The sword of Tatoulis

The term «sword of Damocles» has gone the way of many that have come down through the ages – we use them without knowing much about their origins or what they really mean. Damocles was a sycophant, a courtier of Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse. At some point, Dionysius became tired of listening to Damocles praise the great fortune and wealth of the tyrant. To show him just how tenuous his position was as ruler, he dressed Damocles as king for a day, sat him on the throne and threw him a feast. As the courtier was downing his fifth cup, he noticed a sword hanging by a single horsehair right above his head. He quickly lost his appetite and learnt his lesson – there was only a hair’s breadth between safety and danger, power and ignominy. Sycophants have always been around, but rulers aware (at least seemingly so) of the limits of their power have always been few and far between. Power is a strong stimulant and can often lead to an illusion of immortality. As for the sword, it doesn’t have to be named after Damocles in order to be sharp. It could bear the name of Tatoulis, Yiannopoulos or Manolis to name just three of the rebels in the ruling New Democracy party in whose laps the fate of the party with a majority of just two seats lies (but not the country’s fate, even though every ruling party thinks otherwise). So Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has resorted to threats to those who would undermine the government: «Topple this government!» He also warned that there were limits to behavior that «damaged the party and the country.» MP Thanassis Yiannopoulos’s limits appear to be those of an expanding universe. He himself says he made his comments calling for the government spokesman to be sacked before Karamanlis’s speech, with which he says he agrees fully. It was his secretary’s fault, he said, for sending out his interview too late. Of course, it is always secretaries who are to blame – or the Pharisees.

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