When Solon had provoked him by saying that the affairs of Tellus were so fortunate , Croesus asked who he thought was next , fully expecting to win second prize . Solon answered , " Cleobis and Biton .
They were of Argive stock , had enough to live on , and on top of this had great bodily strength . Both had won prizes in the athletic contests , and this story is told about them : there was a festival of Hera in Argos , and their mother absolutely had to be conveyed to the temple by a team of oxen . But their oxen had not come back from the fields in time , so the youths took the yoke upon their own shoulders under constraint of time . They drew the wagon , with their mother riding atop it , traveling five miles until they arrived at the temple .
When they had done this and had been seen by the entire gathering , their lives came to an excellent end , and in their case the god made clear that for human beings it is a better thing to die than to live . The Argive men stood around the youths and congratulated them on their strength ; the Argive women congratulated their mother for having borne such children .
She was overjoyed at the feat and at the praise , so she stood before the image and prayed that the goddess might grant the best thing for man to her children Cleobis and Biton , who had given great honor to the goddess .
After this prayer they sacrificed and feasted . The youths then lay down in the temple and went to sleep and never rose again ; death held them there . The Argives made and dedicated at Delphi statues of them as being the best of men . "
Thus Solon granted second place in happiness to these men . Croesus was vexed and said , " My Athenian guest , do you so much despise our happiness that you do not even make us worth as much as common men ? " Solon replied , " Croesus , you ask me about human affairs , and I know that the divine is entirely grudging and troublesome to us .
In a long span of time it is possible to see many things that you do not want to , and to suffer them , too . I set the limit of a man ' s life at seventy years ;
these seventy years have twenty-five thousand , two hundred days , leaving out the intercalary month . [ * ] But if you make every other year longer by one month , so that the seasons agree opportunely , then there are thirty-five intercalary months during the seventy years , and from these months there are one thousand fifty days .
Out of all these days in the seventy years , all twenty-six thousand , two hundred and fifty of them , not one brings anything at all like another . So , Croesus , man is entirely chance .
To me you seem to be very rich and to be king of many people , but I cannot answer your question before I learn that you ended your life well . The very rich man is not more fortunate than the man who has only his daily needs , unless he chances to end his life with all well . Many very rich men are unfortunate , many of moderate means are lucky .
The man who is very rich but unfortunate surpasses the lucky man in only two ways , while the lucky surpasses the rich but unfortunate in many . The rich man is more capable of fulfilling his appetites and of bearing a great disaster that falls upon him , and it is in these ways that he surpasses the other . The lucky man is not so able to support disaster or appetite as is the rich man , but his luck keeps these things away from him , and he is free from deformity and disease , has no experience of evils , and has fine children and good looks .
If besides all this he ends his life well , then he is the one whom you seek , the one worthy to be called fortunate . But refrain from calling him fortunate before he dies ; call him lucky .
It is impossible for one who is only human to obtain all these things at the same time , just as no land is self-sufficient in what it produces . Each country has one thing but lacks another ; whichever has the most is the best . Just so no human being is self-sufficient ; each person has one thing but lacks another .
Whoever passes through life with the most and then dies agreeably is the one who , in my opinion , O King , deserves to bear this name . It is necessary to see how the end of every affair turns out , for the god promises fortune to many people and then utterly ruins them . "
By saying this , Solon did not at all please Croesus , who sent him away without regard for him , but thinking him a great fool , because he ignored the present good and told him to look to the end of every affair .
ὣς δὲ τὰ κατὰ τὸν Τέλλον προετρέψατο ὁ Σόλων τὸν Κροῖσον εἴπας πολλά τε καὶ ὀλβία , ἐπειρώτα τίνα δεύτερον μετʼ ἐκεῖνον ἴδοι , δοκέων πάγχυ δευτερεῖα γῶν οἴσεσθαι . ὃ δʼ εἶπε " Κλέοβίν τε καὶ Βίτωνα .
