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Category Archives: Dialectics

Victor Davis Hanson Interview: Is There an Ancient Cancel Culture?

by January 13, 2021

 

You can read the transcript below:
Anya Leonard  0:08  
Hello, this is Anya Leonard, founder and director of Classical Wisdom. You are listening to Classical Wisdom Speaks, a podcast dedicated to bringing ancient wisdom to modern minds. Today I’m speaking with Victor Davis Hanson, an American classicist, military historian, columnist and farmer. He is Professor Emeritus of Classics at California State University, Ille Anderson Senior Fellow in Classics and Military History at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, as well as the visiting professor at Hillsdale College. He’s a regular writer at the National Review and author of many books, including his most recent, “The Case for Trump”. Today we discuss whether the American president is a Greek hero, what are the ancient parallels to cancel culture and monument removals as well as value of ancient history. 
But before we begin, a quick thank you to our Classical Wisdom Society members who make this podcast possible. If you would like to become a society member and help support the classics, please go to https://classicalwisdom.com and click Start Here. 
Thank you so much for taking your time to speak with me today. I very much appreciate it. I just wanted to say that here at Classical Wisdom, one of the things we sort of strive to do is to show how the classics are still really relevant today and how they can be an important source of wisdom in our modern world. This works for learning lessons from ancient examples, but also with regards to approaching difficulties and especially controversial issues.
So I often like telling people the stoics are very helpful for being able to hear different opinions and not necessarily be offended, but to think rationally. As well as the skeptics, you know, suspend judgment when hearing different views so that you can actually hear them. So these are some of the ways in which I find that the ancient world can be helpful in dealing with our very modern notions.
And so as yourself a classicist, I know you also have a lot of opinions on current events. And so I would like to hear from you what do you think of the modern notions of cancel culture or being woke or collective guilt? And do they have comparable ancient examples? And what can we learn from those?
Victor Davis Hanson  2:41  
Now just to preface that comment by saying that most things in the ancient world have parallels in the modern, or at least the modern world, if it looks at the renaissance or the enlightenment or the middle or dark ages. There’s echoes of the ancient world and prior to the ancient world not so much. So it’s a friend, it’s a crutch. It’s an aid to go to make sure that you’re not crazy or you’re not alone and that you’ve seen it all before.
So if you take canceled culture or statue toppling, we have iconoclasm that starts in the eastern Empire and lasts for about 300 years during the Byzantine period. Statue toppling was a little bit more economical because there was a standard body set type and you could decapitate a Roman emperor’s head and substitute another one. We haven’t done that yet, but we may get there. So there was Damnatio Memoriae, and that was that we trotskyized people’s names so that they were no longer mentioned, or their relatives no longer existed.
In ancient Athens, depending on the year, little over 6000 votes were required to ostracize someone. That was important because it was similar to canceled culture. There was no need in a court of law or in a dispassionate, disinterested fashion to prove real culpability. It was basically a mob reaction to unpopularity. Almost everybody who was significant in ancient Athens at one time or another was ostracized. 
So we have all of those ideas of hate, of shaming. The ancient world was not a modern guilt culture. And that is that there wasn’t a notion of private transgression between you and your God in the Christian sense. And that’s where we are now, because we’re largely in the West either an atheistic or agnostic society. And we don’t really see private sin as something that imperils our mortal soul. And there’s something for us to look for guidance in religious scriptures and things to address. Rather it’s a ‘shame culture’ where we try to enforce public morality by making fun of people or attacking the way they think or ostracizing people around them or making it hard for their employer to hire them. 
When you look at the forensic speeches of Demosthenes, Aeschines, and a lot of Lysias Isias inheritance cases, there’s an effort to create a picture of an opponent that he’s just in every aspect of manner is not to be liked and not to be associated with. Demosthenes doesn’t like Aeschines. Besides policy differences, you’ve got to know that maybe Aeschines’ mother committed prostitution in a public bathroom or something. And it’s that type of cancel culture that’s very similar to the ancient world, at least at times.
We also have the mob, in the third book of Thucydides’ History, has that chilling exegesis of the revolution of Corcyra where words change their names and reality is not what we’ve seen. And the keyword there is the blunter wits win. And by that he means those who just saw what was at stake, they understood violence was the answer. They went out and decapitated their enemies. They didn’t think twice about it, didn’t try to over rationalize, and they were successful, sort of like Hitler’s brown shirts, with a Nazi move.
They were the blunter wits from the underclasses and they were used to thuggery. And I think, in today’s Western protest, there’s a sense that you don’t really have to justify whether Robert E. Lee is any different than James T Longstreet; they both are Confederate. Or maybe Frederick Douglass, he’s not up to your current standards of wokeness. You just go out and do it. And you do it because you want to do it. You say to people, “what are you going to do about it?” And Thucydides saw that as a very dangerous development in society, that the blunter wits will prevail.
Thucydides

