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1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

The thieves of it what is public

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The unbearable corruption that seems to dominate all public life is about to ruin the confidence of citizens in politics. Perhaps some people think that this is an evil of modern times and that it is limited to certain societies where democracy is weaker. Nothing is further from the historical truth.

There are many examples of corruption in antiquity and there are many laws which  try to control it. Some people may think it in vain.

Aulus Gellius, in his famous work "Attic Nights", Book XI, 18 makes some considerations on the primitive legislators and the rigor with which they combat theft. In paragraph 18 of this chapter of this book says something that can only create us a huge frustration because these words seem to be of today:

Marcus Cato, however, in the speech which he wrote On Dividing Spoils among the Soldiers, complains in strong and choice language about unpunished thievery and lawlessness. I have quoted his words, since they pleased me greatly: 

“Those who commit private theft pass their lives in confinement and fetters; plunderers of the public, in purple and gold.”  Translation. John C. Rolfe. Cambridge. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1927.

Sed enim M. Cato in oratione, quam de Praeda militibus dividenda scripsit, vehementibus et inlustribus verbis de inpunitate peculatu atque licentia conqueritur. Ea verba, quoniam nobis inpense placuerant, adscripsimus: "Fures" inquit "privatorum furtorum in nervo atque in compedibus aetatem agunt, fures publici in auro Itque in purpura".

So things were yesterday and they are today, but in truth, perversion today is much higher because the private robbery and theft  also often goes  unpunished if the thief, white glove of course, is powerful. Or is it not private money what unscrupulous speculators, unscrupulous property developers, bankers and managers savings unscrupulous have swiped thousands of defenseless individuals with bankruptcies, toxic products, preferential and incomprehensible banking products ?

All this only adds  theft and corruption to public corruption. All this does is fuel the sadness and disappointment and alienate citizens from politics. But politics, good politics, democratic politics can not give in and give up, because it really is the only instrument to curb so much misbehavior.


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