Magazine article The Spectator

ANCIENT AND MODERN - When a Tyrant Falls

Magazine article The Spectator

ANCIENT AND MODERN - When a Tyrant Falls

Article excerpt

After 40 years of a culture of tyranny, what hope for Libya's future?

Plato describes how the tyrant comes to power: he is smiling, affable and promises much. Some enemies he does away with, others he conciliates. The courageous, intelligent and wealthy he eliminates, and appoints a cabinet of creeps. Aristotle pinpoints the general strategy from there on: keep the people demoralised, mistrustful and weak.

In that condition they lack the spirit of enterprise, the confidence to put their faith in each other and the sheer manpower needed to force a tyrant out.

The problem is that, from that position, the tyrant leaves himself no alternative but to continue. As Pericles argued before the Athenian assembly, Athens had to maintain a stranglehold over her empire 'because of the danger from those whose hatred you have incurred in gaining your empire . . .

which you now possess like a tyranny. It may be thought wrong to have acquired it, but to let it go would be extremely dangerous.'

When the first Roman emperor Augustus defeated Marc Antony and Cleopatra in 31 bc, he did not bring about a revolution: senate, consuls, praetors etc remained. …

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