P. Dorchester 19.11.6 Verso [2.5 by 3 Centimeters; Paper]
Recto is a receipt which seems to be for Domitian’s hair tonic. The provenance of the fragment is unknown. It was procured in South Quincy in exchange for a Dunkin’ Donuts gift certificate. Clearly written in the center are three words in a juvenile script:
…] εὖ γε, Βοῦμερ [..
…] ok, Boomer (?) […
The top and bottom are severely burnt. The word in the vocative seems to be a chrononym which likely declines following third declension kinship names.
“Around the same period of time in that summer, the Athenians set siege to the Scionaeans and after killing all the adult men, made the women and childen into slaves and gave the land to the Plataeans.”
This was done by vote of the Athenian democracy led by Cleon: Thucydides 4.122.6. A similar solution was proposed during the Mytilenean debate. Cleon is described by Thucydides as “in addition the most violent of the citizens who also was the most persuasive at that time by far to the people.” (ὢν καὶ ἐς τὰ ἄλλα βιαιότατος τῶν πολιτῶν τῷ τε δήμῳ παρὰ πολὺ ἐν τῷ τότε πιθανώτατος, 3.36.6)
“They were making a judgment about the men there and in their anger it seemed right to them not only to kill those who were present but to slay all the Mytileneans who were adults and to enslave the children and women.”
In his speech in defense of this policy, Cleon reflects on the nature of imperialism and obedience. Although he eventually failed to gain approval for this vote which was overturned, his arguments seem to have worked on later occasions.
“The truth is that because you live without fear day-to-day and there is no conspiring against one another, you think imagine your ‘allies’ to live the same way. Because you are deluded by whatever is presented in speeches you are mistaken in these matters or because you yield to pity, you do not not realize you are being dangerously weak for yourselves and for some favor to your allies.
You do not examine the fact that the power you hold is a tyranny and that those who are dominated by you are conspiring against you and are ruled unwillingly and that these people obey you not because they might please you by being harmed but because you are superior to them by strength rather than because of their goodwill.
The most terrible thing of all is if nothing which seems right to us is established firmly—if we will not acknowledge that a state which has worse laws which are unbendable is stronger than a state with noble laws which are weakly administered, that ignorance accompanied by discipline is more effective than cleverness with liberality, and that lesser people can inhabit states much more efficiently than intelligent ones.
Smart people always want to show they are wiser than the laws and to be preeminent in discussions about the public good, as if there are no more important things where they could clarify their opinions—and because of this they most often ruin their states. The other group of people, on the other hand, because they distrust their own intelligence, think that it is acceptable to be less learned than the laws and less capable to criticize an argument than the one who speaks well. But because they are more fair and balanced judges, instead of prosecutors, they do well in most cases. For this reason, then, it is right that we too, when we are not carried away by the cleverness and the contest of intelligence, do not act to advise our majority against our own opinion.”
“Learn the truth of those who render false the grace that has come to us from Jesus Christ, how they are truly opposite to the judgment of God. They don’t care about love, about the widow, about the orphan, the oppressed, the people in chains, those who have been set free, or the hungry, or the orphans.”
“The path of the dark one is crooked and curse-filled. For it is the path of endless death with punishment—on it are those things which destroy the soul: idolatry, arrogance, glorification of power, duplicity, adultery, murder, theft, hubris, transgression, lying, wickedness, insolence, drugs, magic, and not fearing God.
This road is filled with those who persecute good people, who hate the truth, who delight in lying, who do not understand the reward of justice, who are not curbed by good or righteous judgment, who do not defend the widow and the orphan, who do not have a sense of reverence for God but instead for wickedness—meekness and kindness are very distant from these men.
They delight in what is empty and pursue profit—they do not pity the poor or work for the oppressed. They do not recognize who has formed them—they are murderers of children, destroyers of God’s creation. They turn their backs on the man in need, they further oppress the oppressed and are partisans of the wealthy. They sit as judges of the poor without law, these men of total sin.”
“Against those in power, no one has enough defense
If a wicked adviser also enters the scene
His power and malice ruins their opposition.
An eagle carried a tortoise on high,
When he pulled his body in his armored home to hide,
And rested hidden untouched by any attack,
A crow came on a breeze flying near them:
“You have well seized a precious prize with your talons,
But, if I don’t show what you need to do,
It will pointlessly wear you out with its heavy weight.”
