A Solid Gold Colossus: Why Tyrants Spend Other Peoples’ Money

Suda,  Κυψελιδῶν ἀνάθημα

At Olympia. Plato claims in the Phaedrus that a metal Colossos was set up next to the dedication of the Kypselids at Olympia. But they claim that this from Kypselos himself and not the Kypselids. Agaklutos speaks about this in his On Olympia. “An ancient temple of Hera, dedicated by the Skillians. Those people are Eleians. Inside the temple is a gold colossus, a dedication from Kypselos of Korinth. For people say that Kypselos promised that if he should become tyrant of the Korinthians, then he would make everyone’s property sacred for ten years. Once he collected the taxes from this sacred assessment, he had the metal colossus created.”

Didymos, however, reports that Periander, his son, had the colossus made to restrain the luxury and audacity of the Korinthians. Theophrastus also reports in the second book of his Magic Moments, “while others spend funds on more masculine affairs, like raising an army and conquering enemies, as Dionysius the tyrant did. For he believed that it was necessary not only to waste others’ money but also his own in order to make sure that there would be no funds for plots against him. The pyramids of Egypt and the colossus of the Kypselids and all those kinds of things have similar or identical designs.

It is also reported that there was an an epigram on the colossus: “If I am not a colossus made of gold / then may the race of the Kypselids be wiped away.”

Apellas of Pontos, however, claims that he inscription was, “If I am not a solid-cold Colossus, may the race of Kypselids be completely destroyed”

ἐν ᾽Ολυμπίαι. Πλάτων ἐν Φαίδρωι (236 B)· παρὰ τὸ Κυψελιδῶν ἀνάθημα σφυρήλατος ἐν ᾽Ολυμπίαι ἐστάθη κολοσσός. ἀλλ᾽ οὐ τῶν Κυψελιδῶν, Κυψέλου δέ φασι τὸ ἀνάθημα, ὡς ᾽Αγάκλυτος ἐν τῶι Περὶ ᾽Ολυμπίας φησὶν οὕτως· «ναὸς τῆς ῞Ηρας παλαιός, ἀνάθημα Σκιλλουντίων· οὗτοι δέ εἰσιν ᾽Ηλείων. ἔνεστι δὲ ἐν αὐτῶι χρυσοῦς κολοσσός, ἀνάθημα Κυψέλου τοῦ Κορινθίου· φασὶ γὰρ τὸν Κύψελον εὐξάμενον, εἰ Κορινθίων τυραννεύσειε, τὰς οὐσίας πάντων εἰς δέκατον ἔτος ἀνιερώσειν, τὰς δεκάτας τῶν τιμημάτων εἰσπραξάμενον, κατασκευάσαι τὸν σφυρήλατον κολοσσόν».

Δίδυμος δὲ κατασκευάσαι τὸν κολοσσόν φησι Περίανδρον ὑπὲρ τοῦ τῆς τρυφῆς καὶ τοῦ θράσους ἐπισχεῖν τοὺς Κορινθίους· καὶ γὰρ Θεόφραστος ἐν τῶι Περὶ καιρῶν β̄ λέγει οὕτω· «ἕτεροι δὲ εἰς ἀνδρωδέστερα καταδαπανῶντες, οἷον στρατείας ἐξάγοντες καὶ πολέμους ἐπαναιρούμενοι, καθάπερ καὶ Διονύσιος ὁ τύραννος· ἐκεῖνος γὰρ οὐ μόνον ὤιετο δεῖν τὰ τῶν ἄλλων καταναλίσκειν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ αὑτοῦ πρὸς τὸ μὴ ὑπάρχειν ἐφόδια τοῖς ἐπιβουλεύουσιν· ἐοίκασι δὲ καὶ αἱ πυραμίδες ἐν Αἰγύπτωι καὶ ὁ τῶν Κυψελιδῶν κολοσσὸς καὶ πάντα τὰ τοιαῦτα τὴν αὐτὴν καὶ παραπλησίαν ἔχειν διάνοιαν».

φέρεται δέ τι καὶ ἐπίγραμμα τοῦ κολοσσοῦ· «εἰ μὴ ἐγὼ χρυσοῦς σφυρήλατός εἰμι κολοσσός, / ἐξώλης εἴη Κυψελιδῶν γενεά», ὅπερ ᾽Απελλᾶς ὁ Ποντικὸς οὕτω προφέρεται· «εἰ μὴ ἐγὼ ναξὸς παγχρύσεός εἰμι κολοσσός, / ἐξώλης εἴη Κυψελιδῶν γενεά».


From Martial, 1.37

“Bassus, you unload your bowels into a golden bowl and feel no shame, but you drink from glass: so you’re paying more to shit.”

Ventris onus misero, nec te pudet, excipis auro,
Basse, bibis vitro: carius ergo cacas.

Tibullus, 3.7 18-27: Billy Joel Said Something Like This

“Let someone else describe the miraculous work of the great world,
How the land sinks within the immeasurable air
And how the sea flows around the turning globe
Or where the wandering air struggles to rise from the earth
Or how joined to it, the burning aether often flows
And how everything is enclosed by heaven hanging above.
Whatever my songs should dare to reach,
Whether they make it up to you, which hope forbids
Or a bit less or more—and certainly it will be less—
I dedicate all of this to you and that way my page
Will never be missing its bit of greatness.”

Alter dicat opus magni mirabile mundi,
qualis in immenso desederit aere tellus,
qualis et in curuum pontus confluxerit orbem, 20
et uagus, e terris qua surgere nititur, aer,
huic et contextus passim fluat igneus aether,
pendentique super claudantur ut omnia caelo;
at quodcumque meae poterunt audere camenae,
seu tibi par poterunt seu, quod spes abnuit, ultra 25
siue minus ( certeque canent minus), omne uouemus
hoc tibi, nec tanto careat mihi carmine charta.


I was wrong with the title of this one.  I was actually thinking of the Elton John song “Your Song”. Sorry, Sir Elton.