Chief Minister of Bullsh*t

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 92 (4.18) October or November 54

You may ask me “how are you handling these things?” By god, pretty damn well and I love myself for doing so. My friend, we have not only lost the marrow and blood of a just state, but we’ve lost its decoration and facade too.

There is no Republic where I might find happiness or comfort. You may ask, “Can you really take this well?” Yes. That’s it. I recall how well the state thrived when I was governing it and the gratitude it gave me. No grief touches me at all at seeing one person capable of everything. Those who were upset that I had any power are wrecked by it.

No, I have many things to bring me solace. But I do not move from where I am, instead I return to that way of life which is most natural, to my books and my research.”

Dices ‘tu ergo haec quo modo fers?’ belle mehercule et in eo me valde amo. amisimus, mi Pomponi, omnem non modo sucum ac sanguinem sed etiam colorem et speciem pristinae civitatis. nulla est res publica quae delectet, in qua acquiescam. ‘idne igitur’ inquies ‘facile fers?’ id ipsum. recordor enim quam bella paulisper nobis gubernantibus civitas fuerit, quae mihi gratia relata sit. nullus dolor me angit unum omnia posse; dirumpuntur ii qui me aliquid posse doluerunt. multa mihi dant solacia, nec tamen ego de meo statu demigro, quaeque vita maxime est ad naturam, ad eam me refero, ad litteras et studia nostra.

Carved bust of Cicero 

Dictatorships, Tyrants, and Kings

Hannah Arendt, Personal responsibility Under a Dictatorship 36

“Politically, the weakness of the argument has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they chose evil.”

Call witnesses or live in a dictatorship.

Cicero, Letters to Quintus 19

“We have no small hope in our elections, but it is still uncertain. There is some suspicion of a dictatorship. We have peace in public but it is the calm of an old and tired state, not one giving consent.”

erat non nulla spes comitiorum sed incerta, erat aliqua suspicio dictaturae, ne ea quidem certa, summum otium forense sed senescentis magis civitatis quam acquiescentis

Philo, On Dreams 12.78

“Indeed, just as frightened horses raise their necks up high, in the same way all those devotees of empty glory raise themselves above everything else, above cities, laws, ancestral custom, and the affairs of individual citizens. As they move from demagoguery to dictatorship, they subdue some of their neighbors as they try to make themselves superior and upright–and then they plan to enslave however so many minds remain naturally free and unenslaved.”

τῷ γὰρ ὄντι καθάπερ οἱ γαῦροι τῶν ἵππων τὸν αὐχένα μετέωρον ἐξάραντες, ὅσοι θιασῶται τῆς κενῆς δόξης εἰσίν, ἐπάνω πάντων ἑαυτοὺς ἱδρύουσι, πόλεων, νόμων, ἐθῶν πατρίων, τῶν παρ᾿ ἑκάστοις πραγμάτων· εἶτα ἀπὸ δημαγωγίας ἐπὶ δημαρχίαν βαδίζοντες καὶ τὰ μὲν τῶν πλησίον καταβάλλοντες, τὰ δὲ οἰκεῖα διανιστάντες καὶ παγίως ὀρθοῦντες, ὅσα ἐλεύθερα καὶ ἀδούλωτα φύσει φρονήματα,

Zonaras, 7.13

“So, the dictatorship, as has been reported, was pretty much the same thing as a kingship, except that the dictator could not go on horseback…”

ἦν μὲν οὖν, ὡς εἴρηται, ἡ δικτατορία κατά γε τὴν ἐξουσίαν τῇ βασιλείᾳ ἰσόρροπος, πλὴν ὅτι μὴ ἐφ᾿ ἵππον ἀναβῆναι…

Cicero, Letters to Atticus

“This is no minor stink of dictatorship…”

et est non nullus odor dictaturae

Hannah Arendt, Personal responsibility Under a Dictatorship 45

“The dividing line between those who want to think and therefore have to judge by themselves, and those who do not, strikes across all social and cultural or educational differences. In this respect, the total moral collapse of respectable society during the Hitler regime may teach us that under such circumstances those who cherish values and hold fast to moral norms and standards are not reliable: we now know that moral norms and standards can be changed overnight, and that all that then will be left is the mere habit of holding fast to something. Much more reliable will be the doubters and skeptics, not because skepticism is good or doubting wholesome, but because they are used to examine things and to make up their own minds. Best of all will be those who know only one thing for certain: that whatever else happens, as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves.”

