Ancient Leadership in the Era of Donald Trump

God's Warrior Against the Lie

If God exists and rules the world, then the human who rules the world must at least not disagree with God. But how can a ruler agree with God?

More pragmatically: how can a ruler make themselves seem to agree with God?

Well, let's see. What does everyone think is bad? Killing? Well, what about war? or revenge? Killing is too complex. How about rape? No, lots of ancient peoples are perfectly fine with rape -- and lots of modern people too. Racism? Nope, clearly some people feel strongly that racism is bad and others, like say people who commit genocide, feel strongly that it is just fine. Lets' go down the list...

...hang on, what about lying? Surely nobody wants anyone to tell them a lie. Maybe it's fine to lie to your enemies, but it is absolutely never fine to lie to me.

So maybe lying is a pretty non-controversial thing that everybody hates and a thing that a God that enforces morality is probably against.

Trump liar compilation:
Hillary liar compilation:

[the trump snippets in this video more directly contradict one another than the hillary snippets which are often many years apart..but also why is self-contradiction seen as conclusive lie?? i guess emerson's frustration here..find better examples, but other examples on quick youtube search are also about contradictions not lies]

The importance of truth-telling in leadership seems to have become a particularly contentious issue in the Trump era:

In this portion of the module we will consider an even more ancient deployment of the truth/lies dichotomy in a leader's self-presentation, specifically aimed at justifying rule and empire: a huge, fifty-by-eighty-foot carving on the side of a mountain by the Persian king Darius the Great.

This piece of Persian royal propaganda (which also continues the tradition of the Cyrus Cylinder) ties together three themes that either Trump himself or his supporters have also tied together: combat against the lie, appointment by God, and restoration of the people's former glory.

The carving is still visible today.


Darius' enemy: the lie that multiplied in the land

The inscription narrates Darius' rise to power, his consolidation of empire, his connection with the supreme God of the ancient Persian religion, and the mission of all future Kings of Kings. The justification for all of this begins with a great lie:

Thus, at least, did Darius (claim to) come to power in Persia. But the king of Persia is also the ‘king of kings’ (Persian: shahanshah), the ruler of the universe -- The King, as even the Greeks acknowledged (LINK TO COSMOPOLIS). So the inscription goes on to tell how Darius conquered many other kings, non-Persians who had also ‘lied to the people’.

The list of lying kings

The Persian defeats other kings precisely because they are liars. The link between truth-telling and universal rule is explicit. At the end, Darius summarizes his universal rule against all pretenders -- the kings whose pictures form the bottom half of the inscription -- by accusing every other king of ‘lying’ (Old Persian: adurujiya, literally ‘he lied’) that they were kings or sons of kings:

So much for the lying kings. They deserve overthrow for their lies. But Darius goes one step further. In his final self-description, Darius claims that Ahuramazda favored because he was not a liar, and then commands future kings to punish liars like Darius himself did:The job of the king is: punish the liars. Of course this comes out to the same thing as: punish those who rebel against (or are not friendly to) the king.

Herodotus’ nope: Darius came to power by justifying lies

Herodotus’ version of Darius’ rise to power is rather different. Herodotus agrees that the man Darius overthrew claimed to be a man he was not. (NOTE ON EARLESS SMERDIS AND THE AVESTAN HEARING-DESTROYER) But in Herodotus’ version of the coup, Darius’ plan worked only because Darius not only invented a clever lie, but also insisted that some lies are acceptable, even necessary:


To this [Darius has just tried to force his fellow conspirators to act immediately, or else Darius will reveal the conspiracy to the pretend-king] Otanes [a co-conspirator with close ties to the royal family, who had been more or less the leader of the coup until Darius joined] replied, seeing Darius' vehemence, “Since you force us to hurry and will tolerate no delay, tell us now yourself how we shall pass into the palace and attack them. For you know yourself, I suppose, if not because you have seen them then you have heard, that guards are stationed all around; how shall we go past the guards?” [2] “Otanes,” answered Darius, “there are many things that cannot be described in words, but in deed; and there are other things that can be described in words, but nothing illustrious comes of them. You know well that the guards who are set are easy to go by. [3] There is no one who will not allow us to pass, from respect or from fear, because of who we are; and further, I have myself the best pretext for entering, for I shall say that I have just arrived from Persia and have a message for the king from my father. [4] When it is necessary to lie, lie (ἔνθα γάρ τι δεῖ ψεῦδος λέγεσθαι, λεγέσθω). For we want the same thing, liars and those who tell the truth; some lie to win credence and advantage by lies, while others tell the truth in order to obtain some advantage by the truth and to be more trusted; thus we approach the same ends by different means. [5] If the hope of advantage were taken away, the truth-teller would be as ready to lie as the liar to tell the truth. Now if any of the watchmen willingly let us pass, it will be better for him later. But if any tries to withstand us, let us note him as an enemy, and so thrust ourselves in and begin our work.”


Herodotus’ depiction of Darius seems so directly opposed to the story carved on Mount Behistun that some scholars believe that Darius commissioned the inscription precisely in order to claim legitimacy for a rule that was obviously illegitimate -- or that Herodotus actually saw the inscription (or a copy) and directly attacked Darius’ claim that he came to power by siding with the truth against the lie.


Truth and fitting-together: arda/asha

Darius’ cosmic role: I am the servant of God


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