Tyrants: The Power to Do Everything in a Rage

Dio Chrysostom, On Kingship and Tyranny (Discourse 62)

“Really, if someone is incapable of governing a single person and that person is also really close to them, even there all the time, and, if they cannot keep a single mind on the straight and narrow (and by that I mean their own) how could they possibly rule over countless thousands of people like you, people who are spread all over the earth, most of whom you have’t seen and could never see and whose language you can’t understand?

It’s almost as if saying that someone whose vision is so impaired they cannot see their feet and they need someone to lead them by the hand can somehow see objects really far away, as when people see mountains or islands from afar on the sea.  Or, it is as if someone who cannot speak loudly enough to be heard by those right nearby can raise a voice to whole cities and armies!

Truly, intelligence is something like vision: for, when sight begins to diminish it cannot see the closest things even if it could touch the stars and heaven when healthy. Just so, a wise person’s mind can has the power to guide all people while the fool’s can’t keep even his own body or a single home safe”

Καὶ μὴν εἴ τις ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς οὐχ οἷός τε ἄρχειν ἐστί, καὶ τούτου σφόδρα ἐγγὺς ὄντος, ᾧ δὴ ξύνεστιν, οὐδὲ αὖ μίαν ψυχὴν κατευθύνειν τὴν αὑτοῦ, πῶς ἂν δύναιτο βασιλεύειν μυριάδων ἀναριθμήτων πανταχοῦ διεσπαρμένων, ὥσπερ σύ, καὶ πολλῶν γε οἰκούντων ἐπὶ πέρασι γῆς, ὧν οὐδὲ ἑώρακε τοὺς πλείστους οὐδ᾿ ἂν ἴδοι ποτὲ οὐδὲ τῆς φωνῆς ξυνήσει; ὅμοιον γὰρ ὥσπερ εἴ τις λέγοι τὸν οὕτως ἀδύνατον τὴν ὄψιν ὡς μηδὲ τὰ ἐν ποσὶν ὁρᾶν, ἀλλὰ προσδεόμενον χειραγωγοῦ, τοῦτον ἐφικνεῖσθαι βλέποντα μέχρι τῶν πλεῖστον ἀπεχόντων, ὥσπερ οἱ πόρρωθεν ὁρῶντες ἐκ τοῦ πελάγους τά τε ὄρη καὶ τὰς νήσους, ἢ τὸν οὐ δυνάμενον φθέγγεσθαι τοῖς παρεστῶσιν ἱκανὸν ὅλοις δήμοις καὶ στρατοπέδοις εἰς ἐπήκοον φθέγγεσθαι. καὶ γὰρ οὖν ἔχει τι παραπλήσιον ὁ νοῦς τῇ ὄψει· ὡς ἐκείνη διεφθαρμένη μὲν οὐδὲν οὐδὲ τῶν πλησιαίτατα ὁρᾷ, ὑγιὴς δὲ οὖσα μέχρις οὐρανοῦ τε καὶ ἀστέρων ἐξικνεῖται· ταὐτὸ δὴ τοῦτο ἡ μὲν τοῦ φρονίμου διάνοια καὶ πάντας ἀνθρώπους ἱκανὴ γίγνεται διοικεῖν, ἡ δὲ τοῦ ἄφρονος οὐδὲ ἓν σῶμα τὸ ἐκείνου δύναται φυλάττειν οὐδὲ ἕνα οἶκον.

Continuing….

“Many people in dynastic power, to explain further, because they can grab everything, desire to have everything. Because they determine justice, they become unjust. Because they do not fear the laws, they do not believe they exist. Because they are not forced to work, they never stop their conspicuous consumption.

Because no one stands up to them when they harm them, they never stop doing the same things; because there is no end to their pleasure, they never actually find their fill of it. Because no one criticizes them directly, they never miss a chance to slander someone else. Because no one wants to upset them, they find reason to be harsh to everyone. And because they have the power to do anything when enraged, they are forever in a state of anger.”

