could he forget his troubles by drinking. He lived no day easily when did not have the look of someone suffering terrible things. When he was sober, he wanted to be drunk, thinking that he would be freed from his suffering; but when he was drunk, he thought he would die because he was incapable of helping himself. And even more, when he was awake he prayed to sleep so that he might forget his fears, but while he was lying down, he leapt up quickly since he was being destroyed by dreams…”

Ὥστε οὐκέθ᾿ αὑτὸν ἠξίου τῷ Περσῶν βασιλεῖ παραβάλλειν· πολὺ γὰρ εἶναι τὸ μεταξύ. τὸν μὲν γὰρ ἀθλιώτατον ἁπάντων τυγχάνειν, φοβούμενον μὲν ἐν τοσούτῳ χρυσῷ πενίαν, φοβούμενον δὲ νόσους, τῶν δὲ νοσερῶν ἀπέχεσθαι μὴ δυνάμενον, ἐκπεπληγμένον δὲ τὸν θάνατον καὶ πάντας ἐπιβουλεύειν αὐτῷ νομίζοντα μέχρι τῶν παίδων τε καὶ ἀδελφῶν. διὰ δὲ ταῦτα μήτε ἐσθίοντα ἥδεσθαι, τῶν ἡδίστων αὐτῷ παρόντων, μήτε πίνοντα ἐπιλανθάνεσθαι τῶν ὀχληρῶν. μηδεμίαν δὲ ἡμέραν διάγειν ῥᾳδίως, ἐν ᾗ βλέπειν αὐτὸν μὴ τὰ δεινότατα πάσχοντα. καὶ τοῦτο μὲν νήφοντα ἐπιθυμεῖν μέθης, ὡς τότε ἀπαλλαγησόμενον τῶν συμφορῶν, τοῦτο δ᾿ αὖ μεθύοντα ἀπολωλέναι νομίζειν, ὡς ἀδύνατον αὑτῷ βοηθεῖν. ἔτι δὲ ἐγρηγορότα μὲν εὔχεσθαι καθυπνῶσαι ὅπως ἐπιλάθηται τῶν φόβων, κοιμώμενον δὲ ἀναστῆναι τὴν ταχίστην, ἅτε ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν τῶν ἐνυπνίων ἀπολλύμενον…

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Bronze head of Delphi Charioteer dedicated for tyrant of Gela, 5th Century BCE

3 thoughts on “Nota Bene: The Downside of Being a Tyrant

  1. It’s from a chariot group dedicated to Apollo in Delphi by the brother of the tyrant of Gela in Sicily, so the tags are correct.

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