Theognis On How Evil Men Destroy Cities

Theognis 39~52

Translated by Steven Willett

Note: the word "city" (πόλις) here means a city state. The phrase "corrector" (ἄνδρα εὐθυντῆρα) of hubris probably refers to a tyrant who might reform the city (see the last line).

Cyrnus, this city is pregnant, and I fear she’ll bear a man

   who is the corrector of our evil insolence.

For these townsmen are still of sound mind, but their leaders

   have shifted round to fall into great depravity.

Never yet, Cyrnus, have noble men destroyed a city;

   but when it’s delightful for the base to run riot,

destroy the people and give judgements to the unjust

   for their own domestic profit and power,

don’t hope that city to keep calm for very long,

   even if she now lies in great tranquillity,

whenever these things become dear to base men,

   profits coming along with public harm.

For from these rise civil strife, slaughter of kindred blood

   and tyrants; may they never please the city.

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4 Responses to Theognis On How Evil Men Destroy Cities

  1. Barbara Ann says:

    Wonderful. I see from Theognis’ wiki that these lines are thought to refer to the situation in the city of Megara before the rise of the tyrant Theagenes – presumably the prophesied “corrector of our evil insolence”. His wiki in turn contains the following interesting line; “Aristotle claims that Theagenes of Megara convinced the Megarians to give him a bodyguard, which he then used to seize control of the city”.
    Does history record the fate of the depraved Megarian leadership? One must wonder whether the 7th century equivalent of the Swamp even saw it coming.

  2. Diana L Croissant says:

    As far as I can tell, this is a time for prayer. Only the Divine can help us out of the mess we created. God alone can raise up the leaders we need to save the country. Unfortunately, not enough of us are in the habit of asking for God’s help.
    We must each pray for individual guidance in these troubling times. I don’t see a leader who is strong enough or righteous enough. It will take the work of individuals throughout the country to help rebuild what we have lost. Hold your children and grandchildren close. I do believe we have some dangerous times ahead of us.

  3. jerseycityjoan says:

    I am not against prayer but I believe that we should not count on God to save us. We are the most powerful nation on Earth. We should be asking ourselves what we can do to save ourselves.
    In recent years I have voted for both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. I believe many of the people’s needs are being ignored. We need people from both parties to come up with plans to help the people of all races do better in America. The needs are so great.

  4. Deap says:

    JerseyJoan, do you have community colleges in your state? I hope Dr Jill will finally raise the national awareness that community colleges have always been doing a lot to “help the people of all races to do better”.
    But the people have to also do something themselves to take a advantage of this splendid opportunity right in their own backyards. They have elected boards of trustees, so if a local community college is not doing enough “to help the people of all races to do better”, throw the bums out and get someone in who will.
    No other country on the planet has such an extensive network of tax payer subsidized educational opportunity, open to all which has been in place for over 100 years in many locations.
    GED, remedial adult education, vocational skills, short term business skills, long-term licensed career certificate, and four year college transfer courses. All in one’s back yard. All accessible to anyone with the ability to benefit. Do not sell this uniquely American opportunity short.

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