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pudding' which tyrants eat. He sat crowned at the head of a luxurious banquet, in the midst of odours, music, and homage; and saw, suspended by a hair over his head, a naked sword. This, it must be confessed, was a happy thought of the royal poetma practical cpigram of the very finest point. ....
“ Plato; who visited both the Dionysiuses, to induce them to become philosophers! He might as well have asked tigers in a sheepfold to prefer a dish of green peas."'*
The conduct and fortunes of the elder Dionysius are referred to by Mr. Stuart Mill, as a standard illustration, from that history which men call philosophy teaching by example, of the successive stages of the “despot's progress.” Here, too, he observes,t the avenging Nemesis attends ; but, as usual with the misdeeds of rulers, the punishment is vicarious: the younger Dionysius, a “ weak and self-indulgent, but good-natured and rather well-meaning inheritor of despotic power," having to suffer the penalty of the usurpation and the multiplied tyrannies of his energetic and unscrupulous father.
Mr. Grote's portrait of the latter, is that of a man all whose appetites were merged in the love of dominion, at home and abroad; and of money as a means of doininion: to the service of which master passion all his energies were devoted, together with those vast military resources which an unscrupulous ability served both to accumulate and to recruit. How the tyrant's treasury was supplied, with the large exigencies continually pressing upon it, we are but little informed. We know, however, that his exactions from the Syracusans were exorbitant; that he did not hesitate to strip the holiest temples; and that he left behind him a great reputation for ingenious tricks in extracting money from his subjects.
" Both the vague general picture, and the fragmentary details which come before us, of his conduct towards the Syracusans, present to us nothing but an oppressive and extortionate tyrant, by whose fiat numberless victims perished; more than ten thousand, according to the general language of Plutarch. He enriched largely his younger brothers and auxiliaries; among which latter, Hipparinus stood prominent, thus recovering a fortune equal to or larger than that which his profligacy had dissipated. But we hear also of acts of Dionysius, indicating a jealous and cruel temper, even towards near relatives." I
This, indeed, is a salient point in the tyrant's character. For it appears certain, as the historian amply shows, that Dionysius trusted no one-Lotévwy óvdevi, are Plato's own words ; that though in the field he was a perfectly brave man, yet his suspicion and timorous anxiety as to everyone who approached his person, were carried to the most tormenting excess, and extended even to his wives, his brothers, his daughters. “Afraid to admit any one with a razor near to his face, he is said to have singed his own beard with a burning coal. Both his brother and his son were searched for concealed weapons, and even forced to change their clothes in the presence of his guards, before they were permitted to see him.” We are told, too, of an officer of the guards, named Marsyas, who dreamed that he was assassinating Dionysius, being put to death for this dream, as proving that his waking thoughts must have been dwelling upon such a project. Other examples of the like tragical freaks are to be read of in Plutarch, and in the anecdotes recounted by Cicero in his Tusculan Disputations and elsewhere. That about his brother Leptines, for instance, who was one day describing the situation of a place, and took a spear from one of the guards to trace the plan; a liberty which scandalised Dionysius beyond measure--and the result of which was the execution of the soldier who had parted with his spear for a few seconds, to oblige Leptines, and aid in the topographical demonstrations of that too demonstrative kinsman. Dionysius owned himself afraid of the sense and sagacity of his friends, because he knew that with sense and sagacity to put this and that together, to make deductions and draw comparisons, they could not but think it more eligible to rule than to be ruled, to govern than to obey. Their stolid ignorance would have been his bliss : in more instances than one or two, it was their folly to be wise.
* A Jar of Honey from Mount Hybla, pp. 29 sq. † Mill's Dissertations and Discussions in Philosophy, &c., vol. ii. p. 513. Í Grote, History of Greece, vol. xi. part ii. ch. lxxxiii.