τούτοισι γὰρ ἐοῦσι γένος Ἀργείοισι βίος τε ἀρκέων ὑπῆν , καὶ πρὸς τούτῳ ῥώμη σώματος τοιήδε · ἀεθλοφόροι τε ἀμφότεροι ὁμοίως ἦσαν , καὶ δὴ καὶ λέγεται ὅδε ὁ λόγος . ἐούσης ὁρτῆς τῇ Ἥρῃ τοῖσι Ἀργείοισι ἔδεε πάντως τὴν μητέρα αὐτῶν ζεύγεϊ κομισθῆναι ἐς τὸ ἱρόν , οἱ δέ σφι βόες ἐκ τοῦ ἀγροῦ οὐ παρεγίνοντο ἐν ὥρῃ · ἐκκληιόμενοι δὲ τῇ ὥρῃ οἱ νεηνίαι ὑποδύντες αὐτοὶ ὑπὸ τὴν ζεύγλην εἷλκον τὴν ἅμαξαν , ἐπὶ τῆς ἁμάξης δέ σφι ὠχέετο ἡ μήτηρ · σταδίους δὲ πέντε καὶ τεσσεράκοντα διακομίσαντες ἀπίκοντο ἐς τὸ ἱρόν .
ταῦτα δέ σφι ποιήσασι καὶ ὀφθεῖσι ὑπὸ τῆς πανηγύριος τελευτὴ τοῦ βίου ἀρίστη ἐπεγένετο , διέδεξέ τε ἐν τούτοισι ὁ θεὸς ὡς ἄμεινον εἴη ἀνθρώπῳ τεθνάναι μᾶλλον ἢ ζώειν . Ἀργεῖοι μὲν γὰρ περιστάντες ἐμακάριζον τῶν νεηνιέων τὴν ῥώμην , αἱ δὲ Ἀργεῖαι τὴν μητέρα αὐτῶν , οἵων τέκνων ἐκύρησε ·
ἡ δὲ μήτηρ περιχαρής ἐοῦσα τῷ τε ἔργῳ καὶ τῇ φήμῃ , στᾶσα ἀντίον τοῦ ἀγάλματος εὔχετο Κλεόβι τε καὶ Βίτωνι τοῖσι ἑωυτῆς τέκνοισι , οἵ μιν ἐτίμησαν μεγάλως , τὴν θεὸν δοῦναι τὸ ἀνθρώπῳ τυχεῖν ἄριστον ἐστί .
μετὰ ταύτην δὲ τὴν εὐχὴν ὡς ἔθυσάν τε καὶ εὐωχήθησαν , κατακοιμηθέντες ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ ἱρῷ οἱ νεηνίαι οὐκέτι ἀνέστησαν ἀλλʼ ἐν τέλεϊ τούτῳ ἔσχοντο . Ἀργεῖοι δὲ σφέων εἰκόνας ποιησάμενοι ἀνέθεσαν ἐς Δελφοὺς ὡς ἀριστῶν γενομένων . " Σόλων μὲν δὴ εὐδαιμονίης δευτερεῖα ἔνεμε τούτοισι , Κροῖσος δὲ σπερχθεὶς εἶπε " ὦ ξεῖνε Ἀθηναῖε , ἡ δʼ ἡμετέρη εὐδαιμονίη οὕτω τοι ἀπέρριπται ἐς τὸ μηδὲν ὥστε οὐδὲ ἰδιωτέων ἀνδρῶν ἀξίους ἡμέας ἐποίησας ; " ὁ δὲ εἶπε " ὦ Κροῖσε , ἐπιστάμενόν με τὸ θεῖον πᾶν ἐὸν φθονερόν τε καὶ ταραχῶδες ἐπειρωτᾷς ἀνθρωπηίων πρηγμάτων πέρι .
ἐν γὰρ τῷ μακρῷ χρόνῳ πολλὰ μὲν ἐστὶ ἰδεῖν τὰ μή τις ἐθέλει , πολλὰ δὲ καὶ παθεῖν . ἐς γὰρ ἑβδομήκοντα ἔτεα οὖρον τῆς ζόης ἀνθρώπῳ προτίθημι .
οὗτοι ἐόντες ἐνιαυτοὶ ἑβδομήκοντα παρέχονται ἡμέρας διηκοσίας καὶ πεντακισχιλίας καὶ δισμυρίας , ἐμβολίμου μηνὸς μὴ γινομένου · εἰ δὲ δὴ ἐθελήσει τοὔτερον τῶν ἐτέων μηνὶ μακρότερον γίνεσθαι , ἵνα δὴ αἱ ὧραι συμβαίνωσι παραγινόμεναι ἐς τὸ δέον , μῆνες μὲν παρὰ τὰ ἑβδομήκοντα ἔτεα οἱ ἐμβόλιμοι γίνονται τριήκοντα πέντε , ἡμέραι δὲ ἐκ τῶν μηνῶν τούτων χίλιαι πεντήκοντα .
