Money is the medium by which earthly success
is measured.
Money makes possible the enjoyment of the
best the earth affords.
Money is plentiful for those who understand
the simple laws which govern its acquisition.
Money is governed today by the same laws
which controlled it when prosperous men
thronged the streets of Babylon, six thousand
years ago.
1. Start thy purse to fattening
2. Control thy expenditures
3. Make thy gold multiply
4. Guard thy treasures from loss
5. Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
6. Insure a future income
7. Increase thy ability to earn
—The Richest Man in Babylon
"What can a book written in the 1920s tell modern
investors about their finances? A whole lot if it's
George Clason's delightful set of parables that explain
the basics of money. This is a great gift for a
graduate or anyone who seems baffled by the world
of finance and a wonderful, refreshing read for even
the most experienced investor."—Los Angeles Times
Ahead of you stretches your future, like a road
leading into the distance. Along that road are ambitions
you wish to accomplish . . . desires you wish
to gratify.
To bring your ambitions and desires to fulfilment,
you must be successful with money. Use the financial
principles made clear in the pages that follow. Let
them guide you away from the stringency of a lean
purse to that fuller, happier life a full purse makes
Like the law of gravity, these laws of money are
universal and unchanging. May they prove to be for
you, as they have proven to so many others, a sure
key to a fat purse, larger bank balances and gratifying
financial progress.

George S. Clason
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand,
London WC2R ORL, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberweil Road,
Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
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Auckland 10, New Zealand
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
Published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Putnam Inc. Previously published in a Dutton edition.
First Signet Printing, February 1988
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3
Copyright George S. Clason, 1926, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1946,
1947, 1954, 1955
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of
this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a
retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written
permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this
book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed"
to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received
any payment for this "stripped book."
Foreword ix
The Man Who Desired Gold 1
The Richest Man in Babylon 9
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse 22
Meet the Goddess of Good Luck 43
The Five Laws of Gold 59
The Gold Lender of Babylon 74
The Walls of Babylon 89
The Camel Trader of Babylon 94
The Clay Tablets from Babylon 106
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 118
An Historical Sketch of Babylon 138

Our prosperity as a nation depends upon the personal
financial prosperity of each of us as individuals.
This book deals with the personal successes of each
of us. Success means accomplishments as the result
of our own efforts and abilities. Proper preparation
is the key to our success. Our acts can be no wiser
than our thoughts. Our thinking can be no wiser than
our understanding.
This book of cures for lean purses has been termed
a guide to financial understanding. That, indeed, is
its purpose: to offer those who are ambitious for financial
success an insight which will aid them to
acquire money, to keep money and to make their
surpluses earn more money.
In the pages which follow, we are taken back to
Babylon, the cradle in which was nurtured the basic
principles of finance now recognized and used, the
world over.
To new readers the author is happy to extend the
wish that its pages may contain for them the same
inspiration for growing bank accounts, greater financial
successes and the solution of difficult personal
financial problems so enthusiastically reported
by readers from coast to coast.
To the business executives who have distributed
these tales in such generous quantities to friends, relatives,
employees and associates, the author takes
this opportunity to express his gratitude. No endorsement
could be higher than that of practical men
who appreciate its teachings because they, themselves,
have worked up to important successes by
applying the very principles it advocates.
Babylon became the wealthiest city of the ancient
world because its citizens were the richest people of
their time. They appreciated the value of money.
They practiced sound financial principles in acquiring
money, keeping money and making their money
earn more money. They provided for themselves
what we all desire . . . incomes for the future.
G. S. C.

The Man Who
Desired Gold
Bansir, the chariot builder of Babylon, was thoroughly
discouraged. From his seat upon the low wall
surrounding his property, he gazed sadly at his simple
home and the open workshop in which stood a
partially completed chariot.
His wife frequently appeared at the open door. Her
furtive glances in his direction reminded him that the
meal bag was almost empty and he should be at
work finishing the chariot, hammering and hewing,
polishing and painting, stretching taut the leather
over the wheel rims, preparing it for delivery so he
could collect from his wealthy customer.
Nevertheless,' his fat, muscular body sat stolidly
upon the wall. His slow mind was struggling patiently
with a problem for which he could find no
answer. The hot, tropical sun, so typical of this valley
of the Euphrates, beat down upon him mercilessly.
Beads of perspiration formed upon his brow and
trickled down unnoticed to lose themselves in the
hairy jungle on his chest.
Beyond his home towered the high terraced walls
surrounding the king's palace. Nearby, cleaving the
blue heavens, was the painted tower of the Temple
of Bel. In the shadow of such grandeur was his simple
home and many others far less neat and well
cared for. Babylon was like this—a mixture of grandeur
and squalor, of dazzling wealth and direst poverty,
crowded together without plan or system within
the protecting walls of the city.
Behind him, had he cared to turn and look, the
noisy chariots of the rich jostled and crowded aside
the sandaled tradesmen as well as the barefooted
beggars. Even the rich were forced to turn into the
gutters to clear the way for the long lines of slave
water carriers, on the "king's business," each bearing
a heavy goatskin of water to be poured upon the
hanging gardens.
Bansir was too engrossed in his own problem to
hear or heed the confused hubbub of the busy city.
It was the unexpected twanging of the strings from
a familiar lyre that aroused him from his reverie. He
turned and looked into the sensitive, smiling face of
his best friend—Kobbi, the musician.
"May the Gods bless thee with great liberality, my
good friend," began Kobbi with an elabourate salute.
"Yet, it does appear they have already been so generous
thou needest not to labour. I rejoice with thee in
thy good fortune. More, I would even share it with
thee. Pray, from thy purse which must be bulging
else thou wouldst be busy in yon shop, extract but
two humble shekels and lend them to me until after
the noblemen's feast this night. Thou wilt not miss
them ere they are returned."
"If I did have two shekels," Bansir responded
gloomily, "to no one could I lend them—not even to
The Man Who Desired Gold 3
you, my best of friends; for they would be my fortune—
my entire fortune. No one lends his entire fortune,
not even to his best friend."
"What," exclaimed Kobbi with genuine surprise.
"Thou hast not one shekel in thy purse, yet sit like
a statue upon a wall! Why not complete that chariot?
How else canst thou provide for thy noble appetite?
'Tis not like thee, my friend. Where is thy endless
energy? Doth something distress thee? Have the
Gods brought to thee troubles?"
"A torment from the Gods it must be," Bansir
agreed. "It began with a dream, a senseless dream,
in which I thought I was a man of means. From my
belt hung a handsome purse, heavy with coins. There
were shekels which I cast with careless freedom to
the beggars; there were pieces of silver with which I
did buy finery for my wife and whatever I did desire
for myself; there were pieces of gold which made me
feel assured of the future and unafraid to spend the
silver. A glorious feeling of contentment was within
me! You would not have known me for thy hardworking
friend. Nor wouldst have known my wife,
so free from wrinkles was her face and shining with
happiness. She was again the smiling maiden of our
early married days."
"A pleasant dream, indeed," commented Kobbi,
"but why should such pleasant feelings as it aroused
turn thee into a glum statue upon the wall?"
"Why, indeed! Because when I awoke and remembered
how empty was my purse, a feeling of rebellion
swept over me. Let us talk it over together, for,
as the sailors do say, we ride in the same boat, we
two. As youngsters, we went together to the priests
to learn wisdom. As young men, we shared each other's
pleasures. As grown men, we have always been
close friends. We have been contented subjects of our
kind. We have been satisfied to work long hours and
spend our earnings freely. We have earned much
coin in the years that have passed, yet to know the
joys that come from wealth, we must dream about
them. Bah! Are we more than dumb sheep? We live
in the richest city in all the world. The travellers do
say none equals it in wealth. About us is much display
of wealth, but of it we ourselves have naught.
After half a lifetime of hard labour, thou, my best of
friends, hast an empty purse and sayest to me, 'May
I borrow such a trifle as two shekels until after the
noblemen's feast this night?' Then, what do I reply?
Do I say, 'Here is my purse; its contents will I gladly
share?' No, I admit that my purse is as empty as
thine. What is the matter? Why cannot we acquire
silver and gold—more than enough for food and
"Consider, also, our sons," Bansir continued, "are
they not following in the footsteps of their fathers?
Need they and their families and their sons and their
sons' families live all their lives in the midst of such
treasurers of gold, and yet, like us, be content to banquet
upon sour goat's milk and porridge?"
"Never, in all the years of our friendship, didst
thou talk like this before, Bansir." Kobbi was
"Never in all those years did I think like this before.
From early dawn until darkness stopped me, I
have laboured to build the finest chariots any man
could make, soft-heartedly hoping some day the
Gods would recognize my worthy deeds and bestow
upon me great prosperity. This they have never done.
At last, I realize this they will never do. Therefore,
my heart is sad. I wish to be a man of means. I wish
The Man Who Desired Gold 5
to own lands and cattle, to have fine robes and coins
in my purse. I am willing to work for these things
with all the strength in my back, with all the skill in
my hands, with all the cunning in my mind, but I
wish my labours to be fairly rewarded. What is the
matter with us? Again I ask you! Why cannot we
have our just share of the good things so plentiful for
those who have the gold with which to buy them?"
"Would I know an answer!" Kobbi replied. "No
better than thou am I satisfied. My earnings from my
lyre are quickly gone. Often must I plan and scheme
that my family be not hungry. Also, within my breast
is a deep longing for a lyre large enough that it may
truly sing the strains of music that do surge through
my mind. With such an instrument could I make
music finer than even the king has heard before?"
"Such a lyre thou shouldst have. No man in all
Babylon could make it sing more sweetly; could
make it sing so sweetly, not only the king but the
Gods themselves would be delighted. But how mayest
thou secure it while we both of us are as poor as
the king's slaves? Listen to the bell! Here they come."
He pointed to the long column of half-naked, sweating
water bearers plodding labouriously up the narrow
street from the river. Five abreast they marched,
each bent under a heavy goatskin of water.
"A fine figure of a man, he who doth lead them."