Οἱ μὲν γὰρ πολλοὶ τῶν ἐν ταῖς δυναστείαις, ὅτι μὲν ἔξεστιν αὐτοῖς πάντα λαμβάνειν, πάντων ἐπιθυμοῦσιν· ὅτι δὲ ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς ἐστι τὸ δίκαιον, διὰ τοῦτό εἰσιν ἄδικοι· ὅτι δὲ οὐ φοβοῦνται τοὺς νόμους, οὐδὲ εἶναι νομίζουσιν· ὅτι δὲ οὐκ ἀναγκάζονται πονεῖν, οὐδέποτε παύονται τρυφῶντες· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεὶς ἀμύνεται κακῶς πάσχων, οὐδέποτε παύονται ποιοῦντες· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεμιᾶς σπανίζουσιν ἡδονῆς, οὐδέποτε ἐμπίμπλανται ἡδόμενοι· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεὶς ψέγει ἐκ τοῦ φανεροῦ, οὐδὲν ἀπολείπουσι τῶν οὐ δικαίως λεγομένων· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεὶς αὐτοὺς βούλεται λυπεῖν, διὰ τοῦτο πᾶσι χαλεπαίνουσιν· ὅτι δὲ ὀργισθεῖσιν ἔξεστι πάντα ποιεῖν, διὰ τοῦτο συνεχῶς ὀργίζονται.

Speech, Silence, and Scoundrels

Euripides, Orestes 638-9

“Speak since you have spoken well. There is a time when silence
Is stronger than speech, but sometimes speech is stronger than silence.”

λέγ᾿· εὖ γὰρ εἶπας· ἔστιν οὗ σιγὴ λόγου
κρείσσων γένοιτ᾿ ἄν, ἔστι δ᾿ οὗ σιγῆς λόγος.

640-641

“Long speeches are preferable to short ones.”

τὰ μακρὰ τῶν σμικρῶν λόγων / ἐπίπροσθέν ἐστι

772-773

“The masses are terrible whenever they have scoundrels as leaders”

δεινὸν οἱ πολλοί, κακούργους ὅταν ἔχωσι
προστάτας.

907-910

“Whenever someone who has sweet speech but bad intentions
Persuades the majority, it is a great disaster for a state.
But when people who have the best outcomes in mind advise
They are eventually, if not immediately, helpful”

ὅταν γὰρ ἡδύς τις λόγοις φρονῶν κακῶς
πείθῃ τὸ πλῆθος, τῇ πόλει κακὸν μέγα·
ὅσοι δὲ σὺν νῷ χρηστὰ βουλεύουσ᾿ ἀεί,
κἂν μὴ παραυτίκ᾿, αὖθίς εἰσι χρήσιμοι

Orestes fleeing from the Furies, Bissen 1848

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?

Really, We Have To Go to War

Thucydides, Peloponnesian War 1.144

“I have many other reasons to hope for the outcome if you are willing not to grow your empire by warring more and not to add dangers of your own choosing. For I am much more afraid of our own mistakes than our enemies’ plans.

But these are topics which will be explained in another speech on those matters. For now, let use send them away with these answers, that we will allow the Megarians to use our marketplace and harbors provided that the Spartans do not continue their foreign actions against us or our allies—for nothing stops this action or that one in the treaties we have. In addition, we will leave cities independent if they were independent when we came into contact with them and when those cities did not give in to them, they should be independent too, as each of them desires.

Add as well that we are willing to submit to judgments according to the treaties and we will not begin the war, although we will defend against those who do start it. These answers are just and proper answers for the city. You need to understand that we must go to war—but if we welcome it willingly, we will have less enthusiastic opponents.

Remember also that the greatest honors come both in private and public from the greatest dangers. Didn’t our fathers stand up against the Medes even though they started from so unequal a position? And when they left everything they had behind, they fought off the barbarian with greater intelligence than luck and greater daring than power and raised our state to what it is today. For this reason, we must not fall back, but we must defend against our enemies in every way and strive to give to our descendants a state no weaker at all.”

