Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Sword of Damocles – A Greek Legend

The Sword of Damocles
The Sword of Damocles, an object in the Greek legend has been designated to portray the dangers of being in authority. As per the legend, Damocles was a courtier in the palace of King Dionysius II ruling Syracuse, a city of Magna Graecia, which was the Greek area of southern Italy, during the fourth century BCE.

Like several other couriers, Damocles would always flatter the king with the hope that he would one day gain great power in his court. Dionysius II was a very wealthy man with all the luxuries that money could buy and even engaged court flatterers to boost his ego, one of them being Damocles.

Damocles would often make comments to the king with regards to his luxurious and wealthy life Eventually, the king tired of his constant flattery, on one occasion asked Damocles if he would be interested in switching places with him, in order to see what it would be like to be in that position as a ruler for a day, to which Damocles readily agreed.

Damocles to Experience the Life of a King for a Day 

The Sword of Damocles 1
Dionysius then ordered for the preparation to be made for Damocles to experience what the life as a king would be like for him. Dionysius gave orders that Damocles be placed on a golden couch which was covered with the most splendid woven rug and embroidered with beautiful works.

 He had the sideboards adorned with several chased gold and silver and gave orders that boys of outstanding beauty should attend to him and be at his beck and call. He was surrounded with perfumes burning, with unguents and garlands, along with tables which were piles with all the variety of most of the selected food.

In the midst of this luxurious surrounding, Dionysius had ordered that a shining sword fastened by a horse hair be suspended which could be let down so that it hung over the neck of the fortunate man.

Damocles enjoyed himself immensely in this position until he noticed the sharp sword which was hovering over his head, suspended by the hair of a horse from the ceiling and this was explained to Damocles of what life was all about being a ruler.

Dionysius Conveyed a Message 

The Sword of Damocles 2
Damocles was alarmed and afraid and neither looked at the waiters attending to him nor the silver works or the array of dishes placed before him at the table and lost interest in all that was prepared for him and begged the king to be allowed to depart from the position he had agreed to.

He then realised that he was better off with his original way of life and no longer wanted to be fortunate like the king with his wealth and power but preferred to return to his poor but a secured way of life.Dionysius had managed to convey a sense of constant fear which great men live when placed in high position.

Often as humans we tend to be dissatisfied with our own way of life. This legend conveys a reminder to us that for a powerful man, there always seems to be a danger where happiness is scarce.

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