Culpability of Kings (Part II)


Archelaus: What is a just law?


Kallikrates: A law that will best satisfy the needs of the people and will preserve their lives and dignity.


Archelaus: But what of laws that will protect the people from harm?


Kallikrates: The people will come to harm or they will not. The law can only mitigate or enhance the effect of the harm done. No law will prevent harm, if by harm you mean violence done against the people from without as I assume you do.


Archelaus: I do indeed.


Kallikrates: There is no law issued from Athens that Persians will respect, at least not as long as they remain Persians. The Persians will act as Persians or they will not. If they will not then no law is needed to stay their actions, if they act as Persians then there is no law that will cause them to do otherwise. The only effect a law of Athens can have is upon Athenians.


Archelaus: I will grant you that, but, begging a pardon, so what? What of the culpability of kings?


Kallikrates: Now you ask the right question!


Archelaus: So give me the right answer then, my friend!


Kallikrates: Do you remember what I said of my son and his love for the fool Dionysus?


Archelaus: Yes, and I do not wholly understand why it is relevant to Pericles and his prerogative.


Kallikrates: Patience Archelaus. I am long winded but I do get to the point. My son loved the fool Dionysus for reasons that are his own. He could have just as easily had other reasons for not loving him. In much the same way the people of Athens will love or hate Pericles for whatever reasons are there own.


Archlaus: Yes, but they will also love him based on his deeds and words.


Kallikrates: Ah, but I say his deeds and words will be loved only so much as he is already loved. No act is on its own loved or unloved without the context of how the act is perceived by each man on his own terms. Pericles will impress many men in Athens with his martial prowess and skill and he will look a fool for the same reasons in the eyes of other men.


Archlaus: I see what you mean, but, what does is the point?


Kallikrates: The point is, the people will love or they will hate Pericles for their own reasons, individually. This will not be changed by his acts or by his words. For every convert to his cause there will be another lost to his enemies. Such is the way of men and those things that they love. In this way Pericles, and every other king or would be king, is like a beautiful youth: they will be loved, or they will not be loved.


Archelaus: I am beginning to understand what you mean. But, I have found a flaw in your logic.


Kallikrates: Have you now? Please, what flaw have you found?


Archelaus: Pericles is no king! Nor does he wish to be a king.


Kallikrates: I expected that was your problem with my argument. I shall answer your charge with a question: what is a king? Or at least, how would you describe a the characteristics of a king?


Archelaus: Well, a king is one with noble, proud blood who would deign to rule men. He is the best of men and rules by the royal prerogative.



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