A Vote Against Pericles is a Vote Against Plague

N.B. I saw a few threads from the amazing Flint Dibble earlier in the year and invited him to put them together here. Just in time for an epidemic spike, he delivered! – Joel

There are lessons to be learned from the failed leadership of Pericles during the plague of Athens in 430 B.C.E. Despite his popularity and great deeds, his mismanagement of the plague and the resulting misery inflicted on the Athenian people led to him losing his election the following year and losing his leading role in the city.

While the situations are very different, there is value in looking to the past to help contextualize our present. Given the unique nature of our own historical moment, this is a key test for the old adage that history repeats for those who don’t learn from it.

Bust of Pericles. Picture credit: Jastrow

The disease first struck in the summer of the second year of the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta. It ravaged the Athenians as their entire population was crowded in the besieged city. The specific disease is still debated by scholars, but we know it caused fever, blisters, and sores. Due to the histories of Thucydides (and despite the risk of being infected with Thucyd-431), we have a reasonably detailed record of these events from 2500 years ago (all translations from Mynott 2013). 

Thucydides’ eyewitness narrative includes a personal appeal: 

I will say what it was like as it happened and will describe facts that would enable anyone investigating any future outbreak to have some prior knowledge and recognize it. I speak as someone who had the disease myself and witnessed others suffering from it.

Thucydides 2.48

The parallels to our perilous situation today are immediately obvious.

The physicians were not able to help at its outset since they were treating it in ignorance, and indeed they themselves suffered the highest mortality since they were the ones most exposed to it. Nor were other human arts of any avail. Whatever supplications people made at sanctuaries and whatever oracles or the like they consulted, all were useless and in the end they abandoned them, defeated by the affliction.

Thucydides 2.47

With no cure from ancient medicine or religion, many people blamed foreigners:

It first came, so it is said, out of Ethiopia beyond Egypt, and then spread into Egypt and Libya and into most of the territory of the Persian King. When it got to Athens it struck the city suddenly, taking hold first in the Peiraeus, so that it was even suggested by the people there that the [Spartans] had put poison in the rain-water tanks… Later on it reached the upper city too and then the mortality became much greater.

Thucydides 2.48

Unfortunately, this is true of most epidemics. It’s really easy to blame others, whether or not they deserve the blame. It’s harder to accept responsibility and deal with the problem. Then and now, us humans need to work at being better to others.

Thucydides’ emotions still resonate with us today: “The most terrible thing of all in this affliction, however, was the sense of despair when someone realised that they were suffering from it; for then they immediately decided in their own minds that the outcome was hopeless” (2.51).

The plague tore at the fabric of society:

There was also the fact that one person would get infected as a result of caring for another so that they died in their droves like sheep, and this caused more death than anything else. If in fear they were unwilling to go near each other they died alone… but if they did make contact they lost their lives anyway.

Thucydides 2.51

These are some of the first historical descriptions of the need for social distancing during an epidemic. The invading Spartans recognized the need and “made haste to leave the territory through their fear of the plague” (2.57).

The Athenians trusted in Pericles to lead them through their own unique historical moment. From the wealthy Alcmaeonid family and blessed with powerful oratory skills and nativist and populist policies, he had led the city-state for over two decades. He consolidated Athenian control over the far-flung anti-Persian alliance known as the Delian League turning it into what some historians call the Athenian Empire.

Taking control of the League’s treasury, he oversaw a monumental building program that included lavish marble temples such as the Parthenon (which Shaquille O’Neal once called Greece’s most forgettable nightclub) and also a massive urbanization program that brought water, food, and security for those lucky enough to be citizens (you only had to be born a free male to two Athenian parents and wealth enough to own land).

Photo Credit: Konstantinos Tzortzinis and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens

Pericles’ confidence in Athenian power helped spur the start of the Peloponnesian Wars. Tensions had been building up between Athens and Sparta for decades, and as war was debated among the people, Pericles harnessed an innovative strategy to win.

