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Phrase origin

Posted by Barney on March 01, 2000

In Reply to: Phrase origin posted by rob harris on February 29, 2000

: could someone please tell me the derivation of the phrase "Don't kill the messenger" and/or anyplace to find information about it.
: Many thanks.

It was the custom in Ancient Greece and later in Rome to employ messengers to carry the news throughout the city/state/empire. This news was not always to the liking of the recipients but the laws decreed that these messengers where to pass unharmed from place to place and city to city to deliver whatever message they were commanded to spread amongst the population.

Hence the expression 'Don't kill the messenger': or rather its Greek or Latin equivalent.

I'm sure there's a better explanation from some quotable source but the above remains the case irrespective of more detail.