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[1314a] [1] In fact owing to this tyranny is a friend of the base; for tyrants enjoy being flattered, but nobody would ever flatter them if he possessed a free spirit—men of character love their ruler, or at all events do not flatter him. And the base are useful for base business, for nail is driven out by nail, as the proverb goes.1 And it is a mark of a tyrant to dislike anyone that is proud or free-spirited; for the tyrant claims for himself alone the right to bear that character, and the man who meets his pride with pride and shows a free spirit robs tyranny of its superiority and position of mastery; tyrants therefore hate the proud as undermining their authority. And it is a mark of a tyrant to have men of foreign extraction rather than citizens as guests at table and companions, feeling that citizens are hostile but strangers make no claim against him.2 These and similar habits are characteristic of tyrants and preservative of their office, but they lack no element of baseness. And broadly speaking, they are all included under three heads; for tyranny aims at three things, one to keep its subjects humble (for a humble-spirited man would not plot against anybody), second to have them continually distrust one another (for a tyranny is not destroyed until some men come to trust each other, owing to which tyrants also make war on the respectable, as detrimental [20] to their rule not only because of their refusal to submit to despotic rule, but also because they are faithful to one another and to the other citizens, and do not inform against one another nor against the others); and the third is lack of power for political action (since nobody attempts impossibilities, so that nobody tries to put down a tyranny if he has not power behind him). These then in fact are the three aims to which the wishes of tyrants are directed; for all the measures taken by tyrants one might class under these principles—some are designed to prevent mutual confidence among the subjects, others to curtail their power, and others to make them humble-spirited.

Such then is the nature of one method by which security is obtained for tyrannies. The other tries to operate in a manner almost the opposite of the devices mentioned. And it can be ascertained from considering the downfall of royal governments. For just as one mode of destroying royalty is to make its government more tyrannical, so a mode of securing tyranny is to make it more regal, protecting one thing only, its power, in order that the ruler may govern not only with the consent of the subjects but even without it; for if he gives up this, he also gives up his position as tyrant. But while this must stand as a fundamental principle, all the other measures he may either adopt or pretend to adopt by cleverly acting the royal part. The first step is to be careful of the public funds,

1 The proverb ἡλῷ ἧλος ἐκκρούεται usually meant driving out something by a thing of the same kind (‘set a thief to catch a thief’), not as here the execution of evil designs by appropriate agents.

2 i.e. do not claim honors as against their patron, claim to be his equals.

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 3.142
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 3.80
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