‘Πολλὰ δὲ καὶ ἄλλα ἔχω ἐς ἐλπίδα τοῦ περιέσεσθαι, ἢν ἐθέλητε ἀρχήν τε μὴ ἐπικτᾶσθαι ἅμα πολεμοῦντες καὶ κινδύνους αὐθαιρέτους μὴ προστίθεσθαι· μᾶλλον γὰρ πεφόβημαι τὰς οἰκείας ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίας ἢ τὰς τῶν ἐναντίων διανοίας. ἀλλ’ ἐκεῖνα μὲν καὶ ἐν ἄλλῳ λόγῳ ἅμα τοῖς ἔργοις δηλωθήσεται· νῦν δὲ τούτοις ἀποκρινάμενοι ἀποπέμψωμεν, Μεγαρέας μὲν ὅτι ἐάσομεν ἀγορᾷ καὶ λιμέσι χρῆσθαι, ἢν καὶ Λακεδαιμόνιοι ξενηλασίας μὴ ποιῶσι μήτε ἡμῶν μήτε τῶν ἡμετέρων ξυμμάχων (οὔτε γὰρ ἐκεῖνο κωλύει ἐν ταῖς σπονδαῖς οὔτε τόδε), τὰς δὲ πόλεις ὅτι αὐτονόμους ἀφήσομεν, εἰ καὶ αὐτονόμους ἔχοντες ἐσπεισάμεθα, καὶ ὅταν κἀκεῖνοι ταῖς ἑαυτῶν ἀποδῶσι πόλεσι μὴ σφίσι [τοῖς Λακεδαιμονίοις] ἐπιτηδείως αὐτονομεῖσθαι, ἀλλ’ αὐτοῖς ἑκάστοις ὡς βούλονται· δίκας τε ὅτι ἐθέλομεν δοῦναι κατὰ τὰς ξυνθήκας, πολέμου δὲ οὐκ ἄρξομεν, ἀρχομένους δὲ ἀμυνούμεθα. ταῦτα γὰρ δίκαια καὶ πρέποντα ἅμα τῇδε τῇ πόλει ἀποκρίνασθαι. εἰδέναι δὲ χρὴ ὅτι ἀνάγκη πολεμεῖν, ἢν δὲ ἑκούσιοι μᾶλλον δεχώμεθα, ἧσσον ἐγκεισομένους τοὺς ἐναντίους ἕξομεν, ἔκ τε τῶν μεγίστων κινδύνων ὅτι καὶ πόλει καὶ ἰδιώτῃ μέγισται τιμαὶ περιγίγνονται. οἱ γοῦν πατέρες ἡμῶν ὑποστάντες Μήδους καὶ οὐκ ἀπὸ τοσῶνδε ὁρμώμενοι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ἐκλιπόντες, γνώμῃ τε πλέονι ἢ τύχῃ καὶ τόλμῃ μείζονι ἢ δυνάμει τόν τε βάρβαρον ἀπεώσαντο καὶ ἐς τάδε προήγαγον αὐτά. ὧν οὐ χρὴ λείπεσθαι, ἀλλὰ τούς τε ἐχθροὺς παντὶ τρόπῳ ἀμύνεσθαι καὶ τοῖς ἐπιγιγνομένοις πειρᾶσθαι αὐτὰ μὴ ἐλάσσω παραδοῦναι.’

File:Jean-auguste-dominique ingres, uomo deificato, detto l'apoteosi di omero, 1827, 02.jpg
Detail of J.A.D Ingres’  “Apotheosis of Homer”

 

A Reminder: One Who Is Disordered Cannot Create Order

Plutarch’s “To the Uneducated Ruler” has no relevance today, at all (780a-c)...

“The majority of kings and rulers are stupid–they imitate those artless sculptors who believe that their over-sized figures seem large and solid if they make them with a wide stance, flexing their muscles, mouths gaped open. For these types of rulers seem merely to be imitating the impressiveness and seriousness of leadership with their deep voice, severe glance, bitter manners and their separate way of living: but they are not really any different from the sculpted colossus which is heroic and godly on the outside, but filled with dirt, stone or lead within.

The real difference is that the weight of the statue keeps it standing straight, never leaning; these untaught generals and leaders often wobble and overturn because of their native ignorance. For, because they have built their homes on a crooked foundation, they lean and slide with it. Just as a carpenter’s square, if it is straight and solid, straightens out everything else that is measured according to it, so too a leader must first master himself and correct his own character and only then try to guide his people. For one who is falling cannot lift others; one who is ignorant cannot teach; one who is simple cannot manage complicated affairs; one who is disordered cannot create order; and one who does not rule himself cannot rule.”

