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THE GOLDEN TRIPOD

Who Was Famous

Biographical Dictionary of the Famous and Those Who Wanted to Be

Edited by Irwin L. Gordon

Fifty Famous People

A BOOK OF SHORT STORIES

BY JAMES BALDWIN

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Famous Women

Famous Women Contents

Famous Women - HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

Famous Women - HELEN HUNT JACKSON

Famous Women - LUCRETIA MOTT

Famous Women - MARY A LIVERMORE

Famous Women - MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI

Famous Women - MARIA MITCHELL



THE GOLDEN TRIPOD

I



One morning, long ago, a merchant of Miletus [Footnote: Mile'tus.]
was walking along the seashore. Some fishermen were pulling in a large
net, and he stopped to watch them.

"My good men," he said, "how many fish do you expect to draw in this
time?"

"We cannot tell," they answered. "We never count our fish before they
are caught."

The net seemed heavy. There was certainly something in it. The merchant
felt sure that the fishermen were having a good haul.

"How much will you take for the fish that you are drawing in?" he
asked.

"How much will you give?" said the fishermen.

"Well, I will give three pieces of silver for all that are in the net,"
answered the merchant.

[Illustration]

The fishermen talked in low tones with one another for a little while,
and then one said, "It's a bargain. Be they many or few, you may have
all for three pieces of silver."

In a few minutes the big net was pulled up out of the water. There was
not a fish in it. But it held a beautiful golden tripod that was worth
more than a thousand fishes.

The merchant was delighted. "Here is your money," he said. "Give me
the tripod."

"No, indeed," said the fishermen. "You were to have all the fish that
happened to be in the net and nothing else. We didn't sell you the
tripod."

They began to quarrel. They talked and wrangled a long time and could
not agree. Then one of the fishermen said, "Let us ask the governor
about it and do as he shall bid us."

"Yes, let us ask the governor," said the merchant. "Let him decide the
matter for us."

So they carried the tripod to the governor, and each told his story.

The governor listened, but could not make up his mind as to who was
right. "This is a very important question," he said. "We must send to
Delphi [Footnote: Delphi (_pro_. del'fi).] and ask the oracle whether
the tripod shall be given to the fishermen or to the merchant. Leave
the tripod in my care until we get an answer."

Now the oracle at Delphi was supposed to be very wise. People from all
parts of the world sent to it, to tell it their troubles and get its
advice.

So the governor sent a messenger to Delphi to ask the oracle what
should be done with the tripod. The merchant and the fishermen waited
impatiently till the answer came. And this is what the oracle said:--

"Give not the merchant nor the fishermen the prize; But give it to
that one who is wisest of the wise."

The governor was much pleased with this answer.

"The prize shall go to the man who deserves it most," he said. "There
is our neighbor, Thales,[Footnote: Thales (pro. tha'leez).] whom
everybody knows and loves. He is famous all over the world. Men come
from every country to see him and learn from him. We will give the
prize to him."

So, with his own hands he carried the golden tripod to the little house
where Thales lived. He knocked at the door and the wise man himself
opened it.

Then the governor told him how the tripod had been found, and how the
oracle had said that it must be given to the wisest of the wise.

"And so I have brought the prize to you, friend Thales."

"To me!" said the astonished Thales. "Why, there are many men who are
wiser than I. There is my friend Bias [Footnote: Bi'as] of Priene.
[Footnote: Prie'ne] He excels all other men. Send the beautiful gift
to him."

So the governor called two of his trusted officers and told them to
carry the tripod to Priene and offer it to Bias.

"Tell the wise man why you bring it, and repeat to him the words of
the oracle."



II


Now all the world had heard of the wisdom of Bias. He taught that men
ought to be kind even to their enemies. He taught, also, that a friend
is the greatest blessing that any one can have.

He was a poor man and had no wish to be rich. "It is better to be wise
than wealthy," he said.

