Ancient Leadership in the Era of Donald Trump

People Are People

The aim of this module is to explore the notion of populism in Greek political discourse. From the Homeric concept of the people (lawos), to the introductory phrase “We, The People” of the American Constitution, and the People’s Socialist Republics in Europe, Russia (former Soviet Union), and Latin America, populism shaped polities and politics. Our aim is also to discuss its manifestation in right and left wing discourse. The Greek noun “dēmokratia” {democracy} is a compound word composed of the noun “dēmos” meaning “people” and “kratos”, “power”.

Listening for Populism: Different People, Different Countries

During 2016 election campaign, there has been large media coverage of Trump’s populistic discourse, which has been defined as a right-wing populistic discourse:
There are different manifestations of populism in each country.
Left-wing populism has been perceived as a counter-effect to the right wing: leaders like Hugo Chavez, Nicola Maduro.

Definitions of Different Polities

Definitions of Democracy

Herodotus 3.80-82

[1] After the tumult quieted down, and five days passed, the rebels against the Magi held a council on the whole state of affairs, at which sentiments were uttered which to some Greeks seem incredible, but there is no doubt that they were spoken. [2] Otanes was for turning the government over to the Persian people: “It seems to me,” he said, “that there can no longer be a single sovereign over us, for that is not pleasant or good. You saw the insolence of Cambyses, how far it went, and you had your share of the insolence of the Magus. [3] How can monarchy be a fit thing, when the ruler can do what he wants with impunity? Give this power to the best man on earth, and it would stir him to unaccustomed thoughts. Insolence is created in him by the good things to hand, while from birth envy is rooted in man. [4] Acquiring the two he possesses complete evil; for being satiated he does many reckless things, some from insolence, some from envy. And yet an absolute ruler ought to be free of envy, having all good things; but he becomes the opposite of this towards his citizens; he envies the best who thrive and live, and is pleased by the worst of his fellows; and he is the best confidant of slander. [5] Of all men he is the most inconsistent; for if you admire him modestly he is angry that you do not give him excessive attention, but if one gives him excessive attention he is angry because one is a flatter. But I have yet worse to say of him than that; he upsets the ancestral ways and rapes women and kills indiscriminately. [6] But the rule of the multitude has in the first place the loveliest name of all, equality, and does in the second place none of the things that a monarch does. It determines offices by lot, and holds power accountable, and conducts all deliberating publicly. Therefore, I give my opinion that we make an end of monarchy and exalt the multitude, for all things are possible for the majority.”
[81.1] Such was the judgment of Otanes: but Megabyzus urged that they resort to an oligarchy. “I agree,” said he, “with all that Otanes says against the rule of one; but when he tells you to give the power to the multitude, his judgment strays from the best. Nothing is more foolish and violent than a useless mob; [2] for men fleeing the insolence of a tyrant to fall victim to the insolence of the unguided populace is by no means to be tolerated. Whatever the one does, he does with knowledge, but for the other knowledge is impossible; how can they have knowledge who have not learned or seen for themselves what is best, but always rush headlong and drive blindly onward, like a river in flood? [3] Let those like democracy who wish ill to Persia; but let us choose a group of the best men and invest these with the power. For we ourselves shall be among them, and among the best men it is likely that there will be the best counsels.” 
[82.1] Such was the judgment of Megabyzus. Darius was the third to express his opinion. “It seems to me,” he said, “that Megabyzus speaks well concerning democracy but not concerning oligarchy. For if the three are proposed and all are at their best for the sake of argument, the best democracy and oligarchy and monarchy, I hold that monarchy is by far the most excellent. [2] One could describe nothing better than the rule of the one best man; using the best judgment, he will govern the multitude with perfect wisdom, and best conceal plans made for the defeat of enemies. [3] But in an oligarchy, the desire of many to do the state good service often produces bitter hate among them; for because each one wishes to be first and to make his opinions prevail, violent hate is the outcome, from which comes faction and from faction killing, and from killing it reverts to monarchy, and by this is shown how much better monarchy is. [4] Then again, when the people rule it is impossible that wickedness will not occur; and when wickedness towards the state occurs, hatred does not result among the wicked, but strong alliances; for those that want to do the state harm conspire to do it together. This goes on until one of the people rises to stop such men. He therefore becomes the people's idol, and being their idol is made their monarch; and thus he also proves that monarchy is best. [5] But (to conclude the whole matter in one word) tell me, where did freedom come from for us and who gave it, from the people or an oligarchy or a single ruler? I believe, therefore, that we who were liberated through one man should maintain such a government, and, besides this, that we should not alter our ancestral ways that are good; that would not be better.”