Ἀλλὰ νοῦν οὐκ ἔχοντες οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν βασιλέων καὶ ἀρχόντων μιμοῦνται τοὺς ἀτέχνους ἀνδριαντοποιούς, οἳ νομίζουσι μεγάλους καὶ ἁδροὺς φαίνεσθαι τοὺς κολοσσούς, ἂν διαβεβηκότας σφόδρα καὶ διατεταμένους καὶ κεχηνότας πλάσωσι· καὶ γὰρ οὗτοι βαρύτητι φωνῆς καὶ βλέμματος τραχύτητι καὶ δυσκολίᾳ τρόπων καὶ ἀμιξίᾳ διαίτης ὄγκον ἡγεμονίας καὶ σεμνότητα μιμεῖσθαι δοκοῦσιν, οὐδ᾿ ὁτιοῦν τῶν κολοσσικῶν διαφέροντες ἀνδριάντων, οἳ τὴν ἔξωθεν ἡρωικὴν καὶ θεοπρεπῆ μορφὴν ἔχοντες ἐντός εἰσι γῆς μεστοὶ καὶ λίθου καὶ μολίβδου· πλὴν ὅτι τῶν μὲν ἀνδριάντων ταῦτα τὰ βάρη τὴν ὀρθότητα μόνιμον καὶ ἀκλινῆ διαφυλάττει, οἱ δ᾿ ἀπαίδευτοι στρατηγοὶ καὶ ἡγεμόνες ὑπὸ τῆς ἐντὸς ἀγνωμοσύνης πολλάκις σαλεύονται καὶ περιτρέπονται· βάσει γὰρ οὐ κειμένῃ πρὸς ὀρθὰς ἐξουσίαν ἐποικοδομοῦντες ὑψηλὴν συναπονεύουσι. δεῖ δέ, ὥσπερ ὁ κανὼν αὐτός, ἀστραβὴς γενόμενος καὶ ἀδιάστροφος, οὕτως ἀπευθύνει τὰ λοιπὰ τῇ πρὸς αὑτὸν ἐφαρμογῇ καὶ παραθέσει συνεξομοιῶν, παραπλησίως τὸν ἄρχοντα πρῶτον τὴν ἀρχὴν κτησάμενον ἐν ἑαυτῷ καὶ κατευθύναντα τὴν ψυχὴν καὶ καταστησάμενον τὸ ἦθος οὕτω συναρμόττειν τὸ ὑπήκοον· οὔτε γὰρ πίπτοντός ἐστιν ὀρθοῦν οὔτε διδάσκειν ἀγνοοῦντος οὔτε κοσμεῖν ἀκοσμοῦντος ἢ τάττειν ἀτακτοῦντος ἢ ἄρχειν μὴ ἀρχομένου·

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782b-c

“Among the weak, base and private citizens, ignorance when combined with a lack of power yields little wrongdoing, as in nightmares some trouble upsets the mind, making it incapable of responding to its desires. But when power has been combined with wickedness it adds energy to latent passions. And so that saying of Dionysus is true—for he used to say that he loved his power most when he could do what he wanted quickly. It is truly a great danger when one who wants what is wrong has the power to do what he wants to do.

As Homer puts it “When the plan was made, then the deed was done.” When wickedness has an open course because of its power, it compels every passion to emerge, producing rage, murder, lust, adultery, and greedy acquisition of public wealth.”

Ἐν μὲν γὰρ τοῖς ἀσθενέσι καὶ ταπεινοῖς καὶ ἰδιώταις τῷ ἀδυνάτῳ μιγνύμενον τὸ ἀνόητον εἰς τὸ ἀναμάρτητον τελευτᾷ, ὥσπερ ἐν ὀνείρασι φαύλοις τις ἀνία τὴν ψυχὴν διαταράττει συνεξαναστῆναι ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις μὴ δυναμένην· ἡ δ᾿ ἐξουσία παραλαβοῦσα τὴν κακίαν νεῦρα τοῖς πάθεσι προστίθησι· καὶ τὸ τοῦ Διονυσίου ἀληθές ἐστιν· ἔφη γὰρ ἀπολαύειν μάλιστα τῆς ἀρχῆς, ὅταν ταχέως ἃ βούλεται ποιῇ. μέγας οὖν ὁ κίνδυνος βούλεσθαι ἃ μὴ δεῖ τὸν ἃ βούλεται ποιεῖν δυνάμενον· αὐτίκ᾿ ἔπειτά γε μῦθος ἔην, τετέλεστο δὲ ἔργον (Il. 19.242). ὀξὺν ἡ κακία διὰ τῆς ἐξουσίας δρόμον ἔχουσα πᾶν πάθος ἐξωθεῖ, ποιοῦσα τὴν ὀργὴν φόνον τὸν ἔρωτα μοιχείαν τὴν πλεονεξίαν δήμευσιν.

