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Updated on December 1, 2016

Damocles was a courtier of Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse from 406 B.C. to 367 B.C. Damocles expressed to Dionysius the opinion that such wealth and power as the tyrant possessed must bring great happiness. Dionysius devised a means of showing Damocles the error in his thinking by demonstrating symbolically the peril in which a man of wealth and power constantly lives. The tyrant invited Damocles to a magnificent banquet. In the course of the feast, as Damocles was reveling in the luxury and wealth around him, he suddenly became aware that just above his place at the table a sword was suspended by a single horsehair. The story of Damocles was told by the Latin writer Cicero and was mentioned by the Latin poet Horace.


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