Plutocrats, Listen Up: Equal is Better Than More

Diodorus Siculus, History 9.12

“There is also the story that when the people of Mitylene allowed Pittacus to have half the land over which he fought in single combat, he would not take it. Instead, he assigned an equal portion to each man, saying that an “equal amount is greater than more”. For, since he took the measure of what was greater by fairness not by profit, he judged wisely. He believed that fame and safety would follow equality while gossip and fear followed greed, and they would have quickly reclaimed his gift.”

12. Ὅτι τῶν Μιτυληναίων διδόντων τῷ Πιττακῷ τῆς χώρας ὑπὲρ ἧς ἐμονομάχησε τὴν ἡμίσειαν οὐκ ἐδέξατο, συνέταξε δὲ ἑκάστῳ κληρῶσαι τὸ ἴσον, ἐπιφθεγξάμενος ὡς τὸ ἴσον ἐστὶ τοῦ πλείονος πλεῖον. μετρῶν γὰρ ἐπιεικείᾳ τὸ πλεῖον, οὐ κέρδει, σοφῶς ἐγίνωσκεν· τῇ μὲν γὰρ ἰσότητι δόξαν καὶ ἀσφάλειαν ἀκολουθήσειν, τῇ δὲ πλεονεξίᾳ βλασφημίαν καὶ φόβον, δι᾿ ὧν ταχέως ἂν αὐτοῦ τὴν δωρεὰν ἀφείλαντο.

Cf. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 1.75

“Then, the Mityleneans honored Pittakos powerfully and gave the rule of the state to him alone. During the ten years he held power, he also corrected the constitution and then surrendered power even though he lived ten years more. The Mityleneans gave him some land, but he donated it as sacred. The plot is called after his name even today. Sôsicrates says that he cut off a little bit for himself, saying that “half is greater than the whole.”

[75] Τότε δ᾽ οὖν τὸν Πιττακὸν ἰσχυρῶς ἐτίμησαν οἱ Μυτιληναῖοι, καὶ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐνεχείρισαν αὐτῷ. ὁ δὲ δέκα ἔτη κατασχὼν καὶ εἰς τάξιν ἀγαγὼν τὸ πολίτευμα, κατέθετο τὴν ἀρχήν, καὶ δέκα ἐπεβίω ἄλλα. καὶ χώραν αὐτῷ ἀπένειμαν οἱ Μυτιληναῖοι: ὁ δὲ ἱερὰν ἀνῆκεν, ἥτις νῦν Πιττάκειος καλεῖται. Σωσικράτης δέ φησιν ὅτι ὀλίγον ἀποτεμόμενος ἔφη τὸ ἥμισυ τοῦ παντὸς πλεῖον εἶναι.

The idea of “half being greater than the whole” is likely proverbial, showing up as well in Hesiod’s Works and Days where the narrator uses it when he complains about how the judges act unfairly in their evaluation of cases (by taking bribes): “the fools don’t know how much greater the half is than the whole” νήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντὸς.

Diodorus Siculus’ statement that “an equal part is greater than more” is probably a clever departure from the Hesiodic statement. Hesiod’s statement seems to be about greed (wanting more than your due), as glossed by Michael Apostolius:

13.77

“They don’t know how much greater the half is than the whole”: [this is a proverb used] for those who desire more and lose what they have.

Οὐδ’ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντός: ὅτι οἱ τῶν πλειόνων ἐπιθυμοῦντες καὶ ἃ ἔχουσιν ἀποβάλλουσιν.

A unifying theme between the two versions is that in early Greek culture that which is isos is not fair in terms of being equal but it possesses equity in terms of being proper to the recipient’s social status. So, Diodorus’ isos share can map out onto Hesiod’s “half” share.

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Another proverbial moment for Pittakos:

Diodorus Siculus, History 9.12.3

“When Pittacus finally caught up with the poet Alcaeus, a man especially hateful to him who had mocked him savagely in his poems, he released him, remarking that forgiveness is a better choice than vengeance.”