782

“It is not possible to hide wickedness in power. But, as when someone with vertigo* might go up in a high place and move around, only to become dizzy and uncertain, thus revealing their suffering, so fortune amplifies the untaught and ignorant a little with some wealth, reputation or offices and, once they have risen up, it shows them falling. Or rather, it is the same as when you cannot tell which of some containers is solid and which is cracked but when you pour water into them, the culprit leak is clear: rotten minds cannot manage power, but they ooze out random desires, rages, improprieties, and base manners.”

Οὐδὲ γὰρ λαθεῖν οἷόν τε τὰς κακίας ἐν ταῖς ἐξουσίαις· ἀλλὰ τοὺς μὲν ἐπιληπτικούς, ἂν ἐν ὕψει τινὶ γένωνται καὶ περιενεχθῶσιν, ἴλιγγος ἴσχει καὶ σάλος, ἐξελέγχων τὸ πάθος αὐτῶν, τοὺς δ᾿ ἀπαιδεύτους καὶ ἀμαθεῖς ἡ τύχη μικρὸν ἐκκουφίσασα πλούτοις τισὶν ἢ δόξαις ἢ ἀρχαῖς μετεώρους γενομένους εὐθὺς ἐπιδείκνυσι πίπτοντας· μᾶλλον δ᾿, ὥσπερ τῶν κενῶν ἀγγείων οὐκ ἂν διαγνοίης τὸ ἀκέραιον καὶ πεπονηκός, ἀλλ᾿ ὅταν ἐγχέῃς, φαίνεται τὸ ῥέον· οὕτως αἱ σαθραὶ ψυχαὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας μὴ στέγουσαι ῥέουσιν ἔξω ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις, ταῖς ὀργαῖς, ταῖς ἀλαζονείαις, ταῖς ἀπειροκαλίαις.

*The original Greek seems to be about people with epilepsy (tous epilêptikous)

The Reason for Empire’s Fall

Isocrates, On the Peace 116-119

“If you listen to me, and you stop taking just any kind of advice at all and pay attention to yourselves and the city, you will gain some wisdom and examine what happened to these two cities, ours and Sparta. How did their empires over Greece rise up from pretty basic affairs and then, once they each took unrivaled power, how did they risk enslavement? What was the reason that the Thessalians, who have the most wealth, and the best and most abundant land, fell into poverty, but the Megarians, whose starting point was small and ragged, and even though they did not have land or harbors, or silver minds but were just farming stones, developed the richest economy of the Greeks?

Why do other people frequently control the Thessalians’ fortresses when they have a cavalry over three thousand and countless peltasts beyond that while the Megarians, who have only a small force, control their city as they want? In addition to this, why are the Thessalians always at war against one another while the Megarians who live near the Peloponnesians, the Thebans, and our city manage to survive at peace?

If you work through these questions, you will find that a lack of self-control and arrogance are the cause of our problems, while prudence is responsible for all of our advantages.”

Ἢν οὖν ἐμοὶ πεισθῆτε, παυσάμενοι τοῦ παντάπασιν εἰκῇ βουλεύεσθαι προσέξετε τὸν νοῦν ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς καὶ τῇ πόλει, καὶ φιλοσοφήσετε καὶ σκέψεσθε τί τὸ ποιῆσάν ἐστι τὼ πόλη τούτω, λέγω δὲ τὴν ἡμετέραν καὶ τὴν Λακεδαιμονίων, ἐκ ταπεινῶν μὲν πραγμάτων ἑκατέραν ὁρμηθεῖσαν ἄρξαι τῶν Ἑλλήνων, ἐπεὶ δ᾿ ἀνυπέρβλητον τὴν δύναμιν ἔλαβον, περὶ ἀνδραποδισμοῦ κινδυνεῦσαι· καὶ διὰ τίνας αἰτίας Θετταλοὶ μέν, μεγίστους πλούτους παραλαβόντες καὶ χώραν ἀρίστην καὶ πλείστην ἔχοντες, εἰς ἀπορίαν καθεστήκασι, Μεγαρεῖς δέ, μικρῶν αὐτοῖς καὶ φαύλων τῶν ἐξ ἀρχῆς ὑπαρξάντων, καὶ γῆν μὲν οὐκ ἔχοντες οὐδὲ λιμένας οὐδ᾿ ἀργυρεῖα, πέτρας δὲ γεωργοῦντες, μεγίστους οἴκους τῶν Ἑλλήνων κέκτηνται· κἀκείνων μὲν τὰς ἀκροπόλεις ἄλλοι τινὲς ἀεὶ κατέχουσιν, ὄντων αὐτοῖς πλέον τρισχιλίων ἱππέων καὶ πελταστῶν ἀναριθμήτων, οὗτοι δὲ μικρὰν δύναμιν ἔχοντες τὴν αὑτῶν ὅπως βούλονται διοικοῦσιν· καὶ πρὸς τούτοις οἱ μὲν σφίσιν αὐτοῖς πολεμοῦσιν, οὗτοι δὲ μεταξὺ Πελοποννησίων καὶ Θηβαίων καὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας πόλεως οἰκοῦντες εἰρήνην ἄγοντες διατελοῦσιν. ἢν γὰρ ταῦτα καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα διεξίητε πρὸς ὑμᾶς αὐτούς, εὑρήσετε τὴν μὲν ἀκολασίαν καὶ τὴν ὕβριν τῶν κακῶν αἰτίαν γιγνομένην, τὴν δὲ σωφροσύνην τῶν ἀγαθῶν.

