Megalomaniac Mishap (Short Story)

On a gloomy afternoon, an archaeologist called Jack made an unexpected discovery in the course of his excavations. It was surprising to the locals because it seemed to them that his desultory activities would not result in anything. Athens had never seen or heard of such a discovery before.

The whole town gathered around the site. Everyone had a theory about that dusty document. Words and whispers fluttered past Jack’s ears, but one word stood out. One word that made him shiver, one word that pierced through him, one word that changed Jack’s perspective- ‘Megalomaniac’

He turned around to see where that word came from. To his surprise, he saw an old woman looking right at him. 

It was Jack’s last day in Athens, it had been a long week and the document had been shipped to the museum for translation, decoding, and analysis. Jack had a foreboding of evil. He needed to speak with the old woman. He needed to know what she meant by that word.

He asked about her around town and got the same response, “she walks in the grove of olive trees.”

Jack knew that he was close. Right in front of him, greenery spread for miles. The trees grew in straight lines and had enough space between them for people to walk around or enjoy a lovely day. But Jack wasn’t interested in picnics.

He saw her sitting beneath an olive tree, surrounded by children left-right, and center. She was narrating a story. A horror one, he assumed, from the looks on their faces. 

He decided to join the children and listen to the story

She narrated….

“ ….the largest city, the most advanced place to live, the center of civilization: Athens, our home, is the location of our story today. Do you remember that man who caused a ruckus in our peaceful town? Well, what he found will cause a ruckus in the world! He found the remains of….. Solon’s diary! One of our city’s most cherished rulers. He is the one who established (to a certain extent) what democracy is today!” 

Jack couldn’t believe what he had just heard. If true, this would be the biggest discovery of his career. 

She continued in the background, “my grandmother used to tell us stories about him and she, in turn, heard this from her grandmother. Listen.”

“This is a story from more than two and a half millennia back! In that age there weren’t rulers, there were leaders like Solon and Draco who are the center of our story. These leaders were called premier archons.

Draco was the first leader.

He came from a rich family that was part of the existing system. He knew about the previous governing rules. The voters from parliament decided that he would be a good candidate because he would be their puppet! However, when he came into power he shocked everyone. He made a set of repressive rules, which came to be called the Draconian constitution.

Although this was the first-ever written constitution in the Athenian democracy, it was very cruel. For the smallest of crimes, people lost jobs, their homes, their status in society… and even their lives. People hated Draco thoroughly and wanted him, the despot and his blood-written laws gone.”

Addressing the blank faces of those children she added, “A despot is a cruel, absolute ruler.”

She continued, “Their wish finally came true when rumors started to spread about him being either dead or missing but no one knew for sure. Not even the people close to him.

He had vanished into thin air.

Soon enough, Solon, our next leader was appointed to be the premier archon. Citizens didn’t have high hopes for a change. 

To their surprise, Solon started issuing economic and constitutional reforms in an attempt to calm the society after the Draconian laws. To gain the favor of the people he let all citizens have the right to participate in the assembly meetings. This is the root of our democratic system today.

For many years after, every citizen in Athens had the right to speak their mind. Yes, not just the nobles, EVERYONE.

Solon reshaped the social framework of the city-state. He canceled existing debts and banned the practice of borrowing money by putting up oneself as security. 

Although everyone viewed Solon as a saint, he faced a lot of problems that nobody knew about. He was constantly distracted. In the assembly meetings, announcements, and festivities he would be staring at different places. He would talk to himself and shout suddenly. 

Rumors spread that Solon was being visited by the ghost of Draco.

When Solon heard about this rumor he was furious. Picture him sitting in his private chambers.

A faint voice echoed,

 “ you are going to ruin everything……..

……You are not worthy to be called an archon.

“STOP” solon screamed, “ Stop it now!”

“…..follow my rules

MY rules that made our nation strong and powerful…..

…… everyone feared Athens. Nobody disrespected me. ME!…….”

Solon shouted, “people feared your laws, but they HATED you!”

He ran out of his room, called his trusted ministers, and said in a rushed tone,

“I am going. Far away. Where he won’t find me… take care of Athens” 

No one saw him again. Of course, the ministers told the city that Solon was gone into a voluntary exile to cover it up. But no one knew the truth.” the old woman paused for a while. “Until now”

“Now that the excavator has found Solon’s diary, everyone will finally know the truth.”

At this point, Jack was tired of this folk story. He just wanted to talk to her but he didn’t have time. So he hurried back to the town thinking that the woman was referring to Draco. 

The old woman watched his receding back and once again muttered under her breath, “Megalomaniac” for destroying the peace. 

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