“How Was the [Expensive Classics Event]?”: Income Inequality and the Classics

This is a companion to the earlier essay, “This is Not My Beautiful House: Classics, Class, and Identity”, which elicited a variety of personal responses from classicists and students about the myriad problems in the discipline. My contribution here, specifically, is to further articulate and contextualize my response to Amy Pistone’s asking “what can individuals maybe do to help?”

 

The title of this article is at the heart of my response to the question on what can be done to help to address the class-based challenges of studying the Classics. “How was the ________?”, whether the blank space is filled in with conference, study abroad term, workshop, or something else, is a question of access. Encoded in this question is the fact that one person had this access while another didn’t. It is an innocuous question, with an innocuous reply, that contextually is a perfect representation of Classics’ self-perpetuating economic inequalities. And these inequalities were regular features of my studies.

My formal involvement with Classics began when I was twenty-one years old, though in high school I had developed an interest in Greek and Roman history and was even able to take year of Latin before the program was cut. In my first years of college, I focused on social science courses in psychology, sociology, and political science, with an interest in labor relations. But after donating three years to these subjects, I didn’t feel the same love for learning them that I did when I was reading about the Peloponnesian Wars or Roman politics in my free time.

So, I switched to Classics, starting Latin coursework right away and Greek later (along with French in anticipation of graduate work). Now in my early thirties, I am still involved with the field as an adjunct instructor teaching Greek and Roman Civilization (while missing teaching Latin), and I also work outside of academia to pay the bills. At times I feel like I belong, but at other times I feel like a stranger in a strange land. This was the case from the beginning.

During both my undergraduate and graduate pursuits in Classics, I found myself uttering some variant of this “how was the ______?” quote almost every time I’d gone a week without seeing a classmate—or so it felt. On the same day that I was excited to use a coupon for $1 off the price of a pizza on my way home from an eight-hour shift at a liquor store, a classmate was, for example, touring the Alamo after the SCS Conference. Another classmate brought back some fantastic replica pottery and coins from an 8-week study abroad event in Greece a month or so earlier; I remember thinking at the time that the cost to bring the vases back on a plane was probably more than my disposable income for the month.

Asking about someone else’s experiences at a conference, study-abroad program, or workshop was at the same time painful and embarrassing. I received an (often thorough, vivid) account of a classmate’s engagement with the field in a way that I could only rarely—if ever—experience, and simultaneously I gave responses which made it abundantly clear that I couldn’t participate. Despite this, I was still genuinely interested in others’ more extensive involvement with Classics, through some combination of intellectual interest, living vicariously through my classmates, and being polite.

In upper-level undergrad and graduate courses, I just hoped the familiar classmates wouldn’t return with a question about my own travels. They almost always did, and I became better at changing the subject after a quick “no.”

These types of conversations—dialogues of coded income inequality—were not unusual to me even outside of academia, though. During my childhood in two small towns in the Midwest, my family toed the poverty line, between lower middle class and “lowest” (how’s that for an official socio-economic designation?). From elementary school onward, I listened to stories of Disneyworld during summer vacation and spring break trips to the beach. Later I would become a “first-generation” college student; I use quotation marks because my father attended college, but was not a part of my life past my infancy.

P. Mich 8.471 – Letters of Claudius Terentianus*

“My mother sold our linens for an as so I could go to Alexandria.”

mater m[e]a no[bi]s assem vendedi[t] lentiamina / [u]t veniam alexandrie

*My interests are in non-elite (“vulgar”) Latin; sorry, Cicero, Virgil, et al. Whenever possible I opt to use the words of people outside of Rome’s literary elite.

 

At any rate, by the time I arrived at a state university—after some time at a community college—I was quite accustomed to hearing about things I couldn’t do or have. Thankfully, my mother didn’t have to sell her linens so that I could leave town when the time came, unlike Claudius Terentianus’ mom. We have student loans for that now.

It wasn’t until graduate school and afterward that inequality in Classics, which had previously been confined in my cognitive space to my inability to contribute to travel-related conversations, became a more substantive obstacle. To be clear, it did not come from the faculty, classmates, or department at my state school, all of whom were wonderfully accommodating and committed to widening access to the historically isolated field.

Pompei_-_House_of_Julia_Felix_-_MAN

The inequalities became increasingly problematic during the first year of my M.A. program, as I began to focus more seriously on a career profile and CV that would get me beyond the first rounds of application purges. Diving into research on proper Classics CVs, newly hired faculty credentials, and all of the other things that repel students from graduate schools and higher education, it quickly hit me like a speeding chariot that I would not have even the opportunity for success in this discipline unless I could afford to sacrifice thousands of dollars (in addition to regular expenses), and extensive time away from a family that at many times needed me nearby.