τουτέων τῶν ἁπασέων ἡμερέων τῶν ἐς τὰ ἑβδομήκοντα ἔτεα , ἐουσέων πεντήκοντα καὶ διηκοσιέων καὶ ἑξακισχιλιέων καὶ δισμυριέων , ἡ ἑτέρη αὐτέων τῇ ἑτέρῃ ἡμέρῃ τὸ παράπαν οὐδὲν ὅμοιον προσάγει πρῆγμα . οὕτω ὦν Κροῖσε πᾶν ἐστὶ ἄνθρωπος συμφορή .
ἐμοὶ δὲ σὺ καὶ πλουτέειν μέγα φαίνεαι καὶ βασιλεὺς πολλῶν εἶναι ἀνθρώπων · ἐκεῖνο δὲ τὸ εἴρεό με , οὔκω σε ἐγὼ λέγω , πρὶν τελευτήσαντα καλῶς τὸν αἰῶνα πύθωμαι . οὐ γάρ τι ὁ μέγα πλούσιος μᾶλλον τοῦ ἐπʼ ἡμέρην ἔχοντος ὀλβιώτερος ἐστί , εἰ μή οἱ τύχη ἐπίσποιτο πάντα καλὰ ἔχοντα εὖ τελευτῆσαὶ τὸν βίον . πολλοὶ μὲν γὰρ ζάπλουτοι ἀνθρώπων ἀνόλβιοι εἰσί , πολλοὶ δὲ μετρίως ἔχοντες βίου εὐτυχέες .
ὁ μὲν δὴ μέγα πλούσιος ἀνόλβιος δὲ δυοῖσι προέχει τοῦ εὐτυχέος μοῦνον , οὗτος δὲ τοῦ πλουσίου καὶ ἀνόλβου πολλοῖσι · ὃ μὲν ἐπιθυμίην ἐκτελέσαι καί ἄτην μεγάλην προσπεσοῦσαν ἐνεῖκαι δυνατώτερος , ὁ δὲ τοῖσιδε προέχει ἐκείνου · ἄτην μὲν καὶ ἐπιθυμίην οὐκ ὁμοίως δυνατὸς ἐκείνῳ ἐνεῖκαι , ταῦτα δὲ ἡ εὐτυχίη οἱ ἀπερύκει , ἄπηρος δὲ ἐστί , ἄνουσος , ἀπαθὴς κακῶν , εὔπαις , εὐειδής .
εἰ δὲ πρὸς τούτοισι ἔτι τελευτήσῃ τὸν βίον εὖ , οὗτος ἐκεῖνος τὸν σὺ ζητέεις , ὁ ὄλβιος κεκλῆσθαι ἄξιος ἐστί · πρὶν δʼ ἂν τελευτήσῃ , ἐπισχεῖν , μηδὲ καλέειν κω ὄλβιον ἀλλʼ εὐτυχέα .
τὰ πάντα μέν νυν ταῦτα συλλαβεῖν ἄνθρωπον ἐόντα ἀδύνατον ἐστί , ὥσπερ χωρῇ οὐδεμία καταρκέει πάντα ἑωυτῇ παρέχουσα , ἀλλὰ ἄλλο μὲν ἔχει ἑτέρου δὲ ἐπιδέεται · ἣ δὲ ἂν τὰ πλεῖστα ἔχῃ , αὕτη ἀρίστη . ὣς δὲ καὶ ἀνθρώπου σῶμα ἓν οὐδὲν αὔταρκες ἐστί · τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἔχει , ἄλλου δὲ ἐνδεές ἐστι ·
ὃς δʼ ἂν αὐτῶν πλεῖστα ἔχων διατελέῃ καὶ ἔπειτα τελευτήσῃ εὐχαρίστως τὸν βίον , οὗτος παρʼ ἐμοὶ τὸ οὔνομα τοῦτο ὦ βασιλεῦ δίκαιος ἐστὶ φέρεσθαι . σκοπέειν δὲ χρὴ παντὸς χρήματος τὴν τελευτήν , κῇ ἀποβήσεται · πολλοῖσι γὰρ δὴ ὑποδέξας ὄλβον ὁ θεὸς προρρίζους ἀνέτρεψε . "
" Provoked , Croesus asks Solon who is the next most fortunate , and Solon replies , Cleobis and Biton .