Thucydides Mosaic from Jerash, Jordan (Roman, 3rd century CE) at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Anya Leonard  7:13  
And so if you have the knowledge of these ancient events, does that help shape a response or a view? I mean, you know, they say those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, but those who know history are doomed to watch others repeat it. Is there anything you can do with that kind of knowledge?
Victor Davis Hanson  7:35  
Well, you could be careful because everybody left and everybody right thinks that they have the only insight into the true lessons of history and their views or exegesis is conditioned by their modern proclivities. But that being said, there is a universal and that is that you’re not alone, that you don’t wake up in the morning and think you’re the most important person. That in 2020 as a whole, this has never happened before, whether it’s the ancient world or the French Revolution, you can see parallels and you can see how people on both sides dealt with them. And you can predict what’s going to happen.
So of course, Corcyra or in the revolution of 411 and Athens or the career of Theramenes, or you can see what Xenophon talks about in the first and second book of his History, you can see what happens in these revolutionary cycles. Eventually, they all, and the 30 tyrants are the same thing, as we know from Xenophon as well. They start to peter out because the logical, rational trajectory is that nobody is ever going to be able to satisfy their claims on revolutionary purity and authenticity and genuineness.
And so they start, whether it’s Robespierre or the 30. They start turning on their own. And they say, well, yesterday’s revolutionary is today’s Revolutionary. We’re seeing that in the contemporary field in some sense, that today as we’re speaking a prominent moderate voice at the New York Times, Bari Weiss just resigned and said there’s no place for her because she’s been canceled out. And we’re starting to see 150 liberal writers, artists, celebrities of sorts, write to Harper’s and say, “This is not sustainable, because now they’re going after us.” And that’s sort of reminiscent of the reign of terror between 1793 and 1794 when the Jacobins finally devoured Jacobins and they put an end to it. So things like that, those trends that are not so controversial, I think are very helpful.
Anya Leonard  9:41  
And you mentioned before the Damnatio memoriae during the Roman time period, you know, that was a very common thing to do, say, topple Caligula, or one of those guys who you know had just been murdering your family. And when I think of a modern parallel to that, tearing down the statues of Stalin or Saddam, you know, again very recent trauma in your life. But would you have had any ancient examples of people tearing down statues referring to incidences that had happened hundreds of years beforehand rather than just the most recent tyrant?
Victor Davis Hanson  10:18  
No, I mean, I, I think you could argue that when there were destructions, deliberate destructions of icons, it was more a them-us foreign-domestic, Persians coming in after Thermopylae, for example, and destroying sanctuaries or shrines in Boeotia or after the Persian war. The Greeks came together and argued whether they should or should not rebuild the temples and statuary that the Persians had destroyed. There wasn’t top offs in ancient literature that when certain thugs were short of money, especially in the post-classical period and in the fourth-century onward bc, they would raid Delphi and strip off precious metals from some of the statues, but it was always more careerist, more fiscal, more monetary than it was ideological.
And I think we in the United States have had periods of this, the Salem witch trials, the McCarthy period, but we’ve never, that I remember, and I’m speaking as someone 66, we’ve never had people go after statues with so little rationale. I mean, it started with anybody that had a confederate uniform and any statue, bronze, or stone that was put up in the south had to come down or even the North. And then as I said it went to anybody who seemed to be not of this century, a Teddy Roosevelt or Ulysses S Grant, so we very quickly got away from the idea that Confederate racist mediocrities are what we’re going to focus on and that will somehow make us feel better and solve social problems if we destroy that iconographic expression.
We didn’t stay there long, we metamorphosed into almost anything of the farthest era, as I said, it can be Teddy Roosevelt, it can be Ulysses S. It can be Frederick Douglass, it can be black civil war veterans because it’s a puritanical expression that you have to be good, you have to be perfect. And this pampered generation that has more leisure and affluence and technological appurtenances than any generation in history really does believe, like Hesiod’s warning that with technological or material progress comes ethical progress. Whereas the Greeks, I think, you could argue, there’s a long strain in Homer from the windy lectures by Nestor or Hesiod, especially that with material progress comes a danger of ethical regress. That people have to keep busy, they have to keep working and when they’re idle and wealthy, and there is an anti-aristocratic and anti plutocratic flavor in Greek literature for that reason.
Anya Leonard  13:25  
And so speaking of ethics and good morals, you’ve written before about heroes, specifically, in your book the “Case for Trump” and when you liken the president to a hero, but with the very important caveat of what an ancient Greek hero is, which is quite a bit different than I think what most people think heroes are like. Do you still feel this is the case today and maybe more importantly, are Greek heroes something that we want in our modern world, are they something to look up to?
Victor Davis Hanson  14:01  
Well, there was an important adjective that I added in that book. And that was tragic heroes. I mean, we have epic heroes. We have heroes, we have tragic heroes. Usually, a tragic hero in the locus classicus, the seven extant plays of Sophocles: Ajax, Philoctetes, Antigone, Oedipus, is that they have a flawed, they have something that’s a hamartia sin, and that is revealed in times of stress or disruption or crisis, and it seems to consume them.
Ajax