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Bellum Incivile: The Candidi Assemble

Another text tentatively attributed to Caesar was discovered along with the fragments of the De Silvis and an appendix to De Bello Gallico. This is almost surely the lost Bellum Incivile.

C. Julius Caesar (?), Bellum Incivile. Edited by Dani Bostick

2.6 Having covered their heads with red caps, the Candidi, numbering 70,000, from places which were being impoverished by unjust laws and excessive spending of the state because they were regularly forgotten by everyone and were very far away from the resources and wealth of cities, assembled eager to see Manicula whom they believed was sent to them as a gift from the gods to be their leader. Among the Candidi a great fear had taken over which increased quickly because of Manicula’s various speeches.

2.6 Sanguinicis mitris capitibus opertis Candidi, ad hominum milia septuaginta, e locis, qui iniustis legibus atque sumptu civitatis exhuriebantur propterea quod ex omnium memoria diu deponebantur longissimeque ab opibus atque divitiis urbium absunt, studio videndi Maniculae, quem dono deum sibi missum ducem crediderunt, convenerunt. Apud Candidos incesserat animis magnus timor, qui variis Maniculae sermonibus celeriter augetur

2.9 Manicula addressed them and said that the Candidi had arrived at the end of their toils and indignities; that he would drain the low-lying areas around the forum by means of big sewers; and that Hillary, who concealed 30,000 letters, must be locked up and declared an enemy of the state so that he might increase his power. As Manicula was speaking the Candidi kept interrupting and shouting, “Lock her up!”

2.9  Manicula ad hunc modum locutus est: Candidos ad finem laborum ac contumeliarum perventos; se infima loca circa forum cloacis magnis siccaturum; Hillariam, quae triginta milia litterarum furtim celaret, in vinculis conieciendam hostemque rei publicae iudicandam ut suas opes augerentur. Dicentem Candidi interpellabant et conclamitabant: “In catenis!”

 

*mitreae are generally caps fashionable in the East, but here the term is most likely used as a reference to their place of manufacture, rather than the style. 

** There is much debate over the Candidi. Some refer to this group simply as the “Whites,” while others prefer not to translate the term. There are fine scholars on both sides of this debate.

 

fragment 2

Newly Discovered Text: Caesar on Education and News in Finland

The following text, surmised to be a lost appendix to the well known De Bello Gallico, presents some general facts about education and fake news in Northern Europe for an audience of the Republic far removed from such mundane concerns. The previous section on forestry can be found here.

C. Julius Caesar (?), De Silvis. Edited by Dani Bostick.

1.5 In Finland schools are very different from prisons and for this reason seem rather unusual to foreigners. It is permitted to walk and play outside rather often so that teachers, who are considered to be almost gods and receive the greatest honor among their people, can keep students in a happy state of mind. When students learn, their bodies are calm not because they fear punishment or are asleep but because they delight in knowledge. They enjoy excellent lunches consisting of small fish, sausages, cheese, and fruit so that bad nutrition does not diminish their strength and enthusiasm. And none of this originates in factories far away, but in neighboring gardens and fields. The state prepares for slaughter in schools in proportion to the danger of this possibility; since there is no danger of this type of situation, they have nothing to prepare for. This is the greatest glory to Finland.

1.5 In Finlandia scholae dissimillimae carceribus atque ob eam causam inusitatioresque barbaris sunt. licet in locis apertis saepius errare ludereque ut magistri, qui paene deorum habentur loco maximamque inter suos ferunt laudem, animi felicitate discipulos contineant. Cum hi docent, corpora eorum neque timore poenarum neque somnio, sed delectationibus scientiae immota sunt. gustant prandia optima, quae in pisculis et tomaculis et caseo et pomis consistunt, ne malus victus vires studiumque diminuat. nec quicquam in remota fabrica, sed in hortis et agris vicinis nascitur. Civitas pro magnitudine periculi caedem in scholis parat. Quoniam nullum periculum caedis est, nihil parandum est. Finlandiae maxima laus est.

1.6 The leader of Finland can read and understands everything easily even without pictures. When he hears gossip or a rumor, he does not communicate it publicly because it has been discovered that fearful and ignorant people are scared by rumors and sometimes believe false words. The leader avoids driving his citizens to greater madness and conveys the truth to the people. For in Finland they do not think it is appropriate to deceive or manipulate with deceitful lies. For this reason the leader of Finland is held in high regard not only at home home but also among all nations.

