Maxim Monday: Νομω πειθου

Here we are again! This week’s maxim is Νομω πειθου, translated as “Obey the law.”

The two words that make it up are (italics indicate quotation from Liddell & Scott’s Greek English Lexicon):

  • Νομω – dative of Νομος – anything assigned or apportioned: an usage, custom, convention; a positive enactment, law, ordinance; at Athens, Νομοι was the name given to Solon’s laws, in contradistinction to those of Draco, which were called θεσμοι.
  • πειθου – 2nd pers. imperative of πειθομαι – here, I actually couldn’t find the word in my lexicon, wtf? Thankfully, my old textbook, Reading Greek from Cambridge University Press, came through: “believe, trust, obey (+dat).”

Since Νομω is in the dative, we are set with “obey” here — but I am intrigued by the connotations. Firstly, the word used for “law” has the added connotation of cultural custom/convention and a positive overlays. You might even say “the good law” instead of just “the law.” Secondly, “obey” isn’t just obedience, it’s got connotations of belief and trust as well.

So, I might translate this as “put your trust in the good laws.”

I’d also argue that this maxim doesn’t preclude civil disobedience or working within a democratic system to change laws you feel are unjust. You don’t have to obey all laws to follow this — just positive ones. So if you believe in democracy, you shouldn’t overthrow the government via a military coup to change the laws you don’t like, is what I’m getting here. You should put your trust in the good laws, and follow them as you work to change the not-so-good ones.

As a proponent of civil disobedience and other nonviolent protest, and of voting, I am totally down with this maxim.

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