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Absentmindedness is…uh, What?

I lose my campus ID every 6 months or so; each morning, finding my keys is a wild adventure even though they are almost always in the same place…

Theophrastus, Characters: Absentmindedness

“To give it a definition, absent-mindedness, is a slowness of mind in speech and actions. An absent-minded person is the kind of person who:

Even after making a calculation with counters and coming to a sum asks the person sitting next to him, “What’s this”?

If he is called to court and meant to go, forgets and goes to the country;

If he is watching something at the theater, he is left alone when he falls a sleep;

When he eats too much he gets up at night for the bathroom and is bitten by the neighbor’s dog.

When he gets something and puts it away, is not able to find it when he looks for it;

When he learns that one of his friends has died and he should attend the funeral, he frowns and cries but says “it’s for the best”

When he gets money paid back to him he is sure to ask for proof of receipt.

He fights with his slave because he didn’t buy cucumbers even though it is winter.

He makes his children practice wrestling and running until they are exhausted.

When he is cooking bean soup in the country, he salts the pan twice, ruining the food.”

(1) ἔστι δὲ ἡ ἀναισθησία, ὡς ὅρῳ εἰπεῖν, βραδυτὴς ψυχῆς ἐν λόγοις καὶ πράξεσιν, ὁ δὲ ἀναίσθητος τοιοῦτός τις,

(2) οἷος λογισάμενος ταῖς ψήφοις καὶ κεφάλαιον ποιήσας ἐρωτᾶν τὸν παρακαθήμενον· “τί γίνεται;”

(3) καὶ δίκην φεύγων καὶ ταύτην εἰσιέναι μέλλων ἐπιλαθόμενος εἰς ἀγρὸν πορεύεσθαι.

(4) καὶ θεωρῶν ἐν τῷ θεάτρῳ μόνος καταλείπεσθαι καθεύδων.

(5) καὶ πολλὰ φαγὼν καὶ τῆς νυκτὸς ἐπὶ θάκου ἀνιστάμενος ὑπὸ κυνὸς τῆς τοῦ γείτονος δηχθῆναι.

(6) καὶ λαβών <τι> καὶ ἀποθεὶς αὐτός, τοῦτο ζητεῖν καὶ μὴ δύνασθαι εὑρεῖν.

(7) καὶ ἀπαγγέλλοντος αὐτῷ ὅτι τετελεύτηκέ τις αὐτοῦ τῶν φίλων, ἵνα παραγένηται, σκυθρωπάσας καὶ δακρύσας εἰπεῖν· “ἀγαθῇ τύχῃ.”

(8) δεινὸς δὲ καὶ ἀπολαμβάνων ἀργύριον ὀφειλόμενον μάρτυρας παραλαβεῖν.

(9) καὶ χειμῶνος ὄντος μάχεσθαι τῷ παιδὶ ὅτι σικύους οὐκ ἠγόρασεν.

(10) καὶ τὰ παιδία ἑαυτοῦ παλαίειν ἀναγκάζων καὶ τροχάζειν εἰς κόπον ἐμβάλλειν.

(11) καὶ ἐν ἀγρῷ αὐτὸς φακῆν ἕψων δὶς ἅλας εἰς τὴν χύτραν ἐμβαλὼν ἄβρωτον ποιῆσαι..

Forgetfuljones01
Forgetful Jones, a Muppet you have likely forgotten.

