Envious Damocles and the tyrant Dionysius
“Tusculan Conversations” by Cicero differ from his other writings not only in form but in content. It is a peculiar outline of lectures intended for a vast audience. The author consistently states his point of view on issues of concern to both him and many educated people of the time. The
central problem of philosophical knowledge Cicero considered the problem of finding a happy life and possible ways to achieve it.
One of the fragments of the work of the Roman author contains an instructive account of the tyrant Dionysius the Elder, who ruled in Syracuse at the turn of the 5th and 4th centuries until the new era, and his confidant named Damocles. All the courtiers knew that Damocles was secretly jealous of Dionysius and always spoke of the tyrant with admiration and substracy. The Tsaredvorets regarded his ruler as the happiest man, who during his years of reign achieved everything a man can desire.
Dionysius the Elder knew of hidden envy on the part of Damocles. Driven by a desire to train his favorite and secret envious, the tyrant once arranged a posh feasting to which Damocles invited, sitting him in his place. In the midst of the fun, Damocles saw with horror that a massive and heavy sword was hanging directly above him.
The sharp blade was held on only one thin horsehair, ready to fall on the head of the Tsaredworm.
Watching the reaction of Damocles, Dionysius, addressed the assembled guests and said that at the moment Damocles envied him felt that he, $ ruler of Syracuse, experiences hourly — a sense of constant anxiety and fear for his life. And therefore it makes no sense to envy a tyrant’s position The
sword of Damocles is a symbol of the looming threat
It is this oral tradition that started the use of the phrase “sword of Damocles” and other similar images. This steady combination literally has the meaning of “hanging by the balance,” “being one step away from doom.” When they say that a sword of Damocles hung over a person, they mean that a person is experiencing a constant and invisible threat, ready at any moment to turn into a real and quite tangible trouble. The
sword of Damocles has become a kind of symbol of all the dangers to which man is exposed on his life path, even if to a third party observer his existence seems cloudless and happy. The sword of Damocles is the emblem of the danger that threatens his life.