Appian tells the story, and Montaigne repeats it after him, of a stranger who publicly said he could teach Dionysius an infallible way to find out and discover all the conspiracies his subjects should contrive against him, if he would give him a good sum of money for his pains. Dionysius, hearing of it, had the man sent for, and desired at once to be made master of a secret so precious. What was the art the man had to communicate? Quick! Let him name his terms. Well, his terms were a talent. That was a good deal of money. But Dionysius would not haggle-but would comport himself en prince. So the man should have the talent. And now, what was the art that cost so round a sum? All the art was, that, giving the ingenious gentleman a talent, his majesty should afterwards boast in all quarters that he had obtained a singular secret from him. Dionysius liked the idea— paid down a thousand crowns for it—and made political capital of it, from that day forth. It was not likely, as Montaigne, who relishes the idea too, remarks, that the king should give so great a sum to a person unknown, unless as a reward for some extraordinary and very useful discovery, and the belief of this served to keep his enemies in awe. “Princes,” adds the shrewd old essayist, “ do very wisely, however, to publish the informations they receive of all the practices against their lives, to possess men with an opinion that they have such good intelligence, and so many spies abroad, that nothing can be plotted against them but they have immediate notice of it."* But this stroke of practical policy would have hit the taste of Dionysius less, by a good deal, than the theory that cost him an ungrudged talent. He was of a turn of mind to appreciate the expansive powers of imaginative suspicion. A miserable turn of mind, but one that with him was at once beyond participation and beyond relief. A blighting, palsying presence, this of stealthy Suspicion ; but a presence that was not to be put by.
But thus it is with kings; suspicions haunt
* Essais de Montaigne, livre i. ch. xxiii.
So answers Dunstan his sovran when the latter intimates his apprehension of poison in his food, and is bluffly told by the blatant churchman that his food is poisoned by his own suspicions :
'Tis your own fault. Tho' Gurmo's zeal is great,
As to put poison in your food :an impossibility about which there may be two opinions; but there can be only one as to the wretchedness of royalty environed by such condi. tions of mistrust. When Philip Melanchthon, on the authority of a person who had filled an important post at the court of Clement VII., mentioned that every day, after the Pope had supped, his cup-bearer and cooks were imprisoned for two hours, and then, if no symptoms of poison manifested themselves in their master, were released — Luther, at whose table the story was told, burst out with the exclamation, “What a miserable life! Tis exactly what Moses has described in Deuteronomy:
And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear, day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life. In the morning, thou shalt say: Would God it were even ! and at even, thou shalt say: Would God it were morning ! "* The feeling of such perturbed potentates may be expressed in the terms of Goneril's answer to Albany, when he opines, “ Well, you may fear too far.” Gon.
- Safer than trust :
Not fear still to be taken. Lewis the Eleventh, in his last days, is a grimly grotesque personification of this crowned (but cross-bearing) suspicion, as Comines pictures him at Plessis-les-Tours : “Voudroit-on dire que ce roy ne souffrit pas aussi bien que les autres, qui ainsi s'enfermoit et se faisoit garder, qui estoit en peur de ses enfants, et de tous ses prochains parents, et qui changeoit et muoit de jour en jour ses serviteurs qu'il avoit nourris, et qui ne tenoient biens ne honneur que de luy, tellement qu'en nul d'eux ne s'osoit fier, et s'enchaisnoit ainsi de si étranger chaines et clostures ?" I It is to no purpose, says Montaigne, to have a guard of foreigners about a man's person, or to be always fenced around with a pale of armed men; for “whoever despises his own life is always master of that of another man." And, moreover, as Montaigne goes on to teach, this continual suspicion, that makes a prince jealous of everybody, must, of necessity, be a marvellous torment to him: whence it was that Dion, being warned that Calippus watched an opportunity to take away his life, had never the heart to inquire more particularly into it, but said he had rather die than live in the misery of always being on his guard, not only against his enemies but his very friends. Those who preach to princes so circumspect and vigilant a jealousy and distrust, do, in Montaigne's judgment, under colour of security, preach to them ruin and dishonour. Buü,
As Catoun saith, he that guilty is,
* Luther's Tischreden, 448.
† King Lear, Act I. Sc. 4.
|| Essais de Montaigne, I. 23.
which is Chaucer's philosophy of character in the instance of his heautontimoroumenos of an ill-thinking canon,
for suspeccioun Of mennes speche ever hadde this Chanoun. Every such self-tormentor bears about with him the penalty of his distrust-not the remedy. Not that he is at all the sort of poor creature popularly known as Nobody's enemy but his own ;-for to every living creature he is potentially hostile, and to an improper fraction of them actually so. But he is emphatically his own enemy as well; and is ever punishing himself in the prodigious pain he takes to pre-judge others, and, by pre-payment, to pay them out.