1.6 Dux Finlandiae legere potest omniaque etiam sine picturis faciliter intellegit. Cum rumorem aut famam accepit, publice non communicat, quod saepe homines temerarios atque imperitos falsis rumoribus terreri et falsis verbis interdum credere cognitum est. Itaque dux cives ad maiorem amentiam impellere vitans veritatem multitudini prodit. Nam in Finlandia nefas esse existimatur subdolis mendaciis fallere aut inducere. Qua de causa dux Finlandiae non solum domi sed etiam apud omnes nationes honore largiter habetur.

Caveat lector: this might be a piece of satire.

David with musicians and dancing children

David with musicians and dancing children, Illuminated psalter, Master of Isabella di Chiaromonte, Matteo Felice

Newly Discovered Text: Caesar on Forestry in Finland

The following text, surmised to be a lost appendix to the well known De Bello Gallico, presents some general facts about the practice of forestry in Northern Europe for an audience of the Republic far removed from such mundane concerns (until, of course, their country burns down around them…).

C. Julius Caesar (?), De Silvis. Edited by Dani Bostick.

1.3 The best part of Gaul is Finland which is inhabited by the most intelligent citizens of all because they most often rake leaves and keep four rakes under every tree. For this reason the Finnish people also surpass everybody in safety, because almost every day they clean their forest with these rakes either when leaves fall from trees or when there is dirt of another kind.

1.3 Optima pars Galliae est Finlandia quam cives intellegentissimi omnium colunt propterea quod saepissimeque folias conradunt atque quattuor pectines sub omni arbore ponunt. Qua de causa Finlandi quoque omnes sapientia praecedunt, quod fere cotidie pectinibus silvas purgant, cum aut foliae ex arboribus cadunt aut illuvies alterius generis est.

1.4 This technique is thought to have originated in Canada, where there are many forests, and brought to Finland, but now those who want to learn more about it do not go there for the sake of learning about it. You see, the entire nation of the Finnish people is extremely devoted to learning and on that account foreign teachers come to Finland so that they might learn to teach well, but they never ask how to keep forests clean on account of their stupidity.

1.4 Haec disciplina in Canada reperta atque in Finlandiam translata esse existimatur, sed nunc, qui diligentius eam rem cognoscere volunt, plerumque illo discendi causa non proficiscuntur. Nam natio est omnis Finlandorum admodum dedita eruditioni, atque ob eam causam barbari magistri veniunt ut bene docere discant, sed ob stultitiam quomodo silvae purgentur numquam rogant.

Dani Bostick teaches high school Latin and an occasional micro-section of ancient Greek in Virginia where she lives with her husband, children, and muppet-like dogs. She has published many collections of Latin mottoes online, has a strong presence as an activist for survivors of sexual violence on twitter, and is available to write, speak, or rabble-rouse.

Caveat lector: this might be a piece of satire.

Finding the Hart from Livre de la Chasse by Gaston Phoebus, Count de Foix.

We Have Two Ears, One Mouth: δύο ὦτα ἔχομεν, στόμα δὲ ἕν

I am reposting this in honor of Paul Holdengraber who is leaving the New York Public Library at the end of this year to become the Founding Executive Director of The Onassis Foundation LA. I am eager to see the amazing things Paul will do there, but I know that the NYPL will not be the same without him.

The first version of this post emerged from a conversation Paul and I had on twitter. The conversation and the post were turning points for this blog–it showed me how social media could be a force for good and that there was a lot more we could do with this project in addition to posting passages from Latin and Greek. I wish Paul the best of luck in his new mission.

A few years ago now I noticed the Paul Holdengraber‘s 7-word autobiography from brainpickings.org.: “Mother always said: Two Ears, One mouth.” The phrase bounced around in my head a bit–it has that aphoristic perfection of brevity and familiarity. So, I reached out to Paul over twitter and told him it sounded like something from a Greek philosopher like Heraclitus.

Proverbs have a special place in language and society cross-culturally–they strike a promise of insight that demands  contemplation or explanation. They also have an air of authority and antiquity, even when they actually possess neither. And, unlike longer, less anonymized forms of language, they are repeated, borrowed, and stolen without end.

My late father was a great aphorist–perhaps missing him is part of why Paul’s tweet stuck with me. Most of my father’s words, however, were far more Archie Bunker than Aristotle. Those I can repeat were likely taken from his own father, a Master Sargent in WW2 who died a decade before I was born. The tendency to inherit and pass down proverbs is something I only really noticed when I had children and found myself ‘quoting’ (or becoming?) my father (“if you take care of your equipment it will take care of you”) or my grandmother (cribbing Oscar Wilde: “Only boring people get bored”).