It relied on big, beautiful walls and convenient, at-home delivery.

Sparta had the dominant army, while Athens had the dominant navy. Pericles thought to rely on the city walls to keep Sparta’s army away. The bustling port at Piraeus was also walled and connected by “The Long Walls” to the city, creating a protected corridor for commerce.

Before the war began, Pericles called the entire rural population and the inhabitants of nearby towns into the city. He figured that with the wealth of Athens and a strong naval empire, they could just import everything they needed.

This was a big deal! Thucydides writes (2.16-7) that most Athenians had

lived in the countryside in the traditional way and therefore did not find it at all easy to make the move with their entire households… changing their way of life and leaving behind what each of them felt to be the equivalent of their native city. When they arrived in Athens only a few had homes or places they could take refuge with friends or relatives. Most settled in unoccupied parts of the city and occupied sanctuaries…. [or] in the towers of the city walls or wherever else each of them could. The city could not cope with this general influx; indeed they later divided up the long walls and most of Piraeus into lots and occupied those too. 

Thucydides 2.16-7

Pericles’ strategy worked for a year. The Spartan army pillaged the Athenian countryside. The Athenian navy raided the Spartan coastal settlements. But most people were safe. Pericles wrapped up the first year with his famous Funeral Oration, encouraging them to fight on.

The plague struck Athens in the summer of the second year (430 B.C.). Pericles’ wartime strategy was a terrible strategy for containing a contagious disease. Most Athenians, rich or poor, were living in the ancient equivalent of a refugee camp in a besieged city.

Yet, Thucydides’ descriptions, despite not having our germ theory, demonstrate that the Athenians recognized that this disease was spread through close contact. Like today, responsible people knew they needed to socially distance during a plague.

Their general misery was aggravated by people crowding into the city from the fields, and the worst affected were the new arrivals. There were no houses for them but they lived in huts that were stifling in the heat of summer and they were visited by death in conditions of total disorder…. The bodies of those dying were heaped on each other, and in the streets and around the springs half-dead people reeled about…. The sanctuaries in which they had taken shelter were full of the bodies of those who had died there

Thycidides 2.52

Greek archaeologists have uncovered clear archaeological evidence for this dire situation in the form of a mass grave, or plague pit, in which bodies were heaped together. But Pericles ignored the need for social distancing and kept going with his original strategy, letting the Spartans pillage the Attic countryside, while the navy raided Spartan coastlands. The plague didn’t care, it continued to spread through Athens.

But…

The Athenians had undergone a change of heart… feeling the combined pressure of the plague and the war. They now began to criticize Pericles, holding him responsible for persuading them to go to war and for being the agent of the misfortunes they had encountered. They became eager to come to terms with the Spartans. They even sent ambassadors to them, though to no effect. And in complete despair they turned their anger on Pericles

2.59

As Joel Christensen has written, there’s a long tradition in Greek mythology and tragedy of blaming the leader for plague. Pericles recognized this and gave the last of his famous speeches.

It’s amazing really, but it can really be boiled down to: “I take no responsibility.”

I have been expecting your outbreak of feeling against me – and I know the reasons for it. I mean to administer some reminders to you and take you to task for any misplaced resentment against me or any undue weakening in the face of difficulties.” Continuing: “Even though this plague has been inflicted on us, coming out of nowhere (it is in fact the only thing out of all that has happened to have defied prediction). I know it is largely because of this that I am even more a hated figure now – unjustly so.

Thucydides 2.60 and 2.64

He argues to ignore the plague: “We must treat afflictions sent by the gods as necessary ills and bear with courage those that come from our enemies” (2.64) in order to protect their empire.

Thucydides concludes,

With such words Pericles tried to dispel the anger the Athenians felt towards him and distract them from their present troubles…. Indeed the people as a whole did not put aside their anger towards him.

Thucydides 2.65

After this, Pericles’ power as a demagogue waned. This is the last point Thucydides mentions the deeds of Pericles, ending the section by saying “Pericles lived on two years and six months longer.”