Kobbi indicated the wearer of the bell who marched
in front without a load. "A prominent man in his
own country, 'tis easy to see:"
"There are many good figures in the line," Bansir
agreed, "as good men as we. Tall, blond men from
the north, laughing black men from the south, little
brown men from the nearer countries. All marching
together from the river to the gardens, back and
forth, day after day, year after year. Naught of happiness
to look forward to. Beds of straw upon which
to sleep—hard grain porridge to eat. Pity the poor
brutes, Kobbi!"
"Pity them I do. Yet, thou dost make me see how
little better off are we, free men though we call
"That is truth, Kobbi, unpleasant thought though it
be. We do not wish to go on year after year living slavish
lives. Working, working, working! Getting nowhere."
"Might we not find out how others acquire gold
and do as they do?" Kobbi inquired.
"Perhaps there is some secret we might learn if we
but sought from those who knew," replied Bansir
"This very day," suggested Kobbi, "I did pass our
old friend, Arkad, riding in his golden chariot. This
I will say, he did not look over my humble head as
many in his station might consider his right. Instead,
he did wave his hand that all onlookers might see
him pay greetings and bestow his smile of friendship
upon Kobbi, the musician."
"He is claimed to be the richest man in all Babylon,"
Bansir mused.
"So rich the king is said to seek his golden aid in
affairs of the treasury," Kobbi replied.
"So rich," Bansir interrupted, "I fear if I should
meet him in the darkness of the night, I should lay
my hands upon his fat wallet."
"Nonsense," reproved Kobbi, "a man's wealth is
not in the purse he carries. A fat purse quickly empties
if there be no golden stream to refill it. Arkad
has an income that constantly keeps his purse full,
no matter how liberally he spends."
"Income, that is the thing," ejaculated Bansir. "I
The Man Who Desired Gold 7
wish an income that will keep flowing into my purse
whether I sit upon the wall or travel to far lands.
Arkad must know how a man can make an income
for himself. Dost suppose it is something he could
make clear to a mind as slow as mine?"
"Methinks he did teach his knowledge to his son,
Nomasir," Kobbi responded. "Did he not go to Nineveh
and, so it is told at the inn, become, without
aid from his father, one of the richest men in that
"Kobbi, thou bringest to me a rare thought." A
new light gleamed in Bansir's eyes. "It costs nothing
to ask wise advice from a good friend and Arkad
was always that. Never mind though our purses be
as empty as the falcon's nest of a year ago. Let that
not detain us. We are weary of being without gold
in the midst of plenty. We wish to become men of
means. Come, let us go to Arkad and ask how we,
also, may acquire incomes for ourselves."
"Thou speakest with true inspiration, Bansir. Thou
bringeth to my mind a new understanding. Thou
makest me to realize the reason why we have never
found any measure of wealth. We never sought it.
Thou hast laboured patiently to build the staunchest
chariots in Babylon. To that purpose was devoted
your best endeavours. Therefore, at it thou didst succeed.
I strove to become a skilful lyre player. And,
at it I did succeed.
"In those things toward which we exerted our best
endeavours we succeeded. The Gods were content to
let us continue thus. Now, at last, we see a light,
bright like that from the rising sun. It biddeth us to
learn more that we may prosper more. With a new
understanding we shall find honourable ways to accomplish
our desires."
"Let us go to Arkad this very day," Bansir urged.
"Also, let us ask other friends of our boyhood days,
. who have fared no better than ourselves, to join us
that they, too, may share in his wisdom."
"Thou wert ever thus thoughtful of thy friends,
Bansir. Therefore hast thou many friends. It shall be
as thou sayest. We go this day and take them with
The Richest Man in
In old Babylon there once lived a certain very rich
man named Arkad. Far and wide he was famed for
his great wealth. Also was he famed for his liberality.
He was generous in his charities. He was generous
with his family. He was liberal in his own expenses.
But nevertheless each year his wealth increased more
rapidly than he spent it.
And there were certain friends of younger days
who came to him and said: "You, Arkad, are more
fortunate than we. You have become the richest man
in all Babylon while we struggle for existence. You
can wear the finest garments and you can enjoy the
rarest foods, while we must be content if we can
clothe our families in raiment that is presentable and
feed them as best we can.
"Yet, once we were equal. We studied under the
same master. We played in the same games. And in
neither the studies nor the games did you outshine
us. And in the years since, you have been no more
an honourable citizen than we.
"Nor have you worked harder or more faithfully,
insofar as we can judge. Why, then, should a fickle
fate single you out to enjoy all the good things of
life and ignore us who are equally deserving?"
Thereupon Arkad remonstrated with them, saying,
"If you have not acquired more than a bare existence
in the years since we were youths, it is because you
either have failed to learn the laws that govern the
building of wealth, or else you do not observe them.
" 'Fickle Fate' is a vicious goddess who brings no
permanent good to anyone. On the contrary, she
brings ruin to almost every man upon whom she
showers unearned gold. She makes wanton spenders,
who soon dissipate all they receive and are left beset
by overwhelming appetites and desires they have not
the ability to gratify. Yet others whom she favours
become misers and hoard their wealth, fearing to
spend what they have, knowing they do not possess
the ability to replace it. They further are beset by fear
of robbers and doom themselves to lives of emptiness
and secret misery.
"Others there probably are, who can take unearned
gold and add to it and continue to be happy and
contented citizens. But so few are they, I know of
them but by hearsay. Think you of the men who
have inherited sudden wealth, and see if these things
are not so."
His friends admitted that of the men they knew
who had inherited wealth these words were true, and
they besought him to explain to them how he had
become possessed of so much prosperity, so he
"In my youth I looked about me and saw all the
good things there were to bring happiness and conThe
Richest Man in Babylon 11
tentment. And I realized that wealth increased the
potency of all these.
"Wealth is a power. With wealth many things
are possible.
"One may ornament the home with the richest of
"One may sail the distant seas.
"One may feast on the delicacies of far lands.
"One may buy the ornaments of the gold worker
and the stone polisher.
"One may even build mighty temples for the Gods.
"One may do all these things and many others in
which there is delight for the senses and gratification
for the soul.
"And, when I realized all this, I decided to myself
that I would claim my share of the good things of
life. I would not be one of those who stand afar off,
enviously watching others enjoy. I would not be con- .
tent to clothe myself in the cheapest raiment that
looked respectable. I would not be satisfied-with the
lot of a poor man. On the contrary, I would make
myself a guest at this banquet of good things.
"Being, as you know, the son of a humble merchant,
one of a large family with no hope of an inheritance,
and not being endowed, as you have so
frankly said, with superior powers or wisdom, I decided
that if I was to achieve what I desired, time
and study would be required.
"As for time, all men have it in abundance. You,
each of you, have let slip by sufficient time to have
made yourselves wealthy. Yet, you admit, you have
nothing to show except your good families, of which
you can be justly proud.
"As for study, did not our wise teacher teach us
that learning was of two kinds: the one kind being the
things we learned and knew, and the other being the
training that taught us how to find out what we did
not know?
"Therefore did I decide to find out how one might
accumulate wealth, and when I had found out, to
make this my task and do it well. For," is it not wise
that we should enjoy while we dwell in the brightness
of the sunshine, for sorrows enough shall descend
upon us when we depart for the darkness of
the world of spirit?
"I found employment as a scribe in the hall of
records, and long hours each day I laboured upon the
clay tablets. Week after week, and month after
month, I laboured, yet for my earnings I had naught
to show. Food and clothing and penance to the Gods,
and other things of which I could remember not
what, absorbed all my earnings. But my determination
did not leave me.
"And one day Algamish, the money lender, came
to the house of the city master and ordered a copy
of the Ninth Law, and he said to me, 'I must have
this in two days, and if the task is done by that time,
two coppers will I give to thee.'
"So I laboured hard, but the law was long, and
when Algamish returned the task was unfinished. He
was angry, and had I been his slave, he would have
beaten me. But knowing the city master would not
permit him to injure me, I was unafraid, so I said to
him, 'Algamish, you are a very rich man. Tell me
how I may also become rich, and all night I will
carve upon the clay, and when the sun rises it shall
be completed.'
'He smiled at me and replied, 'You are a forward
knave, but we will call it a bargain.'
The Richest Man in Babylon 13
"All that night I carved, though my back pained
and the smell of the wick made my head ache until
my eyes could hardly see. But when he returned at
sunup, the tablets were complete.
" 'Now’ I said, 'tell me what you promised.'
" 'You have fulfilled your part of our bargain, my
son,' he said to me kindly, 'and I am ready to fulfil
mine, I will tell you these things you wish to know
because I am becoming an old man, and an old
tongue loves to wag. And when youth comes to age
for advice he receives the wisdom of years. But too
often does youth think that age knows only the wisdom
of days that are gone, and therefore profits not.
But remember this, the sun that shines today is the
sun that shone when thy father was born, and will
still be shining when thy last grandchild shall pass
into the darkness.
" 'The thoughts of youth,' he continued, 'are bright
lights that shine forth like the meteors that oft make
brilliant the sky, but the wisdom of age is like the
fixed stars that shine so unchanged that the sailor
may depend upon them to steer his course.
" 'Mark you well my words, for if you do not you
will fail to grasp the truth that I will tell you, and you
will think that your night's work has been in vain.'
"Then he looked at me shrewdly from under his
shaggy brows and said in a low, forceful tone, ‘I
found the road to wealth when I decided that a part
of all I earned was mine to keep. And so will you.'
"Then he continued to look at me with a glance
that I could feel pierce me but said no more.
" 'Is that all?' I asked.
" 'That was sufficient to change the heart of a
sheep herder into the heart of a money lender,' he
"But all I earn is mine to keep, is it not?' I
"Far from it,' he replied. 'Do you not pay the
garment-maker? Do you not pay the sandal-maker?
Do you not pay for the things you eat? Can you live
in Babylon without spending? What have you to
show for your earnings of the past month? What for
the past year? Fool! You pay to everyone but yourself.
Dullard, you labour for others. As well be a slave
and work for what your master gives you to eat and
wear. If you did keep for yourself one-tenth of all
you earn, how much would you have in ten years?'
"My knowledge of the numbers did not forsake
me, and I answered, 'As much as I earn in one year.'
" 'You speak but half the truth' he retorted. 'Every
gold piece you save is a slave to work for you. Every
copper it earns is its child that also can earn for you.
If you would become wealthy, then what you save
must earn, and its children must earn, that all may
help to give to you the abundance you crave.