So, when Paul thought it would be a gas if we actually translated his mother’s words into ancient Greek (and eventually Latin), I was ready. I got help from some great Classicists too. We came up with a few versions.

First, I went with classical rhetoric, a close antithesis: μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα μὲν δύο, ἕν δὲ στόμα. But our friend the Fantastic Festus argued that Heraclitus or Hesiod would not use use μὲν and δὲ so, so he suggested losing them for something like this:

μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν στόμα [“mother always used to say two ears, one mouth”]

This gave us Paul’s mother’s advice in seven Greek words and his mother’s advice. But this didn’t get us out of trouble. The critic, author and Classicist Daniel Mendelsohn suggested hexameters and from across the Atlantic the extraordinary Armand D’Angour obliged with a composition of his own:

ῥᾴδιόν ἐστι Λόγον τε νοεῖν ξυνετόν τε ποιῆσαι·
τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι βροτῶν, ἓν στόμα τ᾽, ὦτα δύο.

[Literally, this is “it is easy to know the Logos and make it understood: Mortals have this [character]: one mouth and two ears” Go to the full post for all the compositional glory and an appearance from Salman Rushdie].

At this point, I felt like I had entertained myself on a Saturday morning, involved my internet friends in a silly, though somewhat academic caper, and done a favor for a new friend to please the spirits of parents no longer with us. But the world wide web had a a plot twist I should have thought of.

Ancient Greek and Roman authors and scholars loved proverbs. Writers like Zenobius and Photius made collections and interpretations of them. The Byzantine Encyclopedia, the Suda, uses the word for proverb (in Greek paroimia) over 600 times and presents nearly as many distinct proverbs. (Many of which are wonderful.) And in the modern world, we have an entire academic field dedicated to the study of proverbial sayings: paroemiology. Let me tell you, we could have used en expert last fall.

While we were playing around with translations, one of our ‘players’, the grand Gerrit Kloss, let us know we were, to use a proverbial saying, reinventing the wheel. Zeno, the Cynic philosopher, was credited with this saying over two thousand years ago:

So, the quote I thought sounded Greek, turned out to be Greek. According to Diogenes Laertius, Zeno said something powerfully similar (the full text is available on Perseus). And, honestly, without preening too much, I was happy that the version I settled on (μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν στόμα) wasn’t too different from the words attributed to Zeno: δύο ὦτα ἔχομεν, στόμα δὲ ἕν).

And yet, the story was not over. Gerrit Floss was far from done with us–he found an even earlier Latin version of the line attributed to Apuleius.

As we began to discuss these versions, other voices chimed in with accounts from even more languages. Gerrit helped us trace the life of this proverbial statement to German and Danish:

Of course, here we have a German testimony to a Danish proverb–and I have no idea what kind of authority this has.

Ein dänisches Sprichwort sagt: “Der Mensch hat zwei Ohren und nur einen Mund. Wir sollten also doppelt so viel zuhören, wie wir sprechen.”

(“A Danish saying goes: “Man has two ears and only one mouth. Therefore, we should listen twice as much as we speak.”)

Oh, and later one, we added some Arabic to the mix too!

[The Arabic version of this is dated to the 7th century CE and attributed to a companion of the Prophet Muhammad named Abū ad-Dardā. Thanks to ReemK10 for this]

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A Tyranny Gained Through Luck

Sallust, Letter to Caesar 2.3

“While the courts just as in previous eras have been run by the three orders, those political factions still rule them: they give and take what they may, giving the innocent the runaround and heaping honors on their own. Neither crime nor shame nor public disgrace disqualifies them from office. They rob, despoil whomever they please. And finally, as if the city has been sacked, they rely on their own lust and excess instead of the laws.

And for me this would only be a source of limited grief if, in their typical fashion, they were pursuing a victory born from excellence. But the laziest of people whose total strength and excellence come from their tongue are arrogantly administering a tyranny gained through luck and from another person! For what treason or civil discord has obliterated so many families? Who whose spirit was ever so hasty and extreme in victory?”

Iudicia tametsi, sicut antea, tribus ordinibus tradita sunt, tamen idem illi factiosi regunt, dant, adimunt quae lubet, innocentis circumveniunt, suos ad honorem extollunt. Non facinus, non probrum aut flagitium obstat, quo minus magistratus capiant. Quos commodum est trahunt, rapiunt; postremo tamquam urbe capta libidine ac licentia sua pro legibus utuntur.

