Europe

May 13, 2010

Leaders who have ‘fallen on their sword’

With Gordon Brown's resignation following the UK Election, there's much talk of the man having "fallen on his sword". But Brown got off lightly compared to samurai days, writes Mike Stuchbery.

With Gordon Brown’s resignation following the UK Election, there’s much talk of the man having “fallen on his sword” — although, perhaps not to the ends he’d wished.

13 comments

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13 thoughts on “Leaders who have ‘fallen on their sword’

  1. Mark Duffett

    Wouldn’t all these examples be well predated by the recording of the death of King Saul circa 1010BC?

  2. Kevin Jones

    My memory is that Sophocles wrote a tragedy about Ajax who, literally, fell on his sword. In fact it may be worth looking at the play closely for political parallels.

    Ajax cracked it big time because he didn’t get Achilles’ weapons and spoils of war after Achilles’ died. (They went to Odysseus, the mongrel) Ajax slaughters a flock of sheep in a madness and then is struck with grief and shame over his actions. He goes to the beach, plants his sword in the sand and falls on it, to his death. Bi-polar, anyone?

    Curiously according to The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, “A Latin version of this tragedy was played at Cambridge before Queen Elizabeth in 1564”

    An English version was performed before Queen Elizabeth II in 2010.

  3. Andrew Kensy

    My year nine Latin teacher (so, a less than entirely reliable source) told my class that Romans disgraced to the point of suicide, usually after unsuccessful combat, would dig the handle of their sword into the ground and throw themselves upon it. A sword, even the short sword used by legionnaires, would have been too long with which to stab oneself.

  4. Sancho

    I won’t pretend to be an expert on Japanese tradition, but there’s reason to believe the warrior code of Bushido is largely, well, bollocks: http://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110006178651/en

    As the comic analysis says, “The whole thing started with an honest, if retarded mistake by a historian named Nitobe Inazo, who based his 1905 book Bushido: The Spirit of Japan on rules written for samurai. This is the equivalent of reading a high school handbook and determining that teenagers live by a strict code of attending class, and turning weed dealers in to the cops.”

    The samurai were probably about as loyal and honourable as Blackwater.

  5. Socratease

    ^ I recall something similar and thinking that my Latin teacher ought to consider using it himself.

  6. SBH

    According to Plutarch the Romans were particularly fond of offing themselves when their side was ten goals down and eight minutes left on the clock. One eastern king (the name escapes me now) captured by the romans, was ridiculed for failing to suicide and thereby letting the romans drag him shamefully through the streets.

  7. JaneShaw

    I don’t know if you’d call it progress, Mike. I think the threat of a good sharp sword in the guts might do wonders for the moral fortitude of some of our glorious leaders. And a good beheading for the loser of the next election would improve things no end in the following term.

    I would also be happy to volunteer my services to Steve Fielding if he needs a “trusted friend” for the samuri ceremony

  8. Elan

    It isn’t a perfect solution though Jane Shaw. I mean, think of the damage Tony Abbott could do to that poor helpless sword.

    Perhaps a wooden stake?

  9. Sancho

    I’ve always thought that politics would be a lot cleaner and pragmatic if there was a possibility of the party leaders resolving partisan issues through one-on-one combat.

    Beazley would have been PM for decades, and it would be a hundred kinds of awesome to watch him versus Tony Abbott the boxer.

  10. JaneShaw

    @elan That is a very good point (did you see what i did there? I crack myself up) . Perhaps we should also include some crosses and holy water?

    And @sancho I like your thinkin’. It should appeal to Abbot, going back to armed combat, letting god decide etc. As much awesome as it would be watching Beazley/Abbot boxing, imagine Ruud/Abbott swordfight – to the death – on ETS/Climate Change/Asylum Seekers/Miner’s Tax/You’re A bigger Bastard Than ME!

    I’d buy tickets for that.

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