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A Lesson in Democracy

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Timoleon

Once upon a time, the Greek settlers in Sicily were oppressed by tyrants, who had the backing of Carthage. They sent to their founding city, Corinth, to plead for help, but no one wanted to take on such a hopeless mission. Finally someone thought to nominate Timoleon to lead it–a man who had once been something of a civic hero, but who’d been so long in retirement that most people thought he’d died. Timoleon consented to his appointment as general, and set sail for Sicily with a token force that no one ever expected to see again: for the tyrants of Sicily were fierce and powerful, and the might of Carthage stood behind them.

To make a long story short, Timoleon performed military miracles, rid the island of the tyrants, defeated the Carthaginians, and restored democracy to the city of Syracuse.

For which he himself was accused of tyranny and put on trial for it: and to which he said that he had prayed that he would live to see the Syracusans given the right of free speech. As Plutarch said, every lark must grow a crest, “and every democracy a false accuser.” Some things never change. But in Timoleon’s case, his mild reply so shamed his accusers that they dropped their charges; and the city permitted him to grow old and die in peace, honored by all.

People do have short memories and are also short on gratitude. Those were two reasons why our country’s founders gave us a republic instead of a democracy.

To say nothing of our own modern variants of folly: “Alexa, who should I vote for?”

Study history, and learn what to expect.

And pray for better–to God who is sovereign over history. The ancient Greeks did not know that, but we do. Don’t we?


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