Ajax battling Hector, engraving by John Flaxman, 1795

And even though they can be of great value, because they’re outliers, they’re not part of society. The methodology which they use to solve a crisis is also the one that makes them unfit. So we know that Antigone was the only one who has the courage to bury her brother, but she does so in such an off-putting manner there’s really no place for her because she solves the problem and shows that women should not be judged by their gender, but by their personalities and their innate essence. But by proving that she’s also not going to be comfortable either on her own part or by society’s part.
Same as Ajax. By all accounts, Ajax was the better warrior than Odysseus. He was blunt, he was simple, black and white Manichean view of the world and yet he doesn’t get the armor of Achilles, and he rails and he’s angry. And there’s no place for a guy like that in a modern polis society.
I could go on but that was very influential in the American Western. And I pointed that out in the book that John Ford, as well as others, if you look in the 1950s coming out of the post-war era, there was a series of movies, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” with John Wayne, “The Searchers” with John Wayne, “The Magnificent Seven,” a John Sturges’ movie with Yul Brynner and “Shane” was probably the most iconic with Gary Cooper. And then the plots are all the same, the so-called townspeople of the polis, in other words, the city-state, is at an impasse. Whether it’s a Mexican village, or it’s Hadleyville or it’s an effort to find a missing girl that’s been kidnapped, and they need somebody who is not of them. In other words, they’re willing to do things and say things that reflect the way it really is without convention, without mannerism. And they’re very successful. Shane will take out all of the cattle barons that need to be taken out. But the very methodology in which they employ makes them tragic. Because even though they created civilization or restored civilization, they’re not of civilization, and that’s tragic because they get no credit.
And what I was trying to point out about Trump is he seems to always complain. He’ll say, “well, I got the economy. They say I’m racist, but I’ve got the lowest black and Latino unemployment in history. We’ve got the most energy production natural gas, the United States. We’re no longer dependent on Mideast oil. I was tougher on Russia than anybody in the Obama administration.” He goes and rails and rails and rails of the injustice of all that not getting credit. And what he doesn’t realize is that 46% of the country elected him not to give him credit. But because he was an outsider with certain skill sets to come in and deal with the Chinese mercantilism, unfair trade, and the hollowing out of the industrial interior, non-enforcement of immigration law, so-called optional wars in the Middle East in a strategic sense didn’t in a cost-benefit analysis instead of pencil out. And once he did that, then he wouldn’t be either necessarily thanked or acknowledged, but he would have got them done because he was not part of the system.
So the Republican establishment, the pundit class, hated him as much as the left did. And so I don’t think he understood that he was in a tragic role and tragic doesn’t mean bad or good. It just means that you’ve created the very conditions under which you’re going to benefit somebody else, but not yourself. And you’re going to be angry over that unchangeable, unalterable fact.
Anya Leonard  18:32  
So does that mean he’s fated to end up like Antigone or Ajax?
Victor Davis Hanson  18:36  
Yes, I think he is. I mean, he was on TV this morning, and he didn’t look very well. 74 years old, he’s too heavy. He’s stressed out. He’s down in the polls, I think he’s still probably will win. But I think that whether he’s out of the presidency in 2021 or 25, I don’t think he’s gonna be invited to funerals with other presidents. I don’t think NPR is going to have him on to josh around with George W. Bush and Barack Obama. I don’t think when you get your annual ratings of presidents’ evaluations by our eminent academic historians, I don’t think he’s going to be rated in the way that they might have rated other people that had a particular effect on GDP or unemployment or energy production or foreign affairs. That’s just not going to happen.
Anya Leonard  19:34  
It’s interesting though, because it’s always cyclical. I mean, I don’t live in America and I haven’t lived in America for a very long time. So I try, not to feel grandiose in any regard, but I always feel like Thucydides sometimes because you know, I’m always on the outside looking in and when you’re not in it, you don’t feel it the same way then when you’re looking outwards. And it seems like you know, people complain so much about George W. Bush now Oh, he’s fine. He’s kind of a lovable character. It’s amazing. You think of every Roman Emperor, they always think this one’s really the worst at the time. But then with time they think actually, that one wasn’t so bad.
Victor Davis Hanson  20:13  
That’s right out of what  Suetonius said always starts the same. If you read with Suetonius with an uncritical eye, then you say, well, wow, Caligula was horrible, and Claudius was a dunce. And then Nero was horrible. And then we have the four emperors and then, but when you read it more critically, you can see that a lot of the criticism is of the person in office at the time.
There’s sort of a trope, a Suetonian trope in America that because the universities, the foundations, the entertainment industry, and especially the media tend to be left of center, they look at a republican president as a threat, an existential threat to their whole progressive agenda. So when George H W Bush got elected in 88, with the help of Lee Atwater, who ran a, what I would call a pretty tough campaign analogous to what James Carville would do four years later with Bill Clinton, then he was horrible. He ran a tank commercial against Dukakis. He had a Willie Horton commercial. He was a wimp. You know, it was just a terrible guy. Then he was out. And we had the Clinton years.
And then we had George W. Bush. And after his initial popularity after 911, waned, and we got into the acrimonious years of the Iraq war, and Why couldn’t it be more like a statesman, like his centrist father? The aristocrat bluestock we didn’t really like him, but he was a sobering, judicious father figure. Instead, he was a Texas twangy Exron he was horrible. He was a Nazi browning, Al Gore said he was a brown shirt, John Glenn said he’s Nazi-like. We had the whole Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore and we went through the Nazi thing. There were op-eds, I think in The Guardian, correct me if I’m wrong, said, Where’s John Wilkes Booth when we need him? Pretty tough stuff. Then he’s gone.
Now we have Donald Trump and lo and behold George W. Bush was a sober and judicious president. And we did the same thing with Reagan. They hated Reagan, they said you Reagan is the most polarizing person. And now Reagan is the godfather of bipartisanship. And I don’t know if that’ll happen with Trump. It depends on who replaces him. If we go back to the Marquess of Queensbury rules republicans then yeah, he will not be rehabilitated. But if we get a populist nationalist in the Trump tradition, who is successful, and at some point the left will say, you know, why couldn’t he be more like Donald Trump? Donald Trump was not that bad.
Anya Leonard  22:57  
Yeah, we only see these things with hindsight. 
Thank you for listening to Classical Wisdom Speaks a podcast dedicated to bringing ancient wisdom to modern minds. Society members can listen to the entire podcast on classical wisdom.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Is Karma REAL?