ὅτι καὶ τὸν ποιητὴν Ἀλκαῖον, ἐχθρότατον αὐτοῦ γεγενημένον καὶ διὰ τῶν ποιημάτων πικρότατα λελοιδορηκότα, λαβὼν ὑποχείριον ἀφῆκεν, ἐπιφθεγξάμενος ὡς συγγνώμη τιμωρίας αἱρετωτέρα.

A Student Debt Proposal: Collect The Balance In Hell

Recent reports say we are hitting a tipping point for student loans. It is telling (and damning) that certain sectors consider student loans a crises only when delinquent payments reach a certain point. It was totally fine when two generations of students had their entire lives shaped by the cost of education….

This charming detail from Valerius Maximus might be the perfect rider for an education bill right about now…

Valerius Maximus, Wondrous Deeds and Sayings 2.6.10

“This ancient custom of the Gauls returns to my mind as I leave their walls: The story goes that they used to loan money which was scheduled to be repaid in the underworld, because they considered human souls to be immortal. I would call them fools if they didn’t believe the same thing wearing pants as Pythagoras did wrapped in his cloak.”

Horum moenia egresso vetus ille mos Gallorum occurrit,quo[s] memoria proditum est pecunias mutuas, quae iis apud inferos redderentur, da<ri soli>tas,  quia persuasum habuerint animas hominum immortales esse. dicerem stultos, nisi idem bracati sensissent quod palliatus Pythagoras credidit.

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Libanius Goes Straight-Up Nativist

Libanius, Oration 2.65-67

“Although I have especially considered the affairs of the whole world my own business, whether bad or good, and I have become the kind of person which fortune has made me, one who loves the world is not worthy of hatred.

So, if someone should restrain me just to taking care of the city which produced me, then this state would seem to be suffering misfortune because of the many immigrants who leave their own cities and homes to come here. Well, that’s if they really have homes they would be brave enough to see even in dreams, these foreigners who think it right to overpower citizens, despite fearing that the emperor might make a law to examine their unexpected wealth.

It is not enough for them to have what is ours, but if anyone dares to blame their good luck, they get enraged and anyone who complains is annoying. When you are the kind of people you are, how is it not terrifying to meet this limit to your freedom of speech?”

Μάλιστα μὲν οὖν τὰ τῆς οἰκουμένης ἁπάσης ἐμαυτοῦ νενόμικα βελτίω τε καὶ χείρω, καὶ γίγνομαι τοιοῦτος οἷον ἄν με ποιῶσιν αἱ ἐκείνης τύχαι, μισεῖσθαι δὲ ὁ φιλῶν τὴν οἰκουμένην οὐκ ἄξιος.

εἰ δ᾿ οὖν | καὶ κατακλείοι μέ τις εἰς τὴν ὑπὲρτῆς ἐνεγκούσης πρόνοιαν, ἀτυχεῖν μοι δοκεῖ ταῖς μετοικίαις αὕτη πολλῶν τινῶν οἳ τὰς αὑτῶν καταλιπόντες πόλεις καὶ οἴκους, εἰ δὴ καὶ οἴκους καὶ R οὐδ᾿ ἂν ὄναρ ἡδέως ἰδόντες οὗπερ ἔφυσαν, | ξένοι πολιτῶν κρατεῖν οἴονται δεῖν τρέμοντες1 μὴ νόμον θῇ βασιλεὺς εἶναι τῶν παραδόξων πλούτων εὐθύνας.

οἷς οὐκ ἐξαρκεῖ τὰ ἡμέτερα ἔχειν, ἀλλὰ κἂν αἰτιάσηταί τις τὴν Τύχην θυμοῦνται, καὶ βαρὺς ὁ μεμψάμενος· τὸ γὰρ εἰς τοῦθ᾿ ὑμᾶς ἥκειν παρρησίας ὄντας οἷοίπερ ἐστέ, πῶς οὐ πάνδεινον;

Ken Cuccinelli, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Manuscript in the public domain
Bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty with the text of the poem
This image was originally posted to Flickr by melanzane1013 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/25847577@N00/424831215. It was reviewed on  by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.

