WISDOM OF GOLD
Croesus(pronounced ‘Kreesus’), the wealthiest king of his time, believed he was the happiest man on Earth until one day...
Croesus lived 2,500 years ago. He was the King of Lydia in Asia Minor or what is now known as Turkey. None rivaled him in terms of riches. His gold flowed to him from the mountains in a river. His servants washed the sands and brought their master bits of gold in heaps.
Word of his wealth soon spread and people came from all over the world to see Sardis, the city that Croesus had built and now lived in. Among them was Solon, the great and wise law-giver of Greece. Croesus showed him all the glittering artefacts in his palace.
The commonest vessels were made of gold. Even the bath-tubs were made of solid gold.
“Tellus of Athens.”
“I’ve never heard of him,” said Croesus.
“No, I suppose not. But he had a happy life. He loved his children and they grew up into good and useful persons. Then, when war came, through his wisdom he helped Athens overcome the enemy. Unfortunately, he died in the service of his country. All the people mourned the loss of this good man.”
Croesus was surprised to hear this, but asked, “And who is the second happiest man you have seen?” Solon named two young men who were known for the respect and consideration they had shown for their father and mother.
Croesus was overcome with disappointment to hear this. “It is strange,” he told Solon, “that you name such poor and unknown people. Do you not see how powerful and rich I am? You must consider me happier than those people.”
Solon answered, “Croesus, I see you now at the height of your power and glory. But you still have much of your life before you. I do not know how it will end. So I cannot say that you are the happiest man I have ever seen.”
Only a few years later Croesus found himself a prisoner. Cyrus, the powerful ruler of Persia, came with his army to Sardis. He took the city and captured Croesus. Cyrus ordered that Croesus be burnt alive on a pyre. Chained and in great agony, Croesus was thrown on top of a huge pyre. At what seemed to be his last moment, Croesus recalled the wise man of Greece. “Solon, Solon, Solon!” he cried out.
Cyrus, who was nearby, asked the meaning of this outcry. Croesus gave an account of what had happened. It moved Cyrus greatly and set him thinking. “I too have much of my life before me,” he reflected. “Who knows how my life will end? I too might become a prisoner like Croesus before me.” He ordered his slaves, “Put out the fire. Free Croesus.
We will take him with us to Persia.” The words of a wise man not only saved a king’s life but made the two men friends forever.