From the Suda:

“Tyrannos: The poets before the Trojan War used to name kings (basileis) tyrants, but later during the time of Archilochus, this word was transferred to the Greeks in general, just as the sophist Hippias records. Homer, at least, calls the most lawless man of all, Ekhetos, a king, not a tyrant. Tyrant is a a name that derives from the Tyrrenians because these men were quite severe pirates.* None of the other poets uses the name tyrant in any of their works. But Aristotle in the Constitution of the Cumaeans says that tyrants were once called aisumnêtai, because this name is a bit of a euphemism.”

Τύραννος: οἱ πρὸ τῶν Τρωϊκῶν ποιηταὶ τοὺς βασιλεῖς τυράννους προσηγόρευον, ὀψέ ποτε τοῦδε τοῦ ὀνόματος εἰς τοὺς Ἕλληνας διαδοθέντος κατὰ τοὺς Ἀρχιλόχου χρόνους, καθάπερ Ἱππίας ὁ σοφιστής φησιν. Ὅμηρος γοῦν τὸν πάντων παρανομώτατον Ἔχετον βασιλέα φησί, καὶ οὐ τύραννον. προσηγορεύθη δὲ τύραννος ἀπὸ Τυρρηνῶν: χαλεποὺς γὰρ περὶ λῃστείας τούτους γενέσθαι. οὐδεὶς δὲ οὐδὲ ἄλλος τῶν ποιητῶν ἐν τοῖς ποιήμασιν αὐτοῦ μέμνηται τὸ τοῦ τυράννου ὄνομα. ὁ δὲ Ἀριστοτέλης ἐν Κυμαίων πολιτείᾳ τοὺς τυράννους φησὶ τὸ πρότερον αἰσυμνήτας καλεῖσθαι. εὐφημότερον γὰρ ἐκεῖνο τὸ ὄνομα. ὅτι καὶ ἕτεροι ἐτυράννησαν, ἀλλ’ ἡ τελευταία καὶ μεγίστη κάκωσις πάσαις ταῖς πόλεσιν ἡ Διονυσίου τυραννὶς ἐγένετο.

For Aristotle’s distinctions, see Politics, book 3 (1285a)

*According to Louise Hitchcock and Aren Maeir (“Yo-ho, Yo-ho: A Seren’s Life For me.” World Archaeology 46:4, 624-640) the Philistines used the word seren to mean leader; this word may have been related to Hittite tarwanis and was possibly circulated by the ‘sea peoples’. Greek tyrannos may have developed from this. Chaintraine notes that the etymology of turannos is unclear but that it may be related to Etruscan turan or Hittite tarwana.

Etymologicum Magnum

“This is likely formed from Tursennians*. Or it derives from Gyges who was from a Turran city in Lykia, and he was the first one who was a tyrant. Others claim it is from truô [“to distress, wear out, afflict”], that it was truanos and that the rho and nu switched places through pleonasm. Ancients used to use the word Turannos for kings. There was a time when they used a call the tyrant ‘king’.

Τύραννος: ῎Ητοι ἀπὸ τῶν Τυρσηνῶν· ὠμοὶ γὰρ οὗτοι· ἢ ἀπὸ Γύγου, ὅς ἐστιν ἀπὸ Τύρρας πόλεως Λυκιακῆς, τυραννήσαντος πρῶτον. ῎Αλλοι δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ τρύω, τὸ καταπονῶ, τρύανος· καὶ ὑπερβιβασμῷ τοῦ ρ, τύραννος, κατὰ πλεονασμὸν τοῦ ν. Τύραννον δὲ οἱ ἀρχαῖοι καὶ ἐπὶ βασιλέως ἔτασσον· ἔσθ’ ὅτε δὲ καὶ τὸν τύραννον βασιλέα ἔλεγον.

