Sycophancy is flattery that is very obedient, or an indication of deference to another, to an excessive or servile degree. Sycophancy is also the fawning behavior of a sycophant; servile flattery. A user of sycophancy, is referred to as a sycophant. The word sycophant has its origin in the legal system of Classical Athens.
- An orator was most in need of rhetorical means of reinscribing himself within the realm of the pitiable when faced with charges of "sycophancy," that mysterious and vilified form of prosecution, whose name literally means "pointing out" or displaying figs. In classical Athens the term "sycophancy" did not refer to flattery but to some method of prosecuting that was not socially acceptable. The sychophant was somehow the opposite of the upright legitimate democratic prosecutor. Accusing one’s opponent of being a sychophant was one of the most powerful weapons in the rhetorical arsenal because the word sychophant specially directed the audience to consider the degree to which a prosecutor had veered from the city’s system of value.
- Danielle S. Allen, The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens, Princeton University Press, 2003, p. 156
- Most of the “better sort” were not genuine Sons of Liberty at all, but timid sycophants, pliant instruments of despotism, far more intent upon the ruin of Mr Adams and America in general thsn nay Minister could be shown to be.
- Carl Lotus Becker, The Eve of the Revolution: A Chronicle of the Breach with England, Library Of Alexandria, p. 151
- Sycophancy toward those who hold power is a fact in every regime, and especially in a democracy, where, unlike, where unlike tyranny, there is an accepted principle of legitimacy that breaks the inner will to resist, and where, as I have said, there is no legitimate power other than the people to which a man can turn.
- Sycophant, n. One who approaches Greatness on his belly so that he may not be commanded to turn and be kicked.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary of Ambrose Bierce - Complete and Unabridged - Special Edition, Special Edition Books, 2010, p. 198
- I would rather a thousand times be a free soul in jail than to be a sycophant and coward in the streets.
- Eugene V. Debs, speech in Canton, Ohio, 1918, in: Neil A. Hamilton Rebels and Renegades: A Chronology of Social and Political Dissent in the United States, Taylor & Francis, 2002, p. 333.
- A poet’s prayer. Almighty Father! let thy lowly child,
Strong in his love of truth, be wisely bold — ,
A patriot bard, by sycophants reviled,
Let him live usefully, and not die old I,
Let poor men's children, pleased to read his lays,
Love, for his sake, the scenes where he hath been.
- Ebenezer Elliott, Robert Chambers, Robert Carruthers Cyclopœdia of English Literature: A Selection of the Choicest Productions of English Authors, from the Earlist to the Present Time, Connected by a Critical and Biographical History, Gould and Lincoln, 1855, p. 459.
- But how can he be honoured, when he does not honour himself; when he loses himself in the crowd; when he is no longer the lawgiver, but the sycophant, ducking to the giddy opinion of a reckless public; when he must sustain with shameless advocacy some bad government,...
- An examination of the leaders and military assistants closest to Hitler – men such as Jodi and Keitel in the OKW and Ribbentrop, Himmler, Goering and Goebbels - reveals that almost all were sycophants. Ribbentrop and Goering, for example, carefully saw to it that Hitler received only the reports that confirmed his own beliefs and images.
- Michael I. Handel in: War Strategy and Intelligence, Routledge, 12 November 2012, p. 212.
- From his childhood onward this boy [the future Edward VIII.] will be surrounded by sycophants and flatterers by the score.
- A few steps brought us in full view of all the pomp, circumstance, and chivalry, bows and arrows, sycophants and rascals, with which the governor is usually surrounded.
- George Wilkins Kendall, Narrative of the Texan Santa Fé Expedition: Comprising a Tour Through Texas, and Capture of the Texans, Intellect Books, 2013, p. 216
- The sycophant who, in the pay of the English oligarchy, played the romantic laudatory temporis acti against the French Revolution, just, as in the pay of the North American Colonies at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the Liberal against the English oligarchy, was an out and out vulgar bourgeois.
- The orators ... frequently take the fact that the prosecutor was not himself wronged as a sign that the prosecution is sychophantic...The sychophant characteristically acts after the event and rakes up old charges...If men do not contest charges immediately but later, they are regarded as sychophants and poneroi (vulgar people).
- R. Osborne, "The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens", p. 156
- Nothing is more customary in man than to recognize superior wisdom in the person of his oppressor.
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume 2, Book 1, Chapter 2, J. Spencer, trans.
- The powerful, if they carry oppression beyond a certain point, necessarily end by making themselves adored by their slaves. For the thought of being under absolute compulsion, the plaything of another, is unendurable for a human being. Hence, if every way of escape from the constraint is taken from him, there is nothing left for him to do but to persuade himself that he does the things he is forced to do willingly, that is to say, to substitute devotion for obedience. ... It is by this twist that slavery debases the soul: this devotion is in fact based on a lie, since the reasons for it cannot bear investigation. ... Moreover, the master is deceived too by the fallacy of devotion.
- Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (1972), pp. 142-143