When the governor's messengers came to Priene with the tripod, they
found Bias at work in his garden. They told him their errand and showed
him the beautiful prize.

He would not take it.

"The oracle did not intend that I should have it," he said. "I am not
the wisest of the wise."

"But what shall we do with it?" said the messengers. "Where shall we
find the wisest man?"

"In Mitylene," [Footnote: Mit y l e'ne.] answered Bias, "there is a
very great man named Pittacus. [Footnote: Pit'ta ous.] He might now
be the king of his country, but he prefers to give all of his time to
the study of wisdom. He is the man whom the oracle meant."



III


The name of Pittacus was known all over the world. He was a brave
soldier and a wise teacher. The people of his country had made him
their king; but as soon as he had made good laws for them he gave up
his crown.

One of his mottoes was this: "Whatever you do, do it well."

The messengers found him in his house talking to his friends and
teaching them wisdom. He looked at the tripod. "How beautiful it is!"
he said.

Then the messengers told him how it had been taken from the sea, and
they repeated the words of the oracle:--

"Give not the merchant nor the fishermen the prize; But give it to
that one who is wisest of the wise."

"It is well," said he, "that neither a merchant nor a fisherman shall
have it; for such men think only of their business and care really
nothing for beauty."

"We agree with you," said the messengers; "and we present the prize
to you because you are the wisest of the wise."

"You are mistaken," answered Pittacus. "I should be delighted to own
so beautiful a piece of workmanship, but I know I am not worthy."

"Then to whom shall we take it?" asked the messengers.

"Take it to Cleobulus, [Footnote: Cle o bu'lus.] King of Rhodes,
[Footnote: Rhodes (_pro_. rodes).]" answered the wise man. "He is the
handsomest and strongest of men, and I believe he is the wisest also."



IV


The messengers went on until they came at last to the island of Rhodes.
There everybody was talking about King Cleobulus and his wonderful
wisdom. He had studied in all the great schools of the world, and there
was nothing that he did not know.

"Educate the children," he said; and for that reason his name is
remembered to this day.

When the messengers showed him the tripod, he said, "That is indeed
a beautiful piece of work. Will you sell it? What is the price?"

They told him that it was not for sale, but that it was to be given
to the wisest of the wise.

"Well, you will not find that man in Rhodes," said he. "He lives in
Corinth, [Footnote: Cor'inth.] and his name is Periander. [Footnote:
Per i an'der.] Carry the precious gift to him."



V


Everybody had heard of Periander, king of Corinth. Some had heard of
his great learning, and others had heard of his selfishness and
cruelty.

Strangers admired him for his wisdom. His own people despised him
for his wickedness.

When he heard that some men had come to Corinth with a very costly
golden tripod, he had them brought before him.

"I have heard all about that tripod," he said, "and I know why you are
carrying it from one place to another. Do you expect to find any man
in Corinth who deserves so rich a gift?"

"We hope that you are the man," said the messengers.

"Ha! ha I" laughed Periander. "Do I look like the wisest of the wise?
No, indeed. But in Lacedaemon [Footnote: Lacedaemon (_pro_. las e
de'mon).] there is a good and noble man named Chilon.[Footnote: Chilon
(_pro_. ki'lon).] He loves his country, he loves his fellow men, he
loves learning. To my mind he deserves the golden prize. I bid you
carry it to him."



VI


The messengers were surprised. They had never heard of Chilon, for his
name was hardly known outside of his own country. But when they came
into Lacedaemon, they heard his praises on every side.

They learned that Chilon was a very quiet man, that he never spoke
about himself, and that he spent all his time in trying to make his
country great and strong and happy.

Chilon was so busy that the messengers had to wait several days before
they could see him. At last they were allowed to go before him and
state their business.

"We have here a very beautiful tripod," they said. "The oracle at
Delphi has ordered that it shall be given to the wisest of wise men,
and for that reason we have brought it to you."

