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These statements drew from Simonides the following reply: “A great thing, surely, Hiero, is the honour for which men strive so earnestly that they undergo any toil and endure any danger to win it! [2] And what if despotism brings all those troubles that you tell of, yet such men as you, it seems, rush headlong into it that you may have honour, that all men may carry out your behests in all things without question, that the eyes of all may wait on you, that all may rise from their seats and make way for you, that all in your presence may glorify you by deed and word alike. (Such, in fact, is the behaviour of subjects to despots and to anyone else who happens to be their hero at the moment.) [3] For indeed it seems to me, Hiero, that in this man differs from other animals—I mean, in this craving for honour. In meat and drink and sleep and sex all creatures alike seem to take pleasure; but love of honour is rooted neither in the brute beasts nor in every human being. But they in whom is implanted a passion for honour and praise, these are they who differ most from the beasts of the field, these are accounted men and not mere human beings.1 [4] And so, in my opinion, you have good reason for bearing all those burdens that despotism lays on you, in that you are honoured above all other men. For no human joy seems to be more nearly akin to that of heaven than the gladness which attends upon honours.”

To this Hiero replied: [5] “Ah, Simonides, I think even the honours enjoyed by despots bear a close resemblance to their courtships, as I have described them to you. [6] The services of the indifferent seemed to us not acts of grace, and favours extorted appeared to give no pleasure. And so it is with the services proffered by men in fear: they are not honours. [7] For how can we say that men who are forced to rise from their seats rise to honour their oppressors, or that men who make way for their superiors desire to honour their oppressors? [8] And as for presents, most men offer them to one whom they hate, and that too at the moment when they have cause to fear some evil at his hands. These acts, I suppose, may not unfairly be taken for acts of servility; but honours, I should say, express the very opposite feelings. [9] For whenever men feel that some person is competent to be their benefactor, and come to regard him as the fountain of blessings, so that henceforward his praise is ever on their lips, everyone of them looks on him as his peculiar blessing, they make way for him spontaneously and rise from their seats, through love and not through fear, crown him for his generosity and beneficence, and bring him freewill offerings, these same men in my opinion, honour that person truly by such services, and he who is accounted worthy of them is honoured in very deed. [10] And, for myself, I count him a happy man who is honoured thus; for I perceive that, instead of being exposed to treason, he is an object of solicitude, lest harm befall him, and he lives his life unassailed by fear and malice and danger, and enjoys unbroken happiness. But what is the despot's lot? I tell you, Simonides, he lives day and night like one condemned by the judgment of all men to die for his wickedness.” [11]

When Simonides had listened to all this he asked: “Pray, how comes it, Hiero, if despotism is a thing so vile, and this is your verdict, that you do not rid yourself of so great an evil, and that none other, for that matter, who has once acquired it, ever yet surrendered despotic power?” [12]

“Simonides,” said he, “this is the crowning misery of despotic power, that it cannot even be got rid of. For how could any despot ever find means to repay in full all whom he has robbed, or himself serve all the terms of imprisonment that he has inflicted? Or how could he forfeit a life for every man whom he has put to death? [13] Ah, Simonides,” he cried, “if it profits any man to hang himself, know what my finding is: a despot has most to gain by it, since he alone can neither keep nor lay down his troubles with profit.”

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