From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search
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

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.
  • 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.
  • 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

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about: