Page images

portunity, came from Greece to Sardis, which had then attained to the highest degree of prosperity ; and amongst them Solon an Athenian, who having made laws for the Athenians at their request, absented himself for ten years, having sailed away under pretence of seeing the world, that he might not be compelled to abrogate any of the laws he had established : for the Athenians could not do it themselves, since they were bound by solemn oaths to observe for ten years whatever laws Solon should enact for them. 30. Solon therefore having gone abroad for these reasons, and for the purposes of observation, arrived in Egypt at the court of Amasis, and afterwards at that of Cræsus at Sardis. On his arrival he was hospitably entertained by Croesus, and on the third or fourth day, by order of the king, the attendants conducted him round the treasury, and showed him all their grand and costly contents; and when he had seen and examined every thing sufficiently, Croesus asked him this question : “My Athenian guest, your great fame has reached even to us, as well of your wisdom as of your travels, how that as a philosopher you have travelled through various countries for the purpose of observation ; I am therefore desirous of asking you, who is the most happy man you have seen?” He asked this question, because he thought himself the most happy of men. But Solon, speaking the truth freely, without any flattery, answered, “ Tellus the Athenian.” Croesus, astonished at his answer, eagerly 3 asked him, “On what account do you deem Tellus the happiest ?” He replied, “ Tellus, in the first place, lived in a well-governed commonwealth ; had sons who were virtuous and good ; and he saw children born to them all, and all surviving: in the next place, when he had lived as happily as the condition of human affairs will. permit, he ended his life in a most glorious manner. For coming to the assistance of the Athenians in a battle with their neighbours of Eleusis, he put the enemy to flight, and died nobly. The Athenians buried him at the public charge in the place where he fell, and honoured him greatly."

31. When Solon had roused the attention of Creesus by relating many and happy circumstances concerning Tellus, Croesus, expecting at least to obtain the second place, asked,

3 'Erlotpepéws. Baehr translates it accurate, diligenter

whom he had seen next to him. “ Cleobis,” said he, “and Biton, for they being natives of Argos, possessed a sufficient fortune, and had withal such strength of body, that they were both alike victorious in the public games ; and moreover the following story is related of them: when the Argives were celebrating a festival of Juno, it was necessary that their mother should be drawn to the temple in a chariot; but the oxen did not come from the field in time, the young men therefore, being pressed for time, put themselves beneath the yoke, and drew the car in which their mother sate; and having conveyed it forty-five stades, they reached the temple. After they had done this in sight of the assembled people, a most happy termination was put to their lives; and in them the Deity clearly showed, that it is better for a man to die than to live. For the men of Argos, who stood round, commended the strength of the youths, and the women blessed her as the mother of such sons; but the mother herself, transported with joy both on account of the action and its renown, stood before the image and prayed, that the goddess would grant to Cleobis and Biton, her own sons, who had so highly honoured her, the greatest blessing man could receive. After this prayer, when they had sacrificed and partaken of the feast, the youths fell asleep in the temple itself, and never awoke more, but met with such a termination of life. Upon this the Argives, in commemoration of their piety, caused their statues to be made and dedicated at Delphi." 32. Thus Solon adjudged the

nd place of felicity to these youths. But Croesus, being enraged, said, “My Athenian friend, is my happiness then so slighted by you as nothing worth, that you do not think me of 80 much value as private men ?” He answered ; “ Croesus, do you inquire of me concerning human affairs-of me, who know that the divinity is always jealous, and delights in confusion. For in lapse of time men are constrained to see many things they would not willingly see, and to suffer many things they would not willingly suffer. Now I put the term of man's life at seventy years ; these seventy years then give twenty-five thousand two hundred days, without including the intercalary month ; and if we add that month 4 to every other year, in

+ If the first number 25,200 is correct, it follows that the year was 360 days; if the number of intercalary days 1050 in 70 years, there will be altogether 26,259, which will give 375 days to the year; so that in

order that the seasons arriving at the proper time may agree, the intercalary months will be thirty-five more in the seventy years, and the days of these months will be one thousand and fifty. Yet in all this number of twenty-six thousand two hundred and fifty days, that compose these seventy years, one day produces nothing exactly the same as another. Thus, then, O Cræsus, man is altogether the sport of fortune. You appear to me to be master of immense treasures, and king of many nations ; but as relates to what you inquire of me, I cannot say, till I hear you have ended your life happily. For the richest of men is not more happy than he that has a sufficiency for a day, unless good fortune attend him to the grave, so that he ends his life in happiness. Many men, who abound in wealth, are unhappy ; and many, who have only a moderate competency, are fortunate. He that abounds in wealth, and is yet unhappy, surpasses the other only in two things ; but the other surpasses the wealthy and the miserable in many things. The former indeed is better able to gratify desire, and to bear the blow of adversity. But the latter surpasses him in this; he is not indeed equally able to bear misfortune or satisfy desire, but his good fortune wards off these things from him ; and he enjoys the full use of his limbs, he is free from disease and misfortune, he is blessed with good children and a fine form, and if, in addition to all these things, he shall end his life well, he is the man you seek, and may justly be called happy; but before he die we ought to suspend our judgment, and not pronounce him happy, but fortunate. Now it is impossible for any one man to comprehend all these advantages : as no one country suffices to produce every thing for itself, but affords some and wants others, and that which affords the most is the best ; so no human being is in all respects self-sufficient, but possesses one advantage, and is in need of another ; he therefore who has constantly enjoyed the most of these, and then ends his life tranquilly, this man, in my judgment, О king, deserves the name of happy. We ought therefore to consider the end of every thing, in what way

