The word “demagogue” is often used to describe the presumptive Republican nominee. It was invented by the ancient Greeks, along with other useful words like “democracy” and “politics”. As Robert Garland suggests below, the most famous Athenian demagogue, Alcibiades, is a kind of gold standard for demagoguery.
The spell he cast over his fellow citizens ended in disaster. First he persuaded them to embark upon a reckless invasion of Sicily in 415BC. And then he deserted to the enemy. Thanks to intelligence and strategic advice the huge Athenian army was annihilated. The career and character of Alcibiades are enough to make one deeply suspicious of demagogues, ancient or modern.
What we know about Alcibiades comes mostly from the History of the Peloponnesian War, a book which I cannot recommend too highly. This imperishable classic tells you all that you will ever need to know about politics and warfare, including the lesson that a nation led by a demagogue marches to destruction.
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