“We are either kings among men, or the pawns of kings”: Thucydides. Or not. It’s the first time I’ve seen this one on the Twitter, and it’s easy to track down its immediate source: Smallville, season 5 episode 10, Lex Luthor speaking: “Thucydides said, ‘We are either kings among men… or the pawns of kings.'” January 2006, so it’s actually surprising this hasn’t surfaced before. More interesting is the origin of the quote, which certainly isn’t anything to do with Thucydides. Various internet sources attribute a variant to Napoleon Bonaparte: “In this life we are either kings or pawns, emperors or fools.” Doesn’t appear to be authentic – and quite a lot of the citations note that this actually comes from the 2002 film of The Count of Monte Cristo, except that there it recurs in several different, shortened versions – “In life, we’re all either kings or pawns”; “Kings and pawns, Marchand. Emperors and fools”; “We are kings or pawns, a man once said” – that someone has drawn together into a single line. No trace of this in the original Dumas novel, so it does indeed seem to have been invented for the film, and elevated to a sort of theme. Really not the sort of thing that either Napoleon or Thucydides would say… (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘quotations’
“Don’t confuse meaning with truth: Thucydides.” I think I speak for everyone when I say: huh? It’s not just that it’s fake, it’s the fact that it seems, insofar as I have any idea what it’s on about, utterly un-Thucydidean. His basic assumption – even if you interpret this as a neurotic response to trauma, as I’ve suggested in the paper I finished writing on Tuesday – is that establishing the truth about past events is the only road to understanding them, and to understanding the present. I suppose that, if you squint hard enough, you could fit this line to his sense that the significance of e.g. Athenian stories about the Tyrannicides for their sense of identity has no necessary connection to the veracity of such stories, i.e. the fact something is meaningful doesn’t make it true, but that’s definitely a stretch. (more…)
See Part One here.
July A month of very conflicted emotions. On the one hand, back in Berlin; on the other hand, Brexit. On the one hand, the remarkable pleasure to be gained from the Ablehnung of a Ruf, and an opportunity to reflect on the sheer weirdness of German academic appointment processes; on the other hand, Brexit, and the thought that a job in Germany might be no bad thing. On the one hand, some actual research into cheap translations of Thucydides (though not in a REF-able publication, unless the rules change dramatically in the near future); on the other hand, my most-read post of the year on, you guessed it, Brexit… (more…)
Next to the originator of a great sentence is the first quoter of it. Said Emerson. Stories happen only to people who know how to tell them. Said Thucydides. A novel of intellectual reference and allusion, so to speak, minus much of the novel, is money for old rope. Said David Markson. The quotation of a misquotation is still a misquotation. Said @Thucydiocy. (more…)
The Thucydiocy Bot (@Thucydiocy) continues its tireless work to combat misattributed, distorted and downright invented ‘Thucydides’ quotations on the Internet; touched by the people who offer heartfelt thanks for its corrections, irritated by those who insist on the veracity of their version even in the face of actual evidence, and driven to distraction by the gentleman who regularly tweets a legitimate quotation from the Funeral Oration with the tagline ‘Stop Socialism’, as if this was remotely Pericles’ intended meaning. Most depressing, however, is the fact that the same ones appear again and again – especially around Veterans’ Day, when that bloody William F. Butler ‘The nation that divides its scholars from its warriors…’ turns up all over the place…
Just in the last month, however, a marginally different version has appeared (at least, I haven’t found it before 1st November, on the basis of skimming back through the last two months, but it may be older): same quote, but this time with a picture: (more…)
Here is your regular Thucydides Twitter Quotes update, brought to you by @Thucydiocy and its tireless, if erratic, monitoring of quotes and references on Twitter! There’s been a minor upsurge in references recently, to a fair degree in relation to the delightful Trump, and in particular this line:
Someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.
It’s a perfectly genuine quotation, from 8.89, in Rex Warner’s Penguin Classics version. It gets tweeted without comment – too many characters for anything else? – and it would be very interesting to check exactly how different people understand it. In the context of the Donald, it seems reasonably certain that it’s intended as a critical commentary on his pre-emptive questioning of the legitimacy of the election (though it’s not so much that he’s “consoling” himself about the result as preparing the ground for anger and insurrection). Previous to that, I’m less sure; is there a possibility that the emphasis is on “it wasn’t fair” as an actual property of democratic elections, rather than as the sort of thing that losers claim? That this is being offered as further grounds for cynicism about the whole system? (more…)
Another entry for the ‘Fake Thucydides Quotations’ file, passed on to me by the great Thucydides scholar W.R. Connor (who’s now posted something about it on his blog).
Προδότης δεν είναι μόνο αυτός που φανερώνει τα μυστικά της πατρίδας στους εχθρούς, αλλά είναι και εκείνος που ενώ κατέχει δημόσιο αξίωμα, εν γνώσει του δεν προβαίνει στις απαραίτητες ενέργειες για να βελτιώσει το βιοτικό επίπεδο των ανθρώπων πάνω στους οποίους άρχει.
A traitor is not only one who reveals state secrets to enemies, but it’s also that person who, while he holds public office, intentionally[?] does not take the necessary actions to improve the standard of living of the people over whom he governs. [translation by W. Gary Pence]
What’s interesting about this one is that it appears in modern Greek – and, so far as I can ascertain, virtually only in modern Greek; yes, there’s the usual problem of having to guess at possible translations, so I can’t guarantee the results, but so far the only English versions I’ve found appear embedded in Facebook pages and blogs (e.g. here) that are otherwise entirely in Greek, or on websites that are definitely based in Greece (e.g. here).