- a flatterer who, having extolled the happiness of Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, was seated at a banquet with a sword suspended over his head by a single hair to show him the perilous nature of that happiness.
- sword of Damocles, any situation threatening imminent harm or disaster.
- classical myth a sycophant forced by Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, to sit under a sword suspended by a hair to demonstrate that being a king was not the happy state Damocles had said it wasSee also Sword of Damocles
courtier of Dionysius I, tyrant of Syracuse; his name in Greek means literally “fame of the people,” from demos, damos “people” (see demotic) + -kles “fame,” a common ending in Greek proper names (e.g. Sophocles, Pericles), from PIE *klew-es, from root *kleu- “to hear” (see listen). To teach Damocles how a tyrant lives, Dionysius seated him at a banquet with a sword suspended above his head by a single hair.