Ps.Xen. Ath. Const. 1.1.4

Then there is a point which some find extraordinary, that they everywhere assign more to the worst persons, to the poor, and to the popular types than to the good men: in this very point they will be found manifestly preserving their democracy. For the poor, the popular, and the base, inasmuch as they are well off and the likes of them are numerous, will increase the democracy; but if the wealthy, good men are well off, the men of the people create a strong opposition to themselves.

Arist. Pol. VI.1.6

First of all let us speak of democracy, which will also bring to light the opposite form of government commonly called oligarchy. For the purposes of this inquiry we need to ascertain all the elements and characteristics of democracy, since from the combinations of these the varieties of democratic government arise. There are several of these differing from each other, and the difference is due to two causes. One (1) has been already mentioned- differences of population; for the popular element may consist of husbandmen, or of mechanics, or of laborers, and if the first of these be added to the second, or the third to the two others, not only does the democracy become better or worse, but its very nature is changed. A second cause (2) remains to be mentioned: the various properties and characteristics of democracy, when variously combined, make a difference. For one democracy will have less and another will have more, and another will have all of these characteristics. There is an advantage in knowing them all, whether a man wishes to establish some new form of democracy, or only to remodel an existing one. Founders of states try to bring together all the elements which accord with the ideas of the several constitutions; but this is a mistake of theirs, as I have already remarked when speaking of the destruction and preservation of states. We will now set forth the principles, characteristics, and aims of such states.

Polybius Histories 6.4: The rotation of polities

"Where reverence to the gods, succour of parents, respect to elders, obedience to laws, are traditional and habitual, in such communities, if the will of the majority prevail, we may speak of the form of government as a democracy."

Polybius Histories 6.9: How Democracy arises and degenerates

"But as soon as a new generation has arisen, and the democracy has descended to their children's children, long association weakens their value for equality and freedom, and some seek to become more powerful than the ordinary citizens; and the most liable to this temptation are the rich. So when they begin to be fond of office, and find themselves unable to obtain it by their own unassisted efforts and their own merits, they ruin their estates, while enticing and corrupting the common people in every possible way. By which means when, in their senseless mania for reputation, they have made the populace ready and greedy to receive bribes, the virtue of democracy is destroyed, and it is transformed into a government of violence and the strong hand. For the mob, habituated to feed at the expense of others, and to have its hopes of a livelihood in the property of its neighbours, as soon as it has got a leader sufficiently ambitious and daring, being excluded by poverty from the sweets of civil honours, produces a reign of mere violence. Then come tumultuous assemblies, massacres, banishments, redivisions of land."

Democratization as Secularization: From Lawgivers through Tyranny to Democracy (Greek model) and vice versa (Roman model)

Early Greeks distinguished the source of law (the gods or some representative of the gods) from the purpose of law (the benefit of the people). Nobody seriously doubts that the law must be for the people. Even warlord-kings agree that a king must be good for his people. In Homer, for instance, a king may insult another king by calling him a 'people-devouring king'  (δημοβόρος βασιλεύς).

But in early Greece it is not generally accepted that the law ought also be by the people. The assumption that the regulated (the people) must be different from the regulator (someone other than the people) seems intuitively obvious. Nobody asks a body of water how it would flow. Rather, if you want a river to flow in a particular direction, then you direct the river to flow in that direction by setting a course for it to follow. Moreover, the river doesn't care what it is aiming at; the river merely follows the path of least resistance to a lower elevation. You, the river-director, determines what the river is for by determining that path.

In early Greek thought, the gods played the role of the primary regulators (or guarantors of order), but the gods exerted their directive power by special humans called nomothetes -- translated 'lawgivers', literally 'putters-down of law' (as in 'someone who lays down the law'). This idea is very old, certainly older than Greek city-states. The Epic of Gilgamesh (probably more than 4000 years old) mentions the 'Apkallū', the seven 'wise men' who taught the first ignorant humans what they were supposed to do. Plato admires the ideal state established on Crete by the lawgiver King Minos, whom the Odyssey says received laws from Zeus every nine years. The Spartans credited their nomothetes Lycurgus with establishing the constitution (politeia) that made Sparta the strongest and most stable Greek polis for hundreds of years. The Athenian lawgiver Draco ('sharp-gazing') supposedly ended mindless cycles of revenge by establishing a new code of famously strict laws (whence 'Draconian') -- and then, crucially, wrote these laws down on pieces of wood that everyone could see and appeal to for enforcement.

