Tall poppy syndrome
Tall poppy syndrome is the calculated policy of attacking and destroying people of genuine talent for one‘s own ends. It is associated with Australian politics in particular when politician Jack Lang in 1931 condemned egalitarian policies as “cutting the heads off tall poppies.” According to the OED, the phrase ‘tall poppy syndrome’ dates from the 1980s and is of Australian origin. The OED goes on to add, however, that the phrase ‘tall poppy’ derives from a now obsolete use of the word ‘poppy’ dating from the mid-19th century meaning “a conspicuous or prominent person or thing, probably with reference to Tarquinius Superbus, a king of ancient Rome who demonstrated how to deal with potential enemies by cutting off the heads of the tallest poppies in his garden.” This reference from the OED is to a passage from Livy (BC 59-17) History of Rome when Tarquinius Superbus, the tyrannical ruler of Rome (c. 500 BC), received a messenger from his son, Sextus Tarquinius, announcing that Sextus had taken the city of Gabii and was awaiting further orders. Tarquinius said nothing but went into his garden and with a stick cut all the heads off the poppies growing there. Receiving no other answer, the messenger returned to Gabii and told Sextus what had happened. Sextus understood that his father wanted him to execute all the prominent citizens of Gabii, which he did.