Late on Tuesday I was kept up by my brother telling me about all the interesting topics and ideas they went over in their philosophy class. All of these topics really provided you with a brand new way of looking at certain things and situations. One of the ideas that stuck with me the most is how the loudest person in the room has the most to prove and how when you are trying to impress people with words the more you say the more common you appear and less in control. This idea can be traced all the way back to the attempted murder of Coriolanus, a well known and respected military hero of Ancient Rome, who when attempting to involve himself in politics received a permanent banishment from his hometown as a result of saying more than he had to. So, the question must be asked: how can somebody convey more but say less?
Gnaeus Marcius, also known as Coriolanus, served for Rome for many years as a warrior who won very many important battles, saving the city from destruction time and time again. Most of his life was spent on the battlefield, therefore few Romans knew him personally allowing him to build up a reputation as a legendary figure. After many years of being a warrior Coriolanus decided he would try to have a political influence on his city. So he stood for election to the high rank of consul.
During his first public speech he stood in front of the crowd and showed them all of his battle scars from when he was protecting them. Everybody was hooked and the position was his, until he opened his mouth. Everything Corolianus said was offensive and arrogant. In the span of one speech he turned from one of the most respected men in Rome, to being hated by the people. The people were shocked when they realized that this legendary figure they looked up to was actually a “common braggart”. The people grouped together to ensure he wouldn’t be able to fill this political position and wanted him voted off the pole. When they’re request was denied it resulted in riots throughout the streets, until the senate agreed to their terms. “But the people still demanded that Coriolanus speak to them and apologize If he repented, and agreed to keep his opinions to himself, he would be allowed to return to the battlefield” (Power, P. 32)
Coriolanus did appear one more time in front of the people. The apology started off slow but he kept talking and bringing up his own opinions in the form of an apology, until it spiraled out of control and he ended up restating what got him in trouble in the first place. Coriolanus’ actions created an angry mob of people who wanted him sentenced to death. “The tribunes conferred, condomned Coriolanus to death, and ordered the magistrates to take him at once to the top of the Tarpeian rock and throw him over”(Power, P. 33) The crowd agreed with this decision, until the patricians intervened and settled that he only be sentenced to a lifelong banishment from his city.
Before Coriolanus entered into politics he was considered a legend. His battlefield accomplishments spoke for him and the people evoked in awe upon hearing about his legends and victories. The moment he appeared in front of Roman citizens he spoke his mind and it slowly broke away at this legendary persona, until the people realized that this person they looked up to for many years was actually a common soldier he spilled insulting and arrogant comments as if he felt threatened and insecure. If he had said nothing after showing the people his scars from battle, he would have guaranteed his spot on consul. the people would have never known his true feelings and he would have been able to maintain this legendary persona and accomplish his anti-democratic goals. As a result of speaking when not necessary, the situation lead to a legend of the town hunted by his own people, until they could agree upon a lifelong banishment from the place he fought his whole life to protect.
“Oysters open completely when the moon is full; and when the crab sees one it throws a piece
of stone or seaweed into it and the oyster cannot close again so that it serves the crab for
meat. Such is the fate of him who opens his mouth too much and thereby puts himself at the
mercy of the listener.” — Leonardo da Vinci
In the court of Louis XIV ministers and nobles would spend days conversing and arguing issues of the state. People would form groups and take sides to argue they’re points until they would be left with two people each, chosen to represent the different sides of the arguments to Louis. Then the next set of questions was asked how would the issues be phrased: what would appeal to Louis, what would annoy him? The people wondered these things because Louis was a man of few words when they presented their ideas for how to deal with issues around the town, he would only reply with a “I shall see”, one of his few extremely short phrases that he would apply to all requests. This allowed for nobody to know what he wanted to hear so they had no choice but to tell him what they actually believed. He would sit there listening to people ramble on and on, revealing more and more about themselves, allowing Louis to build a better understanding of the person and overall be able to make a better decision.
“ It is even more damaging for a minister to say foolish things than to do them”
Cardinal de Retz
The skill of conveying more with few words is very hard to master. Even in present day we still have people similar to Coriolanus, like Donald Trump, who can’t seem to understand that the more they speak their believes the less in control they appear, especially when they are spewing arrogant and racist comments. Some of the greatest leaders of all time have gotten to where they are through the use of few words. The use of Louise’s silence kept his ministers and nobles terrified and under his thumb allowing him to make the best possible decisions for his town through letting others say more than necessary to break away at their personas and allow him to see if they are truly trustworthy. So the final question i’ll leave you with is,how can you use this new information to make a change in your own life?
Greene, Robert, and Joost Elffers. The 48 Laws of Power. Profile Books Ltd., 2010.
“Leonardo Da Vinci .” Famous Qoutes , famousquotefrom.com/leonardo-da-vinci/.
Torris, Shawn. “Gaius Marcius Coriolanus: Legendary General or Man of Myth .” Rome Across Europe, 22 May 2017, www.romeacrosseurope.com/?p=7387#sthash.vDRtwNbr.dpbs.
“Louis XIV of France.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Feb. 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIV_of_France.
“Favorite Words.” Pinterest, www.pinterest.com.au/pin/86131411600837719/.