Tyrants: The Power to Do Everything in a Rage

Dio Chrysostom, On Kingship and Tyranny (Discourse 62) (Full text on Lacus Curtius)

“Really, if someone is incapable of governing a single person and that person is also really close to them, even there all the time, and, if they cannot keep a single mind on the straight and narrow (and by that I mean their own) how could they possibly rule over countless thousands of people like you, people who are spread all over the earth, most of whom you have’t seen and could never see and whose language you can’t understand?

It’s almost as if saying that someone whose vision is so impaired they cannot see their feet and they need someone to lead them by the hand can somehow see objects really far away, as when people see mountains or islands from afar on the sea.  Or, it is as if someone who cannot speak loudly enough to be heard by those right nearby can raise a voice to whole cities and armies!

Truly, intelligence is something like vision: for, when sight begins to diminish it cannot see the closest things even if it could touch the stars and heaven when healthy. Just so, a wise person’s mind can has the power to guide all people while the fool’s can’t keep even his own body or a single home safe”

Καὶ μὴν εἴ τις ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς οὐχ οἷός τε ἄρχειν ἐστί, καὶ τούτου σφόδρα ἐγγὺς ὄντος, ᾧ δὴ ξύνεστιν, οὐδὲ αὖ μίαν ψυχὴν κατευθύνειν τὴν αὑτοῦ, πῶς ἂν δύναιτο βασιλεύειν μυριάδων ἀναριθμήτων πανταχοῦ διεσπαρμένων, ὥσπερ σύ, καὶ πολλῶν γε οἰκούντων ἐπὶ πέρασι γῆς, ὧν οὐδὲ ἑώρακε τοὺς πλείστους οὐδ᾿ ἂν ἴδοι ποτὲ οὐδὲ τῆς φωνῆς ξυνήσει; ὅμοιον γὰρ ὥσπερ εἴ τις λέγοι τὸν οὕτως ἀδύνατον τὴν ὄψιν ὡς μηδὲ τὰ ἐν ποσὶν ὁρᾶν, ἀλλὰ προσδεόμενον χειραγωγοῦ, τοῦτον ἐφικνεῖσθαι βλέποντα μέχρι τῶν πλεῖστον ἀπεχόντων, ὥσπερ οἱ πόρρωθεν ὁρῶντες ἐκ τοῦ πελάγους τά τε ὄρη καὶ τὰς νήσους, ἢ τὸν οὐ δυνάμενον φθέγγεσθαι τοῖς παρεστῶσιν ἱκανὸν ὅλοις δήμοις καὶ στρατοπέδοις εἰς ἐπήκοον φθέγγεσθαι. καὶ γὰρ οὖν ἔχει τι παραπλήσιον ὁ νοῦς τῇ ὄψει· ὡς ἐκείνη διεφθαρμένη μὲν οὐδὲν οὐδὲ τῶν πλησιαίτατα ὁρᾷ, ὑγιὴς δὲ οὖσα μέχρις οὐρανοῦ τε καὶ ἀστέρων ἐξικνεῖται· ταὐτὸ δὴ τοῦτο ἡ μὲν τοῦ φρονίμου διάνοια καὶ πάντας ἀνθρώπους ἱκανὴ γίγνεται διοικεῖν, ἡ δὲ τοῦ ἄφρονος οὐδὲ ἓν σῶμα τὸ ἐκείνου δύναται φυλάττειν οὐδὲ ἕνα οἶκον.


“Many people in dynastic power, to explain further, because they can grab everything, desire to have everything. Because they determine justice, they become unjust. Because they do not fear the laws, they do not believe they exist. Because they are not forced to work, they never stop their conspicuous consumption.

Because no one stands up to them when they harm them, they never stop doing the same things; because there is no end to their pleasure, they never actually find their fill of it. Because no one criticizes them directly, they never miss a chance to slander someone else. Because no one wants to upset them, they find reason to be harsh to everyone. And because they have the power to do anything when enraged, they are forever in a state of anger.”

Οἱ μὲν γὰρ πολλοὶ τῶν ἐν ταῖς δυναστείαις, ὅτι μὲν ἔξεστιν αὐτοῖς πάντα λαμβάνειν, πάντων ἐπιθυμοῦσιν· ὅτι δὲ ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς ἐστι τὸ δίκαιον, διὰ τοῦτό εἰσιν ἄδικοι· ὅτι δὲ οὐ φοβοῦνται τοὺς νόμους, οὐδὲ εἶναι νομίζουσιν· ὅτι δὲ οὐκ ἀναγκάζονται πονεῖν, οὐδέποτε παύονται τρυφῶντες· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεὶς ἀμύνεται κακῶς πάσχων, οὐδέποτε παύονται ποιοῦντες· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεμιᾶς σπανίζουσιν ἡδονῆς, οὐδέποτε ἐμπίμπλανται ἡδόμενοι· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεὶς ψέγει ἐκ τοῦ φανεροῦ, οὐδὲν ἀπολείπουσι τῶν οὐ δικαίως λεγομένων· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεὶς αὐτοὺς βούλεται λυπεῖν, διὰ τοῦτο πᾶσι χαλεπαίνουσιν· ὅτι δὲ ὀργισθεῖσιν ἔξεστι πάντα ποιεῖν, διὰ τοῦτο συνεχῶς ὀργίζονται.

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