A Vote for the Whole Country

Dinarchus, Against Philocles 19-20

“It is right, citizens, that you consider this and remember the current times: you need good faith, not corruption. You need to hate wicked men, cleanse the city of these kinds of monsters, and show all people that the majority of the people have not been ruined by a few politicians and generals. We are not slaves to their opinions because we know that we can easily defend ourselves with justice and values shared with each other as long as the gods favor us if anyone attacks us unjustly. But we know equally that no city will be preserved through corruption, betrayal and the values of wicked men like these.

For this reason, citizens, do not heed any request nor pity. Do not acknowledge the truth of the guilt which you have seen made against the injustice of the acts. […] But all of you help your common country and the laws, since both of these are being tried now against this man’s wickedness. You are about to cast a vote for the whole country, both for the established religions and the ancient laws and the constitution which was prepared for you by your forebears.”

Ἅ χρὴ λογισαμένους ὑμᾶς πάντας, ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι, καὶ τῶν παρόντων καιρῶν ἀναμνησθέντας, οἳ πίστεως οὐ δωροδοκίας δέονται, μισεῖν τοὺς πονηρούς, ἀνελεῖν ἐκ τῆς πόλεως τὰ τοιαῦτα θηρία, καὶ δεῖξαι πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ὅτι οὐ συνδιέφθαρται τὸ τοῦ δήμου πλῆθος τῶν ῥητόρων καὶ τῶν στρατηγῶν τισιν, οὐδὲ δουλεύει ταῖς δόξαις, εἰδότας ὅτι μετὰ μὲν δικαιοσύνης καὶ τῆς πρὸς ἀλλήλους ὁμονοίας ῥᾳδίως ἀμυνούμεθα, θεῶν ἵλεων ὄντων, ἐάν τινες ἡμῖν ἀδίκως ἐπιτιθῶνται, μετὰ δὲ δωροδοκίας καὶ προδοσίας καὶ τῶν ὁμοίων τούτοις κακῶν, ἃ τοῖς τοιούτοις ἀνθρώποις πρόσεστιν, οὐδεμί᾿ ἂν πόλις σωθείη.

μηδεμίαν οὖν δέησιν, ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι, μηδ᾿ ἔλεον εἰς ὑμᾶς λαμβάνοντες αὐτούς, μηδὲ τὴν ἐξ αὐτῶν τῶν ἔργων καὶ τῆς ἀληθείας ἀποδεδειγμένην ὑμῖν κατὰ τῶν κρινομένων ἀδικίαν . . . ἄκυρον ποιήσαντες, βοηθήσατε κοινῇ τῇ πατρίδι καὶ τοῖς νόμοις· ταῦτα γὰρ ἀμφότερα διαδικάζεται νῦν πρὸς τὴν τούτου πονηρίαν. ὑπὲρ πάσης, ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι, τῆς χώρας νῦν μέλλετε φέρειν τὴν ψῆφον καὶ τῶν ἐν ταύτῃ κατεσκευασμένων ἱερῶν καὶ τῶν ἀρχαίων νομίμων καὶ τῆς παραδεδομένης ὑπὸ τῶν προγόνων ὑμῖν πολιτείας.

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Demosthenes from the Yale University Art Gallery

 

Unity, From Knowledge not Belief

Plato, Cleitophon 409a

“When he was asked whether likemindedness was the same as unity of belief or knowledge, he dismissed the term unity of belief because many times a unity of believe was forced upon people in a harmful way. Since he agreed that friendship was entirely a good thing and the result of justice, he necessarily said that likemindedness was related to knowledge not belief.”

