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Money and Power Corrupting

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Through the readings of Herodotus, Livy and Sallust one can draw a similar belief between all these historical authors. There is common theme throughout each of these readings; that power and money are the root of evil. They also show demonstrate that having a desire or ambition for a gain of power and money acts like a disease, taking control of people and corrupting them and their decision making and actions. There are accounts in each historical work that demonstrates these authors similar belief.

Through the examination of Herodotus’ Histories one can acknowledge that Herodotus explains the downfall of Persia to a great extent. This is largely due to the fact that this is the most significant event that took place during Herodotus’ account, but further examination sheds light that Herodotus clearly explains the change in Xerxes and his human nature. For this reason one many also conclude that Herodotus explains this event to such great extent to show how Xerxes’ ambition was focused mainly on gaining power and wealth, leading to his eventual failure. Not only did this lead to the fall of Persia, but it also led to a drastic change in Xerxes as he became corrupted by this power and greed. Herodotus may have believed that this desire for power led to a blind ego within Xerxes leading to many irrational decisions although he received a large amount of information and support from his trusted advisors. Through the dialogue between Xerxes and Mardonius, the reader learns that Mardonius persuaded Xerxes to attack Greece. Mardonius main motivation behind this attack was revenge. Although revenge was his main motivation he also mentions that conquering Greece would bring enormous power and wealth to Persia and Xerxes. Once this is mentioned, Xerxes is completely in agreement to attack Greece. When speaking to the people of Persia, Herodotus shows that this power and wealth has become Xerxes main goal. “And in my ponderings I have found a way we can acquire glory, along with a land every bit as large and noble as our own and indeed even more fruitful; vengeance and payback come with it as well” (Herodotus, 7.7-8). This statement shows that Xerxes has shifted from Mardonius’ goal of revenge to a desire for power and wealth, which corrupts him. Xerxes merely mentions this revenge as a side note to the chance of gaining this “glory” and a “fruitful” land. Herodotus’ large explanation of this dialogue shows how Xerxes became corrupted by power and money, which eventually led to his irrational decisions and failure. Another account where this change in Xerxes is prevalent is during an attack on the Spartans. Before encountering the Spartan army, Demaratus clearly explains to Xerxes that the Spartans will not back down and fight to the death. Once encountering the Spartan army Xerxes is stunned that they are planning to fight back against his great empire. “Xerxes was quite unable to grasp the truth, which was that these men were getting ready, as best they could, to kill and be killed, and their actions seemed to him simply ridiculous” (Herodotus, 7.209). This explanation by Herodotus shows that Xerxes, who had become corrupted by power and money, became blind to the truth, which had been explained to him by Demaratus, that the Spartans would not back down from war. This clearly shows that Herodotus wants to acknowledge Xerxes irrational decision making and how it was due to his ambition for power and wealth, the roots of evil.

Sallust also shows how power and money are the roots of evil through his explanation of the Cataline conspiracy. Sallust makes it clear in his introduction of the event that he believed that money is an evil motivation and corrupted many people during this conspiracy. To gain support for his revolution, Cataline gave speeches to the poor people, giving appealing ideas of gaining wealth. Once this idea had been introduced to these people they had been corrupted. Following a speech Sallust explains “This speech was addressed to men who were afflicted with manifold misfortunes and had nothing good to enjoy or to hope for; and to them the disturbance of peace was in itself a highly attractive proposition” (Sallust, 20.12). This shows that by promising these people rewards of money, Cataline effectively corrupted the poor, embedding the idea of “disturbance of peace” as a good idea. Although Sallust clearly states how money acted to damage many people, he also shows how the idea of gaining power added to this corruption. Cataline added numerous people who were not poor to his conspiracy through their ambition to gain power. “There were also a number of men of high standing who took a more secret part in the movement, influenced more by the hope of gaining power than by poverty and any other necessity” (Sallust, 16.4). This shows that not only money corrupted these people, but the prospect of gaining power did as well. Cataline had used power and money, which Sallust shows the reader, are the root of evil, to promote unruly and violent behavior. As the idea of personal gains grew in these people who had been corrupted, their actions became even more irrational. “…in reality, every one of them was fighting for his personal aggrandizement. Lacking all self-restraint, they stuck at nothing to gain their ends, and both sides made use of any success they won” (Sallust, 39.5). Through Sallust’s explanation of Cataline’s attempted revolution against the republic, one can see how Sallust believed, echoing Herodotus, that money and power are the root of evil and that when the desire of one’s ambition is this money and power they become corrupted.

Livy, in his Histories, echo’s both Herodotus and Sallust in the belief that ambition focused on power and money corrupts people. Through his explanation of Tarquinius Superbus, his rise to power and time as a ruler, Livy demonstrates how a desire for power and money can corrupt a person and an empire. Superbus is persuaded by Tullia with the idea of power and wealth to take over the throne of his father-in-law. Tullia, who is also infected with this desire for power and wealth, persuades Superbus to embark on a forceful overthrow of Servus Tullius. Superbus eventually orders the murder of his father-in-law and takes the throne. This devious action can be blamed on Superbus’ and Tullia’s ambitious actions motivated by power and wealth. Tullia had re-ignited Superbus desire for power that he had before his exile to further corrupt him. Superbus then attempts to corrupt other people, by offering gifts to them for their support. This shows that the people also became victim of this greed. Rather than have a leader based on merit, the citizens had become corrupted by greed and a desire for wealth and supported Superbus. During Superbus’ reign, this desire for ultimate power corrupted him further and led to the murder of many senate members. Livy explains Superbus’ reign as “evil” when concluding his story of how Superbus rose to power, “These deities, in their anger, saw to it that the evil beginning of his reign was soon followed by a similar end” (Livy, 1.48). Clearly Livy believes that Superbus’ desire for power corrupted him, which led to an “evil” tyrannical ruling of Rome. Also through Livy’s continuous mention of gifts to the people, Superbus exposed the greed and desire for wealth of citizens which eventually corrupted the republic as merit became less important when bribery was introduced.

Through the examination of these three texts, one can see that each other echo’s the others belief that when power and money become the desire of one’s ambition, they are corrupted. Herodotus shows through Xerxes failed expedition into Greece, which was based on a desire for power and money, he became blind to the truth and acted irrationally. Sallust, through his explanation of the Cataline conspiracy, shows how people became victim to a desire for money and power and longed for a “disturbance of peace” to obtain this power and wealth. Livy shows how Superbus and the citizens of Rome also became infected with this desire for power and money which led to a deterioration of the Roman republic and the tyrannical reign of Superbus. Through these three examples a connection between the authors can be found; the belief that money and power are the roots of evil. They all echo that ambition with a desire for this power and money corrupt people and leads to irrational decisions.

Stuarts 23:37, May 16, 2011 (UTC)

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