lago can affirm the subjective inconvenience, the internal and eternal discomfort, to which a temperament of this kind renders its owner liable,
As, I confess, it is my nature's plague
Shapes faults that are not. And Othello can think scorn of and cry shame on a life so hampered and beset with vile misgivings :
Think'st thou, I'd make a life of jealousy,
With fresh suspicions ? No!...* Addison comments on it as a characteristic of great and heroic minds, that they not only show a particular disregard to the unmerited reproaches cast upon them, but are altogether free from what he calls * that impertinent curiosity of inquiring after them, or the poor revenge of resenting.” To the histories of Alexander and Cæsar he points, as full of this kind of instances. And then he proceeds to remark that vulgar souls are of a quite contrary character,and here is his flagrant instance ready made: “ Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, had a dungeon, which was a very curious piece of architecture; and of which, as I am informed, there are still to be seen some remains in that island. It was called Dionysius's Ear, and built with several little windings and laby. rinths in the form of a real ear. The structure of it made it a kind of whispering place, but such a one as gathered the voice of him who spoke into a funnel, which was placed at the very top of it.
“ The tyrant used to lodge all his state criminals, or those whom he supposed to be engaged together in any evil designs upon him, in this dungeon. He had at the same time an apartment over it, where he used to apply himself to the funnel, and by that means overhear everything that was whispered in the dungeon.”+
Mr. Addison, before getting out of Ear-shot of Dionysius, ventures to affirm, that a Cæsar or an Alexander would rather have died by the treason, than have used such disingenuous means for detecting it.
When the Maid of Orleans was immured in that loathsome cell in the donjon-keep of Crotoy, which had long been covered by the sands of the Somme, and from which, looking out upon the sea, she could sometimes
* Othello, Act III. Sc. 3.
† Spectator, No. 439.
descry the English downs,*--added to the wretchedness of being linked to a beam by a large iron chain, and under the personal watch by night and day, within the cell, of three of the brigand ruffians called 6 houspilleurs,” she was also subjected to espial from without. Winchester, the inquisitor, and Estivet, promoter of the prosecution (Cauchon's right-hand-man of business), had each a key to the tower, and watched her hourly through a hole in the wall. Each stone of this infernal dungeon, says Michelet,t had eyes. Cauchon and his crew found their account in this Argus-eyed policy. If stone-walls have ears, and eyes, at least let them be used to the gaoler's profit, not the prisoner's.
Shakspeare makes Richard III., who had more than à touch of Dionysian cleverness and sinister statecraft in him, extemporise a mechanical Ear, for all practical purposes, in the folds of his officers' tents, as they are encamped on Bosworth field :
It is not yet near day. Come, go with me, he bids his trusty tool and confidant, Sir Richard Ratcliffe ;
Under our tents I'll play the eavesdropper,
To hear if any mean to shrink from me. I As to the Ear of Dionysius, that was a worthy device to give almost literal truth to the rhetorical hyperbole of the Preacher, the son of David, King of Jerusalem, when he said, $ Curse not the king, no, not in thy thought ; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.
The science of acoustics enabled his Sicilian majesty to do without bird-carriage for the vocables, or winged agency to tell the matter. The words uttered, however whisperingly, inside his Ear, were themselves ÉTEA TTTepoevra, winged words; and winged their way straight to their destination, among the secrets of his royal, his most unroyal heart.
Need the reader be reminded of the Scottish Solomon's emulation of the Dionysian Ear, in Sir Walter's story of the Fortunes of Nigel? How James remembers him of having read that Dionysius, King of Syracuse, whom," quoth the pedant-prince, parenthetically, “ historians call Túpavvos, which signifieth not in the Greek tongue, as in ours, a truculent usurper, but a royal king who governs, it may be, something more strictly than we and other lawful monarchs, whom the ancient termed Baoieis-Now this Dionysius of Syracuse caused cunning workmen to build for himself a lugg—D'ye ken what that is, my Lord Bishop ?” the Winchester prelate is asked ; who answers, “ A cathedral, I presume to guess." But the Scotch dialect being a topic upon which the bishop cannot pronounce ex cathedrâ, a cathedral happens to be entirely beside the mark. And his majesty resumes, in impatience at Southron stolidity : “ What the deil, man-I crave your lordship's pardon for swearing-but it was no cathedral-only a lurking-place called the king's lugg, or ear, where he could sit undescried, and hear the converse of his prisoners. Now, sirs, in imitation of this Dionysius, whom I took for my pattern,
* Michelet, Histoire de France, t. v. I. x. ch. iv.
I King Richard III., Act V. Sc. 3.
+ Ibid., A.D. 1431. $ Ecclesiastes, X. 20.