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lavoro pubblicato giovedì 11 luglio 2013
ultima lettura lunedì 11 novembre 2019

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The Laws of Thurii

di Winter96. Letto 921 volte. Dallo scaffale Storia

Anche questo racconto è in lingua inglese, all'epoca avevo la fissa. Questo, però, è piuttosto diverso. Spero vi possa piacere.

The ship was getting on the coast on the gulf of Taranto, reaching the western part of it, where the city of Thurii had been founded some years before, in 452 BC.
People from the decadent Greek colony of Sybaris had gone living in that city and none of the poleis in Greece had decided to put Thurii under its own control, so it had been a free place where people who had come from cities that were fighting one against another lived together peacefully.
After some time, Athens decided that this colony needed laws, so the governor Pericles sent there that ship, in which Protagoras, the sophist from Abdera, was sailing with some of his students - who were all men grown - to Thurii.
It took another day to reach the city and, when the lawmakers arrived, they settled in some modest houses that would have been their homes until the laws were written.
In the very next days, Protagoras asked his students to arrange a meeting of all the citizens - which meant, at that time, only men born in that city - in the square where all the decisions would have been taken in a democratic way.
The day of the meeting, a lot of people were in the square, sat on the half circle where people discussed. All of them were chatting about that famous foreigner who had come to teach them how to rule over themselves.
They saw a man, around fifty years old, reaching the center of the square, which had been built just like a theatre. He was tall and strong, with curly brown hair that was becoming grey, and so was the long beard that covered his neck.
When he started to talk, nobody dared to say a word.
“Citizens of Thurii, thank you very much to be here now. I’m Protagoras of Abdera and I had been sent here to write the laws of your new born city. They will be founded on a principle: democracy. None of you is better than the others, that’s what you must never forget from now to the end of time. But why mustn’t you? I’m going to tell you.
“If I asked something to each of you, each of you would give me a different answer, which would be his own truth, and I wouldn’t be able to choose which is the best because each of them would be as true as the others. You can imagine what a big matter that would be in a trial, or in writing laws, as I have to do. That’s why democracy exists: to choose a common truth. Indeed, in your different truths there would surely be something in common, and that something, the common truth of the majority of you, would be the city’s truth.
“But I have to warn you: it would be only your city’s truth. So, if another city has another truth, don’t judge them because neither theirs nor yours is completely the real truth.
“My second warning is a more difficult one, so I will give you an example. Imagine that I asked you whether bakers are good citizens and the majority of you answered me that they are all robbers, instead. This is madness, you can understand it, but it would be the truth for you. So think well on what you say when you are sat here and then, just then, say it, or your city would be ruled by madness like the one I told you about before.
“Practically, to write the laws, each of you will choose someone who represents all men who does your same job. My students will watch over the elections and the people who win will be convened to my house, where they will tell me the desires and the needs of their co-workers.
“Thank you again for your patience. Make a wise choice.”
He went away and left his students and the citizens talking about the elections.
A month passed and thirty men had been chosen during a meeting in which people stood up and said aloud the name of the man they wanted to represent themselves.
In between, Protagoras had read the laws of the cities where the people of Thurii lived before going there, and wrote down some notes. After that, he listened to the men chosen by the citizens, and kept writing his notes.
The day after, he called for his students and started talking to them about the results.
“It will be hard to do” said one of them, with the others nodding, “each of them wants to pay fewer taxes and have more services. That majority will bring that city to bankruptcy.”
“There is another principle on which politics is based, except for democracy.” Protagoras replied “It is usefulness: governors have to do what is useful for their people. What is useful for them, and not what makes them happy. So, we can’t do what they asked us, but we can’t as well do what we want, or we would be kings.”
“How can it be done?” the students asked.
“We have to choose what is better for them to do. Kings do that only when they have something in return, but we have to do it every time, even when it is disadvantageous for us. For example, if we make them pay fewer taxes for war causes, the army wouldn’t be as efficient as now and, in case of war, the city would be destroyed and the citizens killed. So they have to pay at least as much as they do now. Of course, they won’t be happy. Nevertheless, we have to do it. And we have to think like that in writing all the laws. Fortunately,” and he showed them the sheets where he had analyzed the ancient laws “we are helped in it. We have to do something new with our work, but we mustn’t cut this city off the neighbour ones, so we have to care about the traditions of those people and the ones who live around them.”
After that discussion, they started writing the very real laws of Thurii. It took some years to finish this work, but we can’t know its results because they had been lost centuries before.
In between, in Athens, Pericles wasn’t the governor anymore because of a scandal and in the city sophists weren’t so appreciated as before. It was a hard time for Thurii’s lawmakers. Some of them remained there and some other left Italy to return in Greece to travel across the cities, with the only exception of Athens.
Protagoras himself went teaching in his homeland for some time and he got back in Athens, too, but Athenians tried to bring him to trial, accusing him not to believe in gods. So he sailed on a ship to return in Italy, but a storm caught his boat and he died, around the age of sixty.
His laws didn’t die so easily: they were kept through the centuries, even when Romans conquered the city of Thurii and republic replaced democracy.


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