*A name for Etruscans

s.v. Αἰσυμνητήρ

“An aisiomêtês is one who has proper plans. A tyrant is the opposite.”

ὁ αἰσιομήτης, ὁ αἴσια βουλευόμενος· ὁ γὰρ τύραννος τοὐναντίον.

What’s the difference between a king and a tyrant?

s.v. Βασιλεύς

“For, a king must truly do noble things. One who does evil, he’s a tyrant.”

δεῖ γὰρ ἀληθῶς βασιλέα καλοποιεῖν· ὁ δὲ κακοποιῶν, τύραννος

Etymologicum Gudianum

“Tyranny: It differs from a kingship and a tyrant is different from a king. For a kingship is something that exercises power according the law. But a tyranny is a force without reason, following its own law. A king is someone who rules according to just laws; but a tyrant, who can never rule justly nor without the boundaries of the law, he steps outside of the laws.”

Tyrannos: from some tyrant, the one who first ruled badly, from the city of Tyre. It means two things: a kind and the man as a tyrant.”

Τυραννὶς, βασιλείας διαφέρει, καὶ τύραννος βασιλέως· βασιλεῖα μὲν γάρ ἐστι κατὰ νόμους ἄρχουσα ἐξουσία τίς· τυραννὶς δὲ ἡ ἄλογος ἐξουσία, αὐτωνομίᾳ χρωμένη· βασιλεύς ἐστιν ὁ κατὰ νόμους δικαίους ἄρχων· τύραννος δὲ, ὁ μήτε δικαίως ἄρχων, μήτε νομίμως, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοὺς νόμους ἐκπατῶν.

Τύραννος, ἀπὸ τυράννου τινὸς, πρώτου κακῶς διακειμένου, ἀπὸ Τύρου τῆς πόλεως· σημαίνει δὲ δύο, τὸν βασιλέα καὶ τὸν ἄνθρωπον τύραννον.

arrogant finger

Aristotle, Politics 1285a

“Citizens guard their kings with arms; foreigners protect tyrants. This is because kings rule according to the law and with willing citizens while tyrants rule the unwilling. As a result, kings have guards from their subjects and tyrants keep guards against them.”

οἱ γὰρ πολῖται φυλάττουσιν ὅπλοις τοὺς βασιλεῖς, τοὺς δὲ τυράννους ξενικόν: οἱ μὲν γὰρ κατὰ νόμον καὶ ἑκόντων οἱ δ᾽ ἀκόντων ἄρχουσιν, ὥσθ᾽ οἱ μὲν παρὰ τῶν πολιτῶν οἱ δ᾽ ἐπὶ τοὺς πολίτας ἔχουσι τὴν φυλακήν.

Reasons for Revolutions: Wanting To Be Equal Vs. Wanting Just More

Aristotle, Politics 1302 a

“We have already happened to discuss the reason why people are predisposed towards a revolution. People who desire equality rise up in strife when they believe that they have less even though they are allegedly equal to those they oppose. But those who want inequality or their own superiority imagine that even though they are unequal that don’t have more but merely an equal amount. (Of course, these feelings may exist both justly and unjustly. People who are in a lesser position engage in strife in order to become equal; those who are merely equal, do it to become superior.”

