Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Draconian Irony

People frequently use the word “draconian” to refer to something unnecessarily harsh. Well I’m here to set the record straight. First, some history. Draco was an early king of Athens (I believe it was Athens but it could have been another city-state, Matt?). It was passed down through history that Draco’s laws were “written in blood,” meaning that they were harsh and unforgiving. However, the one and only law that we know for a fact Draco authored was his law on murder. It provided that anyone who committed murder in Athens would be exiled from the city, never to return. However, anyone who committed murder in retaliation for a previous murder was sentenced to death. The purpose of the law seems to have been to stop the common occurrence of retaliation murders spiraling out of control and wiping out whole families. To me, this seems to be a fairly tame and well reasoned law, especially by ancient standards. Thus providing us the delicious irony that Draco’s own laws, as we know them, were not particularly draconian.

2 Comments:

Blogger Xeno said...

But by definition of the word they must be Draconian.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous nell said...

Where does Draco Malfoy fit into all this?

2:50 PM  

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