"You have made a mistake," said Chilon. "Over in Athens [Footnote:
Ath'ens.] there is a very wise man whose name is Solon. [Footnote:
So'lon.] He is a poet, a soldier, and a lawmaker. He is my worst enemy,
and yet I admire him as the wisest man in the world. It is to him that
you should have taken the tripod."



VII


The messengers made due haste to carry the golden prize to Athens.
They had no trouble in finding Solon. He was the chief ruler of that
great city.

All the people whom they saw spoke in praise of his wisdom.

When they told him their errand he was silent for a little while; then
he said:--

"I have never thought of myself as a wise man, and therefore the prize
is not for me. But I know of at least six men who are famous for their
wisdom, and one of them must be the wisest of the wise."

"Who are they?" asked the messengers.

"Their names are Thales, Bias, Pittacus, Cleobulus, Periander, and
Chilon," answered Solon.

"We have offered the prize to each one of them," said the messengers,
"and each one has refused it."

"Then there is only one other thing to be done," said Solon. "Carry
it to Delphi and leave it there in the Temple of Apollo; for Apollo
is the fountain of wisdom, the wisest of the wise."

And this the messengers did.

The famous men of whom I have told you in this story are commonly
called the Seven Wise Men of Greece. They lived more than two thousand
years ago, and each one helped to make his country famous.


Beatrix Potter - Peter Rabbit

FIFTY FAMOUS PEOPLE

FIFTY FAMOUS PEOPLE - CONTENTS

SAVING THE BIRDS

ANOTHER BIRD STORY

SPEAKING A PIECE

WRITING A COMPOSITION

THE WHISTLE

THE ETTRICK SHEPHERD

THE CALIPH AND THE POET

BECOS! BECOS! BECOS!

A LESSON IN HUMILITY

THE MIDNIGHT RIDE (OF PAUL REVERE)

THE BOY AND THE WOLF

ANOTHER WOLF STORY

THE HORSESHOE NAILS

THE LANDLORD'S MISTAKE

A LESSON IN MANNERS

GOING TO SEA

THE SHEPHERD-BOY PAINTER

TWO GREAT PAINTERS

THE KING AND THE BEES

OUR FIRST GREAT PAINTER

THE YOUNG SCOUT

THE LAD WHO RODE SIDESADDLE

THE WHISPERERS

HOW A PRINCE LEARNED TO READ

READ AND YOU WILL KNOW

THE YOUNG CUPBEARER

THE SONS OF THE CALIPH

THE BOY AND THE ROBBERS

A LESSON IN JUSTICE

THE GENERAL AND THE FOX

THE BOMB

A STORY OF OLD ROME

SAVED BY A DOLPHIN

LITTLE BROTHERS OF THE AIR

A CLEVER SLAVE

ONE OF AESOP'S FABLES

THE DARK DAY

THE SURLY GUEST

THE STORY OF A GREAT STORY

THE KING AND THE PAGE

THE HUNTED KING

TRY, TRY AGAIN!

WHY HE CARRIED THE TURKEY

THE PADDLE-WHEEL BOAT

THE CALIPH AND THE GARDENER

THE COWHERD WHO BECAME A POET

THE LOVER OF MEN

THE CHARCOAL MAN AND THE KING

WHICH WAS THE KING?

THE GOLDEN TRIPOD

NAMES OF FAMOUS PEOPLE

Famous Women - LOUISA M ALCOTT

Famous Women - MARY LYON

Famous Women - HARRIET G HOSMER

Famous Women - MADAME DE STAEL

Famous Women - ROSA BONHEUR

Famous Women - ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

Famous Women - GEORGE ELIOT

Famous Women - ELIZABETH FRY

Famous Women - ELIZABETH THOMPSON BUTLER

Famous Women - FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE

Famous Women - LADY BRASSEY

Famous Women - BARONESS BURDETT-COUTTS

Famous Women - JEAN INGELOW

Phoenix Arizona

Jessica Simpson

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