" 'You think I cheat you for your long night's
work,' he continued,' but I am paying you a thousand
times over if you have the intelligence to grasp
the truth I offer you.
" 'A part of all you earn is yours to keep. It should
be not less than a tenth no matter how little you
earn. It can be as much more as you can afford. Pay
yourself first. Do not buy from the clothes-maker and
the sandal-maker more than you can pay out of the
rest and still have enough for food and charity and
penance to the Gods.
" 'Wealth, like a tree, grows from a tiny seed. The
first copper you save is the seed from which your
tree of wealth shall grow. The sooner you plant that
seed the sooner shall the tree grow. And the more
The Richest Man in Babylon 15
faithfully you nourish and water that tree with consistent
savings, the sooner may you bask in contentment
beneath its shade.'
"So saying, he took his tablets and went away.
"I thought much about what he had said to me,
and it seemed reasonable. So I decided that I would
try it. Each time I was paid I took one from each ten
pieces of copper and hid it away. And strange as it
may seem, I was no shorter of funds than before. I
noticed little difference as I managed to get along
without it. But often I was tempted, as my hoard
began to grow, to spend it for some of the good
things the merchants displayed, brought by camels
and ships from the land of the Phoenicians. But I
wisely refrained.
"A twelfth month after Algamish had gone he
again returned and said to me, 'Son, have you paid
to yourself not less than one-tenth of all you have
earned for the past year?'
"I answered proudly, 'Yes, master, I have.'
'"That is good/ he answered beaming upon me,
'and what have you done with it?'
" 'I have given it to Azmur, the brick maker, who
told me he was travelling over the far seas and in
Tyre he would buy for me the rare jewels of the
Phoenicians. When he returns we shall sell these at
high prices and divide the earnings.'
" 'Every fool must learn,' he growled, 'but why
trust the knowledge of a brick maker about jewels?
Would you go to the bread maker to inquire about
the stars? No, by my tunic, you would go to the
astrologer, if you had power to think. Your savings
are gone, youth; you have jerked your wealth-tree
up by the roots. But plant another. Try again. And
next time if you would have advice about jewels, go
to the jewel merchant. If you would know the truth
about sheep, go to the herdsman. Advice is one thing
that is freely given away, but watch that you take
only what is worth having. He who takes advice
about his savings from one who is inexperienced in
such matters, shall pay with his savings for .proving
the falsity of their opinions.' Saying this, he went
"And it was as he said. For the Phoenicians are
scoundrels and sold to Azmur worthless bits of glass
that looked like gems. But as Algamish had bid me,
I again saved each tenth copper, for I now had
formed the habit and it was no longer difficult.
"Again, twelve months later, Algamish came to the
room of the scribes and addressed me. 'What progress
have you made since last I saw you?'
" 'I have paid myself faithfully/ I replied, 'and my
savings I have entrusted to Aggar the shield maker,
to buy bronze, and each fourth month he does pay
me the rental.'
"'That is good. And what do you do with the
" 'I do have a great feast with honey and fine wine
and spiced cake. Also I have bought me a scarlet
tunic. And some day I shall buy me a young ass
upon which to ride.'
"To which Algamish laughed, 'You do eat the children
of your savings. Then how do you expect them
to work for you? And how can they have children
that will also work for you? First get thee an army
of golden slaves and then many a rich banquet may
you enjoy without regret/ So saying he again went
"Nor did I again see him for two years, when he
once more returned and his face was full of deep
The Richest Man in Babylon . 17
lines and his eyes drooped, for he was becoming a
very old man And he said to me, 'Arkad, hast thou
yet achieved the wealth thou dreamed of?'
"And I answered, 'Not yet all that I desire, but
some I have and it earns more, and its earnings
earn more'
" 'And do you still take the advice of brick makers?'
" 'About brick making they give good advice,' I
'"Arkad,' he continued, 'you have learned your
lessons well. You first learned to live upon less than
you could earn. Next you learned to seek advice from
those who were competent through their own experiences
to give it. And, lastly, you have learned to
make gold work for you.
" 'You have taught yourself how to acquire money,
how to keep it and how to use it. Therefore, you are
competent for a responsible position.' I am becoming
an old man. My sons think only of spending and
give no thought to earning. My interests are great
and I fear too much for me to look after. If you will
go to Nippur and look after my lands there, I shall
make you my partner and you shall share in my
"So I went to Nippur and took charge of his holdings,
which were large. And because I was full of
ambition and because I had mastered the three laws
of successfully handling wealth, I was enabled to increase
greatly the value of his properties. So I prospered
much, and when the spirit of Algamish
departed for the sphere of darkness, I did share in
his estate as he had arranged under the law."
So spake Arkad, and when he had finished his tale,
one of his friends said, "You were indeed fortunate
that Algamish made of you an heir."
"Fortunate only in that I had the desire to prosper
before I first met him. For four years did I not prove
my definiteness of purpose by keeping one-tenth of
all I earned? Would you call a fisherman lucky who
for years so studied the habits of the fish that with
each changing wind he could cast his nets about
them? Opportunity is a haughty goddess who wastes
no time with those who are unprepared."
"You had strong willpower to keep on after you
lost your first year's savings. You are unusual in that
way," spoke up another.
"Willpower!" retorted Arkad. "What nonsense. Do
you think willpower gives a man the strength to lift
a burden the camel cannot carry, or to draw a load
the oxen cannot budge? Will power is but the unflinching
purpose to carry a task you set for yourself
to fulfilment. If I set for myself a task, be it ever so
trifling, I shall see it through. How else shall I have
confidence in myself to do important things? Should
I say to myself, 'For a hundred days as I walk across
the bridge into the city, I will pick from the road a
pebble and cast it into the stream/ I would do it If
on the seventh day I passed by without remembering,
I would not say to myself, 'Tomorrow I will cast
two pebbles which will do as well/ Instead, I would
retrace my steps and cast the pebble. Nor on the
twentieth day would I say to myself, 'Arkad, this is
useless. What does it avail you to cast a pebble every
day? Throw in a handful and be done with it.' No,
I would not say that nor do it. When I set a task for
myself, I complete it. Therefore, I am careful not to
start difficult and impractical tasks, because I love
And then another friend spoke up and said, "If
what you tell is true, and it does seem as you have
The Richest Man in Babylon 19
said, reasonable, then being so simple, if all men did
it, there would not be enough wealth to go around."
"Wealth grows wherever men exert energy,”
Arkad replied. "If a rich man builds him a new palace,
is the gold he pays out gone? No, the brickmaker
has part of it and the labourer has part of it and the
artist has part of it. And everyone who labours upon
the house has part of it. Yet when the palace is completed,
is it not worm all it cost? And is the ground
upon which it stands not worth more because it is
there? And is the ground that adjoins it not worm
more because it is mere? Wealth grows in magic
ways. No man can prophesy the limit of it. Have not
the Phoenicians built great cities on barren coasts
with the wealth that comes from their ships of commerce
on the seas?"
"What then do you advise us to do that we also
may become rich?" asked still another of his friends.
"The years have passed and we are no longer young
men and were have nothing put by."
"I advise that you take the wisdom of Algamish
and say to yourselves, 'A part of all I earn is mine to
keep.' Say it in the morning when you first arise. Say
it at noon. Say it at night. Say it each hour of every
day. Say it to yourself until the words stand out like
letters of fire across the sky.
"Impress yourself with the idea. Fill yourself with
the thought Then take whatever portion seems wise.
Let it be not less than one-tenth and lay it by. Arrange
your other expenditures to do this if necessary.
But lay by that portion first. Soon you will realize
what a rich feeling it is to own a treasure upon which
you alone have claim. As it grows it will stimulate
you. A new joy of life will thrill you. Greater efforts
will come to you to earn more. For of your increased
earnings, will not the same percentage be also yours
to keep?
"Then learn to make your treasure work for you.
Make it your slave. Make its children and its children's
children work for you.
"Insure an income for thy future. Look thou at the
aged and forget not that in the days to come thou also
will be numbered among them. Therefore invest thy
treasure with greatest caution that it be not lost Usurious
rates of return are deceitful sirens that sing but to
lure the unwary upon the rocks of loss and remorse.
"Provide also that thy family may not want should
the Gods call thee to their realms. For such protection
it is always possible to make provision with small
payments at regular intervals. Therefore the provident
man delays not in expectation of a large sum
becoming available for such a wise purpose.
"Counsel with wise men. Seek the advice of men
whose daily work is handling money. Let them save
you from such an error as I myself made in entrusting
my money to the judgment of Azmur, the
brickmaker. A small return and a safe one is far more
desirable than risk.
"Enjoy life while you are here. Do not overstrain
or try to save too much. If one-tenth of all you earn
is as much as you can comfortably keep, be content
to keep this portion. Live otherwise according to
your income and let not yourself get niggardly and
afraid to spend. Life is good and life is rich with
things worthwhile and things to enjoy."
His friends thanked him and went away. Some
were silent because they had no imagination and
could not understand. Some were sarcastic because
they thought that one so rich should divide with old
friends not so fortunate. But some had in their eyes
The Richest Man in Babylon 21
a new light. They realized that Algamish had come
back each time to the room of the scribes because he
was watching a man work his way out of darkness
into light. When that man had found the light; a
place awaited him. No one could fill that place until
he had for himself worked out his own understanding,
until he was ready for opportunity.
These latter were the ones, who, in the following
years, frequently revisited Arkad, who received them
gladly. He counselled with them and gave them freely
of his wisdom as men of broad experience are always
glad to do. And he assisted them in so investing their
savings that it would bring in a good interest with
safety and would neither be lost nor entangled in
investments that paid no dividends.
The turning point in these men's lives came upon
that day when they realized the truth that had come
from Algamish to Arkad and from Arkad to them.
Seven Cures for a
Lean Purse
The glory of Babylon endures. Down through the
ages its reputation comes to us as the richest of cities,
its treasures as fabulous.
Yet it was not always so. The riches of Babylon
were the results of the wisdom of its people. They
first had to learn how to become wealthy.
When the good king, Sargon, returned to Babylon
after defeating his enemies, the Elamites, he was confronted
with a serious situation The Royal Chancellor
explained it to the king thus:
"After many years of great prosperity brought to
our people because your majesty built the great irrigation
canals and the mighty temples of the Gods,
now that these works are completed the people seem
unable to support themselves.
