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Forgotten Greek philosopher
July 9, 2012 10:05 AM   Subscribe

ClassicsFilter: looking for a Greek politician (or philosopher?) who makes an analogy between politics and agriculture.

I have a hazy memory of an Athenian political or intellectual figure who compares the practice of farming to the tradition of politics/citizenship. Part of me wants to say that he praises being a farmer in the morning and a politician in the afternoon... or perhaps it was just that politics can learn something from agriculture and vice versa. Can anyone help me place this?
posted by j.s.f. to Religion & Philosophy (4 answers total)
 
I can think of two similar examples, but they're both Roman, not Greek...

Cincinnatus, a farmer who was dictator of Rome for 16 days, was often held up as an example of civic virtue.

Vergil's Georgics, a book on farming, parts of which are often taken as political/civic allegory.
posted by phoenixy at 10:12 AM on July 9, 2012


I can't speak to the specific analogy, but just in case it helps trigger your memory: when I think of Ancient Greece + farming, I think of Hesiod and Works and Days. (Even though he wasn't Athenian per se.)
posted by theatro at 10:24 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, the Georgics and before that, Cato's De agricultura, which also had a pretty big influence on Cicero. In fact the quotation you are looking for is the sort of thing Cicero might have said. (He said so much, it's hard to keep track.)
posted by BibiRose at 10:43 AM on July 9, 2012


"If, however, there be some one person, or more than one, although not enough to make up the full complement of a state, whose virtue is so pre-eminent that the virtues or the political capacity of all the rest admit of no comparison with his or theirs, he or they can be no longer regarded as part of a state; for justice will not be done to the superior, if he is reckoned only as the equal of those who are so far inferior tohim in virtue and in political capacity. Such an one may truly be deemed a God among men. Hence we see that legislation is necessarily concerned only with those who are equal in birth and in capacity; and that for men of pre-eminent virtue there is no law - they are themselves a law. Any would be ridiculous who attempted to make laws for them: they would probably retort what, in the fable of Antisthenes, the lions said to the hares, when in the council of the beasts the latter began haranguing and claiming equality for all. And for this reason democratic states have instituted ostracism; equality is above all things their aim, and therefore they ostracized and banished from the city for a time those who seemed to predominate too much through their wealth, or the number of their friends, or through any other political influence. Mythology tells us that the Argonauts left Heracles behind for a similar reason; the ship Argo would not take him because she feared that he would have been too much for the rest of the crew. Wherefore those who denounce tyranny and blame the counsel which Periander gave to Thrasybulus cannot be held altogether just in their censure. The story is that Periander, when the herald was sent to ask counsel of him, said nothing, but only cut off the tallest ears of corn till he had brought the field to a level. The herald did not know the meaning of the action, but came and reported what he had seen to Thrasybulus, who understood that he was to cut off the principal men in the state; and this is a policy not only expedient for tyrants or in practice confined to them, but equally necessary in oligarchies and democracies."

- Aristotle (Politics 3.XIII)
posted by edguardo at 11:53 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


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