Theophrastus on Trump
(Thank you Meaghan Corwin)


Theophrastus was Aristotle’s favorite student, most noted for his works on biology. Most of his works have been lost, and the “Characters” attributed to him were probably by someone else. This little book is a collection of common types used by satirists and comic authors. Several of them make you think of the American President now holding office.

Recklessness is tolerance of shame in word and deed.The Reckless man is one who will lightly take an oath, being proof against abuse, and capable of giving it; in character a coarse fellow, defiant of decency, ready to do anything….

And he would seem, too, to be one of these persons who collect and call crowds about them, ranting in a loud cracked voice and haranguing them; meanwhile some will approach, and others go away without hearing him out; but to some he gives the first chapter of his story, to others and epitome, to others a fragment; and the time which he chooses for parading his recklessness is always when there is some public gathering. Great is he, too, in lawsuits, now as defendant, now as prosecutor; sometimes excusing himself on oath, sometimes attending the court with a box of papers in the breast of his cloak and satchels of note-books in his hands. He will not disdain either to be a captain of market-place hucksters, but will readily lend them money…..


Shamelessness may be defined as neglect of reputation for the sake of base gain. The Shameless man is one who, in the first place, will and borrow from the creditor whose money he is withholding……. When anyone secures a good bargain, he will ask to be given part in it. He will go to another man’s house and borrow barley, or sometimes bran; and moreover will insist upon the lenders delivering it at his door


Boastfulness would seem to be, in fact, pretension to advantages which one does not possess. The Boastful Man is one who will stand in the bazaar talking to foreigners of the great sums which he has at sea; he will discourse of the vastness of his money-lending business, and the extent of his personal gains and losses; and, while thus drawing the long-bow, will send of his boy to the bank, where he keeps — a drachma. …..Then he will say that a letter has come from Antipater — ‘this is the third’ — requiring his presence in Macedonia; and that, though he was offered the privilege of exporting timber free of duty, he has declined it, that no person whatever may be able to traduce him further for being more friendly than is becoming with Macedonia. He will state, too, that in the famine his outlay came to more than five talents in presents to the distressed citizens: (‘he never could say No’;)…. This, he will say, was what he contributed in the way of charities; adding that he does not count any of the trierarchies or public services which he has performed. Also he will go up to the sellers of the best horses, and pretend that he desires to buy; or, visiting the upholstery mart, he will ask to see draperies to the value of two talents, and quarrel with his slave for having come out without gold. When he is living in a hired house he will say (to any one who does not know better) that it is the family mansion; but that he means to sell it, as he finds it too small for his entertainments.


The Oligarchical temper would seem to consist in a love of authority, covetous, not of gain, but of power. The Oligarch is one who, when the people are deliberating whom they shall associate with the archon as joint directors of the procession, will come forward and express his opinion that these directors ought to have plenary powers; and, if others propose ten, he will say that ‘one is sufficient,’ but that ‘he must be a man.’. Of Homer’s poetry he has mastered only this line 

No good comes of manifold rule: let the ruler be one.

Of the rest he is absolutely ignorant. It is very much in his manner to use phrases of this kind: ‘We must meet and discuss these matters by ourselves, and get clear of the rabble and the market-place’; ‘we must leave off courting office, and being slighted or graced by these fellows’; ‘either they or we must govern the city.’ He will go out about the middle of the day with his cloak gracefully adjusted, his hair daintily trimmed, his nails delicately pared, and strut through the Odeum Street…..