"The labourers are without employment. The merchants
have few customers. The farmers are unable
to sell their produce. The people have not enough
gold to buy food."
"But where has all the gold gone that we spent
Seven cures for a Lean Purse 23
for these great improvements?" demanded the
"It has found its way, I fear/' responded the Chancellor,
"into the possession of a few very rich men
of our city. It filtered through the fingers of most of
our people as quickly as the goat's milk goes through
the strainer. Now that the stream of gold has ceased
to flow, most of our people have nothing to show
for their earnings."
The king was thoughtful for some time. Then he
asked, "Why should so few men be able to acquire
all the gold?"
"Because they know how," replied the Chancellor.
"One may not condemn a man for succeeding because
he knows how. Neither may one with justice
take away from a man what he has fairly earned, to
give to men of less ability."
"But why," demanded the king, "should not all
the people learn how to accumulate gold and therefore
become themselves rich and prosperous?"
"Quite possible, your Excellency. But who can
teach them? Certainly not the priests, because they
know naught of money making."
"Who knows best in all our city how to become
wealthy. Chancellor?" asked the king.
"Thy question answers itself, your majesty. Who
has amassed the greatest wealth in Babylon?"
"Well said, my able Chancellor. It is Arkad. He is
the richest man in Babylon. Bring him before me on
the morrow."
Upon the following day, as the king had decreed,
Arkad appeared before him, straight and sprightly
despite his three score years and ten.
"Arkad," spoke the king, "is it true thou art the
richest man in Babylon?"
"So it is reported, your majesty, and no man disputes
"How becamest thou so wealthy?"
"By taking advantage of opportunities available to
all citizens of our good city."
"Thou hadst nothing to start with?"
"Only a great desire for wealth. Besides this,
"Arkad," continued the King, "our city is in a very
unhappy state because a few men know how to acquire
wealth and therefore monopolize it, while the
mass of our citizens lack the knowledge of how to
keep any part of the gold they receive.
"It'is my desire that Babylon be the wealthiest city
in the world. Therefore, it must be a city of many
wealthy men. Therefore, we must teach all the people
how to acquire riches. Tell me, Arkad, is mere any
secret to acquiring wealth? Can it be taught?"
"It is practical, your majesty. That which one man
knows can be taught to others."
The king's eyes glowed. "Arkad, thou speaketh the
words I wish to hear. Wilt thou lend thyself to this
great cause? Wilt thou teach thy knowledge to a
school for teachers/each of whom shall teach others
until there are enough trained to teach these truths
to every worthy subject in my domain?"
Arkad bowed and said, "I am thy humble servant
to command. Whatever knowledge I possess will I
gladly give for the betterment of my fellowmen and
the glory of my king. Let your good chancellor arrange
for me a class of one hundred men and I will
teach to them those seven cures which did fatten my
purse, man which mere was none leaner in all
A fortnight later, in compliance with the king's
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse 25
command, the chosen hundred assembled in the
great hall of the Temple of Learning, seated upon
colourful rings in a semicircle. Arkad sat beside a
small taboret upon which smoked a sacred lamp
sending forth a strange and pleasing odour.
"Behold the richest man in Babylon," whispered a
student, nudging his neighbour as Arkad arose. "He
is but a man even as the rest of us."
"As a dutiful subject of our great king," Arkad
began, "I stand before you in his service. Because
once I was a poor youth who did greatly desire gold,
and because I found knowledge that enabled me to
acquire it, he asks that I impart unto you my
"I started my fortune in the humblest way. I had
no advantage not enjoyed as fully by you and every
citizen in Babylon.
"The first storehouse of my treasure was a wellworn
purse. I loathed its useless emptiness. I desired
that it be round and full, clinking with the sound of
gold. Therefore, I sought every remedy for a lean
purse. I found seven.
"To you, who are assembled before me, shall I explain
the seven cures for a lean purse which I do
recommend to all men who desire much gold. Each
day for seven days will I explain to you one of the
seven remedies.
"Listen attentively to the knowledge that I will impart.
Debate it with me. Discuss it among yourselves.
Learn these lessons thoroughly, that ye may also
plant in your own purse the seed of wealth. First
must each of you start wisely to build a fortune of
his own. Then wilt thou be competent, and only then,
to teach these truths to others.
"I shall teach to you In simple ways how to fatten
your purses. This is the first step leading to the temple
of wealth, and no man may climb who cannot
plant his feet firmly upon the first step.
"We shall now consider the first cure."
Start thy purse to fattening
Arkad addressed a thoughtful man in the second
row. "My good friend, at what craft workest thou?"
"I," replied the man, "am a scribe and carve records
upon the clay tablets."
"Even at such labour did I myself earn my first coppers.
Therefore, thou hast the same opportunity to
build a fortune."
He spoke to a florid-faced man, farther back. "Pray
tell also what dost thou to earn thy bread."
"I," responded this man, "am a meat butcher. I do
buy the goats the farmers raise and kill them and
sell the meat to the housewives and the hides to the
"Because thou dost also labour and earn, thou hast
every advantage to succeed that I did possess."
In this way did Arkad proceed to find out how
each man laboured to earn his living. When he had
done questioning them, he said:
"Now, my students, ye can see that there are many
trades and labours at which men may earn coins. Each
of the ways of earning is a stream of gold from which
the worker doth divert by his labours a portion to his
own purse. Therefore into the purse of each of you
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse 27
flows a stream of coins large or small according to
his ability. Is it not so?"
Thereupon they agreed that it was so.
"Then," continued Arkad, "if each of you desireth
to build for himself a fortune, is it not wise to start
by utilizing that source of wealth which he already
has established?"
To this they agreed.
Then Arkad turned to a humble man who had declared
himself an egg merchant. "If thou select one
of thy baskets and put into it each morning ten eggs
and take out from it each evening nine eggs, what
will eventually happen?"
"It will become in time overflowing."
"Because each day I put in one more egg than I
take out."
Arkad turned to the class with a smile. "Does any
man here have a lean purse?"
First they looked amused. Then they laughed.
Lastly they waved their purses in jest.
"All right," he continued. "Now I shall tell thee
the first remedy I learned to cure a lean purse. Do
exactly as I'have suggested to the egg merchant. For
every ten coins thou placest within thy purse take out far
use but nine. Thy purse will start to fatten at once and
its increasing weight will feel good in thy hand and bring
satisfaction to thy soul.
"Deride not what I say because of its simplicity.
Truth is always simple. I told thee I would tell how
I built my fortune. This was my beginning. I, too,
carried a lean purse and cursed it because there was
naught within to satisfy my desires. But when I
began to take out from my purse but nine parts of
ten I put in, it began to fatten. So will thine.
"Now I will tell a strange truth, the reason for
which I know not. When I ceased to pay out more
than nine-tenths of my earnings, I managed to get
along just as well. I was not shorter than before. Also,
ere long, did coins come to me more easily than before.
Surely it is a law of the Gods that unto him
who keepeth and spendeth not a certain part of all
his earnings, shall gold come more easily. Likewise,
him whose purse is empty does gold avoid.
"Which desirest thou the most? Is it the gratification
of thy desires of each day, a jewel, a bit of finery,
better raiment, more food; things quickly gone and
forgotten? Or is it substantial belongings, gold, lands,
herds, merchandise, income-bringing investments?
The coins thou takest from thy purse bring the first.
The coins thou leavest within it will bring the latter.
"This, my students, was the first cure I did discover
for my lean purse: 'For each ten coins I put in,
to spend but nine.' Debate this among yourselves. If
any man proves it untrue, tell me upon the morrow
when we shall meet again."
Control thy expenditures
"Some of your members, my students, have asked
me this: 'How can a man keep one-tenth of all he
earns in his purse when all the coins he earns are not
enough for his necessary expenses?' " So did Arkad
address his students upon the second day.
"Yesterday how many of thee carried lean
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse 29
"All of us," answered the class.
"Yet, thou do not all earn the same. Some earn
much more than others. Some have much larger families
to support. Yet, all purses were equally lean.
Now I will tell thee an unusual truth about men and
sons of men. It is this: That what each of us calls our
'necessary expenses' will always grow to equal our
incomes unless we protest to the contrary.
"Confuse not the necessary expenses with thy desires.
Each of you, together with your good families,
have more desires than your earnings can gratify.
Therefore are thy earnings spent to gratify these desires
insofar as they will go. Still thou retainest many
ungratified desires.
"All men are burdened with more desires than
they can gratify. Because of my wealth thinkest thou
I may gratify every desire? 'Tis a false idea. There
are limits to my time. There are limits to my strength.
There are limits to the distance I may travel. There
are limits to what I may eat. There are limits to the
zest with which I may enjoy.
"I say to you that just as weeds grow in a field
wherever the farmer leaves space for their roots, even
so freely do desires grow in men whenever there is
a possibility of their being gratified. Thy desires are
a multitude and those that thou mayest gratify are
but few.
"Study thoughtfully thy accustomed habits of living.
Herein may be most often found certain accepted
expenses that may wisely be reduced or eliminated.
Let thy motto be one hundred per cent of appreciated
value demanded for each coin spent.
"Therefore, engrave upon the clay each thing for
which thou desireth to spend. Select those that are
necessary and others that are possible through the
expenditure of nine-tenths of thy income. Cross out
the rest and consider them but a part of that great
multitude of desires that must go unsatisfied and regret
them not.
"Budget then thy necessary expenses. Touch not
the one-tenth that is fattening thy purse. Let this be
thy great desire that is being fulfilled. Keep working
with thy budget, keep adjusting it to help thee. Make
it thy first assistant in defending thy fattening
Hereupon one of the students, wearing a robe of
red and gold, arose and said, "I am a free man. I
believe that it is my right to enjoy the good things
of life. Therefore do I rebel against the slavery of a
budget which determines just how much I may
spend and for what. I feel it would take much pleasure
from my life and make me little more than a
pack-ass to carry a burden."
To him Arkad replied, "Who, my friend, would
determine thy budget?"
"I would make it for myself," responded the protesting
"In that case were a pack-ass to budget his burden
would he include therein jewels and rugs and heavy
bars of gold? Not so. He would include hay and
grain and a bag of water for the desert trail.
