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Sword of Damocles


Anna Richards
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Damocles, (flourished 4th century BCE), a courtier of Dionysius I of Syracuse, in Sicily, tyrant from 405 to 367 BCE. The courtier is known to history through the legend of the “Sword of Damocles.”

 

According to the legend, when Damocles spoke in extravagant terms of his sovereign’s happiness, Dionysius invited him to a sumptuous banquet and seated him beneath a naked sword that was suspended from the ceiling by a single thread. Thus did the tyrant demonstrate that the fortunes of men who hold power are as precarious as the predicament in which he had placed his guest.

 

Dionysius I, also called Dionysius the Elder, (born c. 430 BC—died 367), tyrant of Syracuse from 405 who, by his conquests in Sicily and southern Italy, made Syracuse the most powerful Greek city west of mainland Greece. Although he saved Greek Sicily from conquest by Carthage, his brutal military despotism harmed the cause of Hellenism.

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