The most important nomothetes in the history of democracy, however, is the Athenian Solon. His laws were held in such esteem that Athenian speakers hundreds of years later would appeal to 'the laws of Solon' so frequently that another law was passed that severely criminalized any appeal to a 'law of Solon' that had not been recorded in writing by Solon himself. Even when they had no explicit 'setting-down' (thesmos) of Solon, public speakers would often appeal to Solon's intent to guide the interpretation of existing laws or direct cases to which no written law obviously applied.

We can also reconstruct some of Solon's intent. Besides the texts of his laws (thesmoi) themselves (many of which survive), we have a fair amount of poetry in which Solon himself explains why he gave the laws the way he gave them.

Solon: redistribution of land and Peisistratus

Big Social Issue: Slavery of the lower classes through privately owned debt. Solon's laws on private debt, known as the 'seisachtheia' ('shaking-up of burdens'), forgave debts and restored debt-slaves to freedom. Such a 'shake-up' of credit might be seen as an attempt to side with the masses against the wealthy, because the masses were debtors and the wealthy were creditors. But Solon is careful to argue that he is not actually a populist in this divisive sense.

Solon presents himself as a political moderate.

Solon wrote (fr. 37 W):

‘[Unlike me, someone] would not have restrained the masses.
But I stood in no-man’s land between them like a boundary marker.’

Solon thus expresses his commitment to neutrality, honesty and moderation.

Solon (fr. 5 W) presents himself as a reformer of the political status of the lower class:

‘I have given the masses as much privilege as is sufficient, neither taking away from their honour nor adding to it.  And as for those who had power and were envied for their wealth, I saw to it that they too should suffer no indignity. I stood with a mighty shield cast round both sides and did not allow either to have an unjust victory.’

Not everyone felt this way about Solon. It is, after all, easy to suspect a popular leader of cynically courting the support of the masses. But Aristotle thinks this is not the sort of thing Solon would do -- chiefly because Solon's other actions demonstrate a commitment to public service and the common good:

Aristotle, AthPol 6: the integrity required of Solon for cancelling debts

Solon having become master of affairs made the people free both at the time and for the future by prohibiting loans secured on the person, and he laid down laws, and enacted cancellations of debts both private and public, the measures1 that are known as 'the Shaking-off of Burdens,' meaning that the people shook off their load. In these matters some people try to misrepresent him; [2] for it happened that when Solon was intending to enact the Shaking-off of Burdens, he informed some of the notables beforehand, and afterwards, as those of popular sympathies say (ὡς μὲν οἱ δημοτικοὶ λέγουσι), he was outmaneuvered by his friends, but according to those who want to malign him he himself also took a share. For these persons borrowed money and bought up a quantity of land, and when not long afterwards the cancellation of debts took place they were rich men; and this is said to be the origin of the families subsequently reputed to be ancestrally wealthy.2 [3] Nevertheless, the account of those of popular sympathies is more credible; for considering that he was so moderate and public-spirited in the rest of his conduct that, when he had the opportunity to reduce one of the two parties to subjection and so to be tyrant of the city, he incurred the enmity of both, and valued honor and the safety of the state more than his own aggrandizement, it is not probable that he besmirched himself in such worthless trifles. [4] And that he got this opportunity is testified by the disordered state of affairs, and also he himself alludes to it in many places in his poems, and everybody else agrees with him. We are bound therefore to consider this charge to be false.

Note how Aristotle assumes that it would of course be reasonable to interpret Solon's seisachtheia as an attempt to gain power via tactical populism -- except that Solon's other actions display the sort of character that would not do such an ignoble thing.

Note, further, how much Aristotle's argument depends on one lawgiver's personal virtues. The danger of the nomothetes was, as Greeks knew, that ​the person who gives something can easily take it away. The solution: exile or subordination to one's own laws even to the point of death. Athenians said that, after giving his laws, Solon went into voluntary exile -- so that he could not take away the laws he had given. The lawgiver Zaleucus (from a Greek colony in southern Italy) supposedly wrote a law that declared that anyone who should propose any change to the city's laws would be killed if the citizens rejected it (no matter what the content of the law). Later (the story goes) he was killed for violating his own law against carrying a weapon into the place where the citizens debated laws, even though he was carrying the weapon in order to enforce public order.