"The purpose of a budget is to help thy purse to
fatten. It is to assist thee to have thy necessities and,
insofar as attainable, thy other desires. It is to enable
thee to realize thy most cherished desires by defending
them from thy casual wishes. Like a bright
light in a dark cave thy budget shows up the leaks
from thy purse and enables thee to stop them and
control thy expenditures for definite and gratifying
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse 31
"This, then, is the second cure for a lean purse.
Budget thy expenses that thou mayest have coins to pay
for thy necessities, to pay for thy enjoyments and to
thy worthwhile desires without spending more than ninetenths
of thy earnings."
Make thy gold multiply
"Behold thy lean purse is fattening. Thou hast disciplined
thyself to leave therein one-tenth of all thou
earneth. Thou hast controlled thy expenditures to
protect thy growing treasure. Next, we will consider
means to put thy treasure to labour and to increase.
Gold in a purse is gratifying to own and satisfieth a
miserly soul but earns nothing. The gold we may
retain from our earnings is but the start. The earnings
it will make shall build our fortunes." So spoke
Arkad upon the third day to his class.
"How therefore may we put our gold to work? My
first investment was unfortunate, for I lost all. Its tale
I will relate later. My first profitable investment was
a loan I made to a man named Aggar, a shield maker.
Once each year did he buy large shipments of bronze
brought from across the sea to use in his trade. Lacking
sufficient capital to pay the merchants, he would
borrow from those who had extra coins. He was an
honourable man. His borrowing he would repay, together
with a liberal rental, as he sold his shields.
"Each time I loaned to him I loaned back also the
rental he had paid to me. Therefore not only did my
capital increase, but its earnings likewise increased.
Most gratifying was it to have these sums return to
my purse.
"I tell you, my students, a man's wealth is not in
the coins he carries in his purse; it is the income he
buildeth, the golden stream that continually floweth
into his purse and keepeth it always bulging. That is
what every man desireth. That is what thou, each
one of thee, desireth; an income that continueth to
come whether thou work or travel.
"Great income I have acquired. So great that I am
called a very rich man. My loans to Aggar were my
first training in profitable investment. Gaining wisdom
from this experience, I extended my loans and
investments as my capital increased. From a few
sources at first, from many sources later, flowed into
my purse a golden stream of wealth available for
such wise uses as I should decide.
"Behold, from my humble earnings I had begotten
a hoard of golden slaves, each labouring and earning
more gold. As they laboured for me, so their children
also laboured and their children's children until great
was the income from their combined efforts.
"Gold increaseth rapidly, when making reasonable
earnings as thou wilt see from the following: A
farmer, when his first son was born, took ten pieces
of silver to a money lender and asked him to keep
it on rental for his son until he became twenty years
of age. This the money lender did, and agreed the
rental should be one-fourth of its value each four
years. The farmer asked, because this sum he had set
aside as belonging to his son, that the rental be added
to the principal.
"When the boy had reached the age of twenty
years, the farmer again went to the money lender to
inquire about the silver. The money lender explained
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse 33
that because this sum had been increased by compound
interest, the original ten pieces of silver had
now grown to thirty and one-half pieces.
"The farmer was well pleased and because the son
did not need the coins, he left them with the money
lender. When the son became fifty years of age, the
father meantime having passed to the other world,
the money lender paid the son in settlement one hundred
and sixty-seven pieces of silver.
"Thus in fifty years had the investment multiplied
itself at rental almost seventeen times.
"This, then, is the third cure for a lean purse: to
put each coin to labouring that it may reproduce its kind
even as the flocks of the field and help bring to thee
a stream of wealth that shall flow constantly into thy
Guard thy treasures from loss
"Misfortune loves a shining mark. Gold in a man's
purse must be guarded with firmness, else it be lost.
Thus it is wise that we must first secure small
amounts and learn to protect them before the Gods
entrust us with larger." So spoke Arkad upon the
fourth day to his class.
"Every owner of gold is tempted by opportunities
whereby it would seem that he could make large
sums by its investment in most plausible projects.
Often friends and relatives are eagerly entering such
investment and urge him to follow.
"The first sound principle of investment is security
for thy principal. Is it wise to be intrigued by larger
earnings when thy principal may be lost? I say not.
The penalty of risk is probable loss. Study carefully,
before parting with thy treasure, each assurance that
it may be safely reclaimed. Be not misled by thine I
own romantic desires to make wealth rapidly.
"Before thou loan it to any man assure thyself of
his ability to repay and his reputation for doing so,
that thou mayest not unwittingly be making him a
present of thy hard-earned treasure.
"Before thou entrust it as an investment in any
field acquaint thyself with the dangers which may
beset it.
"My own first investment was a tragedy to me at
the time. The guarded savings of a year I did entrust
to a brickmaker, named Azmur, who was travelling
over the far seas and in Tyre agreed to buy for me
the rare jewels of the Phoenicians. These we would
sell upon his return and divide the profits. The Phoenicians
were scoundrels and sold him bits of glass.
My treasure was lost. Today, my training would
show to me at once the folly of entrusting a brickmaker
to buy jewels.
"Therefore, do I advise thee from the wisdom of
my experiences: be not too confident of thine own
wisdom in entrusting thy treasures to the possible
pitfalls of investments. Better by far to consult the
wisdom of those experienced in handling money for
profit. Such advice is freely given for the asking and
may readily possess a value equal in gold to the sum
thou considerest investing. In truth, such is its actual
value if it save thee from loss.
"This, then, is the fourth cure for a lean purse, and
of great importance if it prevent thy purse from being
emptied once it has become well filled. Guard thy
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse 35
treasure from loss by investing only where thy principal
is safe, where it may be reclaimed if desirable, and where
thou will not fail to collect a fair rental. Consult with
wise men. Secure the advice of those experienced in the
profitable handling of gold. Let their wisdom protect thy
treasure from unsafe investments."
Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
"If a man setteth aside nine parts of his earnings
upon which to live and enjoy life, and if any part of
this nine parts he can turn into a profitable investment
without detriment to his well-being, then so
much faster will his treasures grow." So spake Arkad
to his class at their fifth lesson.
"All too many of our men of Babylon do raise
their families in unseemly quarters. They do pay to
exacting landlords liberal rentals for rooms where
their wives have not a spot to' raise the blooms that
gladden a woman's heart and their children have no
place to play their games except in the unclean alleys.
"No man's family can fully enjoy life unless they
do have a plot of ground wherein children can play
in the clean earth and where the wife may raise not
only blossoms but good rich herbs to feed her family.
"To a man's heart it brings gladness to eat the figs
from his own trees and the grapes of his own vines.
To own his own domicile and to have it a place he
is proud to care for, putteth confidence in his heart
and greater effort behind all his endeavours. There36
fore, do I recommend that every man own the roof
that sheltereth him and his.
"Nor is it beyond the ability of any well-intentioned
man to own his home. Hath not our great king so
widely extended the walls of Babylon that within
them much land is now unused and may be purchased
at sums most reasonable?
"Also I say to you, my students, that the money
lenders gladly consider the desires of men who seek
homes and land for their families. Readily may thou
borrow to pay the brickmaker and the builder for
such commendable purposes, if thou can show a reasonable
portion of the necessary sum which thou thyself
hath provided for the purpose.
"Then when the house be built, thou canst pay the
money lender with the same regularity as thou didst
pay the landlord. Because each payment will reduce
thy indebtedness to the money lender, a few years
will satisfy his loan.
"Then will thy heart be glad because thou wilt
own in thy own right a valuable property and thy
only cost will be the king's taxes.
"Also wilt thy good wife go more often to the river
to wash thy robes, that each time returning she may
bring a goatskin of water to pour upon the growing
"Thus come many blessings to the man who owneth
his own house. And greatly will it reduce his cost
of living, making available more of his earnings for
pleasures and the gratification of his desires. This,
then, is the fifth cure for a lean purse: Own thy own
Insure a future income
"The life of every man proceedeth from his childhood
to his old age. This is the path of life and no
man may deviate from it unless the Gods call him
prematurely to the world beyond. Therefore do I say
that it behoves a man to make preparation for a suitable
income in the days to come, when he is no longer
young, and to make preparations for his family should
he be no longer with them to comfort and support them.
This lesson shall instruct thee in providing a full
purse when time has made thee less able to learn."
So Arkad addressed his class upon the sixth day.
"The man who, because of his understanding of the
laws of wealth, acquireth a growing surplus, should
give thought to those future days. He should plan
certain investments or provisions that may endure
safely for many years/yet will be available when the
time arrives which he has so wisely anticipated.
'.'There are diverse ways by which a man may provide
with safety for his future. He may provide a
hiding place and there bury a secret treasure. Yet, no
matter with what skill it be hidden, it may nevertheless
become the loot of thieves. For this reason I recommend
not this plan.
"A man may buy houses or lands for this purpose.
If wisely chosen as to their usefulness and value in
the future, they are permanent in their value and
their earnings or their sale will provide well for his
"A man may loan a small sum to the money lender
and increase it at regular periods. The rental which
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse 37
the money lender adds to this will largely add to its
increase. I do know a sandal-maker, named Ansan,
who explained to me not long ago that each week
for eight years he had deposited with his money
lender two pieces of silver. The money lender had
but recently given him an accounting over which he
greatly rejoiced. The total of his small deposits with
their rental at the customary rate of one-fourth their
value for each four years, had now become a thousand
and forty pieces of silver.
"I did gladly encourage him further by demonstrating
to him with my knowledge of the numbers
that in twelve years more, if he would keep his regular
deposits of but two pieces of silver each week,
the money lender would then owe him four thousand
pieces of silver, a worthy competence for the
rest of his life.
"Surely, when such a small payment made with
regularity doth produce such profitable results, no
man can afford not to insure a treasure for his old age
and the protection of his family, no matter how prosperous
his business and his investments may be.
"I would that I might say more about this. In my
mind rests a belief that some day wise-thinking men
will devise a plan to insure against death whereby
many men pay in but a trifling sum regularly, the
aggregate making a handsome sum for the family of
each member who passeth to the beyond. This do I
see as something desirable and which I could highly
recommend. But today it is not possible because it
must reach beyond the life of any man or any partnership
to operate. It must be as stable as the king's
throne. Some day do I feel that such a plan shall
come to pass and be a great blessing to many men,
because even the first small payment will make availSeven
Cures for a Lean Purse 39
able a snug fortune for the family of a member
should he pass on.
