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: Continue reading