Periander


we ought not to do anything for the sake of money; for that we ought only to acquire such gains as are allowable.

those who wished to wield absolute power in safety, should be guarded by the good will of their countrymen, and not by arms.

And once, being asked why he assumed tyrannical power, he replied, "Because, to abdicate it voluntarily, and to have it taken from one, are both dangerous."

Tranquillity is a good thing.

Rashness is dangerous.

Gain is disgraceful.

Democracy is better than tyranny.

Pleasures are transitory, but honour is immortal.

Be moderate when prosperous, but prudent when unfortunate.

Be the same to your friends when they are prosperous, and when they are unfortunate.

Whatever you agree to do, observe

Do not divulge secrets.

Punish not only those who do wrong, but those who intend to do so.

Practice does everything

This prince was the first who had body-guards, and who changed a legitimate power into a tyranny; and he would not allow any one who chose to live in his city, as Ephorus and Aristotle tell us.

And he flourished about the thirty-eighth Olympiad, and enjoyed absolute power for forty years. But Sotion, and Heraclides, and Pamphila, in the fifth book of her Commentaries, says that there were two Perianders; the one a tyrant, and the other a wise man, and a native of Ambracia. And Neanthes of Cyzicus makes the same assertion, adding, that the two men were cousins to one another. And Aristotle says, that it was the Corinthian Periander who was the wise one; but Plato contradicts him.

Herodotus says he learned his "savagery" from Thrasybulus, the tyrant of Miletus, who instructed Periander to get rid of anyone who could conceivably take power from him.

Thrasybulus also wrote him a letter in the following terms: "and do you act accordingly if you wish to preserve your power safely, taking off the most eminent of the citizens, whether he seems an enemy to you or not, as even his companions are deservedly objects of suspicion to a man possessed of supreme power."

But some writers say that he was anxious that his tomb should not be known, and that with that object he adopted the following contrivance. He ordered two young men to go out by night, indicating a particular road by which they were to go, and to kill the first man they met, and bury him; after them he sent out four other men who were to kill and bury them. Again he sent out a still greater number against these four, with similar instructions. And in this manner he put himself in the way of the first pair, and was slain

We ourselves have also written an epigram upon him:

Grieve not when disappointed of a wish, But be content with what the Gods may give you For the great Periander died unhappy, At failing in an object he desired.

Herodotus, iii. 50, v. 92.

The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, Literally translated by C.D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853

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