We find out from Plutarch’s later biography of Pericles (translated here by Waterfield 1999) how he watched his family died of plague, and eventually caught it himself and died. As Plutarch notes (176) he lost his next election and was relieved of his command: “But he did not succeed in getting them to shed their anger or change their minds before they had taken their ballots in their hands.”

They had been persuaded by his political enemies that the plague was caused by packing crowds of refugees from the countryside into the city, where, at the height of summer, large numbers of people were being forced to stay all jumbled together in stifling tents…. The man responsible for all this, his enemies said, was Pericles: because of the war he had squeezed the rustic rabble inside the city walls and … left them penned up like cattle, to infect one another with death.

Plutarch, Life of Pericles, 34

If Pericles had not ignored the devastation of the plague and sued for peace, they could have protected their refugee population. Ancient history would look very different. Instead, the plague ravaged them and – weakened – then they still lost the war.

History shows that the decisions leaders make matter. We can see this with the Athenian plague and, in front of our own eyes, in our current historical moment.

We must learn from history and entrust our fate to a leader who will take our pandemic seriously, listen to scientists (and historians), and enforce mask-wearing and social distancing. Thucydides and the ancient Athenians knew this. They voted out of office the greatest leader their city had known. While our situation is different, our misery is similar. It is time to vote.

Picture Credit: Jonida Martini

Flint Dibble is currently Lecturer in the Department of Classics at Dartmouth College. He is an environmental archaeologist who studies food trash (animal bones) from ancient Greece and is Field Director for the Histria Multiscalar Archaeological Project in Romania. For more on how ancient animal bones can answer important questions into the past, check out his recent interview with the Peopling the Past podcast: No Bones About It: Climate Change in the Ancient World. Also, check him out on Twitter (@FlintDibble) or YouTube where he shares his archaeological research and teaching with the broader public. But right now, he’s mostly hoping you’ll vote – if you’re able to – because it does matter. 

Four Years of Presidential Memories: Asylum, Greek and Latin Word, Sacred Right

Appian, Roman History, 9.8

“…By the shared law of all humans, according to which even you accept those who are refugees from other places.”

κοινῷ γε πάντων ἀνθρώπων νόμῳ, καθὰ καὶ ὑμεῖς τοὺς ἑτέρωθεν φεύγοντας ὑποδέχεσθε.

asulon

Aeschylus, Suppliants 605-622

It seemed best to the Argives and it was so unanimous
that I felt young again in my old heart
for the air was thick with the right hands
of the whole people as they approved this plan:
that we strangers should have the right to settle
here freely, safe from arrest or attack from mortals,
that no one domestic or foreign might drive us away.
And if force is used against us,
that any citizen who does not help us
may lose his rights in exile from this country.

The leader of the Pelasgians persuaded the people
when he spoke about us, warning about how the rage
of Zeus the suppliant god might fall in future days
on the city, promising a double curse
on citizen and foreigner alike, emerging for the city
to be an insatiable parent of pain.
When they heard this, the Argive public voted
without the official call to approve the asylum.”

ἔδοξεν Ἀργείοισιν, οὐ διχορρόπως,
ἀλλ᾿ ὥστ᾿ ἀνηβῆσαί με γηραιᾷ φρενί—πανδημίᾳ
γὰρ χερσὶ δεξιωνύμοις
ἔφριξεν αἰθὴρ τόνδε κραινόντων λόγον—ἡμᾶς
μετοικεῖν τῆσδε γῆς ἐλευθέρους
κἀρρυσιάστους ξύν τ᾿ ἀσυλίᾳ βροτῶν,
καὶ μήτ᾿ ἐνοίκων μήτ᾿ ἐπηλύδων τινὰ
ἄγειν· ἐὰν δὲ προστιθῇ τὸ κάρτερον,
τὸν μὴ βοηθήσαντα τῶνδε γαμόρων
ἄτιμον εἶναι ξὺν φυγῇ δημηλάτῳ.
τοιαῦτ᾿ ἔπειθε ῥῆσιν ἀμφ᾿ ἡμῶν λέγων
ἄναξ Πελασγῶν, Ζηνὸς ἱκεσίου κότον.