by January 11, 2021

History is replete with examples of those getting what they deserve… as well as those who do not.
Living in a land where so many Nazis fled is proof enough. One of the main organizers of the ‘final solution,’ Adolf Eichman was kidnapped from a well-to-do neighborhood and shipped to Israel for trial. Meanwhile the evil doctor Mengele, who at one point lived up the road in Buenos Aires, enjoyed a long life traveling around the world, taking ski holidays and infamously never once felt repentant.
So… what gives? Doesn’t really seem fair, does it? It begs the question, does Karma exist?
Well, the ancients would have most definitely said yes. Not only did they feel consequences would follow actions, they deified it.
Nemesis was the goddess of retribution, following acts of hubris with the certainty of the sun rising… the only catch is that it might not be in one’s lifetime. Indeed, they felt the son can suffer for his father’s sins… as anyone who has heard the tales of Agamemnon or Oedipus can attest to.
Like the Inuits and their multiple words for snow, the concept was so deeply ingrained in ancient Greek culture and mythology that there were many revenge ‘gods’.
There was also Até, a more unpredictable figure, not necessarily personified, a rash, chaotic, response. Até was a chain reaction, a mechanism in which evil succeeds evil.
The most famous example is no doubt in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” when Mark Antony addresses the body of Caesar and predicts civil war:

“And Caesar’s spirit ranging for revenge,
With Até by his side, come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines, with a monarch’s voice,
Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war…”

“Marc Antony’s Oration at Caesar’s Funeral” as depicted by George Edward Robertson

But just because the ancient Greeks and Romans believed in karma, with Nemesis and Até ready to dish just desserts, doesn’t mean it always happened that way. Like our more modern evildoers, the ancient world is filled with unpunished villains and underserved victims alike.
So where does this lead us dear reader? Does Karma exist? Does what go around come around? Does this ancient concept translate to our modern age? And should we act as if it does?
As always, you can write to me directly at [email protected] or comment below.

