Decline and Fall

Full-Length Friday Liberty Quotation: Edith Hamilton on How Athens Lost Its Freedom

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hamilton“What the [Athenian] people wanted was a government which would provide a comfortable life for them, and with this as the foremost object ideas of freedom and self-reliance and service to the community were obscured to the point of disappearing.  Athens was more and more looked on as a co-operative business, possessed of great wealth, in which all citizens had a right to share.  The larger and larger funds demanded made heavier and heavier taxation necessary, but that only troubled the well-to-do, always a minority, and no one gave a thought to the possibility that the source might be taxed out of existence. [ . . . ] Athens had reached the point of rejecting independence, and the freedom she now wanted was freedom from responsibility.  There could be only one result. [ . . . ] If men insisted on being free from the burden of a life that was self-dependent and also responsible for the common good, they would cease to be free at all.  Responsibility was the price every man must pay for freedom.  It was to be had on no other terms.”

Edith Hamilton, The Echo of Greece [1957]