Τοῦ μὲν οὖν αὐτοὺς ἔχειν πως πρὸς τὴν μεταβολὴν αἰτίαν καθόλου μάλιστα θετέον περὶ ἧς ἤδη τυγχάνομεν εἰρηκότες. οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἰσότητος ἐφιέμενοι στασιάζουσιν ἂν νομίζωσιν ἔλαττον ἔχειν ὄντες ἴσοι τοῖς πλεονεκτοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ τῆς ἀνισότητος καὶ τῆς ὑπεροχῆς ἂν ὑπολαμβάνωσιν ὄντες ἄνισοι μὴ πλέον ἔχειν ἀλλ᾿ ἴσον ἢ ἔλαττον (τούτων δ᾿ ἔστι2 μὲν ὀρέγεσθαι δικαίως, ἔστι δὲ καὶ ἀδίκως)· ἐλάττους 30τε γὰρ ὄντες ὅπως ἴσοι ὦσι στασιάζουσι, καὶ ἴσοι ὄντες ὅπως μείζους. πῶς μὲν οὖν ἔχοντες στασιάζουσιν, εἴρηται.

 

Plutarch, Solon 94

“The city was following the laws, but they were already expecting a revolution and longing for a different kind of government, not because they were hoping for equality, but because they would have more in a revolution and they would rule over their opposition in every way.”

ὥστε χρῆσθαι μὲν ἔτι τοῖς νόμοις τὴν πόλιν, ἤδη δὲ πράγματα νεώτερα προσδοκᾶν καὶ ποθεῖν ἅπαντας ἑτέραν κατάστασιν, οὐκ ἴσον ἐλπίζοντας, ἀλλὰ πλέον ἕξειν ἐν τῇ μεταβολῇ καὶ κρατήσειν παντάπασι τῶν διαφερομένων.

Laws and Fear of the State

Sophocles, Ajax 1071-1086

“The laws are never taken well in a city
Where fear has not been planted too.
Nor can any army be ruled wisely
If it has no foundation of fear and shame.

But even if someone has a powerful body
He can seem to fall because of some minor evil.
Understand this: whoever has shame and fear
That’s the person who has safety.

But wherever it is that someone can be outrageous and do what they want
Know that this city eventually will sink to the depth
Even if it was running smoothly for years.

Let me have some fear then at the right time
And let us not imagine that if we do what makes us happy
We won’t pay the penalty of grief in turn.”

οὐ γάρ ποτ᾿ οὔτ᾿ ἂν ἐν πόλει νόμοι καλῶς
φέροιντ᾿ ἄν, ἔνθα μὴ καθεστήκοι δέος,
οὔτ᾿ ἂν στρατός γε σωφρόνως ἄρχοιτ᾿ ἔτι,
μηδὲν φόβου πρόβλημα μηδ᾿ αἰδοῦς ἔχων.
ἀλλ᾿ ἄνδρα χρή, κἂν σῶμα γεννήσῃ μέγα,
δοκεῖν πεσεῖν ἂν κἂν ἀπὸ σμικροῦ κακοῦ.
δέος γὰρ ᾧ πρόσεστιν αἰσχύνη θ᾿ ὁμοῦ,
σωτηρίαν ἔχοντα τόνδ᾿ ἐπίστασο·
ὅπου δ᾿ ὑβρίζειν δρᾶν θ᾿ ἃ βούλεται παρῇ,
ταύτην νόμιζε τὴν πόλιν χρόνῳ ποτὲ
ἐξ οὐρίων δραμοῦσαν ἐς βυθὸν πεσεῖν.
ἀλλ᾿ ἑστάτω μοι καὶ δέος τι καίριον,
καὶ μὴ δοκῶμεν δρῶντες ἃν ἡδώμεθα
οὐκ ἀντιτείσειν αὖθις ἃν λυπώμεθα.

Sophocles

 

Bold Tongues and Barbarian Words

Sophocles, Ajax 1142-149

“I once before saw a man with a bold tongue
Railing on sailors to sail in a storm.
But when the storm fell, you couldn’t find a single word
From him as he hid beneath his cloak
And just let any sailor who wanted to walk over him.
This is how some great storm might blow in
Over you and your braying mouth
Ending your loud cry with a bit of cloud.”

