More ‘Kissing Congressman’ controversy, 7 Sages: Periander, and Socrates and why he refused to leave Athens

Ah, a little rain in the North State, a welcome respite from the allergies! Let’s jump right into our review of the 7 Sages of Antiquity and look at this week’s sage, Periander of Corinth.

Now, there has been some controversy over whether or not Periander and not Myson should be placed in this group, but enough of the ancient scribes agree that it should be Periander, so I’ll stick with the traditional view.

What we do know about Periander is that he was a builder and constructed a ramp across the Isthmus of Corinth so ships could be dragged across it and allowed access to the Aegean. Corinth made so much money from this that Periander abolished taxes, but this act brought him so much hostility from the aristocracy of Corinth (and other local tyrants who didn’t want to the practice spread), that he only lasted a few years before he was pressured out.

He was famous for a scandal in which his mother, Cratea, supposedly fell in love with him and would routinely sneak into his bed, who he did not reject until word got out; once everyone knew his secret, he moved from being a benevolent ruler to a harsh, cruel dictator who was the first to employ bodyguards for his protection!

Periander, like all the 7 Sages, has a number of statements attributed to him:

‘Don’t do anything for the sake of money’, ‘those who wish to wield absolute power in safety should be guarded by the good will of their countrymen and not by arms’, ‘tranquillity is a good thing and rashness is dangerous’, ‘pleasures are transitory but honour is immortal’, ‘be the same to your friends when they are prosperous as when they are unfortunate,’ and the heavy, ‘punish not only those who do wrong but those who intend to do so’.


An email this week that I not only can’t ignore but I have to spend some time with; from Arthur R:

You said something really interesting at Menz Werkz this year, it was in the lounge afterwards and we were all sitting around talking informally, which I think is one of the best parts of the week, when somebody asked you to compare modern men with Athenian Greek men. I remember you laughed and said, “We are wild beasts compared to the Athenians” and you went on to talk about how they had an unspoken code that everybody believed in together and that’s why nobody really understands Socrates and why he allowed himself to be killed when he could have easily escaped. I didn’t get a chance to ask you more about that, but can you explain what you meant? What don’t we “get” about Socrates? And why are we “wild beasts” in this age of such amazing technological advances? That seemed contradictory.”

Oh, Arthur, what an excellent ‘set-up’ question! Yes, I remember our ‘fireside chat’ quite well, and I’m happy to address this most-misunderstood and critical aspect of the Old Man’s character.

First off, however, I am no definitive Socrates scholar. Hardly! I am, though, a guy who loves to read and has read a lot and what I’ve found, and what my mentor showed me, is that we moderns do not share the Greek Ethos, and thus we cannot understand why Socrates didn’t just split Athens and keep on livin’. What is the Greek Ethos? It is the unconscious but shared belief of the Greeks that unifies them and essentially makes them Greek. Those beliefs are simple and they are 3: reverence for the gods, generosity to guests and strangers, and honoring your family first. Put another way, it’s the idea that, while you may not believe in religion, you never blaspheme it or anyone who holds religious views. Also, that a guest is to be treated with the best you have; nothing is to be spared your guest, or ‘xenia‘, which by the way, is the same word for stranger and in fact, both guest and stranger were given the same courtesies; it was considered a great crime to show treachery or the lack of generosity to any guest or stranger. And, the last taboo, if you will, was that you cannot spill kindred blood. Ever.

Look at the Orestan Trilogy, for example, where Orestes kills his mother Clytemnestra for her killing his father, Agamemnon. It was felt that his crime, while awful, paled in comparison to what she did, and that Orestes had no choice but to honor his father by killing his mother.

I’ll leave off here and state that the reason Socrates couldn’t leave Athens was that there was no other place he could go and be himself. Athens was his home and it was Athens and its conditions that allowed Socrates to become…well, Socrates, and by leaving it to seek safety and a longer life was a violation of his essential principles and, indeed, his ethos. There was no life for Socrates beyond Athens, and exile was more painful to his mind than death, which he never feared. No, he feared being ripped from all that he loved and all that made him who he was, and that was Athens and it made no sense for him to leave like a coward in the dead of night.

Now, a short note on my ‘wild beasts’ comment: I say that because we moderns, unlike the Athenians, are largely creatures given to avoiding reason and yielding to our impulses and reactions. Reason separates us from all other animals and serves to check our worst behavior, but today, we have given over reason in favor of instantly acting upon our feelings and impulses, like a dog or cat or any other non-rational being. So few of us actually observe, both ourselves and the world around us; far too many are simply caught up in their inner world, wherever it may take them…


This week’s MiltnMia Show podcast episode is all about Infidelity and Hypocrisy:

Rep. Vance McAllister and the hypocrisy of ‘standing on the Bible’

Mia and I discuss the recent kissing scandal with Rep. Vance McAllister and his best friend’s wife, which I find to be loaded with both sexism and religious hypocrisy; as Mia says, watching the fraud standing atop his Bible expressing his shame, “He’s only ashamed because he got caught.” I ask rhetorically whether or not we as a society will soon evolve past hypocrisy and learn to take responsibility for ourselves, but Mia feels, “We are all at different levels of evolution, and we are all here to learn; some learn easily, most do not and just keep repeating their mistakes.” Indeed.

Here’s the link to ITunes:!-milt-n/id796661531

If you don’t have an ITunes player, you can hear it directly on TuneIN:


And the Huge News is, our booklet, The Get Over Yourself! Handbook on Cheating and Betrayal, is now available in paperback! Hooray! The Kindle and all e-book formats are not quite ready but should be within the week; here’s the link at Booklocker:


Mia and I are going to retreat into each other’s arms for the remainder of the afternoon, with no intention of emerging any time soon…

Go Giants!

One Response to “More ‘Kissing Congressman’ controversy, 7 Sages: Periander, and Socrates and why he refused to leave Athens”
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] More ‘Kissing Congressman’ controversy, 7 Sages: Periander, and Socrates and why he refu…. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: