The timeless behavior of political crooks

In this post we present and discuss an excerpt from Diodorus Siculus‘ “The Library of History“.

Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History, 12 38-40 (Loeb Classical Library Edition)

38 1 When Euthydemus was archon in Athens, the Romans elected in place of consuls three military tribunes, Manius Aemilianus Mamercus, Gaius Julius, and Lucius Quinctius. In this year there began the Peloponnesian War, as it has been called, between the Athenians and the Peloponnesians, the longest of all the wars which history records; and it is necessary and appropriate to the plan of our history to set forth at the outset the causes of the war.

2 While the Athenians were still striving for the mastery of the sea, the funds which had been collected as a common undertaking and placed at Delos, amounting to some eight thousand talents, they had transferred to Athens and give over to Pericles to guard. This man stood far above his fellow citizens in birth, renown, and ability as an orator. But after some time he had spent a very considerable amount of this money for his own purposes, and when he was called upon for an accounting he fell ill, since he was unable to render the statement of the monies with which he had been entrusted.

3 While he was worried over the matter, Alcibiades, his nephew, who was an orphan and was being reared at the home of Pericles, though still a lad showed him a way out of making an explanation of the use of the money. Seeing how his uncle was troubled he asked him the cause of his worry. And when Pericles said, “I am asked for the explanation of the use of the money and I am seeking some means whereby I may be able to render an accounting of it to the citizens,” Alcibiades replied, “You should be seeking some means not how to render but how not to render an accounting.”

4 Consequently Pericles, accepting the reply of the boy, kept pondering in what way he could embroil the Athenians in a great war; for that would be the best way, he thought, because of the disturbance and distractions and fears which would the city, for him to escape giving an exact accounting of the money. Bearing upon this expedient an incident happened to him by mere chance for the following causes.

39 1 The statue of Athens was a work of Pheidias, and Pericles, the son of Xanthippus, had been appointed overseer of the undertaking. But sometimes assistants of Pheidias, who had been prevailed upon by Pericles’ enemies, took seats as suppliants at the altars of the gods; and when they were called upon to explain their surprising action, they claimed that they would show that Pheidias had possession of a large amount of the sacred funds, with the connivance and assistance of Pericles the overseer.

2 Consequently, when the Assembly convened to consider the affair, the enemies of Pericles persuaded the people to arrest Pheidias and lodged a charge against Pericles himself of stealing sacred property. Furthermore, they falsely accused the sophist Anaxagoras, who was Pericles’ teacher, of impiety against the gods; and they involved Pericles in their accusations and malicious charges, since jealousy made them eager to discredit the eminence as well as the fame of the man.

3 But Pericles, knowing that during the operations of war the populace has respect for noble men because of their urgent need of them, whereas in times of peace they keep bringing false accusations against the very same men because they have nothing to do and are envious, came to the conclusion that it would be to his own advantage to embroil the state in a great war, in order that the city, in its need of the ability and skill in generalship of Pericles, should pay no attention to the accusations being lodged against him and would have neither leisure nor time to scrutinize carefully the accounting he would render of the funds.

Pericles

4 Now when the Athenians voted to exclude the Megarians from both their market and harbours, the Megarians turned to the Spartans for aid. And the Lacedaemonians, being won over by the Megarians, in the most open manner dispatched ambassadors in accordance with the decision of the Council of the League, ordering the Athenians to rescind the action against the Megarians and threatening, if they did not accede, to wage war upon them together with the forces of their allies.

5 When the Assembly convened to consider the matter, Pericles, who far excelled his fellow citizens in skill of oratory, persuaded the Athenians not to rescind the action, saying that for them to accede to the demands of the Lacedaemonians, contrary to their own interests, would be the first step toward slavery. Accordingly he advised that they bring their possessions from the countryside into the city and fight it out with the Spartans by means of their command of the sea.

40 1 Speaking of the war, Pericles, after defending his course in well-considered words, enumerated first the multitude of allies Athens possessed and the superiority of its naval strength, and then the large sum of money which had been removed from Delos to Athens and which had in fact been gathered from the tribute into one fund for the common use of the cities;

2 from the ten thousand talents in the common fund four thousand had been expended on the building of the Propylaea and the siege of Potidaea; and each year there was an income from the tribute paid by the allies of four hundred and sixty talents. Beside this he declared that the vessels employed in solemn processions and the booty taken from the Medes were worth five hundred talents,

3 and he pointed to the multitude of votive offerings in the various sanctuaries and to the fact that the fifty talents of gold on the statue of Athena for its embellishment was so constructed as to be removable; and he showed that all these, if dire need befell them, they could borrow from the gods and return to them again when peace came, and that also by reason of the long peace the manner of life of the citizens had made great strides toward prosperity.