ἤδη ποτ᾿ εἶδον ἄνδρ᾿ ἐγὼ γλώσσῃ θρασὺν
ναύτας ἐφορμήσαντα χειμῶνος τὸ πλεῖν,
ᾧ φθέγμ᾿ ἂν οὐκ ἐνηῦρες, ἡνίκ᾿ ἐν κακῷ
χειμῶνος εἴχετ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ὑφ᾿ εἵματος κρυφεὶς
πατεῖν παρεῖχε τῷ θέλοντι ναυτίλων.
οὕτω δὲ καὶ σὲ καὶ τὸ σὸν λάβρον στόμα
σμικροῦ νέφους τάχ᾿ ἄν τις ἐκπνεύσας μέγας
χειμὼν κατασβέσειε τὴν πολλὴν βοήν.

For the full text, check out the version in Perseus’ new Scaife Viewer

1259-63

“Won’t you come to your senses? Won’t you learn your nature
And ask some other person who is free here
Who can tell us your affairs instead of you?
I can’t understand anything at all when you talk.
I don’t understand this barbarian tongue.”

οὐ σωφρονήσεις; οὐ μαθὼν ὃς εἶ φύσιν
ἄλλον τιν᾿ ἄξεις ἄνδρα δεῦρ᾿ ἐλεύθερον,
ὅστις πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἀντὶ σοῦ λέξει τὰ σά;
σοῦ γὰρ λέγοντος οὐκέτ᾿ ἂν μάθοιμ᾿ ἐγώ·
τὴν βάρβαρον γὰρ γλῶσσαν οὐκ ἐπαΐω.

1345

“Acting rightly is not easy for a tyrant.”

τόν τοι τύραννον εὐσεβεῖν οὐ ῥᾴδιον.

Achilles and Ajax

Police and the Unjust State

Demosthenes, Against Timocrates 164 (See the Scaife Viewer for the full text)

“These men have committed so much horror beyond their own criminal behavior that even while running a so-called democracy they turned each person’s house into a prison and put the police in our homes.”

οὗτοι τοίνυν τοσαύτην ὑπερβολὴν ἐποιήσαντο ἐκείνων τῆς αὑτῶν πονηρίας ὥστ᾿ ἐν δημοκρατίᾳ πολιτευόμενοι τὴν ἰδίαν οἰκίαν ἑκάστῳ δεσμωτήριον καθίστασαν, τοὺς ἕνδεκ᾿ ἄγοντες ἐπὶ τὰς οἰκίας.

 

W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk 9

“For such dealing with criminals, white or black, the South had no machinery, no adequate jails or reformatories; its police system was arranged to deal with blacks alone, and tacitly assumed that every white man was ipso facto a member of that police. Thus grew up a double system of justice, which erred on the white side by undue leniency and the practical immunity of red-handed criminals, and erred on the black side by undue severity, injustice, and lack of discrimination.”

 

Juvenal, Satires

“Who will police the police?”

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I Had to Put Myself In Power

Lucian, Phalaris 1.2

“I was not one of the invisible people in Akragas, if anyone was well born, liberally raised, and fully educated, I was. I always made sure to demonstrate my own public nature to the city, a proper and moderate character to my fellow citizens, and no one ever accused me in that previous period of my life of being violent, or inappropriate, or arrogant, or insulting at all.

But once I saw that people who were in the opposing political faction were conspiring against me and trying everything they could to bring me down—when our city was split in strife—I could find only this escape and safety, the very same preservation for the city too: I had to put myself in power so I could stop the conspirators and compel the city to be more sensible.  Since there was no small number of people who approved these things—those reasonable and patriotic men who knew my plan and the necessity of the attempt, I took over easily with them as my helpers.”