Euripides, Medea 727-728

“If you can make it to my home on your own,
You may stay there safely [in asylum]; I will surrender you to no one.”

αὐτὴ δ᾿ ἐάνπερ εἰς ἐμοὺς ἔλθῃς δόμους,
μενεῖς ἄσυλος κοὔ σε μὴ μεθῶ τινι.

From Lewis and Short: A Latin Dictionary

ăsȳlum , i, n., = ἄσυλον,

I.a place of refugea sanctuaryan asylum: “servusqui in illud asylum confugisset,” Cic. Verr. 2, 1, 33: “Romulus asylum aperit,” Liv. 1, 8: “lucum asylum referre,” Verg. A. 8, 342: “Junonis asylum,” id. ib. 2, 761: “asyla statuere,” Tac. A. 3, 60: “lucus asyli,” id. H. 3, 71Gell. 6, 2 fin.: de asylo procedere, * Vulg. 2 Macc. 4, 34 al.

Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 32.13

“Here, the convoy fleeing from their own homes met an armed force which was being taken for the food-gathering there to be safer; the disorganized and unarmed crowd which was mixed as well with noncombatants was murdered by armed men.”

hoc sedibus suis extorre agmen in praesidium incidit quod ad Thaumacos quo tutior frumentatio esset ducebatur: incondita inermisque multitudo, mixta et imbelli turba, ab armatis caesa est

flight
From The Walters Museum MS W 188

Four Years of Presidential Memories: Candidates for Impeachment?

Cicero, De Oratore II. 167

This is a kind of argument deduced from connected notions: “If the highest praise must be given to piety, then you should be moved when you see Quintus Metellus grieving so dutifully”. And, as for a deduction from generalities, “if magistrates owe their power to the Roman people, then why impeach Norbanus when he depends on the will of the citizenry?”

Ex coniunctis sic argumenta ducuntur: ‘si pietati summa tribuenda laus est, debetis moveri, cum Q. Metellum tam pie lugere videatis.’ Ex genere autem: ‘si magistratus in populi Romani potestate esse debent, quid Norbanum accusas, cuius tribunatus voluntati paruit civitatis?’

Suetonius, Julius Caesar 1.30

“Others claim that he feared being compelled to provide a defense for the things he had done in his first consulate against auspices, laws, and legislative actions. For Marcus Cato often announced with an oath that he would impeach Caesar by name, as soon as he dismissed his army.”

Alii timuisse dicunt, ne eorum, quae primo consulatu adversus auspicia legesque et intercessiones gessisset, rationem reddere cogeretur; cum M. Cato identidem nec sine iure iurando denuntiaret delaturum se nomen eius, simul ac primum exercitum dimisisset

Accius, Fr. 598 (From Oedipus)

TEIRESIAS

“They impeach him voluntarily and they separate him
From his good fortune and all his wealth,
A man isolated, bereft, depressed and tortured”

Incusant ultro, a fortuna opibusque omnibus
desertum abiectum adflictum exanimum expectorant.

Image result for Roman Oedipus

Four Years of Presidential Memories: Old Ideas for New Problems, Ancient Government Institutions Today

Some time ago, 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/kataplexis/status/1024059002811031552

https://twitter.com/diyclassics/status/1023995433612390400

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

Image result for ostraca pictures

Four Years of Presidential Memories: Enslaving the Children, Populist Politics and the Recipe for Savage Consensus

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 think imagine your ‘allies’ to 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.

Four Years of Mendacious Memories: Greek and Latin for Perjury and Treason

ἐπιορκία, ἡ: perjury
ἐπίορκος, ὁ: Perjurer
ἐπιορκέω: to commit perjury
ψευδορκεῖν: to make a false oath

Plato, Republic 334b (referring to Od. 19.395)

“He bested all men in theft and perjury.”