4 In addition to these financial resources Pericles pointed out that, omitting the allies and garrisons, the city had available twelve thousand hoplites, the garrisons and metics amounted to more than seventeen thousand, and the triremes available to three hundred.

5 He also pointed out that the Lacedaemonians were both lacking in money and far behind the Athenians in naval armaments. After he had recounted these facts and incited the citizens to war, he persuaded the people to pay no attention to the Lacedaemonians. This he accomplished readily by reason of his great ability as an orator, which is the reason he has been called “The Olympian.”

NovoScriptorium: Let’s begin our discussion from the phrase

by reason of the long peace the manner of life of the citizens had made great strides toward prosperity.”

Compared to previous History, the period from the end of WW2 until today has been one of ‘long peace‘ (especially for Europe). And we can surely say that the ‘life of the citizens had made great strides toward prosperity‘.

Let’s now discuss the phrases

the funds which had been collected as a common undertaking and placed at Delos, amounting to some eight thousand talents, they had transferred to Athens and give over to Pericles to guard

and

he had spent a very considerable amount of this money for his own purposes

We recognize similarities and analogies to our time here; without doubt, there exist now multinational institutions, both financial and geopolitical, that seem to be controlled by ‘the few’ or even ‘the one’ instead of serving ‘the common good’. 

Let’s now discuss the phrases

when he was called upon for an accounting he fell ill, since he was unable to render the statement of the monies with which he had been entrusted

and

You should be seeking some means not how to render but how not to render an accounting.”

Apparently, crooks, deceivers and frauds of Power throughout History use identical ways. The same stands for our epoch.

Let’s now discuss the phrases

kept pondering in what way he could embroil the Athenians in a great war; for that would be the best way, he thought, because of the disturbance and distractions and fears which would the city, for him to escape giving an exact accounting of the money.”

and

After he had recounted these facts and incited the citizens to war, he persuaded the people to pay no attention to the Lacedaemonians.”

Every political crook, sooner or later, will eventually be revealed. Then, the masses (especially the democratic ones, like in Pericles’ Athens) who are so eager, in times of peace, to discredit and ‘eat’ their own famous men (“jealousy made them eager to discredit the eminence as well as the fame of the man“, and “Pericles, knowing that during the operations of war the populace has respect for noble men because of their urgent need of them, whereas in times of peace they keep bringing false accusations against the very same men because they have nothing to do and are envious“), will react; and such reaction had always been violent. 

In order to avoid the consequences, the political crooks of all Time use all the available means and their capability to turn the focus of people towards some other direction. The last ‘refuge’ for these ruthless scums is the…destruction of the very Polity they rule!!! And this can always be done in many different ways. The most common, as it is also described in the ancient text, is to embroil the Polity in a War. 

In our epoch, the ‘techniques’ of such scums have reached their peak (mainly due to technological advances); now, it is not necessary to find an external opponent to do War. You can easily create counter-fighting parties inside the very same Polity (through a massive plan of Human Behavior Engineering), using ‘Ideologies’ and ‘Economy’. In many places on Earth the instrumentation of ‘Religion’ and ‘Nationality’ is also used with great success for the same goal.

But the above do not stop the ‘natural course’ of things; there will come a day, when people will become tired of the governing crooks and their tricks (which are used to gain them more time in Power). And then, it is certain, before getting lynched by angry mobs, they will (attempt to) lead the Polity into an ‘unavoidabe’ War against some external enemy:

it would be to his own advantage to embroil the state in a great war, in order that the city, in its need of the ability and skill in generalship of Pericles, should pay no attention to the accusations being lodged against him and would have neither leisure nor time to scrutinize carefully the accounting he would render of the funds

And this is because crooks of this kind are always governed by the passions of Selfishness, Pride, Avarice and Philarchy. Hence, it is not enough for them to avoid rightful convictions and other penalties, but on top of that, they want to be glorified by people!

To conclude our short analysis, let’s recall the phrase “great ability as an orator“. The ‘appropriate’ use of language to ‘infuse Propaganda’ in people’s minds is, without doubt, one of the strongest points of every form of (corrupt) Power. We all know examples of ‘talented’ political crooks who  have used or use their theatrical/hypocritical abilities and oratory skills to seduce the masses. And, of course, we all know very well that the same thing can be done in a much greater scale with the use of Media controlled by the same crooks (and their possible patrons). The educational system of a Polity is always utilized by such regimes in an analogous way.

We believe that the historical example which was briefly analyzed here can be used as a call for awareness for all people of the World; the turbulent times we live in will eventually bring around collisions between the people and their governors. And, in response, the governors will lead the people to new catastrophic Wars.

Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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