The classical inspiration | Sunday Observer

The classical inspiration

Although most students do not study Greek, Roman and other classics today, classic tales have enriched the English language. A close look at some of the most popular classical allusions would encourage readers to appreciate their relevance to modern times. In fact, such allusions do not get outdated with the march of time.

When a head of State or his Ministers enjoy themselves while the country is devastated with economic and social problems, you will be reminded of the Roman Emperor Nero, who was fiddling (playing the violin).

The question arises whether Nero ever had a violin. According to historians, the violin had not been invented yet. However, the fact remains that Nero was fond of playing the harp while singing and acting. Contrary to popular opinion, Nero cared for his countrymen more than anybody else. He reportedly entertained homeless people in his own palaces, giving them food and shelter.

Despite such benevolent acts, Nero (AD 37-68) ordered the murder of his mother Agrippina in AD 59 and also executed some leading Romans who turned against him. The expression “To fiddle while Rome burns” passed into the language when he dressed himself in his tragedian’s costume and sang “The Fall of Ilium” after watching the fire that destroyed half of Rome in AD 64. A wave of uprising followed and Nero fled Rome and committed suicide.

Pandora’s Box

Today, the investigation into the infamous Bond issue has opened a Pandora’s Box. In other words, it has invited a lot of unexpected trouble for everybody. The Greek legend that gave rise to the expression is worth remembering. It says the Titan God Prometheus stole fire from heaven and gave it to mankind. Zeus, the King of the Gods was so infuriated that he chained Prometheus to a rock and sent birds to eat his liver every day.

Thereafter, Zeus created Pandora, the first woman, and sent her to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus as a gift. Zeus also gave Pandora a closed box and asked her not to open it as it contained her dowry. However, Pandora innocently opened the box and hate, jealousy and other evils came out of it and filled the world. Fortunately, Pandora also let out hope so that mankind was not deemed to despair.

Pandora married Epimetheus against his brother’s wishes. In another account, Pandora’s Box contained all the blessings of Zeus which would have been preserved for the world had they not been allowed to escape.

In governing a country or running a business establishment, some people resort to Fabian tactics. This is a way of avoiding direct confrontation with the enemy and adopting strategies to wear him out. In a way, it is a kind of patient, long-term planning to achieve a difficult target.

The origin of the phrase “Fabian tactics” can be traced to Quintus Fabius Maximus, the Roman General who lived in the 3rd century BC. He knew that he would lose a straightforward battle against the better equipped Hannibal from Carthage. Fabius ordered his army to ambush Carthaginian soldiers and wear down Hannibal. The strategy worked and Fabius won the war after many years. His enemies in Rome nicknamed Fabius as “Cunctator” meaning “Delayer.” It is interesting to note that George Washington who adopted Fabian tactics was named “The American Fabius.” The Fabian Society, an organization of socialists who aimed at the gradual rather than revolutionary achievement of socialism, founded in 1884, was also named after Fabius.

When we are confronted with a potentially dangerous situation we are reminded of the “Sword of Damocles.” Damocles, a sycophant, pestered King Dionysius I in 400 BC with constant speeches about the joys of royal power.

The king decided to teach him a lesson. Dionysius invited Damocles to a banquet and casually pointed to a sword that was suspended above Damocles’ chair by just a single strand of hair. The king explained that the sword represented the danger that comes with great power. It is said that Damocles got so frightened that he could not enjoy the royal banquet. The Sword of Damocles is now used to refer to a precarious situation.

Bread and circuses

Some rulers entertain the people with circuses and musical events to distract them from burning issues in the country. The purpose is to avert a possible rebellion. Roman satirist Decimus Junius Jevenalis or Juvenal who lived around 100 AD coined the phrase “Bread and circuses.”

It refers to Rome’s nervous leaders who kept the poor people happy with regular gifts of grain to make bread. They also held colourful circuses where gladiators fought each other to death to entertain the people. Juvenal also coined the famous phrase “Sedquiscustodietipsos custodies?” meaning “Who will guard the guards themselves?”

We also come across “Good Samaritans” once in a while. Good Samaritan is a charitable or helpful person mentioned in a parable told by Jesus Christ in Luke Chapter 10 about a man who “fell among thieves” when he was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. The man was left lying by the side of the road. A priest and a man who saw the helpless traveller ignored him and walked on the other side of the road. The third traveller, a Samaritan, took pity and supported him.

There are all kinds of laws in a country. Criminal Law, Civil Law, Commercial Law, Personal Law and Property Law are some of them. Sometimes we hear of Murphy’s Law.

There is no institute to teach Murphy’s Law because it is the Law of Nature. For instance, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. It is named after Captain Edward A. Murphy who studied deceleration for the United States Air Force in 1949 noted that if things could be done wrongly, they would go wrong.

On the other hand, we have Peter Principle according to which members of a hierarchy are promoted until they reach the level at which they are no longer competent. It is named after Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990), the American educationist who put forward the theory. All these can lead to classical inspiration.

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Media must publish all elected members name occupation educational level as soon as they are elected. Their achievements while MPs and their net woth before rafter their term expires. Public must know especially if they prefer to remain in politics. Why media start with present set of MPs