Everything is vanity — especially political power. The most absurdly beloved leader can soon find himself chased from town, locked in a prison, bitten by a snake — and his haters using his image for a toilet. Diogenes writes of one Demterius, supreme in Athens from 318-307 B.C.
Demetrius, the son of Phanostratus, was a native of Phalerum. He was a pupil of Theophrastus, but by his speeches in the Athenian assembly he held the chief power in the State for ten years and was decreed 360 bronze statues, most of them representing him either on horseback or else driving a chariot or a pair of horses. And these statues were completed in less than 300 days, so much was he esteemed.
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, ed. R. D. Hicks 527. However, no political power is permanent, and all history is revisionist. Diogenes continues:
Yet even this great lamp of Athens was covered by shadow. For certain ones consumed with envy brought a charge of death against his feeble body. But when they could not gain mastery of his body, they belched their poison on his bronze, tearing down them down, throwing them in the sea and cutting up others for latrines. One alone was saved in the Acropolis. (Author’s translation; Greek text and notes below)
He fled to Egypt, where he bet on the wrong children. He advised the king to give the crown to the child of one wife, but the king chose the son of the other wife. When that son came to power he arrested Demetrius. While Demetrius awaited a decision:
He lived on in deep depression — until one night an asp bit his hand and his life escapes. (Author’s translation; Greek Text and notes below).
Greek Text & Notes:
Destruction of the statues:
Σφόδρα δὲ λαμπρὸς ὢν παρὰ τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις,
But/yet an excessive lamp being to the Athenians
ὅμως ἐπεσκοτήθη καὶ αὐτὸς
thus a shadow was thrown over (aorist passive) even him
The kai cannot a conjunctive, here it underscores the “autos” even him.
ὑπὸ τοῦ τὰ πάντα διεσθίοντος φθόνου.
by means of the all devouring envy
Tou phthonou is the article noun pair. The genitive participle modifies the noun.
ἐπιβουλευθεὶς γὰρ ὑπό τινων δίκην θανάτου
For contriving a plot certain ones a judicial charge of death
ουʼ παρὼν ὦφλεν.
not of the paltry body was made a debtor
ουʼ μὴν ἐκυρίευσαν τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ,
not (on one hand) they lorded over the body of him
ἀλλὰ τὸν ἰὸν ἀπήρυγον εἰς τὸν χαλκόν,
but the poison they belched forth on the bronze
the poison=their poison
ἐρεύγομαι (A), also ἐρυγγάνω (q.v.), fut.
A.“ἐρεύξομαι” Hp.Mul.1.41 : aor.1 “ἠρευξάμην” Procop.Goth.2.4 : aor. 2 “ἤρυ^γον” Arist.Pr.895b22, Nic. Al.111:—belch out, disgorge, c. acc., “ἐρευγόμενοι φόνον αἵματος” Il.16.162 ; “ἰόν” Nic.Th. 232 : abs., belch, “ἐρεύγετο οἰνοβαρείων” Od.9.374, cf. Hp. Morb.2.69, Arist.Pr.895b12.
- metaph., of volcanoes, “ἐρεύγονται πυρὸς παγαί” Pi.P.1.21, cf. Procop.Goth.4.35 ; of a river, discharge itself, “ἐς τὴν θάλασσαν” App.Mith.103, cf. Alc.Supp.11.3 : c. acc. cogn., ἐρεύγονται σκότον..νυκτὸς ποταμοί, of the rivers of hell, Pi.Fr. 130.8 ; “κόλπος ἀφρὸν ἐρευγόμενος” D.P.539, cf. LXXLe.11.10 ; ἵππος ἐρεύγεται ἄνδρα, as the description of a Centaur, APl.4.115.
- blurt out (cf. ἐξερυγγάνω), belch forth, utter, “ἡμέρα τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐρεύγεται ῥῆμα” LXXPs.18(19).2 ; “ἐρεύξομαι κεκρυμμένα” Ev.Matt.13.35. (Cf. Lat. ērūgěre, Lith. riáugèti ‘belch’.
κατασπάσαντες αὐτοῦ τὰς εἰκόνας
pulling down of his the images
καὶ τὰς μὲν ἀποδόμενοι,
and those one given over
τὰς δὲ βυθίσαντες,
but those sinking
τὰς δὲ κατακόψαντες εἰς ἀμίδας·
yet those being cut up for chamber-pots
λέγεται γὰρ καὶ τοῦτο.
for he says even this
μία δὲ μόνη σώζεται ἐν ἀκροπόλει.
but one alone he saved in the Acropolis.
Account of his death
ἐνταῦθα ἀθυμότερον διῆγε·
In this state most depress he lived
καί πως ὑπνώττων
yet while sleeping
ὑπʼ ἀσπίδος τὴν χεῖρα
by an asp the hand
Article is possessive
δηχθεὶς τὸν βίον μεθῆκε
being bitten the life (his life) let go/released
dakno: bitten by a snake