αὐτὸν πάντας ἀνθρώπους κεκάσθαι κλεπτοσύνῃ θ’ ὅρκῳ τε.

Thales (according to Diogenes Laertius)

“Isn’t perjury worse than adultery?”

οὐ χεῖρον, ἔφη, μοιχείας ἐπιορκία

Plautus, Curculio 470

“Whoever wants to find a perjurer should go to the public assembly”

qui periurum conuenire uolt hominem ito in comitium

Cicero, De legibus  II.22

“For perjury the divine punishment is destruction, the human punishment is shame”

Periurii poena divina exitium, humana dedecus.

Lucan 4.218-226

“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.
This is not a civil war they fight for us to live.
We are dragged this way under the claims of peace.
People would not search for iron in a deep mine,
They would not strengthen any city with walls,
No fierce steed would rush to war,
No sea would bear towered ships of the fleet,
If it were ever just to trade freedom for peace.”

Utque habeat famulos nullo discrimine Caesar,
Exorandus erit? ducibus quoque vita petita est?
Numquam nostra salus pretium mercesque nefandae
Proditionis erit; non hoc civilia bella,
Ut vivamus, agunt. Trahimur sub nomine pacis.
Non chalybem gentes penitus fugiente metallo
Eruerent, nulli vallarent oppida muri,
Non sonipes in bella ferox, non iret in aequor
Turrigeras classis pelago sparsura carinas
Si bene libertas umquam pro pace daretur

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.

treason

Some Greek Words for Treason

ἀπιστία, “treachery”
προδοσία, “high treason”, “betrayal”
προδότης “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.

Euripides’ Orestes 1057-1060

[Elektra] Did he not speak for you, eager that you not die,
Menelaos the coward, our father’s traitor?
[Orestes] He didn’t show his face, because he yearning
For the scepter—he was careful not to save his relatives

Ηλ. οὐδ’ εἶφ’ ὑπὲρ σοῦ μὴ θανεῖν σπουδὴν ἔχων
Μενέλαος ὁ κακός, ὁ προδότης τοὐμοῦ πατρός;
Ορ. οὐδ’ ὄμμ’ ἔδειξεν, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ σκήπτροις ἔχων
τὴν ἐλπίδ’ ηὐλαβεῖτο μὴ σώιζειν φίλους.

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 πρώτην5 τετάχθαι τὴν ὀργὴν καὶ τὴν μετ᾿ αὐτῆς6 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.

thracian-tattoos

Shoot, Maybe We Just Picked the Wrong Autocrat, Socrates?

Plato, The Statesman 301c-d

Friend: “So, when a ruler acts neither according to laws nor custom but pretends instead to play the part of someone who understands that the best things must be done even against the laws and this imitation arises out of desire and ignorance, shouldn’t that kind of a person be called a tyrant?

Soc. Why wouldn’t he?

Friend. “So then, we say, a tyrant has come and then oligarchy, aristocracy and democracy in turn, since people take it hard when one person is in charge. We disbelieve that a single person could ever be worthy of this kind of power enough to want and to be able to rule with virtue and knowledge, providing justice and fairness rightly to everyone. Instead, we  know he will offend, and kill and harm anyone of us he wants to at any point. Otherwise, we admit that if someone arose who were able to do this, we would greet them happily and have them live with us directing out state alone in a perfectly just way.

Soc: How could it be any other way?

