Treachery

Well I guess the ancient Romans had it right. They knew treachery when they sensed it and saw it. We, us clear-thinkers of the modern age, have a tougher time it seems in speaking some obvious truths. Cicero, according to the source, spoke this to the Congress of his time. My reference comes from a Millard F. Caldwell presentation in 1965 [see here]. Here’s Cicero’s quote:

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly against the city. But the traitor moves among those within the gates freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears no traitor; he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their garments, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation; he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city; he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the carrier of the plague.

In attendance in the Senate that day as Cicero spoke were Crassus, Caesar and Pompey. Without getting into the dregs and weeds of Roman intrigue we can surely today receive such thoughts as they were intended – the threat from an enemy within? And today, people can speak with our accents and look and sound familiar, but in secret they may actually would like to undo a culture, a nation and a very human way of life.

 

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