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Daily Archives: May 2, 2012

The Ego Is So OVERRATED

by Marshall Walker Lee

As opposed to wit, which is often just pedantic cruelty, more ingenious than funny, rarely instructive or heartening, Aphorism is, historically, a manly form, laconic, from the Spartan polis of Laconia. Spartan men were said to hold the rhetoricians and the poets in disdain; the Laconians valued bravery, austerity, and, as anyone who’s seen 300 knows, a direct and very un-pedantic sort of cruelty. The first “Laconisms” come from accounts of the Battle of Thermopylae, the bloody contest that pitted a small band Greeks and Spartans against a superior Persian force. Grotesque, frightening, often hilarious, these early Laconisms make the battle out to be a bloody lark. My favorite: when a Persian envoy sent to Sparta asks for a tribute of “some soil and water,” the Spartans throw him down a well; “Dig it out yourself,” they say.