[FOUNTAIN]History replete with traps that snare makersIn ancient Greece, Athenians sometimes voted to expel a dangerous figure for a certain period of time. The ostracism, coming from the word “ostracon,” a fragment of pottery on which Athenians wrote the name, was a preventative system to eliminate a possible tyrant or a schemer who wished to illegally seize power.
The citizens would gather once a year and cast ballots on the biggest threat to the community. In the secret ballot, the person who obtained the most number of votes over 6,000 would be exiled to a foreign country. That was essentially a direct impeachment by the citizens. The ostracized man could return to Athens only after 10 years.
It was the Athenian politician Cleisthenes who first came up with the system. He is considered to have contributed to the establishment of democracy in Athens with his drastic reform measures.
Ironically, Cleisthenes himself was the first to be ostracized from the community. Pisistratus, his political rival, exploited the system of ostracism to drive him away. Cleisthenes returned to Athens after Pisistratus was overthrown and carried out his famous reforms, but Cleisthenes had fallen into the trap he had devised.
Hugh Aubriot, the provost of the merchants of Paris under King Charles V, faced a similar fate. He begun a project of building the Bastille, but became the first prisoner of the famous prison. He was charged with heresy.
A Boston carpenter named Edward Palmer found himself in a similar situation in the 17th century. In the Puritan society of Boston, he was ordered to make a pair of stocks where sinners were tied. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter,” Hester Prynne received the same punishment. Palmer became the first to be tied to the stocks on a charge of extortion ― overcharging for the price of the stocks.
Thomas Montague, Earl of Salisbury, was the first Englishman to be killed by a cannon shot. He had introduced cannons to the English army during the Hundred Years’ War in the late 14th century, and was killed by the same weapon he had used while seizing the city of Orleans in 1428.
There are numerous examples in history of people caught in their own traps. We might not be an exception. In the unprecedented impeachment crisis, we could become yet another historical example.
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.