Biting Tax-men, Barking Philosophers

Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 511

“Even though he was held in high esteem in Smyrna, which would shout almost anything in praise of him as a wondrous man and orator, Nicetes did not mix much with the people. He gave the following explanation of his fear to the crowd: “I fear the people more when they praise me than when they mock me.” Once when a tax-man acted offensively to him in the court room and said “Stop barking at me”, Nicetes responded cleverly, “By Zeus, I will when you stop biting me!”

Μεγάλων δ’ ἀξιούμενος τῆς Σμύρνης τί οὐκ ἐπ’ αὐτῷ βοώσης ὡς ἐπ’ ἀνδρὶ θαυμασίῳ καὶ ῥήτορι, οὐκ ἐθάμιζεν ἐς τὸν δῆμον, ἀλλ’ αἰτίαν παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς ἔχων φόβου „φοβοῦμαι” ἔφη „δῆμον ἐπαίροντα μᾶλλον ἢ λοιδορούμενον.” τελώνου δὲ θρασυναμένου ποτὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐν δικαστηρίῳ καὶ εἰπόντος „παῦσαι ὑλακτῶν με” μάλα ἀστείως ὁ Νικήτης „νὴ Δία”, εἶπεν „ἢν καὶ σὺ παύσῃ δάκνων με.”

Nicetes lived around the time of the Emperor Nero.

Image result for Medieval manuscript tax collector

House Books of the Nuremberg Twelve Brothers Foundation, Nuremberg 1388. Occupation and dress.

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