Ac me quidem mediocris dolor angeret, si virtute partam victoriam more suo per servitium exercerent. Sed homines inertissimi, quorum omnis vis virtusque in lingua sita est, forte atque alterius socordia dominationem oblatam insolentes agitant. Nam quae seditio aut dissensio civilis tot tam illustris familias ab stirpe evertit? Aut quorum umquam in victoria animus tam praeceps tamque inmoderatus fuit?

 

Image result for ancient roman politics

Outidanoi: Not Even People (Unless you Vote!)

“I’ve never seen hatred like this,” he said. “To me, they’re not even people. It’s so, so sad. Morality’s just gone, morals have flown out the window and we deserve so much better than this as a country.” — Eric Trump

1.231 (Achilles to Agamemnon)

“You are a people eating king who rules over nobodies”

δημοβόρος βασιλεὺς ἐπεὶ οὐτιδανοῖσιν ἀνάσσεις·

Suda, s.v. outidanos

Outidanos: worth nothing”

Οὐτιδανός: οὐδενὸς ἄξιος.

Il. 1.294-5 (Achilles to Agamemnon)

“Really, may I be called both a coward and a nobody
If I yield every fact to you, whatever thing you ask”

ἦ γάρ κεν δειλός τε καὶ οὐτιδανὸς καλεοίμην
εἰ δὴ σοὶ πᾶν ἔργον ὑπείξομαι ὅττί κεν εἴπῃς·

Etymologicum Magnum

Outidanos: Worthy of no account, the least.”
Οὐτιδανός: Οὐδενὸς λόγου ἄξιος, ἐλάχιστος.

Od. 9.458-460 (Polyphemos, the Cyclops, to his favorite sheep)

“Then once he was murdered his brains would be spattered
All over the cave to the ground and my heart would be lightened
Of the evils which this worthless nobody brought me.”

τῶ κέ οἱ ἐγκέφαλός γε διὰ σπέος ἄλλυδις ἄλλῃ
θεινομένου ῥαίοιτο πρὸς οὔδεϊ, κὰδ δέ τ’ ἐμὸν κῆρ
λωφήσειε κακῶν, τά μοι οὐτιδανὸς πόρεν Οὖτις.’

Hesychius

Outidanos: nobody. A weakling, a coward. Worthy of nothing, not even of speech.”

οὐτιδανός· οὐδαμινός v. ἀσθενής p. ἄψυχος. οὐδενὸς ἄξιος οὐδὲ λόγου

Od. 9.516-517 (Polyphemos, again)

“But now, even though he is small, and a worthless puny man,
He blinded my eye once he subdued me with wine!”

νῦν δέ μ’ ἐὼν ὀλίγος τε καὶ οὐτιδανὸς καὶ ἄκικυς
ὀφθαλμοῦ ἀλάωσεν, ἐπεί μ’ ἐδαμάσσατο οἴνῳ.

 

Image result for Cyclops blinded ancient

Once Again, Latin and Greek Passages on Treason, For A Good Reason (Vote!)

Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 10.1

“Look, I have letters here which are obvious proof of treason and have the plans of the enemy.”

teneo ecce epistulas, in quibus manifesta proditionis argumenta sunt, in quibus hostium consilia

Polybius, Histories 5.59.2

“…because of the style of his life and his treason against his country I believe he is worthy of the greatest punishment.”

….κατά γε τὴν τοῦ βίου προαίρεσιν καὶ τὴν εἰς πατρίδα παρανομίαν τῆς μεγίστης ἄξιον κρίνω τιμωρίας

Cicero, De Senectute 12.39–40

“He used to say that no plague is more fatal than the bodily pleasure which has been given to human beings by nature. Zealous lusts for this kind of pleasure compel people toward pursuing them insanely and without any control. From this source springs treason against our country, coups against the legitimate government, and from here secret meetings with enemies are born.”

Nullam capitaliorem pestem quam voluptatem corporis hominibus dicebat a natura datam, cuius voluptatis avidae libidines temere et ecfrenate ad potiendum incitarentur. Hinc patriae proditiones, hinc rerum publicarum eversiones, hinc cum hostibus clandestina colloquia nasci

Wait, there’s more! But First….

US Constitution, Article 3, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

From the Twelve Tables

“The Law of the Twelve Tables commands that anyone who has conspired with an enemy against the state or handed a citizen to a public enemy, should suffer capital punishment.”

Marcianus, ap. Dig., XLVIII, 4, 3: Lex XII Tabularum iubet eum qui hostem concitaverit quive civem hosti tradiderit capite puniri.