What have we learned in 2020? And how do we plan for 2021?

by January 4, 2021

I’m always a big fan of liminality. For those unfamiliar with the word, it is an anthropological term, coming from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”. The concept is easy enough to grasp; it’s that strange moment in between two boundaries, the transition between one stage and another. It’s a point of ritual, a rite of passage that is both poignant and ambiguous.
It can include initiation into a group, like a wedding… or a transition in one’s life, such as achieving a puberty… or moving to a new location or situation.
Of course, liminality can be found in the ancient world…. Whether over the literal threshold of the Delphic Oracle (of which today’s mailbag responses pertain to), the sacred acts of the numerous mystery cults, or interwoven again and again in the mythology.
Delphi

Ruins of forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, where know thyself was once said to be inscribed

The epic tale of Cupid and Psyche, for instance, is a classic example of liminality in myth.
Psyche, both too beautiful to be human and yet not quite a goddess, proves her very existence is liminal. Her marriage to Death in Apuleius’ version makes her no longer a maiden, yet not quite a wife. Moreover, she resides between worlds… and then her transition to immortality to live with Cupid serves as a liminal rite of passage. She shifts from mortal to immortal, human to goddess, when Psyche drinks the ambrosia and seals her fate.
The rite is completed and the tale ends with a joyous wedding and the birth of Cupid and Psyche’s daughter… a rare example of a happily ever after Greek myth!


Psyche and Amor, also known as Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss (1798), by François Gérard: a symbolic butterfly hovers over Psyche in a moment of innocence poised before sexual awakening.

Liminality can also simply reflect the passage of time.
The dawn and the dusk… birthdays…. New Year’s Eve.
It is the latter one, which may be the most astounding of all… because no other liminal stage is felt by so many at the same time. Within one 24 hour period, literally billions mark the moment of one year becoming the next. Even in cultures that traditionally did not follow the Gregorian calendar now light up their buildings with fireworks in massive international cohesive effort.
What do we do with this liminal moment? It is a time to reflect, to plan, to remember and to visualize.
And so with this contemplative stream of thought, we ask this week’s mailbag question, dear reader:
What have we learned in 2020? And how do we plan for 2021? Both as individuals and as a collective community…
As always you can write me directly at [email protected] or comment below.
A quick word before we get into today’s responses, please note that those wishing to partake in the Essential Greeks 2021 program, the course will begin SUNDAY, January 17th. Our welcome webinar will commence at noon EST (eastern standard time, US).
Also, we are offering the Early bird special for a few days more – so if you are interested, take advantage and get $100 off the total price!

How Can We Know Ourselves?

by December 21, 2020

“Know Thyself”
From the Greek γνῶθι σεαυτόν to the Latin nosce te ipsum or temet nosce….
You probably recognize the saying… Especially if you watched this weekend’s Classical Wisdom webinar on the Delphic Oracle.
These two words have had a profound impact on history, philosophy and the development of wisdom itself.
Arguably the most famous of the 147 maxims inscribed on the Temple of Apollo, “Know thyself” is one of the moral rules given by the Greek god Apollo’s Oracle at Delphi, Pythia. They were attributed to Apollo, but this particular saying was also said to be conceived by the philosopher Thales or Phemonoe, a mythical Greek poet.

Temple of Apollo at Delphi, by Albert Tournaire

It could also just be an ancient proverb, its source lost to history’s ether.
No matter its origins, the inscription influenced Socrates, Plato, Aeschylus… to name a few greats from the ancient world.
The modern philosophers were also not immune; Hobbes, Pope, Rousseau, Emerson referenced the importance of knowing oneself.
Even the “Pliny of the North” and father of Modern Taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, published the first edition of Systema Naturae in which he described humans (Homo) with the simple phrase “Nosce te ipsum”.

Detail from the 6th edition of Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae (1748). “HOMO. Nosce te ipsum.”