Another approach to the foundation of law is possible. Laws are always for the people; but what if they are also by the people? That is something different -- the sort of law that does not depend on exile or death for the lawgiver, because the governed are also the governors. The modern legal term for this concept is popular sovereignty -- the notion that the people are above all.

Aesch. Supp. 355-405: The Sovereign People ruling the city

[354] I see a company of assembled gods assenting beneath the shade of fresh-plucked boughs. Nevertheless may this affair of claimants to the friendship of our city bring no mischief in its wake! And let no feud come upon the state from causes unforeseen and unforestalled; for the state has no need of such trouble.

[359] Indeed, may Justice, daughter of Zeus the Apportioner, Justice who protects the suppliant, look upon our flight that it bring no mischief in its wake. But you, aged in experience, learn from one of younger birth. If you show mercy to a suppliant . . . from a man of holiness.

[365] It is not my own house at whose hearth you sit. If the state is stained by pollution in its commonalty, in common let the people strive to work out the cure. For myself, I will pledge no promise before I have communicated these events to all the citizens.

[370] You are the state, you are the people. Being subject to no judge, you rule the altar, your country's hearth by your will's sole ordinance; and, enthroned in sole sovereignty, you determine every issue. Beware pollution!

[376] Pollution on my enemies! But without harm I do not know how to help you. And yet again, it is not well advised to slight these supplications. I am perplexed, and fear possesses my soul whether to act, or not to act and take what fortune sends.

[381] Look to him who looks down from above, to him, the guardian of mortals sore-distressed, who appeal to their neighbors, yet do not obtain the justice that is their right. The wrath of Zeus, the suppliant's god, remains, and will not be softened by a sufferer's complaints.

[387] If the sons of Aegyptus have authority over you by the law of your country claiming that they are nearest of kin, who would wish to contest it? You must plead in accordance with the laws of the land you have fled, that they have no authority over you.

[392] Never, oh never, may I fall subject to the power and authority of these men. I am determined to flee to escape this marriage that offends my soul, piloting my course by the stars.Take Justice as your ally, and render judgment for the cause deemed righteous by the gods.

[397] The judgment is not easy—do not make me the judge. I have declared already that, though I am ruler, I will not do this thing without the consent of my people, lest hereafter, if any evil befall, the people should say, “You honored aliens and brought ruin upon your own land.”

[402] Kindred to both in blood, Zeus surveys both sides alike in this dispute with an impartial scale, apportioning, as is due, to the wicked their wrongdoing and to the godly their works of righteousness. When these things are thus equally balanced, why do you fear to act justly?

For Athenians of the late fifth and early fourth century, the charge of 'subverting the democracy' was very serious indeed -- especially after two extremely unpleasant and bloody periods of oppressive, violent government at the hands of (sometimes foreign-backed) oligarchies. (Additional reading: Lysias 25: Defence against a charge of subverting Democracy.)

Caesar: law for redistribution of land


Ephialtes’ Reform and Radical Democracy

Aristotle (Pol. 1274a) connects Ephialtes’ reforms of the Areopagus with the naval victories during the Second Persian Invasion. These victories caused a feeling of power among the common people of Athens following the Persian Wars, as the less privileged and wealthy citizens by serving in the navy had saved the city:

Aristotle, Politics 2.1274a

Solon seems merely to have abstained from destroying institutions that existed already, he does appear to have founded the democracy by constituting the jury-courts from all the citizens. For this he is actually blamed by some persons, as having dissolved the power of the other parts of the community by making the law-court, which was elected by lot, all-powerful. For as the law-court grew strong, men courted favor with the people as with a tyrant, and so brought the constitution to the present democracy; and Ephialtes and Pericles docked the power of the Council on the Areopagus, while Pericles instituted payment for serving in the law-courts, and in this manner finally the successive leaders of the people led them on by growing stages to the present democracy. But this does not seem to have come about in accordance with the intention of Solon, but rather as a result of accident (for the common people having been the cause of the naval victories at the time of the Persian invasion became proud and adopted bad men as popular leaders when the respectable classes opposed their policy); inasmuch as Solon for his part appears to bestow only the minimum of power upon the people, the function of electing the magistrates and of calling them to account (for if even this were not under the control of the populace it would be a mere slave and a foreign enemy), whereas he appointed all the offices from the notable and the wealthy, the Five-hundred-bushel class and the Teamsters and a third property-class called the Knighthood; while the fourth class, the Thetes, were admitted to no office.

