The Fool-Me-Once Principle of Democracy

“I believe that the president has learned from this case. The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.” –Senator Susan Collins of Maine speaking after President Trump’s first impeachment trial. 1 year later, she’s a juror in his second impeachment trial.

Solon Fr.10

If you’ve suffered through your destructive wickedness,
Don’t blame the gods for any of it.
For you gave protection to your enemies,
Strengthening them in the very process.
And so you brought evil subjugation to the city.
Each of you walks with the steps of a fox,
Yet each of you have got a mind altogether shallow:
You look at the tongue and at the speech of shifty men,
Yet never do you see their words become action.

εἰ δὲ πεπόνθατε λυγρὰ δί᾽ ὑμετέρην κακότητα,
μή τι θεοῖς τούτων μόμφον ἐπαμφέρετε:
αὐτοὶ γὰρ τούτοις ηὐξήσατε ῥύματα δόντες
καὶ διὰ ταῦτα κακὴν ἔσχετε δουλοσύνην:
5ὑμέων δ᾽ εἷς μὲν ἕκαστος ἀλώπεκος ἴχνεσι βαίνει
σύμπασιν δ᾽ ὑμῖν χαῦνος ἔνεστι νόος:
εἰς γὰρ γλῶσσαν ὁρᾶτε καὶ εἰς ἔπος αἰόλον ἀνδρός,
εἰς ἔργον δ᾽ οὐδὲν γιγνόμενον βλέπετε.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

Logic, Anger, Ladies and Death: The Fragmenta Sedis Incertae of Theognis

The Megaran Elegiac poet Theognis leaves us over a thousand lines of conventional advice presented in a traditional order. Four couplets attributed to him (or his tradition) don’t fit into this order and are thus “fragments of uncertain place” (Fragmenta Sedis Incertae). I don’t know if I read them before today; but I am certain they’re worth reading again:

“Logic is in the habit of inflicting upon men, Kurnos
The many stumbles of troubled judgment.”

Πολλὰ φέρειν εἴωθε λόγος θνητοῖσι βροτοῖσιν
πταίσματα τῆς γνώμης, Κύρνε, ταρασσομένης.

“Nothing, Kurnos, is more unjust than anger, which pains
The man who has it even as it appeals to the baser parts of his heart.”

Οὐδέν, Κύρν’, ὀργῆς ἀδικώτερον, ἣ τὸν ἔχοντα
πημαίνει θυμῶι δειλὰ χαριζομένη.

“Nothing, Kurnos, is sweeter than a good woman.
I am a witness to this, and you are witness to the truth”

Οὐδέν, Κύρν’, ἀγαθῆς γλυκερώτερόν ἐστι γυναικός.
μάρτυς ἐγώ, σὺ δ’ ἐμοὶ γίνου ἀληθοσύνης.

“Even now the sea’s corpse calls me home,
But when dead, I will sound through the mouth of a living man”

῎Ηδη γάρ με κέκληκε θαλάσσιος οἴκαδε νεκρός,
τεθνηκὼς ζωιῶι φθεγγόμενος στόματι.