"But because we live in our own day and not in
the days which are to come, must we take advantage
of those means and ways of accomplishing our purposes.
Therefore do I recommend to all men, that
they, by wise and well thought out methods, do provide
against a lean purse in their mature years. For
a lean purse to a man no longer able to earn or to a
family without its head is a sore tragedy.
"This, then, is the sixth cure for a lean purse. Provide
in advance for the needs of thy growing age and the
protection of thy family."
Increase thy ability to earn
"This day do I speak to thee, my students, of one
of the most vital remedies for a lean purse. Yet, I
will talk not of gold but of yourselves, of the men
beneath the robes of many colours who do sit before
me. I will talk to you of those things within the
minds and lives of men which do work for or against
their success." So did Arkad address his class upon
the seventh day?
"Not long ago came to me a young man seeking
to borrow. When I questioned him the cause of his
necessity, he complained that his earnings were insufficient
to pay his expenses. Thereupon I explained
to him, this being the case, he was a poor customer
for the money lender, as he possessed no surplus
earning capacity to repay the loan.
" 'What you need, young man/ I told him, 'is to
earn more coins. What dost thou to increase thy caparity
to earn?'
" 'All that I can do,' he replied. 'Six times within
two moons have I approached my master to request
my pay be increased, but without success. No man
can go oftener than that.'
"We may smile at his simplicity, yet he did possess
one of the vital requirements to increase his earnings.
Within him was a strong desire to earn more, a
proper and commendable desire.
"Preceding accomplishment must be desire. Thy desires
must be strong and definite. General desires are but
weak longings. For a man to wish to be rich is of
little purpose. For a man to desire five pieces of gold
is a tangible desire which he can press to fulfilment.
After he has backed his desire for five pieces of gold
with strength of purpose to secure it, next he can
find similar ways to obtain ten pieces and then
twenty pieces and later a thousand pieces and, behold,
he has become wealthy. In learning to secure
his one definite small desire, he hath trained himself
to secure a larger one. This is the process by which
wealth is accumulated: first in small sums, then in
larger ones as a man learns and becomes more
"Desires must be simple and definite. They defeat
their own purpose should they be too many, too confusing
or beyond a man's training to accomplish.
"As a man perfecteth himself in his calling even
so doth his ability to earn increase. In those days
when I was a humble scribe carving upon the clay
for a few coppers each day, I observed that other
workers did more than I and were paid more. Therefore,
did I determine that I would be exceeded by
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse 41
none. Nor did it take long for me to discover the
reason for their greater success. More interest in my
work, more concentration upon my task, more persistence
in my effort, and, behold, few men could carve
more tablets in a day than I. With reasonable promptness
my increased skill was rewarded, nor was it
necessary for me to go six times to my master to
request recognition.
"The more of wisdom we know, the more we may
earn. That man who seeks to learn more of his craft
shall be richly rewarded. If he is an artisan, he may
seek to learn the methods and the tools of those most
skilful in the same line. If he laboureth at the law or
at healing, he may consult and exchange knowledge
with others of his calling. If he be a merchant, he
may continually seek better goods that can be purchased
at lower prices.
"Always do the affairs of man change and improve
because keen-minded men seek greater skill that they
may better serve those upon whose patronage they
depend. Therefore, I urge all men to be in the front
rank of progress and not to stand still, lest they be
left behind.
"Many things come to make a man's life rich with
gainful experiences. Such things as the following, a
man must do if he respects himself:
"He must pay his debts with all the promptness within
his power, not purchasing that for which he is unable
to pay.
"He must take care of his family that they may think
and speak well of him.
"He must make a will of record that, in case the Gods
call him, proper and honourable division of his property
be accomplished.
"He must have compassion upon those who are injured
and smitten by misfortune and aid them within reasonable
limits. He must do deeds of thoughtfulness to those dear
to him.
"Thus the seventh and last remedy for a lean purse
is to cultivate thy own powers, to study and become wiser,
to become more skilful, to so act as to respect thyself.
Thereby shalt thou acquire confidence in thyself to
achieve thy carefully considered desires.
"These then are the seven cures for a lean purse,
which, out of the experience of a long and successful
life, I do urge for all men who desire wealth.
"There is more gold in Babylon, my students, than
thou dreamest of. There is abundance for all.
"Go thou forth and practice these truths that thou
mayest prosper and grow wealthy, as is thy right.
"Go thou forth and teach these truths that every
honourable subject of his majesty may also share liberally
in the ample wealth of our beloved city."
Meet the Goddess of
Good Luck
"If a man be lucky, there is no foretelling the possible
extent of his good fortune. Pitch him into the Euphrates
and like as not he will swim out with a pearl in his
—Babylonian proverb
The desire to be lucky is universal. It was just as
strong in the breasts of men four thousand years ago
in ancient Babylon as it is in the hearts of men today.
We all hope to be favoured by the whimsical Goddess
of Good Luck. Is there some way we can meet her
and attract, not only her favourable attention, but her
generous favours?
Is there a way to attract good luck?
That is just what the men of ancient Babylon
wished to know. It is exactly what they decided to
find out. They were shrewd men and keen thinkers.
That explains why their city became the richest and
most powerful city of their time.
In that distant past, they had no schools or col-
leges. Nevertheless they had a centre of learning and
a very practical one it was. Among the towered
buildings in Babylon was one that ranked in importance
with the Palace of the King, the Hanging Gardens
and the temples of the Gods. You will find scant
mention of it in the history books, more likely no
mention at all, yet it exerted a powerful influence
upon the thought of that time.
This building was the Temple of Learning where
the wisdom of the past was expounded by voluntary
teachers and where subjects of popular interest were
discussed in open forums. Within its walls all men
met as equals. The humblest of slaves could dispute
with impunity the opinions of a prince of the royal
Among the many who frequented the Temple of
Learning, was a wise rich man named Arkad, called
the richest man in Babylon. He had his own special
hall where almost any evening a large group of men,
some old, some very young, but mostly middle-aged,
gathered to discuss and argue interesting subjects.
Suppose we listen in to see whether they knew how
to attract good luck.
The sun had just set like a great red ball of fire
shining through the haze of desert dust when Arkad
strolled to his accustomed platform. Already full four
score men were awaiting his arrival, reclining on
their small rugs spread upon the floor. More were
still arriving.
"What shall we discuss this night?" Arkad inquired.
After a brief hesitation, a tall cloth weaver addressed
him, arising as was the custom. "I have a
subject I would like to hear discussed yet hesitate to
offer lest it seem ridiculous to you, Arkad, and my
good friends here."
Meet the Goddess of Good Luck 45
Upon being urged to offer it, both by Arkad and
by calls from the others, he continued: "This day I
have been lucky, for I have found a purse in which
there are pieces of gold. To continue to be lucky is
my great desire. Feeling that all men share with me
this desire, I do suggest we debate how to attract
good luck that we may discover ways it can be enticed
to one."
"A. most interesting subject has been offered,"
Arkad commented, "one most worthy of our discussion.
To some men, good luck bespeaks but a chance
happening that, like an accident, may befall one without
purpose or reason. Others do believe that the
instigator of all good fortune is our most bounteous
goddess, Ashtar, ever anxious to reward with generous
gifts those who please her. Speak up, my friends,
what say you, shall we seek to find if there be means
by which good luck may be enticed to visit each and
all of us?"
"Yea! Yea! And much of it!" responded the growing
group of eager listeners.
Thereupon Arkad continued, "To start our discussion,
let us first hear from those among us who have
enjoyed experiences similar to that of the cloth
weaver in finding or receiving, without effort upon
their part, valuable treasures or jewels."
There was a pause in which all looked about expecting
someone to reply but no one did.
"What, no one?" Arkad asked. "Then rare indeed
must be this kind of good luck. Who now will offer
a suggestion as to where we shall continue our
"That I will do," spoke a well-robed young man,
arising. "When a man speaketh of luck is it not natural
that his thoughts turn to the gaming tables? Is it
not there we find many men courting the favour of
the goddess in hope she will bless them with rich
As he resumed his seat a voice called, "Do not
stop! Continue thy story! Tell us, didst thou find
favour with the goddess at the gaming tables? Did she _
turn the cubes with red side up so thou filled thy
purse at the dealer's expense or did she permit the
blue sides to come up so the dealer raked in thy
hard-earned pieces of silver?"
The young man joined the good-natured laughter,
then replied, "I am not averse to admitting she
seemed not to know I was even there. But how about
the rest of you? Have you found her waiting about
such places to roll the cubes in your favour? We are
eager to hear as well as to learn."
"A wise start," broke in Arkad. "We meet here to
consider all sides of each question. To ignore the,,
gaming table would be to overlook an instinct common
to most men, the love of taking a chance with
a small amount of silver in the hope of winning
much gold."
"That doth remind me of the races but yesterday,"
called out another listener. "If the goddess frequents j
the gaming tables, certainly she dost not overlook the
races where the gilded chariots and the foaming
horses offer far more excitement. Tell us honestly,
Arkad, didst she whisper to you to place your bet
upon those gray horses from Nineveh yesterday? I
was standing just behind thee and could scarce believe
my ears when I heard thee place thy bet upon
the grays. Thou knowest as well as any of us that no
team in all Assyria can beat our beloved bays in a
fair race.
"Didst the goddess whisper in thy ear to bet upon
Meet the Goddess of Good Luck 47
the grays because at the last turn the inside black
would stumble and so interfere with our bays that
the grays would win the race and score an unearned
Arkad smiled indulgently at the banter. "What reason
have we to feel the good goddess would take
that much interest in any man's bet upon a horse
race? To me she is a goddess of love and dignity
whose pleasure it is to aid those who are in need
and to reward those who are deserving. I look to
find her, not at the gaming tables or the races where
men lose more gold than they win but in other places
where the doings of men are more worthwhile and
more worthy of reward.