τὴν δὲ ὁμόνοιαν ἐρωτώμενος εἰ ὁμοδοξίαν εἶναι λέγοι ἢ ἐπιστήμην, τὴν μὲν ὁμοδοξίαν ἠτίμαζεν· ἠναγκάζοντο γὰρ πολλαὶ καὶ βλαβεραὶ γίγνεσθαι ὁμοδοξίαι ἀνθρώπων, τὴν δὲ φιλίαν ἀγαθὸν ὡμολογήκει πάντως εἶναι καὶ δικαιοσύνης ἔργον, ὥστε ταὐτὸν ἔφησεν εἶναι ὁμόνοιαν ἐπιστήμην οὖσαν, ἀλλ᾿ οὐ δόξαν.

Cicero, Laws 1.33

“What people do not hate the arrogant, the evil, the cruel, or the thankless? We know from these facts that the whole human race is tied together in unity and the result is that  understanding how to live correctly makes people better.”

quae superbos, quae maleficos, quae crudeles, quae ingratos non aspernatur, non odit? quibus ex rebus cum omne genus hominum sociatum inter se esse inteliegatur, illud extremum est, quod recte vivendi ratio meliores efficit.

Ruins of Roman Temple to Concord

Truth, Testimony, and Treason

Plautus, The Ghost 181

“I love the truth, I want someone to tell me the truth. I hate a liar.”

ego uerum amo, uerum uolo dici mi: mendacem odi.

Agathon, Fr. 12

If I tell the truth, I won’t make you happy.
But if I am to make you happy, I will say nothing true.

εἰ μὲν φράσω τἀληθές, οὐχί σ’ εὐφρανῶ·
εἰ δ’ εὐφρανῶ τί σ’, οὐχὶ τἀληθὲς φράσω.

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

Quintilian Orator’s Education 4.2 90-92

“For fictions which are developed entirely from matters outside of the situation betray our license to lie. We must take most special care—which often escapes those who lie—not to contradict ourselves, since some stories are flattering in bits but do not contribute to a coherent whole; that we then say nothing which countermands what is accepted as true; and, in academic exercises, not to seek ornamentation beyond the themes.

Both in training and in the court, the orator ought to remember the what he has claimed falsely during the whole action since false things often escape the mind. That common saying is proved true, that the liar requires a good memory. Let us see, moreover, that if we are questioned about our own deed, we must say one thing only; if it is about somebody else’s we can cast doubt in many directions.”

nam quae tota extra rem petita sunt mentiendi licentiam produnt. Curandum praecipue, quod fingentibus frequenter excidit, ne qua inter se pugnent; quaedam enim partibus blandiuntur, sed in summam non consentiunt: praeterea ne iis quae vera esse constabit adversa sint: in schola etiam ne color extra themata quaeratur. Utrubique autem orator meminisse debebit actione tota quid finxerit, quoniam solent excidere quae falsa sunt: verumque est illud quod vulgo dicitur, mendacem memorem esse oportere.  Sciamus autem, si de nostro facto quaeratur, unum nobis aliquid esse dicendum: si de alieno, mittere in plura suspiciones licere.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.47

“So one thing is worth much: to keep on living with truth and justice and in good will even among liars and unjust men”

Ἓν ὧδε πολλοῦ ἄξιον, τὸ μετ᾿ ἀληθείας καὶ δικαιοσύνης εὐμενῆ τοῖς ψεύσταις καὶ ἀδίκοις διαβιοῦν.

Augustine, Confessions 10.23.34:

“Why does truth produce hatred, and why is your person who tells truth made an enemy to others, even though everyone loves the blessed life, which is nothing but rejoicing in truth, unless it be that truth is loved in such a way that those who love something other than truth would wish to believe that what they love is the truth, and because they wish not to be deceived, they do not wish to be convinced that they have been fooled?

And so, they hate the truth on account of that thing which they love in truth’s place. They love it when it shines, they hate it when it refutes them. Because they wish not to be deceived but wish to do the deceiving, they love the truth when it reveals itself, but hate it when it reveals them. “

cur autem veritas parit odium et inimicus eis factus est homo tuus verum praedicans, cum ametur beata vita, quae non est nisi gaudium de veritate, nisi quia sic amatur veritas ut, quicumque aliud amant, hoc quod amant velint esse veritatem, et quia falli nollent, nolunt convinci quod falsi sint? itaque propter eam rem oderunt veritatem, quam pro veritate amant. amant eam lucentem, oderunt eam redarguentem. quia enim falli nolunt et fallere volunt, amant eam cum se ipsa indicat, et oderunt eam cum eos ipsos indicat.

