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Leadership lessons from Hannibal, Caesar and Ataturk

Solon

I reviewed three books, on Caesar, Ataturk and Hannibal in today’s Wall Street Journal.

The question posed by all three is what do these venerated leaders have to teach us today? The Caesar and Ataturk books are quite formal military histories. Andreas Kluth’s Hannibal and Me is a more meditative and original consideration of the purposeful life.

What after all, is a good life? According to Herodotus, Solon, the philosopher, said the most fortunate man who had ever lived was Tellus of Athens.

“Tellus was from a prosperous city, and his children were good and noble. He saw children born to them all, and all of these survived. His life was prosperous by our standards, and his death was most glorious: when the Athenians were fighting their neighbors in Eleusis, he came to help, routed the enemy, and died very finely. The Athenians buried him at public expense on the spot where he fell and gave him much honor.”

Solon’s claim infuriated Croesus, the Lydian King, who after showing off all his wealth expected Solon to say that he Croesus was, of course, the most fortunate man ever.

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