As Solon spoke at length about Tellus’ happiness and prosperity , he spurred Croesus to ask further who might be the next most happy man . Croesus was altogether certain he would win at least second place . But Solon said , " Cleobis and Biton . [ 2 ] These were Argivesa who had enough resources to live on and in addition were physically fit , as is shown by the fact that they both won prizes at athletic contests , as well as by this story told about them .
" The Argives were having a festival for Hera , b and their mother had to be taken to the shrine in a wagon , but the oxen were not back from the fields in time to pull it . With time running out , the young men put themselves under the yoke and themselves hauled the wagon , with their mother riding in it , for five miles , c until they brought her all the way to the sanctuary . [ 3 ] Everyone who had gathered there for the festival watched them perform this feat ; and then the god granted the young men the best possible departure from this life , showing clearly that it is better for a human being to be dead that to be alive .
" The Argive men crowded around them and showered praises on their strength , while the Argive women commended their mother for being blessed with such good sons . [ 4 ] Their mother was simply elated by her sons’ feat and by all the praise . She stood before the statue of the goddess and said a prayer for Cleobis and Biton : that since they had shown her such great honor , let the goddess grant them the best thing a human being could have . [ 5 ] After the prayer , they all sacrificed and had their feast . Then the young men fell asleep in that very sanctuary and never awoke again ; this was the end of their lives . The Argives made statues of them and dedicated them at Delphi to commemorate that they had proven themselves to be the best of men . "
Vexed , Croesus asks why Solon despises him . Solon points out that no one can be judged fortunate until he is dead .
When Solon thus allotted his second place for happiness to these , Croesus now became annoyed . " My Athenian guest , " he said , " are you disparaging my own happiness as though it were nothing ? Do you think me worth less than even a common man ? " Solon replied , " Croesus , you asked me about human concerns , and I know that the gods are jealous of human prosperity and disruptive of our peace . [ 2 ] Over a long period of time , a man will see and experience many things he would rather not . If we set the limit of a human life at seventy years , [ 3 ] these seventy cycles of seasons provide 25 , 200 days , without the intercalary months . But if you want to make every other year a month longer so that the seasons occur at the proper time , add thirty-five intercalary months to the seventy years , and from these months you get 1050 days . [ 4 ] All these days in the seventy years add up to 26 , 250 , and any one of these days brings with it something completely unlike any other . And so , Croesus , human life is pure chance . [ 5 ] You seem to be very wealthy , and you rule over many people , but I cannot yet tell you the answer you asked for until I learn how you have ended your life . You see , the man who is very wealthy is no more happy and prosperous than the man who has only enough to live from day to day , unless good fortune stays with him and he retains his fair and noble possessions right up until he departs this life happily . For many wealthy people are unhappy , while many others who have more modest resources are fortunate . [ 6 ] The man who has great wealth but is unhappy outdoes the fortunate man in only two ways , while the fortunate man outdoes him in many ways . The former is more capable of gratifying his passions and of sustaining himself in adversity . But the fortunate man , although he does not have the same ability to sustain himself in adversity or passion , avoids these anyway by virtue of his good fortune . Moreover , he has no injury , no sickness , no painful experience ; what he does have is good children and good looks . [ 7 ] Now if , on addition to all these things , he ends his life well , too , then this is the man you are looking for ; he alone deserves to be called happy and prosperous . But before he dies , refrain from calling him this – one should rather call him lucky .
[ 8 ] " Of course , it is impossible for one human being to receive all these blessings together , just as no one country can produce everything it needs by itself . What one has , the other lacks , and the one that has the most is the best . So , too , no one man can be self-sufficient either ; he surely lacks something . [ 9 ] But the man who goes through life having the most blessings and then ends his life favorable , he is the man , sire , who rightly wins this title from me . We must look to the end of every matter to see how it will turn out . God shows many people a hint of happiness and prosperity , only to destroy them utterly later . "
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Croesus is displeased .
Solon did not please Croesus at all by telling him this , and Croesus dismissed him , thinking him worthless and extremely ignorant for overlooking the good things right before his eyes and telling him instead to look to the end of the very matter .