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Euripides on Tyrants and the Law

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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.)

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