Great! We are all agreed then – we should know ourselves. But that’s just where the difficulty begins.
Founding father Benjamin Franklin, writing in his Poor Richard’s Almanack, observed just how tricky it is to accomplish this task:
“There are three Things extremely hard, Steel, a Diamond, and to know one’s self.”
So, let us see if together we can make some headway on the topic… to take a moment during this chaotic season to be truly reflective and to think about one of the most important rules of the ancient world:
How can we know ourselves? What can we do to accomplish this? Is this a Maxim for Modern life?
As always, you can comment below or write me directly at [email protected]
Feature Image: Allegorical painting from the 17th century with text Nosce te ipsum

Should We Keep Traditions?

by December 14, 2020

“My father’s family were all German jews… my mother’s Russian. So, they are definitely both jewish! Ashkenazis…But we aren’t really that jewish.”
A confused look from across the socially distanced picnic blankets -under an ironically decorative menorah at the German plaza here in Buenos Aires- prompted a further explanation.
His pretty new blond wife chimed in, “yes, I tried to show my appreciation of the culture and made a Challah bread (a traditional jewish bread) for the family… the grandmother asked what it was!”
Our Argentine friend confirmed, “We always celebrate rosh Hashanah (Jewish new Year), but not much else. In fact, this will be our first Hanukkah.”
Indeed it was… I was surprised by how little he knew! He didn’t even know what the dreidel was… or how to light the Menorah.

The most famous preserved representation of the menorah of the Temple was depicted in a frieze on the Arch of Titus, commemorating his triumphal parade in Rome following the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE

But then again, should he? After all, what meaning does a candle lighting ceremony have in our modern world? For Hanukkah or any other tradition?
The ancient world was filled with traditions, very different from the ones we carry on today. While they may have been sacrificing animals or jumping over bulls, we eat crackers and say it’s someone’s body.
Or perhaps most bizarrely…. move an elf on a shelf?
At the end of the day, none of these traditions will live forever – though some have certainly lasted a long time. The Menorah, after all, was described in the bible… but how long will it last if the descendants don’t even recognize it?
This brings us to this week’s mailbag question:
Should we keep traditions? Who decides which ones? And why should we in the first place?
As always, you can email me directly at [email protected] or comment below.

How do you handle SLANDER?

by December 7, 2020

In the ancient Greek world, they cared about what others thought of them… really cared. In fact, there was a term for it: Kleos.
Kleos is often translated to “renown”, or “glory”, but this interpretation misrepresents this essential and insightful term. Kleos is actually related to the word “to hear” and carries the implied meaning of “what others hear about you”.
Odysseus at the house of Alcinoos

Odysseus at the house of Alcinoos… telling his tales

The emphasis, you probably noticed, is on what people hear about you, rather than the actual act itself. This is a little strange to our modern ethical sensibilities…because your kleos -potentially- doesn’t have to have been honestly deserved. Indeed, the wily Odysseus often gets it by trickery or straight out lies!
The second issue with the concept of kleos is equally frustrating. We don’t actually have any control over what people say or hear about us, which I think we may all agree is a bit unfair… How can we be defined by what we can not control? Perhaps those ‘others’ may be talking us up, regaling folks with our fantastic tales and praising our positive attributes… or perhaps not.
What, then, can we do with our reputation?
This is something the ancients discussed at length, especially the Stoics. The Greek philosopher Epictetus confirmed that, “Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.”

Epictetus – the slave stoic philosopher…

Meanwhile Marcus Aurelius laments in his diary, The Mediations, “Now they see you as a beast, a monkey. But in a week they’ll think you’re a god.”
But dealing with slander or bad gossip doesn’t just happen to philosopher-kings or philosopher-slaves… even the humble workings of Classical Wisdom isn’t immune to a bit of libel now and then.
Indeed, just the other day your editor saw a blog by one of our previous guests accusing us of having some sort of “extreme agenda” because our recent Symposium featured a diversity of ideas. Some even came from a different political background! We aren’t sure what elaborately erroneous mental obstacles they had to jump through to arrive at such an unsustained opinion… but the end result is still slander.
It’s hard to read something untrue… and it’s also hard to know how to respond. Sadly, we also know we aren’t alone, that at one point or another, we will all suffer this misfortune.
And so, with that in mind, we ask your advice and opinion, dear reader, as this week’s question:
How do you handle Slander? What can we do with bad gossip? Is there a way to improve our Kleos?
As always you can comment below or write me directly at [email protected].