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Nothing does more harm to the state than a tyrant; when he rules, equal application of law comes to an end, the one man is tyrant, and he keeps unto himself and in secrecy the law, and so perishes justice. But when the laws are written down, rich and poor alike have equal justice, and it is open to the weaker to use the same language to the prosperous when he is reviled by him, and the weaker prevails over the stronger if he have justice on his side. Freedom’s mark is also seen in this: “Let any man possessed of wisdom give counsel to the state.” And he who comes forward and counsels well, gains renown, while he, who has no wish, holds his silence. What greater equality can there be in a state? Again, where the people are absolute rulers of the land, they rejoice in having the openness and exuberance of youth, while a tyrant counts this a danger, and seeks to slay or silence those possessed of spirit, while the discreet fear his power and violence.
–Euripides, The Suppliants, lines 429-40 (423 BCE)(S.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”