ΞΕ. Τί δ᾿, ὅταν μήτε κατὰ νόμους μήτε κατὰ ἔθη πράττῃ τις εἷς ἄρχων, προσποιῆται δὲ ὥσπερ ὁ ἐπιστήμων ὡς ἄρα παρὰ τὰ γεγραμμένα τό γε βέλτιστον ποιητέον, ᾖ δέ τις ἐπιθυμία καὶ ἄγνοια τούτου τοῦ μιμήματος ἡγουμένη, μῶν οὐ τότε τὸν τοιοῦτον ἕκαστον τύραννον κλητέον;

ΣΩ.Τί μήν;

ΞΕ. Οὕτω δὴ τύραννός τε γέγονε, φαμέν, καὶ βασιλεὺς καὶ ὀλιγαρχία καὶ ἀριστοκρατία καὶ δημοκρατία, δυσχερανάντων τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸν ἕνα ἐκεῖνον μόναρχον, καὶ ἀπιστησάντων μηδένα τῆς τοιαύτης ἀρχῆς ἄξιον ἂν γενέσθαι ποτέ, ὥστε ἐθέλειν καὶ δυνατὸν εἶναι μετὰ ἀρετῆς καὶ ἐπιστήμης ἄρχοντα τὰ δίκαια καὶ ὅσια διανέμειν ὀρθῶς πᾶσι, λωβᾶσθαι δὲ καὶ ἀποκτιννύναι καὶ κακοῦν ὃν ἂν βουληθῇ ἑκάστοτε ἡμῶν· ἐπεὶ γενόμενόν γ᾿ ἂν οἷον λέγομεν ἀγαπᾶσθαί τε ἂν καὶ οἰκεῖν διακυβερνῶντα εὐδαιμόνως ὀρθὴν ἀκριβῶς μόνον πολιτείαν

ΣΩ.Πῶς δ᾿ οὔ;

SYRACUSE IN SICILY Tyrant HIKETAS 287BC Ancient Greek Coin ZEUS EAGLE NGC  i68761 - $718.80 | PicClick
Tyrant Hiketas of Sicily 287 BCE

Four Years of Non-Stop Fun: Oligarchy and the Corruption of Elections Based on Wealth

Aristotle, Politics 2.7 (1273a-1273b)

“If election based on wealth is oligarchic while election according to excellence is aristocratic, there can be a third system according to which a state is organized as the Carthaginian polity is constructed. For they choose their leaders looking at two issues, especially the most significant offices, that of kings and generals.

But it is right to think that this departure from aristocracy is an error by the lawmaker. For among the most critical issues to consider from the beginning is how the best citizens might be able to have the free time and to refrain from anything inappropriate, both in office and in their private life. If it is right to consider furnishing the means for free time [to rule], it is bad for the most significant positions to be for sale (the kingship and the generalship).

For this law makes wealth more important than virtue and makes the whole state structured around money. Whatever the power structure considers valuable, the opinion of the rest of the citizens will follow. Wherever virtue is not honored above all else, the constitution cannot be aristocratic. It is also likely that those who purchase their offices will make a profit from them when they rule after spending their own money. For, it would be strange if a respectable man who is poor will want to profit but a corrupt man who has spent his own money would be disinclined to do the same.”

