A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 5, ch. 11 / 1314b.39

Alt. trans.:

  • "Also he should appear to be particularly earnest in the service of the Gods; for if men think that a ruler is religious and has a reverence for the Gods, they are less afraid of suffering injustice at his hands, and they are less disposed to conspire against him, because they believe him to have the very Gods fighting on his side. At the same time his religion must not be thought foolish." [tr. Jowett (1885)]

  • "And, moreover, always to seem particularly attentive to the worship of the gods; for from persons of such a character men entertain less fears of suffering anything illegal while they suppose that he who governs them is religious and reverences the gods; and they will be less inclined to raise insinuations against such a one, as being peculiarly under their protection: but this must be so done as to give no occasion for any suspicion of hypocrisy." [tr. Ellis (1912)]

  • "And further he must be seen always to be exceptionally zealous as regards religious observances (for people are less afraid of suffering any illegal treatment from men of this sort, if they think that their ruler has religious scruples and pays regard to the gods, and also they plot against him less, thinking that he has even the gods as allies), though he should not display a foolish religiosity." [tr. Rackham (1932)]

  • "Further, he must always show himself to be seriously attentive to the things pertaining to the gods. For men are less afraid fo being treated in some respect contrary to the law by such persons, if they consider the ruler a god-fearing sort who takes thought for the gods, and they are less ready to conspire against him as one who has the gods too as allies. In showing himself of this sort, however, he must avoid silliness." [tr. Lord (1984)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
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