Arist. Athen. Const. 27.4 Pericles’ reform of constitution making it more democratic

Pericles is a fascinating trump-era figure esp. in the context of populism, because both his supposed expertise (philosophical training) and personal connections (or so his accusers suggest) come from his hyper-elite status AND YET he seems to appeal to and maybe even genuinely believe in some notion of popular sovereignty

Roman Populism: SPQR = Senatus PopulusQue Romanus

From Democratic Critiques of Populism to Anti-Populist Critiques of Democracy

The easiest intrinsic objection to democracy is perhaps: mobs are stupid, majorities are bullies, collective will is not necessarily noble or useful. But for ancient Athenians no less than modern political thinkers there is a world of difference between rule of the masses -- the Greek word for 'rule the mob' is 'ochlocracy' -- and rule of the people. What makes a state 'ruled by the people' is not simply the presence of voting or the absence of a tyrant, but rather something more specific. In modern political thought, the term 'liberal democracy' is often used to distinguish sheer political constitution (democracy) from an institution built to support a set of values (liberty). But values are fuzzy and always shifting (perhaps precisely because people care about them so much), and institutions once built around liberty might easily be turned elsewhere when their guardians are normal people -- not experts, professionals, or humans of outstanding character.

The problems raised by democratic rule are easy to dismiss in theory but much thornier in practice. For instance, consider the expertise problem (one of Plato's favorites): if some people just know reality better than others (these are the experts), and if reality is not completely malleable to human will (which seems both intuitively plausible and also one of the humbler presuppositions of empirical science), then surely there are cases in which the judgment of the experts is needed in order to conform a community to sheer physical reality. The expertise problem can sometimes be circumscribed (for example, limit all experts to their areas of professional competence, and then orchestrate those areas of competence by the will of the people), but sometimes not .For example, consider global-scale physical matters. The temperature of the earth is surely an important matter, and human impact on earth's temperature is presumably under human control. But climate chnage is equally clearly knowable only by a very small group of experts. What happens if the bulk of the people just don’t care about what the experts say about human activity and climate change -- and yet the earth's climate is changing, and changing human activity could do something about it? On the other hand: how does a non-expert know which expert to trust? Not on the grounds of correctness in their particular area of professional competence. Something else -- a trust that comes from a relationship apart from the expertise -- must be established among citizens with different skill and knowledge.

Aristotle provides one of the earliest descriptions of what modern political theorists might call a 'liberal democratic' state:

Aristotle, AthPol 9: the most democratic features of the Solonian politeia

This then was the nature of his reforms in regard to the offices of state. And the three most democratic features in Solon's constitution seem to be these:
  1. first and most important the prohibition of loans secured upon the person
  2. secondly the liberty allowed to anybody who wished to exact redress on behalf of injured persons, and 
  3. third, what is said to have been the chief basis of the powers of the multitude, the right of appeal to the jury-court—for the people, having the power of the vote, becomes sovereign in the government.
And also, since the laws are not drafted simply nor clearly, but like the law about inheritances and heiresses, it inevitably results that many disputes take place and that the jury-court is the umpire in all business both public and private. Therefore some people think that Solon purposely made his laws obscure, in order that the people might be sovereign over the verdict. But this is unlikely—probably it was due to his not being able to define the ideal in general terms; for it is not fair to study his intention in the light of what happens at the present day, but to judge it from the rest of his constitution.

Consider the differences between the 'most democratic' constitution (Solon's) and the rule of the 'extreme advocate of the people' (Peisistratus, regularly called a 'tyrant'):

AthPol 13: Peisistratus the people's tyrant:

The factions were three: one was the party of the Men of the Coast, whose head was Megacles the son of Alcmaeon, and they were thought chiefly to aim at the middle form of constitution; another was the party of the Men of the Plain, who desired the oligarchy, and their leader was Lycurgus; third was the party of the Hillmen, which had appointed Peisistratus over it, as he was thought to be an extreme advocate of the people (Πεισίστρατος, δημοτικώτατος εἶναι δοκῶν). [5] And on the side of this party were also arrayed, from the motive of poverty, those who had been deprived of the debts due to them, and, from the motive of fear, those who were not of pure descent; and this is proved by the fact that after the deposition of the tyrants the Athenians enacted a revision of the roll, because many people shared the citizenship who had no right to it. 

