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There is an anecdote in Augustine’s great work ‘City of God’ of a conversation between Alexander the Great and a famous pirate named Diomedes. It was written 700 years after the events were supposed to have taken place, by a man living in North Africa under the Roman Empire just before the lights of civilisation went out permanently there.
In the exchange, Alexander asks Diomedes why he plagues the seas. The pirate contemptuously responds, ‘The same reason as you do the world, but while I operate with one boat, I am called a robber; but since you have a great fleet, you are called emperor.’
This exchange goes to the heart of what makes governments legitimate.… Read the rest