fate pt 6: the ruin of Samos

When Polycrates, ruler of Samos died, a victim of his own greed, his power and riches passed to his steward Maeandrius.

Now Maeandrius was a good man, who wanted nothing more than justice for the Samians. He assembled them and said to them, “People of Samos, you know that all the authority held by Polycrates has passed on to me. If I wanted to, I could rule all of you as he has done. But I do not wish to, for I refuse to lord it over people equal to myself. I will proclaim everyone equal before the law. All I ask in return is a share in Polycrates’ riches, and the right for my family and I to serve as priests.” Continue reading “fate pt 6: the ruin of Samos”

fate pt 5: the fate of Polycrates

Nestled in the shadow of the Persian Empire was the island of Samos. The Samians were a proud people, good sailors. Now the rulership of Samos had fallen into the hands of one man, Polycrates, son of Aiaces, a king in all but name.

In those days the emerald waters of the eastern Aegean Sea were not yet completely ruled by the Great King of Persia. So this Polycrates, with his magnificent wealth, became the greatest of the seafaring kings. He had built for himself a fleet of one hundred warships, and an army of one thousand paid bowmen. Everywhere he sent his fleet he met with victory; he could rob any island he wanted, then return what he had stolen as a sign of friendship. Continue reading “fate pt 5: the fate of Polycrates”

fate pt 4: the death of King Cyrus

When King Cyrus the Great was approaching the end of his days, he was consumed with desire to conquer the wild horsemen of the north. Queen Tomyris of the sun-worshipping Massagetae was his next target. Her husband had died and now she was the sole ruler of her people. So King Cyrus asked for her hand in marriage. But she refused, for Tomyris was wise as she was fair. She knew that it was not her, but her people, that Cyrus wanted. “King of the Persians,” she wrote to him, “I know that you are a great and powerful man. Do not covet my land, for it will end badly for you. Rule your own people, and let me rule mine.” Now the lands of the Massagetae were wide and empty; a man could ride for days and not see a single tree, lake or mountain. Entire armies could be swallowed up by the wilderness. Yet such was the desire of King Cyrus, that he gathered his army and marched to conquer Tomyris and her people. Continue reading “fate pt 4: the death of King Cyrus”

fate pt 1: the happiest of men

[This is a project I’ve been working on and off for several years now, a collection of ancient short stories (mostly adapted from Herodotus and Livy), under the working title The Happiest of Men. These are grouped into four chapters: Fate, Law, Sacrifice, and Love. Every week for the next few months I will be posting a new story until the epilogue and then the afterword. Without further ado, enjoy!]

 King Croesus ruled the land of the Lydians, and he was the richest king of all. His city of Sardis gleamed with shining gold and white marble, and his palaces and temples were the envy of the world. Even the wisemen of Athens, who loved wisdom more than gold, came to see his city.

One day the greatest wiseman of them all, Solon, came to visit King Croesus. Croesus was very flattered, and now he wanted to be praised. So he showed Solon the wonders of his kingdom, and then asked him, “My friend, who do you think is the happiest man you have ever seen?” He was expecting to hear, “You, o King.” Continue reading “fate pt 1: the happiest of men”

on what truth is

On the eve of his execution Jesus is questioned by Pilate about his identity (John 18:33-38). Jesus tells Pilate that he is in fact a King, just as Pilate had been trying to get Jesus to admit all along, but adds “the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me.”

To which Pilate (you can almost see the sneer on his face) replies “What is truth?”

What is truth? The classicist in me goes first and foremost to the ancient writers: Continue reading “on what truth is”

on friendship and brotherhood

Brotherhood, camaraderie and friendship are important values to me. So today during a business meeting I thought about the different attitudes to friendship and brotherhood I’ve encountered:

Jesus takes a very counter-cultural attitude to friendship – it can be a hindrance to following Jesus (Luke 14:26). Brotherhood is not determined by blood, or shared experience, whether hardship or pleasure; rather is it determined by a shared purpose in doing the will of God (Mat 12:48-50). There is however also something sacred in brotherhood, to love and care for one’s brothers is to do the same for Jesus (Mat 25:40). Jesus defines love as laying down one’s life for friends, while at the same time calling his friends to do the same for each other, and in so doing, become closer to Jesus (John 15:13-15). And finally Jesus insists that his followers should not love only their friends, but should show sacrificial love to enemies as well (Mat 5:43-48). Continue reading “on friendship and brotherhood”

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