“The Criminal We Selected”: A Fable for Our Time

Phaedrus 1.31 Kite and doves

“Whoever trusts a dishonest man to keep him safe,
Discovers ruin where he thought he would find aid.

When the doves were often fleeing from the kite
And were avoiding death by wings’ rapid flight
The kite turned his plans toward deceit
And tricked the silly race with this conceit:
“Why do you live a live with so much worrying,
When with a simple oath, you could make me king?
I would keep you safe from every harm?”
Believing him, they put their safety in his arms.

Once he gained the realm he ate them one by one
And exercised his power with the harshest talons.
Then one of the remaining doves reflected,
“We deserve this: we gave our life to a criminal we selected.”


I.31 Milvus et Columbae

Qui se committit homini tutandum improbo,
auxilia dum requirit, exitium invenit.
Columbae saepe cum fugissent milvum,
et celeritate pinnae vitassent necem,
consilium raptor vertit ad fallaciam,
et genus inerme tali decepit dolo:
“Quare sollicitum potius aevum ducitis
quam regem me creatis icto foedere,
qui vos ab omni tutas praestem iniuria?”
Illae credentes tradunt sese milvo.
Qui regnum adeptus coepit vesci singulas,
et exercere imperium saevis unguibus.
Tunc de reliquis una “Merito plectimur,
huic spiritum praedoni quae commisimus”.


Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana VII

“The king, swelling up with rage because of what was said, responded, “You think that I am lying about them, when I have discovered that they are the most disgusting of people who are plotting against me?

And you are saying that they are good people, and serious? Well, I suppose if they were asked about you that they wouldn’t say that you’re a wizard, a madman, a braggart who is greedy and breaks the laws? That’s how evil your conspiracy is, you filthy criminals.

The trial will prove everything. I know how much you all swore under oath, why you did it, when you did it, and what you sacrificed, as if I were there and joined in with you!”

Ἀνοιδήσας δ᾿ ὁ βασιλεὺς ὑφ᾿ ὧν ἤκουσε “συκοφάντην με οὖν” εἶπεν “ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς εἴληφας, ἵν᾿ οὓς ἐγὼ μιαρωτάτους ἀνθρώπων καὶ τοῖς ἐμοῖς ἐπιπηδῶντας εὗρον, σὺ δ᾿, ὡς χρηστοί τέ εἰσι λέγεις καὶ νωθροί; καὶ γὰρ ἂν κἀκείνους ἡγοῦμαι ὑπὲρ σοῦ ἐρωτωμένους μήθ᾿ ὡς γόης εἶ, φάναι, μήθ᾿ ὡς ἴτης, μήθ᾿ ὡς ἀλαζών, μήθ᾿ ὡς φιλοχρήματος, μήθ᾿ ὡς φρονῶν ὑπὲρ τοὺς νόμους, οὕτως, ὦ μιαραὶ κεφαλαί, κακῶς ξυντέταχθε. ἐλέγξει δ᾿ ἡ κατηγορία πάντα· καὶ γὰρ ὁπόσα ὀμώμοται ὑμῖν, καὶ ὑπὲρ ὧν καὶ ὁπότε καὶ τί θύσασιν, οὐδὲν μεῖον οἶδα, ἢ εἰ παρετύγχανόν τε καὶ ἐκοινώνουν.”

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