Tacitus Histories 3. 57

“How much power the audacity of single individuals can have during civil discord! Claudius Flaventinus, a centurion dismissed by Galba in shame, made the fleet at Misenum revolt with forged letters from Vespasian promising a reward for treason. Claudius Apollinaris, a man neither exceptional for his loyalty nor dedicated in his betrayal, was in charge of the fleet; and Apinius Tiro, an ex-praetor who was by chance at Minturnae then, put himself forth as the leader of the defectors.”

Sed classem Misenensem (tantum civilibus discordiis etiam singulorum audacia valet) Claudius Faventinus centurio per ignominiam a Galba dimissus ad defectionem traxit, fictis Vespasiani epistulis pretium proditionis ostentans. Praeerat classi Claudius Apollinaris, neque fidei constans neque strenuus in perfidia; et Apinius Tiro praetura functus ac tum forte Minturnis agens ducem se defectoribus obtulit.

Lucan 4.218-221

“Must we beg Caesar to handle us no worse than
His other slaves? Have your generals’ lives been begged?
Our safety will never be the price and bribe for foul treason.”

Utque habeat famulos nullo discrimine Caesar,
Exorandus erit? ducibus quoque vita petita est?
Numquam nostra salus pretium mercesque nefandae
Proditionis erit…

Some Greek Words for Treason

ἀπιστία, “treachery”
προδοσία, “high treason”, “betrayal”
προδοτής, “traitor”
ἐπιβουλή, “plot”

From the Suda

“Dêmadês: He was king in Thebes after Antipater. A son of Dêmeas the sailor, he was also a sailor, a shipbuilder, and a ferry-operator. He gave up these occupations to enter politics and turned out to be a traitor—he grew very wealthy from this and obtained, as a bribe from Philip, property in Boiotia.”

Δημάδης, μετ’ ᾿Αντίπατρον βασιλεύσας Θήβας ἀνέστησε, Δημέου ναύτου, ναύτης καὶ αὐτός, ναυπηγὸς καὶ πορθμεύς. ἀποστὰς δὲ τούτων ἐπολιτεύσατο καὶ ἦν προδότης καὶ ἐκ τούτου εὔπορος παντὸς καὶ κτήματα ἐν Βοιωτίᾳ παρὰ Φιλίππου δωρεὰν ἔλαβεν.

Dinarchus, Against Philocles, 8-9

“Don’t you understand that while, in other cases, it is necessary to impose a penalty on those who have committed crimes after examining the matter precisely and uncovering the truth over time, but for instances of clear and agreed-upon treason, we must yield first to anger and what comes from it? Don’t you think that this man would betray any of the things most crucial to the state, once you made him in charge of it?”

ἆρ᾿ ἴσθ᾿ ὅτι ἐπὶ μὲν τῶν ἄλλων ἀδικημάτων σκεψαμένους ἀκριβῶς δεῖ μεθ᾿ ἡσυχίας καὶ τἀληθὲς ἐξετάσαντας, οὕτως ἐπιτιθέναι τοῖς ἠδικηκόσι τὴν τιμωρίαν, ἐπὶ δὲ ταῖς φανεραῖς καὶ παρὰ πάντων ὡμολογημέναις προδοσίαις πρώτην τετάχθαι τὴν ὀργὴν καὶ τὴν μετ᾿ αὐτῆς γιγνομένην τιμωρίαν; τί γὰρ τοῦτον οὐκ ἂν οἴεσθε ἀποδόσθαι τῶν ἐν τῇ πόλει σπουδαιοτάτων, ὅταν ὑμεῖς ὡς πιστὸν αὐτὸν καὶ δίκαιον φύλακα καταστήσητε;

Lycurgus, Against Leocrates, 126-7

“It is right that punishments for other crimes come after them, but punishment for treason should precede the dissolution of the state. If you miss that opportune moment when those men are about to do something treacherous against their state, it is not possible for you to obtain justice from the men who did wrong: for they become stronger than the punishment possible from those who have been wronged.”

τῶν μὲν γὰρ ἄλλων ἀδικημάτων ὑστέρας δεῖ τετάχθαι τὰς τιμωρίας, προδοσίας δὲ καὶ δήμου καταλύσεως προτέρας. εἰ γὰρ προήσεσθε τοῦτον τὸν καιρὸν, ἐν ᾧ μέλλουσιν ἐκεῖνοι κατὰ τῆς πατρίδος φαῦλόν τι πράττειν, οὐκ ἔστιν ὑμῖν μετὰ ταῦτα δίκην παρ’ αὐτῶν ἀδικούντων λαβεῖν· κρείττους γὰρ ἤδη γίγνονται τῆς παρὰ τῶν ἀδικουμένων τιμωρίας.

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Jacob van Maerlant, (The traitor Ganelon drawn and quartered)., Spieghel Historiael, West Flanders, c. 1325-1335.

