How can people recognize the quality of their governors?

Here we present and analyze two excerpts from Homer’s Iliad that answer the question of our title.


Iliad, Rhapsody A, Verses 225-230

Ancient Greek: «οινοβαρές, κυνός όμματ’ έχων, κραδίην δ’ελάφοιο, ούτε ποτ’ες πόλεμον άμα λαώ θωρηχθήναι ούτε λόχονδ’ ιέναι σύν αριστήεσιν Αχαιών τέτληκας θυμώ. τό δέ τοι κήρ είδεται είναι.ή πολύ λώϊόν εστι κατά στρατόν ευρύν Αχαιών δώρ’ αποαιρείσθαι ός τίς σέθεν αντίον είπη»

In English: «drunk from wine, you have dog’s eyes, heart of a deer, you never armed yourself with the people neither you speared with the finest of the Achaeans; your heart never dared that. This seems to be a bad death’s fate for you (or else: ‘this is a sign that you will have a bad death’). Much better it is for you, among the great army of the Achaeans, to remove gifts from anyone who speaks against you»

NovoScriptorium: A leader must never have such characteristics. Let’s analyze Homer’s opinion, as given here with the words spoken by Achilles to Agamemnon.

a) A real leader is found in the first line of his army/people. He must lead his people in every kind of battle, never hiding.

b) He must never be carried away in ephemeral and wearing pleasures, such as wine referred herein. In general, it is not acceptable for a leader of men to suffer from the passion of Voluptuousness/Sensuality. We have explained the reasons in previous articles.

c) He must not have ‘dog’s eyes’ –dog has the greed for food exceptionally developed, hence, what is meant here is for one to be insatiable/greedy. In general, it is not acceptable for a leader of men to suffer from the passion of Avarice/Greed. We have explained the reasons in previous articles.

d) He must not have ‘the heart of a deer’ –what is meant here is that he shouldn’t be coward. Bravery (to be Manly) is demanded from anyone who governs people, as a prerequisite. A coward can never govern properly, as it will be demanded several times from him to take brave decisions. ‘Coward’ with ‘brave decisions’ simply don’t step together.

e) He should never try to impose himself on anyone by subtracting ‘just acquisitions’ from them. In general it is not acceptable for a leader of men to suffer from the passion of Greed, which surely leads to many unjust acts. Things become even worse when he aims towards despotic and authoritarian governance.

And so Achilles concludes: ‘This seems to be a bad death’s fate for you’, referring to the above. That is, it is claimed that whoever leads men and acts likewise should expect to receive a bad death. This actually happens all the time when tyrants are overturned. This is a clear warning for anyone who governs or wants to govern. Indeed, the above are tools for all the rest of us, the people, so that we can recognize the characteristics of an improper governor (tyrannical as well, obvious or ‘hidden’).

In support of the above, in the Verse 231 of the same Rhapsody, Homer delivers to the people another tool for ‘bad governor’ recognition:

Ancient Greek: «δημοβόρος βασιλεύς, επεί ουτιδανοίσιν ανάσσεις»

In English: «(you are a) king who has eaten the state, because you rule measly/worthless people»

The leader that ends up governing ‘measly and worthless’ people has ‘eaten’, in reality, the state! He has dissolved the Polity! So, when people notice that their leaders try to turn them into ‘measly and worthless’, they must be sure that the leaders’ aim is to destroy the Polity and all it means: Institutions, Traditions, History. ‘Measly and worthless’ is not only the one who is deprived of material goods; the poor and weak. ‘Measly and worthless’, and a lot more it has to be said, is the person whose Ethics and hypostatic quality have fallen near the limits of disgrace/humiliation.

Isidoros Aggelos

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