Serendipity: The More Things Change …

Greek Ruins at Agrigentum in Sicily

Greek Ruins at Agrigentum in Sicily

It was the Sixth Century BC, and Phalaris, the Greek Tyrant of Agrigentum, described a voting public not so different from our own:

The people, as a whole, are undisciplined, senseless, unmanageable, very ready to be turned in any direction whatsoever, faithless, fickle, passionate, treacherous, mistaken, a mere useless noise, and easily swayed toward praise and toward anger.

δῆμος ἄπας ἄτακτος, ἄνους, ἄπρακτος, ἑτοιμότατος ἐφ’ ὅ τι ἂν τύχῃ μεταχθῆναι, ἄπιστος, ἀβέβαιος, ὀξύς, προδοτιχός, ἐψευσμένος, φωνὴ μόνον ἀνωφελής, καὶ πρὸς ἔπαινον καὶ πρός ὀργὴν εὐχερής.

The odd thing was that Phalaris is remembered primarily for his cruelty. He built a hollow brass bull in which he roasted his enemies alive. No less a poet than Pindar described his atrocities a hundred years later.

I owe this quote to my favorite source of the thinkers of past times, especially the Greek and Roman classics, namely: Laudator Temporis Acti.