Old Ideas for New Problems: Ancient Government Institutions Today (Vote!)

Earlier in the year, in a moment of political frustration, I tweeted the following poll, soliciting which ancient political institution people would want to return to practice today.

The winner was ostracism by far, but I think that this is in part because my options weren’t great. Here are better suggestions made by others.

 

Apoklêrosis/sortition: : This is the ultimate anti-oligarchic and anti-plutocratic move from ancient Athens, to select by klêros officers and representatives from a larger predetermined list. The Athenian Council of 500 was selected by lot as early as the Peloponnesian War (Thuc. 8.69.4). Imagine if we selected 100 senators in each state and then reduced that number to 2 by drawing lots! We could have an NBA draft style show.

Drawbacks: Political chaos before and after the drawing of lots. Positives: Wild entertainment, dilution of power of money in politics.

Antidosis: The antidosis goes hand-in-hand with the leitourgia (or liturgy) which was the practice of having the wealthiest members of the state (voluntarily) pay for public works (buildings and even military expenses like triremes). Imagine how proud our wealthiest classes could be to put their own names on stealth bombers!

The antidosis is used if someone has a public obligation to make but cannot do so or wants to avoid it by pointing out that there is someone richer who should pay for it. Need a new bridge? Let’s take our wealthy to court and make them pay for it! I think that the suggestion also had taxes in general in mind. Imagine if individual citizens could sue other citizens (and corporations) for not paying enough in taxes….

Drawbacks: The wealthy might use this as a tool to attack one another. Positives: See negatives.

Dual Consulship: Rome somehow survived with two consuls elected annually. They held power in alternating months and, when they were done with service, went off to serve in the provinces (but not all the time). The Consulship was, from some perspective, a novel solution to the concentration of power in the hands of the monarch. But some have seen it as a destabilizing institution.

Imagine if we had new chief executives every year and how it might be if they alternated in their duties from month to month? True. it might yield a type of stability through detente. But it might also be pure insanity.

Drawbacks: Nonstop, annual campaigning for office. Positives: Diluted executive power, increased range of executive officers.

Hostage-taking: I am not sure if this option is serious or not. Hostages (obses) were often taken in ancient Greece and Rome as part of treaties with other nations or subordinate states. There were meant to guarantee fidelity to agreements. I am not quite sure how this would work internally in a single state.

Drawbacks: Using violence against captive human beings as a threat to ensure good behavior of foreign actors is beneath our moral values…..Positives: See Drawbacks.

Collegial Magistracies with VetoRoman magistrates could impose a veto on the actions of an equal or lesser magistrate’s actions. This would not help with the executive power in the US or UK at the top, but it might help with the actions of executive appointees. More interesting, if we are considering vetoes, would be the creation of a Tribune of the Plebs with full veto power.

Drawbacks: Wild cross-checking among elected and appointed officials might make government action less efficient. Positives: Transparency and accountability?

Euthuna: (often spelled Euthyna). This is a “straightening” of accounts after someone has served in office. It was used in part require elected officials to provide financial accountability for their time in office, but questions of conduct and decision making could be introduced as well. The idea of reinstituting this, I think, would be that modern officials would be more restrained in expenditures and conduct if they knew they would be audited after a term. Of course, in ancient Athens there was a board of investigators. Given human corruptibility, the euthuna might be as useful as ethics investigations in the US House of Representatives.

Drawbacks: Constant accounting from elected and appointed officials might make government action less efficient. Positives: Transparency and accountability?

Here’s another one:

Lawsuit Penalties: In Athens, if you failed to secure a portion of votes for conviction in a losing trial, then you would have to pay a penalty for a frivolous lawsuit. In our modern age, corporations and the wealthy can sue weaker parties into submission even if they continually lose their lawsuits because of legal costs (money as well as time).

 

https://twitter.com/CorpusCynicum/status/1023993235658760195

Rhodes, Peter J. (Durham), Ameling, Walter (Jena), Kierdorf, Wilhelm (Cologne), Nollé, Johannes (Munich), and Heimgartner, Martin (Halle). ‘Lot, Election by’. Brill’s New Pauly. Ed. Hubert Cancik and et al. Brill Reference Online

 

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Enslaving the Children: Populist Politics and Savage Consensus (Vote!)

During the Peloponnesian War, the Athenian Democracy deliberated on and voted for the killing of men and the enslavement of women and children. To ask why is not an idle historical musing.

Thucydides, 5.116.4

“The [Athenians] killed however many of the Melian men were adults, and made the women and children slaves. Then they settled the land themselves and later on sent five hundred colonists.”