it will terminate ; for the Deity having shown a glimpse of happiness to many, has afterwards utterly overthrown ihem.” spite of the precaution the seasons will be confused.--Wyttenbach alters the number of intercalary months and days to make it agree with truth. Larcher.

33. When he spoke thus to Croesus, Cresus did not confer any favour on him, and holding him in no account, dismissed him ; since he considered him a very ignorant man, because he overlooked present prosperity, and bade men look to the end of every thing.

34. After the departure of Solon, the indignation of the gods fell heavy upon Crosus, probably because he thought himself the most happy of all men. A dream soon after visited him while sleeping, which pointed out to him the truth of the misfortunes that were about to befal him in the person of one of his sons.

For Creesus had two sons, of whom one was grievously afflicted, for he was dumb; but the other, whose name was Atys, far surpassed all the young men of his age. Now the dream intimated to Crosus that he would lose this Atys by a wound inflicted by the point of an iron weapon ; he, when he awoke, and had considered the matter with himself, dreading the dream, provided a wife for his son ; and though he was accustomed to command the Lydian troops, he did not ever after send him out on that business; and causing all spears, lances, and such other weapons as men use in war, to be removed from the men's, apartments, he had them laid up in private chambers, that none of them being suspended might fall upon his son. 35. While Crosus was engaged with the nuptials of his son, a man oppressed by misfortune, and whose hands were polluted, a Phrygian by birth, and of royal family, arrived at Sardis. This man, having come to the palace of Cresus, sought permission to obtain purification according to the custom of the country. Creesus purified him :-(now the manner of expiation is nearly the same among the Lydians and the Greeks :) and when he had performed the usual ceremonies, Creesus inquired whence he came, and who he was ; speaking to him as follows : “ Stranger, who art thou, and from what part of Phrygia hast thou come as a suppliant to my hearth ? and what man or woman hast thou slain ?” The stranger answered, “ Sire, I am the son of Gordius, son of Midas, and am called Adrastus: having unwittingly slain my own brother, and being banished by my father and deprived of every thing, I am come hither.” Croesus answered as follows: “ You are born of parents who are our friends, and you are come to friends, among whom, if you will stay, you shall want nothing ; and by bearing your misfortune as lightly as possible you will be the greatest gainer.” So Adrastus took up his abode in the palace of Cresus.

36. At this same time a boar of enormous size appeared in Mysian Olympus, and rushing down from that mountain, ravaged the fields of the Mysians. The Mysians, though they often went out against him, could not hurt him, but suffered much from him. At last deputies from the Mysians having come to Cresus, spoke as follows: “O king, a boar of enormous size has appeared in our country, and ravages our fields : though we have often endeavoured to take him, we cannot. We therefore earnestly beg, that you would send with us your son and some chosen youths with dogs, that we may drive him from the country.” Such was their entreaty, but Croesus, remembering the warning of his dream, answered, “Make no further mention of my son ; for I shall not send him with you, because he is lately married, and that now occupies his attention : but I will send with you chosen Lydians, and the whole hunting train, and will order them to assist you with their best endeavours in driving the monster from your country.” 37. Such was his answer ; and when the Mysians were content with this, the son of Creesus, who had heard of their request, came in ; and when Croesus refused to send him with them, the youth thus addressed him : “ Father, in time past I was permitted to signalize myself in the two most noble and becoming exercises of war and hunting ; but now you keep me excluded from both, without having observed in me either cowardice or want of spirit. How will men look on me when I go or return from the forum ? What kind of man shall I appear to my fellow citizens ? What to my newly married wife? What kind of man will she think she has for a partner ? Either suffer me then to go to this hunt, or convince me that it is better for me to do as you would have me.” 38. “ My son,” answered Croesus, "I act thus, not because I have seen any cowardice, or any thing else unbecoming in you; but a vision in a dream appearing to me in my sleep warned me that you would be short-lived, and would die by the point of an iron weapon. On account of this vision therefore I hastened your marriage, and now refuse to send you on this expedition ; taking care to preserve you, if by any means I can, as long as I live ; for you are my only son ; the other, who is deprived of his hearing, I consider as lost.” 39. The youth answered, “You

« PreviousContinue »