"In tilling the soil, in honest trading, in all of man's
occupations, there is opportunity to make a profit
upon his efforts and his transactions. Perhaps not all
the time will he be rewarded because sometimes his
judgment may be faulty, and other times the winds
and the weather may defeat his efforts. Yet, if he
persists, he may usually expect to realize his profit.
This is so because the chances of profit are always in
his favour.
"But, when a man playeth the games, the situation
is reversed for the chances of profit are always
against him and always in favour of the game keeper.
The game is so arranged that it will always favour the
keeper.. It is his business at which he plans to make
a liberal profit for himself from the coins bet by the
players. Few players realize how certain are the game
keeper's profits and how uncertain are their own
chances to win.
"For example, let us consider wagers placed upon
the cube. Each time it is cast we bet which side will
be uppermost. If it be the red side the game master
pays to us four times our bet. But if any other of the
five sides come uppermost, we lose our bet. Thus the
figures show that for each cast we have five chances
to lose, but because the red pays four for one, we
have four chances to win. In a night's play the game
master can expect to keep for his profit one-fifth of
all the coins wagered. Can a man expect to win more
than occasionally against odds so arranged that he
should lose one-fifth of all his bets?"
"Yet some men do win large sums at times," volunteered
one of the listeners.
"Quite so, they do," Arkad continued. "Realizing
this, the question comes to me whether money secured
in such ways brings permanent value to those
who are thus lucky. Among my acquaintances are
many of the successful men of Babylon, yet among
them I am unable to name a single one who started
his success from such a source.
"You who are gathered here tonight know many
more of our substantial citizens. To me it would be
of much interest to learn how many of our successful
citizens can credit the gaming tables with their start
to success. Suppose each of you tell of those you
know. What say you?"
After a prolonged silence, a wag ventured,
"Wouldst thy inquiry include the game keepers?"
"If you think of no one else," Arkad responded.
"If not one of you can think of anyone else, then
how about yourselves? Are there any consistent winners
with us who hesitate to advise such a source for
their incomes?"
His challenge was answered by a series of groans
from the rear taken up and spread amid much
Meet the Goddess, of Good Luck 49
"It would seem we are not seeking good luck in
such places as the goddess frequents," he continued,
"Therefore let us explore other fields. We have not
found it in picking up lost wallets. Neither have we
found it haunting the gaming tables. As to the races,
1 must confess to have lost far more coins there than
I have ever won.
"Now, suppose we consider our trades and businesses!
Is it not natural if we conclude a profitable
transaction to consider it not good luck but a just
reward for our efforts? I am inclined to think we may
be overlooking the gifts of the goddess. Perhaps she
really does assist us when we do not appreciate her
generosity. Who can suggest further discussion?"
Thereupon an elderly merchant arose, smoothing
his genteel white robe. "With thy permission, most
honourable Arkad and my friends, I offer a suggestion.
If, as you have said, we take credit to our own
industry and ability for our business success, why
not consider the successes we almost enjoyed but
which escaped us, happenings which would have
been most profitable. They would have been rare examples
of good luck if they had actually happened.
Because they were not brought to fulfilment we cannot
consider them as our just rewards. Surely many
men here have such experiences to relate."
"Here is a wise approach," Arkad approved. "Who
among you have had good luck within your grasp
only to see it escape?"
Many hands were raised, among them that of the
merchant. Arkad motioned to him to speak. "As you
suggested this approach, we should like to hear first
from you."
"I will gladly relate a tale," he resumed, "that doth
Illustrate how closely, unto a man good luck may
approach and how blindly he may permit it to escape,
much to his loss and later regret.
"Many years ago, when I was a young man, just
married and well-started to earning, my rather did
come one day and urge most strongly that I enter
upon an investment. The son of one of his good
friends had taken notice of a barren tract of land not
far beyond the outer walls of our city. It lay high
above the canal where no water could reach it.
"The son of my father's friend devised a plan to
purchase this land, build three large waterwheels
that could be operated by oxen and thereby raise the
life-giving waters to the fertile soil. This accomplished,
he planned to divide it into small tracts and
sell to the residents of the city for herb patches.
"The son of my father's friend did not possess sufficient
gold to complete such an undertaking. Like
myself, he was a young man earning a fair sum. His
father, like mine, was a man of large family and
small means. He, therefore, decided to interest a
group of men to enter the enterprise with him. The
group was to comprise twelve, each of whom must
be a money earner and agree to pay one-tenth of his
earnings into the enterprise until the land was made
ready for sale. All would then share justly in the
profits in proportion to their investment.
" 'Thou, my son,' bespoke my father unto me, 'art
now in thy young manhood. It is my deep desire
that thou begin the building of a valuable estate for
thyself that thou mayest become respected among
men. I desire to see thou profit from a knowledge of
the thoughtless mistakes of thy father.'
" 'This do I most ardently desire, my father,' I
Meet the Goddess of Good Luck 51
" 'Then, this do I advise. Do what I should have
done at thy age. From thy earnings keep out onetenth
to put into favourable investments. With this
one-tenth of thy earnings and what it will also earn,
thou canst, before thou art my age, accumulate for
thyself a valuable estate.'
" 'Thy words are words of wisdom, my father.
Greatly do I desire riches. Yet there are many uses
to which my earnings are called. Therefore, do I hesitate
to do as thou dost advise. I am young. There is
plenty of time/
" 'So I thought at thy age, yet behold, many years
have passed and I have not yet made the beginning.'
' 'We live in a different age, my father. I shall
avoid thy mistakes.'
" 'Opportunity stands before thee, my son. It is
offering a chance that may lead to wealth. I beg of
thee, do not delay. Go upon the morrow to the son
of my friend and bargain with him to pay ten percent
of thy earnings into this investment. Go
promptly upon the morrow. Opportunity waits for
no man. Today it is here; soon it is gone. Therefore,
delay not!'
"In spite of the advice of my father, I did hesitate.
There were beautiful new robes just brought by the
tradesmen from the East, robes of such richness and
beauty my good wife and I felt we must each possess
one. Should I agree to pay one-tenth of my earnings
into the enterprise, we must deprive ourselves of
these and other pleasures we dearly desired. I delayed
making a decision until it was too late, much
to my subsequent regret. The enterprise did prove to
be more profitable than any man had prophesied.
This is my tale, showing how I did permit good luck
to escape."
"In this tale we see how good luck waits to come to
that man who accepts opportunity," commented a swarthy
man of the desert. "To the building of an estate
there must always be the beginning. That start may
be a few pieces of gold or silver which a man diverts
from his earnings to his first investment. I, myself,
am the owner of many herds. The start of my herds
I did begin when I was a mere boy and did purchase
with one piece of silver a young calf. This, being
the beginning of my wealth, was of great importance
to me.
"To take his first start to building an estate is as
good luck as can come to any man. With all men,
that first step, which changes them from men who
earn from their own labour to men who draw dividends
from the earnings of their gold, is important.
Some, fortunately, take it when young and thereby
outstrip in financial success those who do take it later
or those unfortunate men, like the father of this merchant,
who never take it.
"Had our friend, the merchant, taken this step in
his early manhood when this opportunity came to I
him, this day he would be blessed with much more
of this world's goods. Should the good luck of our
friend, the cloth weaver, cause him to take such a
step at this time, it will indeed be but the beginning
of much greater good fortune."
"Thank you! I like to speak, also." A stranger from
another country arose. "I am a Syrian. Not so well
do I speak your tongue. I wish to call this friend, the
merchant, a name. Maybe you think it not polite, this
name. Yet I wish to call him that. But, alas, I not
know your word for it. If I do call it in Syrian, you
will not understand. Therefore, please some good
gentlemen, tell me that right name you call man who
Meet the Goddess of Good Luck 53
puts off doing those things that mighty good for
"Procrastinator," called a voice.
"That's him," shouted the Syrian, waving his
hands excitedly, "he accepts not opportunity when
she comes. He waits. He says I have much business
right now. Bye and bye I talk to you. Opportunity,
she will not wait for such slow fellow. She thinks if
a man desires to be lucky he will step quick. Any
man who not step quick when opportunity comes,
he big procrastinator like our friend, this merchant."
The merchant arose and bowed good-naturedly in
response to the laughter. "My admiration to thee,
stranger within our gates, who hesitates not to speak
the truth."
"And now let us hear another tale of opportunity.
Who has for us another experience?" demanded
"I have," responded a red-robed man of middle
age. "I am a buyer of animals, mostly camels and
horses. Sometimes I do also buy the sheep and goats.
The tale I am about to relate will tell truthfully how
opportunity came one night when I did least expect
it. Perhaps for this reason I did let it escape. Of this
you shall be the judge.
"Returning to the city one evening after a disheartening
ten-days' journey in search of camels, I was
much angered to find the gates of the city closed and
locked. While my slaves spread our tent for the night,
which we looked to spend with little food and no
water, I was approached by an elderly farmer who,
like ourselves, found himself locked outside.
" 'Honoured sir,' he addressed me, 'from thy appearance,
I do judge thee to be a buyer. If this be so,
much would I like to sell to thee the most excellent
flock of sheep just driven up. Alas, my good wife
lies very sick with the fever. I must return with all
haste. Buy thou my sheep that I and my slaves may
mount our camels and travel back without delay.'
"So dark it was that I could not see his flock, but
from the bleating I did know it must be large. Having
wasted ten days searching for camels I could not
find, I was glad to bargain with him. In his anxiety,
he did set a most reasonable price. I accepted, well
knowing my slaves could drive the flock through the
city gates in the morning and sell at a substantial
"The bargain concluded, I called my slaves to
bring torches that we might count the flock which
the farmer declared to contain nine hundred. I shall
not burden you, my friends, with a description of
our difficulty in attempting to count so many thirsty,
restless, milling sheep. It proved to be an impossible
task. Therefore, I bluntly informed the farmer I
would count them at daylight and pay him then.
" 'Please, most honourable sir/ he pleaded, 'pay me
but two-thirds of the price tonight that I may be on
my way. I will leave my most intelligent and educated
slave to assist to make the count in the morning.
He is trustworthy and to him thou canst pay
the balance.'
"But I was stubborn and refused to make payment
that night. Next morning, before I awoke, the city
gates opened and four buyers rushed out in search
of flocks. They were most eager and willing to pay
high prices because the city was threatened with
siege, and food was not plentiful. Nearly three times
the price at which he had offered the flock to me did
the old farmer receive for it. Thus was rare good luck
allowed to escape."