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The Infernal Torments of the Damned, illuminated French manuscript of Augustine’s City of God by an unknown artist (15th century).

Scoundrels, Fools, and Failing States

Antisthenes, fr. 103 [=Diogenes Laertius 6.11]

“He used to say that states fail when they cannot distinguish fools from serious men.”

τότ’ ἔφη τὰς πόλεις ἀπόλλυσθαι, ὅταν μὴ δύνωνται τοὺς φαύλους ἀπὸ τῶν σπουδαίων διακρίνειν.

Fr.104

“He used to say that it is strange that we sift out the chaff from the wheat and those useless for war, but we do not forbid scoundrels in politics.”

ἄτοπον ἔφη τοῦ μὲν σίτου τὰς αἴρας ἐκλέγειν καὶ ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ τοὺς ἀχρείους, ἐν δὲ πολιτείᾳ τοὺς πονηροὺς μὴ παραιτεῖσθαι.

Hesychius

“Phaulos: evil, tricky, mean; simple, dumb. Ridiculous”

φαῦλος· κακός, δόλιος, χαλεπός. εὐτελής, ἁπλοῦς. καταγέλαστος

Phaulos lsj

Apostolius Paroemiographus, 9.18.12

“Fish start to stink at the top”: [this is a proverb] applied to people who have scoundrels for leaders.”

᾿Ιχθὺς ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὄζειν ἄρχεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπιστάτας φαύλους ἐχόντων.

Stobaeus, 2.3.4

“When Plato saw that someone was doing evil things, but claiming that he was carrying out justice for other people, he said. “This man carries his mind on his tongue.”

᾿Ιδών τινα Πλάτων φαῦλα μὲν πράττοντα, δίκας δὲ ὑπὲρ ἑτέρων λέγοντα, εἶπεν, Οὗτος νοῦν „ἐπὶ γλώσσῃ φέρει”.

2.14.3 Mousonius

“[He said] that associating with wise people is worth a lot, but that you should avoid scoundrels and the uneducated.”

῞Οτι χρὴ περὶ πολλοῦ ποιεῖσθαι τὰς τῶν σοφῶν συνουσίας, ἐκκλίνειν δὲ τοὺς φαύλους καὶ ἀπαιδεύτους

Menander fr. 274

“It is much better to have learned one thing well,
Than to cast about for many deeds foolishly.”

Πολὺ κρεῖττόν ἐστιν ἓν καλῶς μεμαθηκέναι,
ἢ πολλὰ φαύλως περιβεβλῆσθαι πράγματα.

From Beekes 2010

phaulos Beekes 1Phaulos beekes 2

Democritus fr. 234

“Associating with scoundrels frequently increases the possession of wickedness.”

Φαύλων ὁμιλίη ξυνεχὴς ἕξιν κακίης συναέξει.

Socrates, Stobaeus 2.45.3

“It is the same thing to attach your boat to a weak anchor and your hopes to foolish judgment.”

Ταὐτὸν ἐξ ἀσθενοῦς ἀγκυρίου σκάφος ὁρμίζειν καὶ ἐκ φαύλης γνώμης ἐλπίδα.

 

Eusebius, fr. 7 [=Stobaeus 3.4.104]

“Foolish people honor and wonder at those who have a lot of money and are scoundrels, and hold serious people in contempt when they see that they are poor.”

Οἱ μάταιοι τῶν ἀνθρώπων τοὺς μὲν μεγάλα χρήματα ἔχοντας καὶ φαύλους ἐόντας τιμῶσί τε καὶ τεθωυμάκασι· τῶν δὲ σπουδαίων, ἐπειδὰν ἀχρηματίην καταγνῶσιν, ὑπερφρονέουσιν.

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