A Tyrant’s Final, Miserable Days

Dio Chrysostom, Diogenes or on The Tyranny, 36-39

“For these reasons, the tyrant could not enjoy eating even though he had the tastiest food or forget his problems by drinking. He did not live a single day easily without seeing that he was suffering terrible things. When he was sober, he wanted to be drunk because he thought it would relieve him of his suffering; but when he was drunk he believed he was destroyed because he couldn’t help himself. When he was awake, he prayed to fall asleep to forget his fears; but when he was asleep, he burst out of bed because he thought even his dreams were killing him. Nothing helped him, not the golden plane-tree, Semiramis’ mansions, or even the walls of Babylon.

The most absurd thing of all, moreover, was that he feared unarmed men but was entrusting himself to armed ones and that even though he forced everyone who cam near him to be searched for weapons, he lived in the middle of armed men. He was constantly running from the weaponless to the armed and from the armed to the defenseless. He was guarded from the people by his bodyguard and guarded from them by his eunuchs.

There was no one he could trust and no refuge he could find to live a single day without fear. He was suspicious of everything he ate and drank and had people to test everything he consumed like scouts going ahead on a road filled with assassins. He didn’t dare to trust those closest to him, including his wife and children. But even though this autocracy was so hard and unfortunate, be was neither willing nor capable of escaping it.”

διὰ δὲ ταῦτα μήτε ἐσθίοντα ἥδεσθαι, τῶν ἡδίστων αὐτῷ παρόντων, μήτε πίνοντα ἐπιλανθάνεσθαι τῶν ὀχληρῶν. μηδεμίαν δὲ ἡμέραν διάγειν ῥᾳδίως, ἐν ᾗ βλέπειν αὐτὸν μὴ τὰ δεινότατα πάσχοντα. καὶ τοῦτο μὲν νήφοντα ἐπιθυμεῖν μέθης, ὡς τότε ἀπαλλαγησόμενον τῶν συμφορῶν, τοῦτο δ᾿ αὖ μεθύοντα ἀπολωλέναι νομίζειν, ὡς ἀδύνατον αὑτῷ βοηθεῖν.  ἔτι δὲ ἐγρηγορότα μὲν εὔχεσθαι καθυπνῶσαι ὅπως ἐπιλάθηται τῶν φόβων, κοιμώμενον δὲ ἀναστῆναι τὴν ταχίστην, ἅτε ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν τῶν ἐνυπνίων ἀπολλύμενον, τῆς δὲ χρυσῆς αὐτῷ πλατάνου καὶ τῶν Σεμιράμιδος οἰκοδομημάτων καὶ τῶν ἐν Βαβυλῶνι τειχῶν μηδὲν ὄφελος γιγνόμενον. τὸ δὲ δὴ πάντων παραλογώτατον, φοβεῖσθαι μὲν τοὺς ἀνόπλους, πιστεύειν δὲ αὑτὸν τοῖς ὡπλισμένοις, καὶ διερευνᾶσθαι μὲν τοὺς προσιόντας μή τις ἔχοι σίδηρον, ἐν μέσῳ δὲ ζῆν τῶν σιδηροφορούντων. φεύγειν δὲ ἀπὸ μὲν τῶν ἀνόπλων πρὸς τοὺς ὡπλισμένους, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν ὡπλισμένων πρὸς τοὺς ἀνόπλους· ἀπὸ μέν γε τοῦ πλήθους φυλάττεσθαι τοῖς δορυφόροις, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δορυφόρων εὐνούχοις

οὐκ ἔχειν δὲ οἷς ἂν πιστεύσας οὐδὲ ὅποι τραπόμενος δυνήσεται ζῆσαι μίαν ἡμέραν ἀφόβως. ὑφορᾶσθαι δὲ καὶ τὰ σιτία καὶ τὸ ποτόν, καὶ τοὺς προπειράσοντας ταῦτα ἔχειν ὥσπερ ἐν ὁδῷ πολεμίων γεμούσῃ τοὺς προερευνῶντας. ἀλλὰ μηδὲ τοῖς ἀναγκαίοις θαρρεῖν, μήτε παισὶ μήτε γυναικί. οὕτως δὲ χαλεποῦ ὄντος τοῦ πράγματος καὶ δυστυχοῦς τῆς μοναρχίας, μηδὲ ἀπαλλαγῆναί ποτε αὐτοῦ μήτε βούλεσθαι μήτε δύνασθαι.