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by Dr Anthony E. Smart
Damocles was a courtier of Dionysius the Elder. According to a legend, Damocles on one occasion commented to his ruler on the grandeur and happiness of rulers. Dionysius soon thereafter invited his courtier to a luxurious banquet, where Damocles enjoyed the delights of the table until his attention was directed upward and he saw a sharp sword hanging above him by a single horsehair. By this device Dionysius made Damocles realize that insecurity might threaten those who appeared to be the most fortunate. (Sword of Damocles: symbolic potential disaster.)

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