Promised a portion, the crow instructs the eagle to drop
The hard shell from the stars upon a cliff’s rock.
It would be easy to feed on the broken flesh!
The eagle followed up these wicked instructions
And also split the feast with her teacher.
Just so, the tortoise who was safe by nature’s gift.
Was ill-matched to those two and died a sad death.”
Contra potentes nemo est munitus satis;
si vero accessit consiliator maleficus,
vis et nequitia quicquid oppugnant, ruit.
Aquila in sublime sustulit testudinem:
quae cum abdidisset cornea corpus domo,
nec ullo pacto laedi posset condita,
venit per auras cornix, et propter volans
“Opimam sane praedam rapuisti unguibus;
sed, nisi monstraro quid sit faciendum tibi,
gravi nequiquam te lassabit pondere.”
promissa parte suadet ut scopulum super
altis ab astris duram inlidat corticem,
qua comminuta facile vescatur cibo.
inducta vafris aquila monitis paruit,
simul et magistrae large divisit dapem.
sic tuta quae naturae fuerat munere,
impar duabus, occidit tristi nece.
“Citizens, it is always right to hate and hinder traitors and corrupt people, but at this current moment, this would be necessary help to all humankind. For a terrible and harsh sickness has come over our country, one which needs great luck and your constant attention.”
“I said, well, these minor crimes are small in comparison to serious ones but all of these are not one step in the direction—as the proverb goes—to the evil and suffering a tyrant introduces. For whenever there are many people like this and others who follow them and they sense how large their followers are, then these are the people who produce a tyrant with the ignorance of the people, a man who has the biggest and most tyrant-like nature in his soul.”
Johnson’s penchant for the Classics and his ability to recite Greek are often mentioned either to illustrate that he might actually be intelligent or to furnish some additional evidence for his winsome quirkiness. This quotation of Simonides is not only not impressive but it is entirely predictable and tiresome.
Sure, memorizing stuff isn’t easy, but it doesn’t mean you understand it or are noble at all. It means you come from a place of privilege where you were given the time and instruction to memorize it.
There’s a lot more to Simonides’ poetry than the muscular epigram in praise of Sparta little BoJo managed to keep in his head when he was failing to learn empathy and how to tell the truth. Memorizing a key bit about Thermopylae just shows you drank int he canon at Boarding school deep and full and you have been trading on shared delirium in your charlatan’s career.
Here are some of our favorites:
“Weakness is the mortal’s lot,
nor yet does grief avail –
in such truncated time there’s naught
but toil heaped on travail.”
“But I now, since I ruined our people because of my own recklessness,
I am ashamed to face the Trojans and Trojan-women with their trailing robes,
That some other person who is worse than me will say
Hektor ruined the people because he believed too much in his own strength.”
“The insult “people-devouring king” is aimed especially at moving the people and provoking Agamemnon to Anger. Just as the term “gift-devourer” emphasizes the evil of taking bribes, just so here the term dêmoboros highlights the injustice which is more subtly announced in the phrase “deprive one of gifts”. Note as well that Agamemnon is maligned not just for drinking [being “wine-heavy”] but also for eating.”
“For the allies of the Trojans eat the public goods of the people and the leaders of the Argives drink the public goods. It has already been shown that, when a division of spoils was made, some portion was granted from the common shares to the king and for the symposia of the best men—the misuse of this makes the king a “people-eater”—by which this means a “consumer of the people’s things. For to claim that dêmoboros is the same as cannibalism [anthropo-phagy], that he eats the people, is both bitter to the thought and harmful to the sense. For it is clear that this is not what is being criticized, because it is not the people [demos] rather than the things of the people, the public goods, as is clear from other compounds like demiopratôn, which Kômikos brings up, or also from the Homeric dêmioergôn.”
“Guard against these things, kings, and straighten your stories, Bribe-eaters, forget about your crooked rulings completely.
Who fashions evil for another man brings it on himself.
The vilest end comes for the man who has made evil plans.”
“He says this educationally, answering to the kings who should make a great effort to make people prosperous even though some of them take bribes. Not only this, he says clearly that if the kingly right is bestowed by the gods to do good, then it is right that kingly men be givers of wealth, and to expunge wrong doing, including a desire for money, for which they should be leaders for others according to the will of the gods.”