Posts Tagged ‘Ancient Greece’

Athenian statesman, contemprory of Demosthenes, the orator.

Phocion was a pupil of Plato and in later life a close friend of the Platonic philosopher Xenocrates. After serving Persia as a mercenary, he was drawn into Athens’ efforts to remain independent of Macedonia. In 348 his tactical skills saved an Athenian force sent to crush allies of Philip II in Euboea. He helped Megara (343) and Byzantium (340) defend themselves against Philip, but from about this time he regarded the Macedonians as unstoppable and cultivated diplomatic relations with them in order to avoid outright conquest. Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323, he advised against the Lamian War, though he led the defense against a Macedonian raid into Athenian territory. Sent to sue for peace the next year, he managed to reduce his city’s indemnities but was forced to accept the occupation of Athens’ port, Piraeus.

Phocion ruled Athens as Macedonia’s agent with great moderation and personal honesty. In the power struggle after the death of the regent in 319, however, he was deposed, convicted of treason, and was decreed the same death as meted out to Scrates, death by drinking hemlock. He was executed by Athenians hoping to restore democracy. Shortly afterward, the Athenians decreed a public burial and a statue in his honour.


When someone made a joke about his severe visage, and some of the local politicians he was not on good terms with laughed in response, he remarked, “My frown never yet made any of you sad, but these jolly men have given you plenty of sorrow.”

Demosthenes once said to Phocion that he might be killed some day, if the people became irrational. Phocion responded: “Yes; however, they would kill you if they came to their senses.” Demosthenes naturally described him as ‘the chopper of my speeches.’

Phocion’s recognized uprightness bestowed on him the cognomen “The Good”. Phocion could have been extremely wealthy, either by his offices or by the high commissions which were managed by him. Instead, he had an extremely frugal lifestyle. This was despite the fact that the entire Athenian political class was quite corrupt in that epoch.]

Philip II offered much money to him and the Macedonian heralds mentioned the future needs of his sons. Phocion responded, “If my sons are like me, my farm, which has enabled my present eminence, will suffice for them. If, instead, they become spoiled by luxury, I will not be the individual who will be guilty for that.”

Alexander sent a delegation to Phocion to offer him 100 talents, but he refused, saying: “I am an honorable man. I would not harm either Alexander’s reputation or mine.” Then, the king further offered him the government and possession of the cities Cius, Mylasa and Elaea. Phocion refused, but did request the release of some men enslaved at Sardis, who were promptly liberated. Soon afterward, Alexander died (323 BC).

In 322 BC, Harpalus arrived at Athens from Asia, seeking refuge. He tried to give 700 talents to Phocion, who rejected this offer. Phocion warned that he shouldn’t attempt to corrupt Athens or he would be punished. Consequently, the angry Harpalus turned the whole assembly against Phocion with his bribes. However, as Phocion kept helping him (with good will but within ethical limits), Harpalus approached Phocion’s son-in-law, Charicles, becoming a friend. Charicles eventually accepted a lavish commission to build a tomb for Harpalus’ mistress, and was investigated for corruption. Phocion refused to help him at the trial, saying: “I chose you to be my son-in-law only for honorable purposes.”

Phocion also refused presents from Menyllus. Phocion said: “You are not a better man than Alexander, so there is no reason to accept your gifts.” With his bribes, Menyllus then became a friend of Phocus.

(ack: wikipedia,Brittania encyclo.,)

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »


Mr. Wolf finally took subscription with a cable T.V Company and had a flat screen installed in his lair. Watching TV became a routine and an addiction. Once surfing channels with his remote he was struck by a talk show. A kid was waxing eloquent and all through the show he ridiculed wolves.
He asked: ”What can one do with a wolf who has become a couch-potato?”
He himself supplied the answer: ”You still got to skin him.” Watching how the lamb was getting all the laughs he fumed: ”Talking head, your wisecracks do not worry me so much as not knowing what you have done with the rest of your body.”

No marks for guessing the source of this story.
Who has not heard of Aesop? Or read his fables? Very little is known of his life and the present book, I hope, shall to some extent satisfy that lacuna.
Who was Aesop?
The name is nothing more than a label that has come to be tacked on certain stories and these are the forerunner of fables as a literary genre. Of course he is a historical person if we were to go by the account of Herodotus in the Histories. According to him he lived in the time of the Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis (middle of the 6th century BC). By the latter part of the fifth century the name was familiar in Greece as the author of fables. Fables were extant even before Greeks ascribed this unique distinction to Aesop. It was in keeping with the Greek tradition of affixing various compositions to real or imaginary ‘finder out’. According to present day scholars there is likelihood that Indian fables served as model for fables as much as Assyrian and Persian fables became known to the Greeks in classical times. Be that as it may Aesop and fables have become inseparable and no further proof we need to call for the present purpose.
My intention is to piece together from stray historical details a biography as representative of Everyman.
Let us see what are his credentials to be our spokesman. He was a slave. Are we not to market economy? We are slaves to the extent we have no independent spirit to go against the trends and we play the game. We play by their rules and not by our own. On this point I consider him as good as any to speak for us.
Consider the intent of fables which speak for him and did they spare him from death? According to Plutarch the storyteller was hurled to his death because of offending powers that be. Even this day do we not see how the just and innocent are as much as the bad affected by events beyond their control? Aesop serves as a template for all in life as well as in his death.
From the beginning of the Christian era fables served as regular feature of Rhetorical training. Fables have been treated as part of moral treatises and interest in this literary genre has continued even in later centuries.
Aesop’s stories gave rise to a literary genre that bridges the Archaic and the modern era. It has attracted many illustrious names, among them La Fontaine and Thurber in recent times. What lessons in prudence and morality he inculcated through his stories have shaped our ethics. Aesop remains fresh as ever, being impressed in imagination that is not bound by time or fads. Consequently this is a work of imagination. Having said this by way of preface I can only add: ‘go little book, do your thing! I am quite done.’
(The modified version)

Read Full Post »

What made Athens great? We only need to read accounts of Plutarch, Thucydides and Xenephon to know why. Take Pericles for example. He impressed his name to an age by the force of his character. His funeral oration to commemorate the honor and glory of the fallen comrades still moves us. Therein he showed to the world what made Athens the greatest city. What he need not have said was his own role in shaping its destiny. Athens was great because it had people like Pericles, Aristides, Themistocles and Socrates.
It also had people like Alcibiades whose virtues were not as much evident by many vices. Does it not speak something of the spirit of the times and also weakness of man in that life gave more room for vices than virtues?
Alcibiades was shaped by his times and it gave him short end of the stick.

Read Full Post »