“Why seek to cure evil by evil? Mercy, remember, is by many set above justice…Power is a slippery thing – it has many suitors.”
Lycophron of Corinth’s Sister
So, to begin, a few disclaimers. (1) The above bust is of Periander, the father of Lycophron. I assume they looked relatively alike (and busts from back then are hard to come by), so it’ll have to do; (2) I don’t know what the sister’s name is because she’s called “Lycophron’s sister” in The Histories; (3) The above quote comes from Herodotus, whom many consider to be “The Father of History,” so I’m not sure if we can verify with any certainty the exact words the sister used 2,600 years ago; (4) “the results of the enquiry carried out by Herodotus of Halicarnassus” (aka The Histories) was one of the subtlest – but most romantic/intriguing – elements to the relationship between Count Almásy and Katharine Clifton in Ondaatje’s The English Patient.
But back to the Quote of the Day!
Somewhere in the ballpark of two and a half millennia ago, Lycophron’s sister is said to have uttered these words about mercy. I’m not sure if she was referring to one person or event in particular, but it’s quite possible she was thinking about her father, otherwise known as the Second Tyrant of the Cypselid dynasty that ruled over Corinth. However, this same tyrant was also considered one of the Seven Sages of Greece, so perhaps he wasn’t all bad and his daughter was just waxing poetic for no special reason.
Either way, I’m not sure what it was about the Ancient Greeks, but it seems as if they all nailed their aphorisms effortlessly. Like the following conversation, which very well could have been an everyday moment shared between two Greeks:
“Hey, Plasticoratorus, are you going to apply for that job you mentioned?”
“I haven’t made up my mind yet. Neverthless, let us spare no pains; for nothing comes without trouble; but all that men acquire is got by painstaking. What about you, Socratotalitis? Any plans to do anything but drink wine and carry on with your symposiums?”
“Ha ha, Plasticoratorus. I can sense the irony and envy in your voice. Remember, when men counsel reaosnably, reasonable success ensues; but when in their counsels they reject reason, God does not choose to follow the wanderings of human folies.”
“Well done, Socratotalitis. Your pithy pithism Trumped my circuitous mental aberration.”
In the case of today’s Quote of the Day, Lycophron’s sister was clearly a visionary ahead of her time. Even today in what are arguably the two world’s most powrful countires (America and China) not only is captial punishment still practiced, but these respective governments seem to imprison people with impunity.