AthPol 20: Cleisthenes sides with the people because he couldn't win among the aristocrats AND no sooner do the people take power then they take Cleisthenes as hegemon/prostates:

When the tyranny had been put down, there was a period of faction-strife between Isagoras son of Teisander, who was a friend of the tyrants, and Cleisthenes, who belonged to the family of the Alcmaeonidae. Cleisthenes having got the worst of it in the Comradeships1 enlisted the people on his side, offering to hand over the government to the multitude. [2] Isagoras began to lose power, so he again called in the aid of Cleomenes, who was a great friend of his, and jointly persuaded him to drive out the curse,2 because the Alcmaeonidae were reputed to be a family that was under a curse. [3] Cleisthenes secretly withdrew, and Cleomenes with a few troops proceeded to expel as accursed seven hundred Athenian households; and having accomplished this he tried to put down the Council and set up Isagoras and three hundred of his friends with him in sovereign power over the state. But the Council resisted, and the multitude banded together, so the forces of Cleomenes and Isagoras took refuge in the Acropolis, and the people invested it and laid siege to it for two days. On the third day they let Cleomenes and his comrades go away under a truce, and sent for Cleisthenes and the other exiles to come back. [4] The people having taken control of affairs, Cleisthenes was their leader and was head of the people (Κλεισθένης ἡγεμὼν ἦν καὶ τοῦ δήμου προστάτης).

AthPol 22: is ostracism the most democratic thing? ..or is it just replacing rule of law with sheer popularity game??

These reforms made the constitution much more democratic than that of Solon (δημοτικωτέρα πολὺ τῆς Σόλωνος); for it had come about that the tyranny had obliterated the laws of Solon by disuse, and Cleisthenes aiming at the multitude had instituted other new ones, including the enactment of the law about ostracism.

Pseudo-Xenophon AthPol opening: the demos is just the worst

And as for the fact that the Athenians have chosen the kind of constitution that they have, I do not think well of their doing this inasmuch as in making their choice they have chosen to let the worst people be better off than the good (τοὺς πονηροὺς ἄμεινον πράττειν ἢ τοὺς χρηστούς). Therefore, on this account I do not think well of their constitution. But since they have decided to have it so, I intend to point out how well they preserve their constitution and accomplish those other things for which the rest of the Greeks criticize them.

...and precisely putting the worst in charge keeps democracy afloat:

Then there is a point which some find extraordinary, that they everywhere assign more to the worst persons, to the poor, and to the popular types than to the good men: in this very point they will be found manifestly preserving their democracy (νέμουσι τοῖς πονηροῖς καὶ πένησι καὶ δημοτικοῖς ἢ τοῖς χρηστοῖς, ἐν αὐτῷ τούτῳ φανοῦνται τὴν δημοκρατίαν διασῴζοντες). For the poor, the popular, and the base, inasmuch as they are well off and the likes of them are numerous, will increase the democracy; but if the wealthy, good men are well off, the men of the people create a strong opposition to themselves. [5] And everywhere on earth the best element is opposed to democracy. For among the best people there is minimal wantonness and injustice but a maximum of scrupulous care for what is good, whereas among the people there is a maximum of ignorance, disorder, and wickedness; for poverty draws them rather to disgraceful actions, and because of a lack of money some men are uneducated and ignorant. [6]

Pseudo-Xenophon Athpol 2: on the destabilizing power of exogenous influence

But there is one thing the Athenians lack.7 If they were thalassocrats living on an island, it would be possible for them to inflict harm, if they wished, but as long as they ruled the sea, to suffer none, -- neither the ravaging of their land nor the taking on of enemies. As it is, of the Athenians the farmers and the wealthy curry favour with the enemy, whereas the people, knowing that nothing of theirs will be burnt or cut down, live without fear and refuse to fawn upon the enemy. [15] Furthermore, if they lived on an island, they would have been relieved of another fear: the city would never be betrayed by oligarchs nor would the gates be thrown open nor enemies invade. (For how would these things happen to islanders?) Besides no one would rebel against the democracy, if they lived on an island; as it is, if there were civil strife, the rebels would place their hope in bringing in the enemy by land. If they lived on an island, even this would be of no concern to them. [16] However, since from the beginning they happen not to have lived on an island, they now do the following: they place their property on islands while trusting in the naval empire and they allow their land to be ravaged, for they realize that if they concern themselves with this, they will be deprived of other greater goods.8 [17]

Pseudo-Xenophon Athpol 3: game-theoretic and psychological reasons for power-hungry elites to side with masses

Also in the following point the Athenians seem to me to act ill-advisedly: in cities embroiled in civil strife they take the side of the lower class. This they do deliberately; for if they preferred the upper class, they would prefer those who are contrary-minded to themselves. In no city is the superior element well disposed to the populace, but in each city it is the worst part which is well disposed to the populace. For like is well disposed to like. Accordingly the Athenians prefer those sympathetic to themselves. [11] Whenever they have undertaken to prefer the upper class, it has not turned out well for them; within a short time the people in Boeotia were enslaved5; similarly when they preferred the Milesian upper class, within a short time that class had revolted and cut down the people6; similarly when they preferred the Spartans to the Messenians, within a short time the Spartans had overthrown the Messenians and were making war on the Athenians.