οἱ δὲ ἀπέκτειναν Μηλίων ὅσους ἡβῶντας ἔλαβον, παῖδας δὲ καὶ γυναῖκας ἠνδραπόδισαν. τὸ δὲ χωρίον αὐτοὶ ᾤκισαν, ἀποίκους ὕστερον πεντακοσίους πέμψαντες.

5.32

“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.”

Περὶ δὲ τοὺς αὐτοὺς χρόνους τοῦ θέρους τούτου Σκιωναίους μὲν Ἀθηναῖοι ἐκπολιορκήσαντες ἀπέκτειναν τοὺς ἡβῶντας, παῖδας δὲ καὶ γυναῖκας ἠνδραπόδισαν καὶ τὴν γῆν Πλαταιεῦσιν ἔδοσαν νέμεσθαι·

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)

3.36

“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.”

περὶ δὲ τῶν ἀνδρῶν γνώμας ἐποιοῦντο, καὶ ὑπὸ ὀργῆς ἔδοξεν αὐτοῖς οὐ τοὺς παρόντας μόνον ἀποκτεῖναι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοὺς ἅπαντας Μυτιληναίους ὅσοι ἡβῶσι, παῖδας δὲ καὶ γυναῖκας ἀνδραποδίσαι.

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.

Thucydides, 3.37

“The truth is that because you live without fear day-to-day and there is no conspiring against one another, you  imagine your ‘allies’ 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.”

διὰ γὰρ τὸ καθ᾿ ἡμέραν ἀδεὲς καὶ ἀνεπιβούλευτον πρὸς ἀλλήλους καὶ ἐς τοὺς ξυμμάχους τὸ αὐτὸ ἔχετε, καὶ ὅ τι ἂν ἢ λόγῳ πεισθέντες ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν ἁμάρτητε ἢ οἴκτῳ ἐνδῶτε, οὐκ ἐπικινδύνως ἡγεῖσθε ἐς ὑμᾶς καὶ οὐκ ἐς τὴν τῶν ξυμμάχων χάριν μαλακίζεσθαι, οὐ σκοποῦντες ὅτι τυραννίδα ἔχετε τὴν ἀρχὴν καὶ πρὸς ἐπιβουλεύοντας αὐτοὺς καὶ ἄκοντας ἀρχομένους, οἳ οὐκ ἐξ ὧν ἂν χαρίζησθε βλαπτόμενοι αὐτοὶ ἀκροῶνται ὑμῶν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐξ ὧν ἂν ἰσχύι μᾶλλον ἢ τῇ ἐκείνων εὐνοίᾳ περιγένησθε.

πάντων δὲ δεινότατον εἰ βέβαιον ἡμῖν μηδὲν καθεστήξει ὧν ἂν δόξῃ πέρι, μηδὲ γνωσόμεθα ὅτι χείροσι νόμοις ἀκινήτοις χρωμένη πόλις κρείσσων ἐστὶν ἢ καλῶς ἔχουσιν ἀκύροις, ἀμαθία τε μετὰ σωφροσύνης ὠφελιμώτερον ἢ δεξιότης μετὰ ἀκολασίας, οἵ τε φαυλότεροι τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τοὺς ξυνετωτέρους ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πλέον ἄμεινον οἰκοῦσι τὰς πόλεις.

οἱ μὲν γὰρ τῶν τε νόμων σοφώτεροι βούλονται φαίνεσθαι τῶν τε αἰεὶ λεγομένων ἐς τὸ κοινὸν περιγίγνεσθαι, ὡς ἐν ἄλλοις μείζοσιν οὐκ ἂν δηλώσαντες τὴν γνώμην, καὶ ἐκ τοῦ τοιούτου τὰ πολλὰ σφάλλουσι τὰς πόλεις· οἱ δ᾿ ἀπιστοῦντες τῇ ἐξ ἑαυτῶν ξυνέσει ἀμαθέστεροι μὲν τῶν νόμων ἀξιοῦσιν εἶναι, ἀδυνατώτεροι δὲ τὸν1 τοῦ καλῶς εἰπόντος μέμψασθαι λόγον, κριταὶ δὲ ὄντες ἀπὸ τοῦ ἴσου μάλλον ἢ ἀγωνισταὶ ὀρθοῦνται τὰ πλείω. ὣς οὖν χρὴ καὶ ἡμᾶς ποιοῦντας μὴ δεινότητι καὶ ξυνέσεως ἀγῶνι ἐπαιρομένους παρὰ δόξαν τῷ ὑμετέρῳ πλήθει παραινεῖν.

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