 

The Reason for Empire’s Fall

Isocrates, On the Peace 116-119

“If you listen to me, and you stop taking just any kind of advice at all and pay attention to yourselves and the city, you will gain some wisdom and examine what happened to these two cities, ours and Sparta. How did their empires over Greece rise up from pretty basic affairs and then, once they each took unrivaled power, how did they risk enslavement? What was the reason that the Thessalians, who have the most wealth, and the best and most abundant land, fell into poverty, but the Megarians, whose starting point was small and ragged, and even though they did not have land or harbors, or silver minds but were just farming stones, developed the richest economy of the Greeks?

Why do other people frequently control the Thessalians’ fortresses when they have a cavalry over three thousand and countless peltasts beyond that while the Megarians, who have only a small force, control their city as they want? In addition to this, why are the Thessalians always at war against one another while the Megarians who live near the Peloponnesians, the Thebans, and our city manage to survive at peace?

If you work through these questions, you will find that a lack of self-control and arrogance are the cause of our problems, while prudence is responsible for all of our advantages.”

Ἢν οὖν ἐμοὶ πεισθῆτε, παυσάμενοι τοῦ παντάπασιν εἰκῇ βουλεύεσθαι προσέξετε τὸν νοῦν ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς καὶ τῇ πόλει, καὶ φιλοσοφήσετε καὶ σκέψεσθε τί τὸ ποιῆσάν ἐστι τὼ πόλη τούτω, λέγω δὲ τὴν ἡμετέραν καὶ τὴν Λακεδαιμονίων, ἐκ ταπεινῶν μὲν πραγμάτων ἑκατέραν ὁρμηθεῖσαν ἄρξαι τῶν Ἑλλήνων, ἐπεὶ δ᾿ ἀνυπέρβλητον τὴν δύναμιν ἔλαβον, περὶ ἀνδραποδισμοῦ κινδυνεῦσαι· καὶ διὰ τίνας αἰτίας Θετταλοὶ μέν, μεγίστους πλούτους παραλαβόντες καὶ χώραν ἀρίστην καὶ πλείστην ἔχοντες, εἰς ἀπορίαν καθεστήκασι, Μεγαρεῖς δέ, μικρῶν αὐτοῖς καὶ φαύλων τῶν ἐξ ἀρχῆς ὑπαρξάντων, καὶ γῆν μὲν οὐκ ἔχοντες οὐδὲ λιμένας οὐδ᾿ ἀργυρεῖα, πέτρας δὲ γεωργοῦντες, μεγίστους οἴκους τῶν Ἑλλήνων κέκτηνται· κἀκείνων μὲν τὰς ἀκροπόλεις ἄλλοι τινὲς ἀεὶ κατέχουσιν, ὄντων αὐτοῖς πλέον τρισχιλίων ἱππέων καὶ πελταστῶν ἀναριθμήτων, οὗτοι δὲ μικρὰν δύναμιν ἔχοντες τὴν αὑτῶν ὅπως βούλονται διοικοῦσιν· καὶ πρὸς τούτοις οἱ μὲν σφίσιν αὐτοῖς πολεμοῦσιν, οὗτοι δὲ μεταξὺ Πελοποννησίων καὶ Θηβαίων καὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας πόλεως οἰκοῦντες εἰρήνην ἄγοντες διατελοῦσιν. ἢν γὰρ ταῦτα καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα διεξίητε πρὸς ὑμᾶς αὐτούς, εὑρήσετε τὴν μὲν ἀκολασίαν καὶ τὴν ὕβριν τῶν κακῶν αἰτίαν γιγνομένην, τὴν δὲ σωφροσύνην τῶν ἀγαθῶν.

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Your Ignorance of My Suffering

Libanius, Letters 155

“You don’t know, dear Heortius, the number or the severity of the sicknesses which are assailing me nor how long this has plagued me. For you would not disregard sympathy and criticize me if you did. But ignorance is harmful to human beings everywhere and it has forced you to accuse instead of console. I will not call you out for not knowing about my suffering.

But someone of those who easily criticize you might still say that you were ignorant because you failed to inquire and that you did not inquire because of antipathy, and by attracting a suspicion of arrogance to yourself you risk greater accusations. But I will not do this because I don’t think it is right to ruin a strong friendship through nonsense. But whenever something like this happens, once I search around or a likely cause for events, I make a defense to myself on others’ behalf.”