Besides these serious-minded (if perhaps grumpy) critiques of leaders who take the side of the lower class for no good reason, consider the following parody of Athenian demagoguery, written by the comic playwright Aristophanes to mock the same Cleon that we discuss in another module:

Aristophanes, Knights 622ff: two demagogues compete in degrading flattery of the demos:

The story is worth hearing. Listen! [625] From here I rushed straight to the Senate, right in the track of this man; he was already letting loose the storm, unchaining the lightning, crushing the Knights beneath huge mountains of calumnies heaped together and having all the air of truth; [630] he called you conspirators and his lies caught root like weeds in every mind; dark were the looks on every side and brows were knitted. When I saw that the Senate listened to him favorably and was being tricked by his imposture I said to myself, “Come, gods of rascals and braggarts, [635] gods of all fools, and toad-eaters, and thou too, oh market-place, wherein I was bred from my earliest days, give me unbridled audacity, an untiring chatter and a shameless voice.” No sooner had I ended this prayer than a pederast farted on my right. “ [640] Hah! a good omen,” said I, and prostrated myself; then I burst open the door by a vigorous push with my arse, and, opening my mouth to the utmost, shouted, “Senators, I wanted you to be the first to hear the good news; since the war broke out, [645] I have never seen anchovies at a lower price!” All faces brightened at once and I was voted a chaplet for my good tidings; and I added, “With a couple of words I will reveal to you how you can have quantities of anchovies for an obol; [650] all you have to do is to seize on all the dishes the merchants have.” With mouths gaping with admiration, they applauded me. However, the Paphlagonian winded the matter and, well knowing the sort of language which pleases the Senate best, said, “Friends, I am resolved [655] to offer one hundred oxen to the goddess in recognition of this happy event.” The Senate at once veered to his side.

So when I saw myself defeated by this ox dung, I outbade the fellow, crying, “Two hundred!” And beyond this [660] I moved that a vow be made to Diana of a thousand goats if the next day anchovies should only be worth an obol a hundred. And the Senate looked towards me again. The other, stunned with the blow, grew delirious in his speech, [665] and at last the Prytanes and the Scythians dragged him out. The Senators then stood talking noisily about the anchovies. Cleon, however, begged them to listen to the Lacedaemonian envoy, who had come to make proposals of peace; [670] but all with one accord cried “Certainly it's not the moment to think of peace now! If anchovies are so cheap, what need have we of peace? Let the war take its course!” And with loud shouts they demanded that the Prytanes should close the sitting [675] and then they leapt over the rails in all directions. As for me, I slipped away to buy all the coriander seed and leeks there were on the market and gave it to them gratis as seasoning for their anchovies. It was marvellous! [680] They loaded me with praises and caresses; thus I conquered the Senate with an obol's worth of leeks, and here I am.

[710] I will haul you before Demos, who will mete out justice to you.

And I too will drag you before him and belch forth more calumnies than you.

Why, poor fool, he does not believe you, whereas I play with him at will.

Is then Demos your property, your contemptible creature?

[715] It's because I know the dishes that please him.

And these are little mouthfuls, which you serve to him like a clever nurse. You chew the pieces and place some in small quantities in his mouth, while you swallow three parts yourself.

Thanks to my skill, [720] I know exactly how to enlarge or contract this gullet.

My arse is just as clever.

Well, my friend, you tricked me at the Senate, but take care! Let us go before Demos.

That's easily done; come, let's do it right away.

[725] Oh, Demos! Come out here.

By Zeus, Father, come on out!

More loudly
Come, oh, my dear little Demos; come and see how I am insulted.

Coming out of his house followed by Demosthenes
What a hubhub! To the Devil with you, bawlers! Alas! my olive branch, which they have torn down! Ah! it's you, Paphlagonian. [730] And who, pray, has been maltreating you?

You are the cause of this man and these young people having covered me with blows.

And why?

Because you love me passionately, Demos.

to the Sausage-Seller
And you, who are you?