εἴπερ οὖν τὸ μὲν αἱρεῖσθαι πλουτίνδην ὀλιγαρχικὸν τὸ δὲ κατ᾿ ἀρετὴν ἀριστοκρατικόν, αὕτη τις ἂν εἴη τάξις τρίτη καθ᾿ ἥνπερ συντέτακται καὶ τοῖς Καρχηδονίοις τὰ περὶ τὴν πολιτείαν· αἱροῦνται γὰρ εἰς δύο ταῦτα βλέποντες, καὶ μάλιστα τὰς μεγίστας, τούς τε βασιλεῖς καὶ τοὺς στρατηγούς. δεῖ δὲ νομίζειν ἁμάρτημα νομοθέτου6 τὴν παρέκβασιν εἶναι τῆς ἀριστοκρατίας ταύτην· ἐξ ἀρχῆς γὰρ τοῦθ᾿ ὁρᾶν ἐστὶ τῶν ἀναγκαιοτάτων, ὅπως οἱ βέλτιστοι δύνωνται σχολάζειν καὶ μηδὲν ἀσχημονεῖν, μὴ μόνον ἄρχοντες ἀλλὰ μηδ᾿ ἰδιωτεύοντες. εἰ δὲ δεῖ βλέπειν καὶ πρὸς εὐπορίαν χάριν σχολῆς, φαῦλον τὸ τὰς μεγίστας ὠνητὰς εἶναι τῶν ἀρχῶν, τήν τε βασιλείαν καὶ τὴν στρατηγίαν. ἔντιμον γὰρ ὁ νόμος οὗτος ποιεῖ τὸν πλοῦτον μᾶλλον τῆς ἀρετῆς καὶ τὴν πόλιν ὅλην φιλοχρήματον· ὅ τι δ᾿ ἂν ὑπολάβῃ τίμιον εἶναι τὸ κύριον, ἀνάγκη καὶ τὴν τῶν ἄλλων πολιτῶν δόξαν ἀκολουθεῖν τούτοις· ὅπου δὲ μὴ μάλιστα ἀρετὴ τιμᾶται, ταύτην οὐχ οἷόν τ᾿ εἶναι βεβαίως ἀριστοκρατικὴν πολιτείαν. ἐθίζεσθαι δ᾿ εὔλογον κερδαίνειν τοὺς ὠνουμένους, ὅταν δαπανήσαντες ἄρχωσιν· ἄτοπον γὰρ εἰ πένης μὲν ὢν ἐπιεικὴς δὲ βουλήσεται κερδαίνειν, φαυλότερος δ᾿ ὢν οὐ βουλήσεται δαπανήσας.

 

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Four Years of Precious Memories: Some Roman Collusion for a Year of Confusion

Plautus, Rudens 1248

“I have no interest in profit made from collusion”

ego mi collusim nil moror ullum lucrum.

 

Tacitus Annals 11.5

“After that point, Suillius was persistent and brutal in pursuing his affairs and in his boldness for finding a mass of rivals. For the union of laws and wealth of offices gathered in one person furnished abundant opportunities for theft. And there was nothing in public so much for sale as the corruption of the advocates. It was so bad that Samius, a rather distinguished Roman knight, after he paid four hundred thousand sesterces to Suillius and once the collusion was revealed, laid down on his sword in his own house.

Therefore, when Gaius Silius was taking the lead of the elected consul—a man whose power and fall I will discuss in the appropriate time, the senators came together and asked for the Cincian law which carried the ancient warning that no one should receive money or a gift for pleading a case.”

 Continuus inde et saevus accusandis reis Suillius multique audaciae eius aemuli; nam cuncta legum et magistratuum munia in se trahens princeps materiam praedandi patefecerat. Nec quicquam publicae mercis tam venale fuit quam advocatorum perfidia, adeo ut Samius, insignis eques Romanus, quadringentis nummorum milibus Suillio datis et cognita praevaricatione ferro in domo eius incubuerit. Igitur incipiente C. Silio consule designato, cuius de potentia et exitio in tempore memorabo, consurgunt patres legemque Cinciam flagitant, qua cavetur antiquitus, ne quis ob causam orandam pecuniam donumve accipiat.

 

CICERO TO ATTICUS 92 (IV.18 Rome, between 24 October and 2 November 54)

“By what means was he acquitted? The beginning and the end of it was the incredible ineptitude of the prosecutors, specifically that of Lucius Lentulus the younger whom everyone yelled was colluding. Add to this the wondrous work of Pompeii and a crooked jury. Even with this there were 32 guilt votes and 38 for acquittal.  Remaining cases are waiting for him. He is not yet clearly unimpeded.”

quo modo ergo absolutus? omnino πρῷρα πρύμνα accusatorum incredibilis infantia, id est L. Lentuli L. f., quem fremunt omnes praevaricatum, deinde Pompei mira contentio, iudicum sordes. Ac tamen xxxii  condemnarunt, xxxviii absolverunt. iudicia reliqua impendent. nondum est plane expeditus.

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Four Years of Presidential Memories: Outidanoi, Not Even People

“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