Home > Thinking Out Loud > The Sword Of Damocles

The Sword Of Damocles

“The sword of Damocles” is an anecdote/parable that entered Greek culture around 2.5 millenia ago, sometime in the early BCE period. It’s an easy one to summarize:

Damocles was a courtier during the reign of Dionysus II. Once, he attempted to flatter the king by referring to the power & authority that Dionysus commanded. Dionysus immediately offered to trade places with Damocles for a while, and Damocles agreed.

However, Dionysus also arranged for a sword to be hung (by a single hair of a horse’s tail) above Damocles’s head – to represent the peril and anxiety that he was constantly under.

Damocles begged Dionysus to be relieved of his kingly duties, for he no longer wished to be so fortunate.

So tell me, dear Reader – what would you do in Damocles’s place? Give up immediately and retreat back to a position of safety, or enjoy the comforts/power for a while and then step back?

Or would you ride your luck to see just how far would it take you?

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