His rival. For many a long year have I loved you, have I wished to do you honor, I [735] and a crowd of other men of means. But this rascal here has prevented us. You resemble those young men who do not know where to choose their lovers; you repulse honest folks; [740] to earn your favours, one has to be a lamp-seller, a cobbler, a tanner or a currier.

I am the benefactor of the people.

In what way, please?

In what way? I supplanted the Generals at Pylos, I hurried thither and I brought back the Laconian captives.

And I, whilst simply loitering, [745] cleared off with a pot from a shop, which another fellow had been boiling.

Demos, convene the assembly at once to decide which of us two loves you best and most merits your favour.

Yes, yes, provided it be not at the Pnyx.

[750] I could not sit elsewhere; it is at the Pnyx that you must appear before me.
[860] But, dear sir, never you believe all he tells you. Oh! never will you find a more devoted friend than me; unaided, I have known how to put down the conspiracies; nothing that is hatching in the city escapes me, and I hasten to proclaim it loudly.

You are like the fishers for eels; [865] in still waters they catch nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their fishing is good; in the same way it's only in troublous times that you line your pockets. But come, tell me, you, who sell so many skins, have you ever made him a present of a pair of soles [870] for his slippers? and you pretend to love him!

No, he has never given me any.

That alone shows up the man; but I, I have bought you this pair of shoes; accept them.

He gives Demos the shoes; Demos puts them on.
None ever, to my knowledge, has merited so much from the people; you are the most zealous of all men for your country and for my toes.

[875] Can a wretched pair of slippers make you forget all that you owe me? Is it not I who curbed the pederasts by erasing Gryttus' name from the lists of citizens?

Ah! noble Inspector of Arses, let me congratulate you. Moreover, if you set yourself against this form of lewdness, this pederasty, [880] it was for sheer jealousy, knowing it to be the school for orators. But you see this poor Demos without a cloak and that at his age too! so little do you care for him, that in mid-winter you have not given him a garment with sleeves. Here, Demos, here is one, take it!

He gives Demos a cloak; Demos puts it on.
This even Themistocles never thought of; [885] the Piraeus was no doubt a happy idea, but I think this tunic is quite as fine as invention.

Must you have recourse to such jackanapes' tricks to supplant me?

No, it's your own tricks that I am borrowing, just as a drunken guest, when he has to take a crap, seizes some other man's shoes.

[890] Oh! you shall not outdo me in flattery! I am going to hand Demos this garment; all that remains to you, you rogue, is to go and hang yourself.

as Cleon throws a cloak around his shoulders
Faugh! may the plague seize you! You stink of leather horribly.

Why, it's to smother you that he has thrown this cloak around you on top of the other; and it is not the first plot he has planned against you. Do you remember the time [895] when silphium was so cheap?

Aye, to be sure I do!

Very well! it was Cleon who had caused the price to fall so low, that all might eat it, and the jurymen in the Courts were almost asphyxiated from farting in each others' faces.

Hah! why, indeed, a Dungtownite told me the same thing.

[900] Were you not yourself in those days quite red in the gills with farting?

Why, it was a trick worthy of Pyrrhandrus!

With what other idle trash will you seek to ruin me, you wretch!

Oh! I shall be more brazen than you, for it's the goddess who has commanded me.

No, on my honor, you will not! [905] Here, Demos, feast on this dish; it is your salary as a dicast, which you gain through me for doing naught.

Wait! here is a little box of ointment to rub into the sores on your legs.

I will pluck out your white hairs and make you young again.

Take this hare's tail to wipe the rheum from your eyes.

[910] When you wipe your nose, clean your fingers on my head.

No, on mine.

On mine. I will have you made a trierarch and you will get ruined through it; I will arrange that you are given an old vessel with rotten sails, [915] which you will have to repair constantly and at great cost.

Our man is on the boil; enough, enough, [920] he is boiling over; remove some of the embers from under him and skim off his threats.

I will punish your self-importance; I will crush you with imposts; [925] I will have you inscribed on the list of the rich.

For me no threats —only one simple wish. That you may [930] be having some cuttle-fish fried on the stove just as you are going to set forth to plead the cause of the Milesians, which, if you gain it, means a talent in your pocket; that you hurry over devouring the fish to rush off to the Assembly; [935] suddenly you are called and run off with your mouth full so as not to lose the talent and [940] choke yourself. There! that is my wish.

Leader of the Chorus
Splendid! by Zeus, Apollo and Demeter!

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