RO2 – Power and Madness, some thoughts

Dear Team

I didn’t bring up this point at our last call because it felt like a digression and that as it is I talk a lot during our conference calls and tend to steer the discussion in some odd directions, so I was self censoring but…. the following keeps bugging me.

We seemed to agree with Herodotus that Cambyses was mad….. but I wonder.  He was a Persian king and Herodotus  tells us that the Persian king  has power to do anything – even to marry his sister for no laws apply to the Persian king.  What is power- absolute power- worth and how does it get established -in the absence of a system based upon the consent of the governed-except through tyranny?

The more overt, random and capricious ways power is expressed seems to me to amplify its power, especially in a system in which conquest is the name of the game. If even your servants, who know you well enough not to follow your orders because you will in all probability change
your mind, suffer death because you will not be predictable, even when you take the action they have predicted; are you not supremely powerful and answerable only to yourself?  Does this not cause men to fear you more?  The much less powerful usurping illegitimate Magus still had the power of office that made the seven conspirators hesitant  until Darius, man of action, forced their hand.

Otanes’ speech pg. 207. outlines the absolute power of monarchy and how it destroys both ruler and subject. The intensity, randomness, and outside the norms actions of Cambyses make his power all the more oft putting and reinforce his absolute power.  I say crazy like a fox.

Herodotus has told us several stories  that imply that the greatest man is he who sacrifices himself for the family or the state, Perhaps Herodotus dwells so long on Cambyses deeds  to underscore the evils of monarchy and capricious selfish action and contrast him with the ideal man who  serves the state.


08. March 2007 by Arrian
Categories: Commentary, Herodotus | 1 comment

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