Thingish Things

Random Anecdote

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Feb• 15•11

Aristides (?530-?468 BC), Athenian statesman. Known as “Aristides the Just,” he was at first loved and respected by the Athenians.  Then, influenced by his rival, Themistocles, they banished him in 483 or 482 BC. He was later recalled, led the Greek resistance to the Persians, and commanded the Athenian forces the battle of Plataea (479).

“Under the Athenian system of ostracism every free adult male could specify the man he wished to see ostracized by scratching the name on a potsherd and dropping it into an urn. An illiterate Athenian, not recognizing Aristides, asked him to write on his potsherd on his behalf. Asked what name the man wanted written, he replied, “Aristides.” Surprised, the statesman inquired whether Aristides had ever injured him that he should wish to see him banished. “No,” replied the man, “I don’t even know him, but I am sick and tired of hearing him called ‘the Just.'” Aristides in silence wrote his own name on the potsherd and handed it back to the man.”

Courtesy of The Little Brown Book of Anecdotes, Clifton Fadiman, Editor. (A highly recommended buy.)

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  1. Your Friend says:

    Love this one, Bill. Thanks for sharing. It’s incredible how long we’ve been playing the same old games.

    Did you see the piece about creativity by Scott Turow et al in the NYT op page?

  2. Bill says:

    That’s a great story. Fascinating. Thanks!

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