Ἐγὼ γὰρ οὐ τῶν ἀφανῶν ἐν Ἀκράγαντι ὤν, ἀλλ᾿ εἰ καί τις ἄλλος εὖ γεγονὼς καὶ τραφεὶς ἐλευθερίως καὶ παιδείᾳ προσεσχηκώς, ἀεὶ διετέλουν τῇ μὲν πόλει δημοτικὸν ἐμαυτὸν παρέχων, τοῖς δὲ συμπολιτευομένοις ἐπιεικῆ καὶ μέτριον, βίαιον δὲ ἢ σκαιὸν ἢ ὑβριστικὸν ἢ αὐθέκαστον οὐδεὶς οὐδὲν ἐπεκάλει μου τῷ προτέρῳ ἐκείνῳ βίῳ. ἐπειδὴ δὲ ἑώρων τοὺς τἀναντία μοι πολιτευομένους ἐπιβουλεύοντας καὶ ἐξ ἅπαντος τρόπου ἀνελεῖν με ζητοῦντας—διῄρητο δὲ ἡμῶν τότε ἡ πόλις—μίαν ταύτην ἀποφυγὴν καὶ ἀσφάλειαν εὕρισκον, τὴν αὐτὴν ἅμα καὶ τῇ πόλει σωτηρίαν, εἰ ἐπιθέμενος τῇ ἀρχῇ ἐκείνους μὲν ἀναστείλαιμι καὶ παύσαιμι ἐπιβουλεύοντας, τὴν πόλιν δὲ σωφρονεῖν καταναγκάσαιμι· καὶ ἦσαν γὰρ οὐκ ὀλίγοι ταῦτα ἐπαινοῦντες, ἄνδρες μέτριοι καὶ φιλοπόλιδες, οἳ καὶ τὴν γνώμην ᾔδεσαν τὴν ἐμὴν καὶ τῆς ἐπιχειρήσεως τὴν ἀνάγκην· τούτοις οὖν συναγωνισταῖς χρησάμενος ῥᾳδίως ἐκράτησα.

Hieronymus Bosch, “Removing the Rocks from the Head

It’s Not Fate, It’s My Fault

Cicero, Letter to Terentia 14.1

“Many letters—every letter—come to me with news about your incredible character and bravery, that you are overhwelmed by neither mental nor physical exertions. I am filled with sorrow to think that you, my noble, faithful, honest, kind wife would experience so much grief because of me. Or that our Tulliola would also take as much grief from her father as he ever gave her pleasure! When it comes to Marcus, our son, what can I say? From the moment he first began to understand the world, he has experienced the most bitter griefs and pains.

If, as you write, I could believe that this all happened because of fate, I could endure it more easily. But everything is my fault. I used to believe that I was loved by people who envied me and I did not follow people who were reaching out to help me. The fact is that if I had listened to my own mind instead of heeding our friends’ chatter—both the fools and the criminals—we might have ended up really happy.

But now, since our friends command us to hope, I will try not to let my health add to your burdens. I do understand how momentous this matter is, how much easier it would have been to remain at home than come back. But, still, if we have all the tribunes with us, if Lentulus is as eager as he appears, and if we still have Caesar and Pompey, we should not lose hope.”

Et litteris multorum et sermone omnium perfertur ad me incredibilem tuam virtutem et fortitudinem esse teque nec animi neque corporis laboribus defatigari. me miserum! te ista virtute, fide, probitate, humanitate in tantas aerumnas propter me incidisse, Tulliolamque nostram, ex quo patre tantas voluptates capiebat, ex eo tantos percipere luctus! nam quid ego de Cicerone dicam? qui cum primum sapere coepit, acerbissimos dolores miseriasque percepit. quae si, tu ut scribis, fato facta putarem, ferrem paulo facilius; sed omnia sunt mea culpa commissa, qui ab iis me amari putabam qui invidebant, eos non sequebar qui petebant. quod si nostris consiliis usi essemus neque apud nos tantum valuisset sermo aut stultorum amicorum aut improborum, beatissimi viveremus. nunc, quoniam sperare nos amici iubent, dabo operam ne mea valetudo tuo labori desit. res quanta sit intellego quantoque fuerit facilius manere domi quam redire. sed tamen, si omnis tribunos pl. habemus, si Lentulum tam studiosum quam videtur, si vero etiam Pompeium et Caesarem, non est desperandum.

