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Socio-Political Significance of Herodotos' Hybris and Phthonos and Thucydides' Rule of Power and Tyche

Journal: Athens Journal of History (Vol.1, No. 1)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 65-82

Keywords : ;

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Hybris (arrogance) and the states potentially caused by hybris, phthonos (zealousy or envy), and ate (disaster) or nemesis (punishment), in Herodotus frequently are attributed to Xerxes. And hybris does not refer to the monarchic domination itself, but the ambition for an excessive scale of territory. A king's conquest used to result in a temporary increase of military power, and the power of Persia was almost irresistible, many times greater than the target of its conquest. Once the conquest was completed and the king's sovereignty recognized, however, his rule pretended to follow conventional usage. And the ruled under the king were regarded as 'king's slaves,' who were dominated not necessarily under the oppression and control of standing army. Thucydides hybris, however, refers to the Athenians as a community. The target of Athenian’s conquest was not the slaves, and the military forces of the Athenian rivals were a close match for the Athenians. So the Athenian militaristic hegemony could be sustained only by superiority of military power, irrelevant to any traditional custom. In this kind of balance of power, human errors or insolence could bring about fatal disasters much more in war time than in peace, as human mistakes bear more risk in the situation of war. And, different from the Persian king’s ambition for a larger territory, the principle, 'rule of power' as a natural law, applicable even to small area, irrelevant of territorial extent. The punishment in Herodotos was inflicted by deity against the hybris committed by individuals, but in Thucydides by Tyche (Fortune) which alters situations unexpectedly and causes disaster to a community, irrelevant of whether one commits hybris or not.

Last modified: 2015-04-01 22:01:28