1. Οὐκ οἶσθα, ὦ φίλε Ἐόρτιε, τῶν προσβαλόντων μοι νοσημάτων οὔτε τὸ πλῆθος οὔτε τὸ μέγεθος οὔτ᾿ ἐφ᾿ ὅσον προῆλθε τοῦ χρόνου. οὐ γὰρ ἄν ποτε ὑπερβὰς τὸ συναλγεῖν ἐμέμφου. νῦν δὲ ἡ ἄγνοια πανταχοῦ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις βλαβερὸν καὶ δὴ καὶ σὲ κατηγορεῖν ἐπῆρεν ἀντὶ τοῦ παραμυθεῖσθαι. ἐγὼ δέ σοι οὐκ ἐγκαλῶ τὸ τὰς δυσκολίας ἡμῶν ἀγνοεῖν.

2. καίτοι φαίη τις ἂν τῶν ὥσπερ σὺ ῥᾳδίως ἐπιτιμώντων, ὡς ἀγνοεῖς μὲν τῷ μὴ πυνθάνεσθαι, οὐ πυνθάνῃ δὲ τῷ μισεῖν, καὶ οὕτως ἂν ὑπεροψίαν προφέρων αὐτὸς ἐνέχοιο μείζοσιν. ἐγὼ δὲ τοῦτο οὐ ποιήσω φιλίαν ἰσχυρὰν ὑβρίζειν οὐκ ἀξιῶν συκοφαντίᾳ. ἀλλ᾿ ὅταν τι γένηται τοιοῦτον, ζητήσας αἰτίαν τοῖς πράγμασιν ἐπιεικεστέραν οὕτω πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐκείνων ἀπολογοῦμαι.

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Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, MS P.A. 78, Folio 36r

Impossible Plausible Events are Better than Implausible Possible Ones

Aristotle, Poetics 1460a26

“Narratives ought to prefer likely events, even if impossible, to improbable possible ones. Stories should not be made from illogical parts: in the best case, they should contain nothing illogical, unless it comes from outside the plot itself as when Oedipus is not aware how Laios died, instead of in the play itself, as when they report the events at Delphi in the Elektra or when the silent man comes from Tegea to Mysia in the Mysians. To say that otherwise the plot would be wrecked is ridiculous—it isn’t right to set up these sorts of events from the beginning.

If a poet does this, and there is a more logical option available, it is strange. Even those illogical events in the Odyssey when Odysseus is put ashore [asleep by the Phaeacians] would have been manifestly intolerable if a lesser poet had created it. In the poem now, Homer softens and erases the strangeness with his other good traits.”

προαιρεῖσθαί τε δεῖ ἀδύνατα εἰκότα μᾶλλον ἢ δυνατὰ ἀπίθανα· τούς τε λόγους μὴ συνίστασθαι ἐκ μερῶν ἀλόγων, ἀλλὰ μάλιστα μὲν μηδὲν ἔχειν ἄλογον, εἰ δὲ μή, ἔξω τοῦ μυθεύματος, ὥσπερ Οἰδίπους τὸ μὴ εἰδέναι πῶς ὁ Λάιος ἀπέθανεν, ἀλλὰ μὴ ἐν τῷ δράματι, ὥσπερ ἐν ᾿Ηλέκτρᾳ οἱ τὰ Πύθια ἀπαγγέλλοντες ἢ ἐν Μυσοῖς ὁ ἄφωνος ἐκ Τεγέας εἰς τὴν Μυσίαν ἥκων. ὥστε τὸ λέγειν ὅτι ἀνῄρητο ἂν ὁ μῦθος γελοῖον· ἐξ ἀρχῆς γὰρ οὐ δεῖ συνίστασθαι τοιούτους. †ἂν δὲ θῇ καὶ φαίνηται εὐλογωτέρως ἐνδέχεσθαι καὶ ἄτοπον† ἐπεὶ καὶ τὰ ἐν ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ ἄλογα τὰ περὶ τὴν ἔκθεσιν ὡς οὐκ ἂν ἦν ἀνεκτὰ δῆλον  ἂν γένοιτο, εἰ αὐτὰ φαῦλος ποιητὴς ποιήσειε· νῦν δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἀγαθοῖς ὁ ποιητὴς ἀφανίζει ἡδύνων τὸ ἄτοπον.

On the left-hand side, demons torture the souls of the dead in Hell. On the right-hand side, the Egyptian Pharaoh and his soldiers drown in the Red Sea.
 Harley MS 2838, f. 44r (from this site)