Studiolo di Federico da Montefeltro

Friends and the Safety of the State

Sophocles, Antigone 175–190 (Creon speaking)

“It is impossible to really learn a man’s
mind, thought and opinion before he’s been initiated
into the offices and laws of the state.
Indeed—whoever attempts to direct the country
but does not make use of the best advice
as he keeps his tongue frozen out of fear
Seems to me to be the worst kind of person now and long ago.

Anyone who thinks his friend is more important than the country,
I say that they live nowhere.
May Zeus who always sees everything witness this:
I could never be silent when I saw ruin
Overtaking my citizens instead of safety.

And I could never make my country’s enemy a friend
For myself, because I know this crucial thing:
The state is the ship which saves us
And we may make friends only if it remains afloat.”

ἀμήχανον δὲ παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἐκμαθεῖν
ψυχήν τε καὶ φρόνημα καὶ γνώμην, πρὶν ἂν
ἀρχαῖς τε καὶ νόμοισιν ἐντριβὴς φανῇ.
ἐμοὶ γὰρ ὅστις πᾶσαν εὐθύνων πόλιν
μὴ τῶν ἀρίστων ἅπτεται βουλευμάτων,
ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ φόβου του γλῶσσαν ἐγκλῄσας ἔχει,
κάκιστος εἶναι νῦν τε καὶ πάλαι δοκεῖ·

καὶ μείζον᾿ ὅστις ἀντὶ τῆς αὑτοῦ πάτρας
φίλον νομίζει, τοῦτον οὐδαμοῦ λέγω.
ἐγὼ γάρ, ἴστω Ζεὺς ὁ πάνθ᾿ ὁρῶν ἀεί,
οὔτ᾿ ἂν σιωπήσαιμι τὴν ἄτην ὁρῶν
στείχουσαν ἀστοῖς ἀντὶ τῆς σωτηρίας,
οὔτ᾿ ἂν φίλον ποτ᾿ ἄνδρα δυσμενῆ χθονὸς
θείμην ἐμαυτῷ, τοῦτο γιγνώσκων ὅτι
ἥδ᾿ ἐστὶν ἡ σῴζουσα καὶ ταύτης ἔπι
πλέοντες ὀρθῆς τοὺς φίλους ποιούμεθα.

Antigone au chevet de Polynice

The Least Corrupt Politician

Aelian, Varia Historia 14.28

“Someone rebuked the politician Pytheas because he was corrupt. He did not deny the fact, since his own knowledge would not allow it. But he responded that he was corrupt with the least amount of frequency of any of the politicians in Athens.

He clearly thought it was a big deal that he was not like that his whole life and actually believed that the had not acted unjustly because he was not counted among the worst politicians. This was Pytheas’ simplemindedness. By my reckoning, not only is the one who does injustice corrupt, but the one who plans to do it is too.”

28. Ὠνείδισέ τις τῷ ῥήτορι Πυθέᾳ ὅτι κακός ἐστιν. ὁ δὲ οὐκ ἠρνήσατο· τὸ γὰρ συνειδὸς οὐκ ἐπέτρεπεν αὐτῷ. ἀπεκρίνατο δὲ ἐκεῖνο, ἐλάχιστον χρόνον τῶν πεπολιτευμένων Ἀθήνησι γενέσθαι κακός· μέγα φρονῶν δῆλον ὅτι μὴ διὰ τέλους ἦν τοιοῦτος, καὶ ἡγούμενος μὴ ἀδικεῖν, ἐπεὶ μὴ τοῖς πονηροτάτοις παρενεβάλλετο. εὔηθες δὲ τοῦτο τοῦ Πυθέου· οὐ γὰρ μόνον ὁ ἀδικήσας κακὸς ἀλλὰ καὶ ὁ ἐννοήσας ἀδικῆσαι, παρά γε ἐμοὶ κριτῇ.

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“The Virtuous Athenian” by Joseph-Marie Vien