Home  »  Of the Wisdom of the Ancients  »  III. The Cyclopes Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Of the Wisdom of the Ancients.  1857.

Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Of the Wisdom of the Ancients.  1857.

III. The Cyclopes

III. The Cyclopes Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Of the Wisdom of the Ancients.  1857.

THE STORY is that the Cyclopes were at first on account of their fierceness and brutality driven by Jupiter into Tartarus, and condemned to perpetual imprisonment; but afterwards he was persuaded by the Earth that it would be for his interest to release them and employ them to make thunderbolts for him; which he accordingly did; and they with officious industry laboured assiduously with a terrible din in forging thunderbolts and other instruments of terror. In course of time it happened that Jupiter’s wrath was kindled against Æsculapius, son of Apollo, for raising a man from the dead by medicine; but because the deed was pious and famous and no just cause of displeasure, he concealed his anger and secretly set the Cyclopes upon him: who made no difficulty, but presently dispatched him with their thunderbolts; in revenge whereof Apollo (with Jupiter’s permission) slew them with his arrows.  1
  This fable seems to relate to the doings of kings; by whom cruel and bloody and exacting ministers are in the first instance punished and put out of office. But afterwards by counsel of the Earth, that is by ignoble and dishonourable counsel, yielding to considerations of utility, they take them into service again, when they have need either of severity of executions or harshness in exactions. They on their part being by nature cruel and by their former fortune exasperated, and knowing well enough what they are wanted for, apply themselves to this kind of work with wonderful diligence; till for want of caution and from over eagerness to ingratiate themselves, they at one time or another (taking a nod or an ambiguous word of the prince for a warrant) perpetrate some execution that is odious and unpopular. Upon which the prince, not willing to take the envy of it upon himself, and well knowing that he can always have plenty of such instruments, throws them overboard, and leaves them to the course of law and the vengeance of the friends and relatives of their victims, and to popular hatred; and so amid much applause of the people, and great acclamations and blessings on the king, they meet at last, though late, the fate they deserve.  2