Meet the Goddess of Good Luck 55
"Here is a tale most unusual," commented Arkad.
"What wisdom doth it suggest?"
"The wisdom of making a payment immediately
when we are convinced our bargain is wise' suggested
a venerable saddle-maker. "If the bargain be
good, then dost thou need protection against thy own
weaknesses as much as against any other man. We
mortals are changeable. Alas, I must say more apt to
change our minds when right than wrong. Wrong,
we are stubborn indeed. Right, we are prone to vacillate
and let opportunity escape. My first judgment is
my best. Yet always have I found it difficult to compel
myself to proceed with a good bargain when
made. Therefore, as a protection against my own
weaknesses, I do make a prompt deposit thereon.
This doth save me from later regrets for the good
luck that should have been mine."
"Thank you! Again I like to speak." The Syrian
was upon his feet once more. "These tales much
alike. Each time opportunity fly away for same reason.
Each time she come to procrastinator, bringing
good plan. Each time they hesitate, not say, right
now best time, I do it quick. How can men succeed
that way?"
"Wise are thy words, my friend," responded the
buyer. "Good luck fled from procrastination in both
these tales. Yet, this is not unusual. The spirit of procrastination
is within all men. We desire riches; yet,
how often when opportunity doth appear before us,
that spirit of procrastination from within doth urge
various delays in our acceptance. In listening to it we
do become our own worst enemies.
"In my younger days I did not know it by this
long word our friend from Syria doth enjoy. I did
think at first it was my own poor judgment that did
cause me loss of many profitable trades. Later, I did
credit it to my stubborn disposition. At last, I did
recognize it for what it was—a habit of needless delaying
where action was required, action prompt and
decisive. How I did hate it when its true character
stood revealed. With the bitterness of a wild ass
hitched to a chariot, I did break loose from this
enemy to my success."
"Thank you! I like ask question from Mr. Merchant."
The Syrian was speaking. "You wear fine
robes, not like those of poor man. You speak like
successful man. Tell us, do you listen now when procrastination
whispers in your ear?"
"Like our friend the buyer, I also had to recognize
and conquer procrastination," responded the merchant.
"To me, it proved to be an enemy, ever watching
and waiting to thwart my accomplishments. The
tale I did relate is but one of many similar instances
I could tell to show how it drove away my opportunities.
'Tis not difficult to conquer, once understood.
No man willingly permits the thief to rob his bins of
grain. Nor does any man willingly permit an enemy
to drive away his customers and rob him of his
profits. When once I did recognize that such acts as
these my enemy was committing, with determination
I conquered him. So must every man master his own
spirit of procrastination before he can expect to share
in the rich treasures of Babylon.
"What sayest, Arkad? Because thou art the richest
man in Babylon, many do proclaim thee to be the
luckiest. Dost agree with me that no man can arrive
at a full measure of success until he hath completely
crushed the spirit of procrastination within him?"
"It is even as thou sayest," Arkad admitted. "During
my long life I have watched generation following
Meet the Goddess of Good Luck 57
generation, marching forward along those avenues of
trade, science and learning that lead to success in life.
Opportunities came to all these men. Some grasped
theirs and moved steadily to the gratification of their
deepest desires, but the majority hesitated, faltered
and fell behind."
Arkad turned to the cloth weaver. "Thou didst
suggest that we debate good luck. Let us hear what
thou now thinkest upon the subject."
"I do see good luck in a different light. I had
thought of it as something most desirable that might
happen to a man without effort upon his part. Now,
I do realize such happenings are not the sort of thing
one may attract to himself. From our discussion have
I learned that to attract good luck to oneself, it is necessary
to take advantage of opportunities. Therefore, in the
future, I shall endeavour to make the best of such
opportunities as do come to me."
"Thou hast well grasped the truths brought forth
in our discussion," Arkad replied. "Good luck, we
do find, often follows opportunity but seldom comes
otherwise. Our merchant friend would have found
great good luck had he accepted the opportunity the
good goddess did present to him. Our friend the
buyer, likewise, would have enjoyed good luck had
he completed the purchase of the flock and sold at
such a handsome profit.
"We did pursue this discussion to find a means by
which good luck could be enticed to us. I feel that
we have found the way. Both the tales did illustrate
how good luck follows opportunity. Herein lies a
truth that many similar tales of good luck, won or
lost, could not change. The truth is this: Good luck
can be enticed by accepting opportunity.
"Those eager to grasp opportunities for their bet58
torment, do attract the interest of the good goddess.
She is ever anxious to aid those who please her. Men
of action please her best.
"Action will lead thee forward to the successes
thou dost desire."
The Five Laws of Gold
"A bag heavy with gold or a clay tablet carved with
words of wisdom; if thou hadst thy choice; which
wouldst thou choose?"
By the flickering light from the fire of desert
shrubs, the sun-tanned faces of the listeners gleamed
with interest.
"The gold, the gold," chorused the twenty-seven.
Old Kalabab smiled knowingly.
"Hark," he resumed, raising his hand. "Hear the
wild dogs out there in the night. They howl and wail
because they are lean with hunger. Yet feed them,
and what do they? Fight and strut. Then fight and
strut some more, giving no thought to the morrow
that will surely come.
"Just so it is with the sons of men. Give them a
choice of gold and wisdom—what do they do? Ignore
the wisdom and waste the gold. On the morrow
they wail because they have no more gold.
"Gold is reserved for those who know its laws and
abide by them."
Kalabab drew his white robe close about his lean
legs, for a cool night wind was blowing.
"Because thou hast served me faithfully upon our
long journey, because thou cared well for my camels,
because thou toiled uncomplainingly across the hot
sands of the desert, because thou fought bravely the
robbers that sought to despoil my merchandise, I will
tell thee this night the tale of the five laws of gold,
such a tale as thou never hast heard before.
"Hark ye, with deep attention to the words I
speak, for if you grasp their meaning and heed them,
in the days that come thou shalt have much gold."
He paused impressively. Above in a canopy of
blue, the stars shone brightly in the crystal-clear skies
of Babylonia. Behind the group loomed their faded
tents tightly staked against possible desert storms.
Beside the tents were neatly stacked bales of merchandise
covered with skins. Nearby the camel herd
sprawled in the sand, some chewing their cuds contentedly,
others snoring in hoarse discord.
"Thou hast told us many good tales, Kalabab,"
spoke up the chief packer. "We look to thy wisdom
to guide us upon the morrow when our service with
thee shall be at an end."
"I have but told thee of my adventures in strange
and distant lands, but this night I shall tell thee of
the wisdom of Arkad, the wise rich man."
"Much have we heard of him," acknowledged the
chief packer, "for he was the richest man that ever
lived in Babylon."
"The richest man he was, and that because he was
wise in the ways of gold, even as no man had ever
been before him. This night shall I tell you of his
great wisdom as it was told to me by Nomasir, his
The Five Laws of Gold 61
'Son, many years ago in Nineveh, when I was but
a lad.
"My master and myself had tarried long into the
night in the palace of Nomasir. I had helped my master
bring great bundles of fine rugs, each one to be
tried by Nomasir until his choice of colours was satisfied.
At last he was well pleased and commanded us
to sit with him and to drink a rare vintage odorous
to the nostrils and most warming to my stomach,
which was unaccustomed to such a drink.
"Then, did he tell us this tale of the great wisdom
of Arkad, his father, even as I shall tell it to you.
"In Babylon it is the custom, as you know, that
the sons of wealthy fathers live with their parents in
expectation of inheriting the estate. Arkad did not
approve of this custom. Therefore, when Nomasir
reached the man's estate, he sent for the young man
and addressed him:
" 'My son, it is my desire that thou succeed to my
estate. Thou must, however, first prove that thou art
capable of wisely handling it. Therefore, I wish that
thou go out into the world and show thy ability both
to acquire gold and to make thyself respected
among men.
" 'To start thee well, I will give thee two things of
which I, myself, was denied when I started as a poor
youth to build up a fortune.
" 'First, I give thee this bag of gold. If thou use it
wisely, it will be the basis of thy future success.
" 'Second, I give thee this clay tablet upon which
is carved the five laws of gold. If thou dost but interpret
them in thy own acts, they shall bring thee competence
and security.
" 'Ten years from this day come thou back to the
house of thy father and give account of thyself. If
thou prove worthy, I will then make thee the heir to
my estate. Otherwise, I will give it to the priests that
they may barter for my soul the kind consideration
of the gods,'
"So Nomasir went forth to make his own way,
taking his bag of gold, the clay tablet carefully
wrapped in silken cloth, his slave and the horses
upon which they rode.
"The ten years passed, and Nomasir, as he had
agreed, returned to the house of his father who provided
a great feast in his honour, to which he invited
many friends and relatives. After the feast was over,
the father and mother mounted their throne-like seats
at one side of the great hall, and Nomasir stood before
them to give an account of himself as he had
promised his father.
"It was evening. The room was hazy with smoke
from the wicks of the oil lamps that but dimly lighted
it Slaves in white woven jackets and tunics fanned
the humid air rhythmically with long-stemmed palm
leaves. A stately dignity coloured the scene. The wife
of Nomasir and his two young sons, with friends and
other members of the family, sat upon rugs behind
him, eager listeners.
" 'My father,' he began deferentially, 'I bow before
thy wisdom. Ten years ago when I stood at the gates
of manhood, thou bade me go forth and become a
man among men, instead of remaining a vassal to
thy fortune.
" 'Thou gave me liberally of thy gold. Thou gave
me liberally of thy wisdom. Of the gold, alas! I must
admit of a disastrous handling. It fled, indeed, from
my inexperienced hands even as a wild hare flees at
the first opportunity from the youth who captures it.'
The Five Laws of Gold 63
"The father smiled indulgently. 'Continue, my son,
thy tale interests me in all its details.'
" 'I decided to go to Nineveh, as it was a growing
city, believing that I might find there opportunities.
I joined a caravan and among its members made numerous
friends. Two well-spoken men who had a
most beautiful white horse as fleet as the wind were
among these.
" 'As we journeyed, they told me in confidence
that in Nineveh was a wealthy man who owned a
horse so swift that it had never been beaten. