We all know people who rather stick to their opinion than admit a mistake. Unfortunately many of such people have power, be it as manager, politician or dictator. Which reminds me than that I have read some time ago that about 40% of managers have some psychopathic traits – significantly more than the average….
In his treatise on anger – De ira, Seneca mentioned such a man, Gnaeus Piso (44 BC – 20 AD). When a soldier came back from leave without his companion, he ordered the soldier to be killed, charging him of having killed his fellow soldier. At the moment the execution was to take place, the missing soldier appeared and the execution was cancelled by the officer in charge. Both soldiers were brought before Piso, but instead of admitting his mistake, Piso now ordered both soldiers to be executed and the officer who cancelled the execution. Is that psychopathic or not?
De Ira 1.18.3 -6
3. Cn. Piso fuit memoria nostra uir a multis uitiis integer, sed prauus et cui placebat pro constantia rigor. Is cum iratus duci iussisset eum qui ex commeatu sine commilitone redierat, quasi interfecisset quem non exhibebat, roganti tempus aliquid ad conquirendum non dedit. Damnatus extra uallum productus est et iam ceruicem porrigebat, cum subito apparuit ille commilito qui occisus uidebatur. 4. Tunc centurio supplicio praepositus condere gladium speculatorem iubet, damnatum ad Pisonem reducit redditurus Pisoni innocentiam; nam militi fortuna reddiderat. Ingenti concursu deducuntur complexi alter alterum cum magno gaudio castrorum commilitones. Conscendit tribunal furens Piso ac iubet duci utrumque, et eum militem qui non occiderat et eum qui non perierat. 5. Quid hoc indignius? quia unus innocens apparuerat, duo peribant. Piso adiecit et tertium; nam ipsum centurionem qui damnatum reduxerat duci iussit. Constituti sunt in eodem illo loco perituri tres ob unius innocentiam. 6. O quam sollers est iracundia ad fingendas causas furoris! 'Te' inquit 'duci iubeo, quia damnatus es; te, quia causa damnationis commilitoni fuisti; te, quia iussus occidere imperatori non paruisti.' Excogitauit quemadmodum tria crimina faceret, quia nullum inuenerat.
(in) memoria nostra
vitiis: Seneca is obviously thinking of Piso’s qualities as an administrator and general, rather than his character.
integer: free from
pravus: crooked, distorted (this is contrary to what Seneca just said before)
constantia: steadiness, harmony (a character trait a stoic should have)
rigor -is (m): hardness, inflexibility
duci: to be executed
commeatus –us (m): leave, furlough
commilito –onis (m): fellow soldier
roganti (militi) tempus aliquid ad conquirendum (commilitonem) non dedit
extra uallum: outside the camp (castra)
produco: to draw
ceruicem porrigebat: he stretched his neck forward (for the sword)
supplicio praepositus: in charge of the execution
speculator –oris (m): a bodyguard of a general
redditurus Pisoni innocentiam: in order to return innocence to Piso / to give Piso his innocence back
nam militi fortuna (innocentiam) reddiderat:
Ingenti concursu: with an enormous crowd
complector: to embrace
tribunal (n): a raised platform for the seats of magistrates, judgment-seat
pereo (per-eo): to perish, lose life
Quid hoc indignius? What is more shameful than this?
Constituti sunt perituri tres: three were convicted to die
sollers -tis: skilful
excogito: to think out, devise