Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The Bitter Irony of Revolutions

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

The ancient Greeks created new words like “paradox” and “irony” to describe the wide gap between what people profess and assume, and what they actually do and suffer.

Remember the blind prophet Teiresias of ancient drama. In the carnage of Athenian tragedy, he alone usually ends up foreseeing danger better than did those with keen eyesight

After a catastrophic plague and endless war, ancient democratic Athens was stripped of its majestic pretensions. Soon it was conducting mass executions — on majority votes of the people.

Throughout history, revolutions often do not end up as their initial architects planned. The idealists who ended the French monarchy in 1789 thought they could replace it with a constitutional republic.

Instead, they sparked a reign of terror, the guillotine, and mass frenzy. Yet the radicals who hijacked the original revolution and began beheading their enemies soon were themselves guillotined.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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