Control anger and despise insolence- 16° and 41° of Delphic Laws

16) Control anger (Θυμου κρατει)

“Thymou” comes from thymós, that has a plurality of meanings; it means “soul, life, vital principle”- in this case it can symbolize also the heart as the seat of the vital principle, as well as the source of strength and power, or powerful energy. A secondary meaning is again “soul”, but more precisely as the seat of passions and volitions: thus, we can translate it with courage, ardor, anger and resentment.Thymoi phileeinmeans “to love heartily”, but “tòn thymòn epanageinmeans “to excite the anger”... The third very meaningful meaning is again soul, this time as the seat of will and desire, also craving and wish- to be lead by the heart/soul/desire isthymòs anogei, keleuei etc”. Thus, inside thymós, in the heart of our centered self, a struggle is going on between Eros and Atê. Eros is the part of thymós eager to ascend to the heights of human aspiration, striving for what is noble. Atê is self-delusion, leading to self-destruction. It is blindness, rage, interiorized aggression. Thymós, in this negative mode, means smoke, anger, wrath: this conflict between Eros and Ate as the inner struggle of thymós, in relation to reason and desire, is the inner dialogue of the soul with itself, going on in the seat of the heart.

The verbkrateohas a very clear meaning, as is the verb par excellence used to designate “to rule, to be powerful, to win, to control, to prevail, to have dominion over”, as in the expression “hedonôn kaì epithymiôn krateo”, I rule over pleasures and passions. This quote is appropriate to understand perfectly this law, it gives a very precise indication on one of the most important ethical laws of our Tradition.

The best explanation of this law can be found in the teachings of Plato: for thymós is the spiritedness, the “lion in the soul” that has to be tamed by the intelligent man. The wise knows the dangers of this powerful force that is a natural part of the soul, however the wise is also able to rule over this energy and to direct it toward noble purposes: Achilles is the best example in this matter. The theory of education in the Republic aims only at taming this lion and use it for the good of the state: this is the main character/ virtue of the warriors. A quote from Aristotle will be certainly clarifying on the deeper meaning of this present law: “the one who first told the myth was not unreasonable in pairing Ares and Aphrodite”. For all that we distinguish between loving and fighting, most of us have probably noticed that eros and thymós (love and spiritedness) tend to be found together: their union brings about the birth of Harmonia.

As Plato says: And so, if the victory be won by the higher elements of mind guiding them into the ordered rule of the philosophical life, their days on earth will be blessed with happiness and concord, for the power of evil in the soul has been subjected, and the power of goodness liberated; they have won self mastery and inward peace. And when life is over, with burdens shed and wings recovered they stand victorious in the first of the three rounds in that truly Olympic struggle; nor can any nobler prize be secured whether by the wisdom that is of man or by the madness that is of God.”


41) Despise insolence (Υβριν μισει)

Hybris is a very well known term in the Hellenic Tradition, it indicates “insolence, arrogance, haughtiness, violence, insult, offence”. Thus sings Bacchilides:It is open to all men to reach unswerving Dike, the attendant of holy Eunomia and wise Themis; blessed are they whose sons choose Her to share their home; but that other, shameless Hybris, luxuriating in shifty tricks and lawless follies, who swiftly gives a man another’s wealth and power only to bring him into deep ruin- it was she who destroyed those arrogant sons of Ge (Earth), the Giants”. Hybris can be either an act or an attitude, this does not alter the substance of the idea at the root: too much, excess that brings about ruin. Thus, Solon speaking about the hybris of the Athenians as leading them to injustice is speaking of an attitude, as also Aeschylus describing it at Persae as something “which when it has flowered bears a fruit”. It is the attitude and spirit of going to the excess, of excessive pride arrogance, insolence , as recognized as example in Creon of Sophocles’s Antigone or Pentheus against Dionysos in the Bacchae. In many myths, mortals who display arrogance and hybris end up learning, in quite brutal ways, the folly of this overexertion of ego: because, as in the tragedy, the three necessary steps for one fallen into error are hybrisnemesis (right punishment)- katharsis (purification). The concept of hybris refers to the overweening pride of humans who hold themselves up as equals, or even superiors, to the Gods: thus hybris is one of the worst traits one can exhibit and invariably brings the worst kind of destruction. Niobe, Arachne, Phaeton are all very good examples of the hybris and its punishment by the Gods, as indeed any type of hybris or arrogance, no matter the circumstance, is an attitude that no God will leave unpunished. Zeus watches those who commit it and, as Hesiod attests, makes the hybristes  suffer: everyone knows and expects the Gods to punish wrongdoing, as clear from Hesiod’s advice to Perses to avoid violence and injustice or in Solon’s sayings “I would like to be rich but never unjust, for always Justice comes down on you in the end.” Kritias describes the founding of human and divine punishment, making clear its retributive function: “men had emanated laws in order to punish, so that Justice might be sovereign of all and consider hybris enslaved”. Moreover this law can be applied to all fields: as example, Plato says that mere excess-hybris– creates nothing but noise and chaos; that only controlled passion creates truly fine art—and the best laws.

Miseo is a very strong verb, which means “to hate, to detest, to despise”. It is the constant habit of virtue which makes possible to have a virtuous behavior. This naturally leads to “praise the good”, to “think as a mortal”, to “do nothing in excess” and so perfectly to “despise/detest hybris”, what is hated by the very Gods. Aeschylus’ advice in the Eumenides: “I have a timely word of advice : arrogance (hybris) is truly the child of impiety (dyssebia), but from health of soul comes happiness, dear to all, much prayed for.” and the prophecy of the Delphic Oracle: “Divine Dike (Justice) will extinguish mighty Koros (Greed) the son of Hybris lusting terribly, thinking to devour all.”

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