We are reading A Child's History of the World by Villier. I'm reading it aloud and the older 3 or 4 are drawing pictures to accompany it. Great fun with the added bonus of extra projects with any story that catches our fancy. In this case the story was missing from Child's History but well worth telling. We came across the story of Croesus (the very rich king). What Child's History skipped was the story of Solon (the wise) and Croesus.
My very dear friend, Fr. Mark, is slogging toward his comps for his doctorate in Church History, but his original major was Classical History. Add to this a natural flair for story telling and throw in a quirky sense of humor and you will see why he is both a sought after dinner companion and our number 1 favorite history resource! He got me hooked on his favorite author, Plutarch (whom I used to confuse with Petrarch!). This story is from Plutarch's Life of Solon and will be acted out, dinner theater style for Fr. Mark tonight!
Croesus invited Solon to view his (ostentatious) wealth and expected, and then demanded, that Solon compliment him as the happiest man in the world. Solon gently declined saying that he knew of one happier. Who could that possibly be? A farmer who owned his own small farm, raised good kids and died fighting for his homeland, honored by all.
Hm. Not what Croesus had in mind. Well then, would the wise Solon allow that Croesus was the second happiest? No. There was this little old lady who wanted to go to a festival to honor the gods, but she was too poor to afford horses to draw her cart. Her kids hitched themselves up and took her there and back and that night she died content.
The king was pretty irritated now, but Solon explained that sure, Croesus had wealth now, but he had to defend it. How was he to know if Croesus would end up wealthy and happy or poor and miserable?
Croesus threw the bum out.
Some time later, Cyrus of Persia dropped by and snatched Croesus' kingdom. As Croesus was tied up and led away to be burned, he cried out, "Solon!" three times as loud as he could.
Curious, Cyrus called him over and got the whole story. He got the point immediately. Sure he was as rich as Croesus now, but... He turned Croesus loose and treated him with honor for the rest of his days. "Thus," says Plutarch, "Solon had the honor of saving one king and instructing two."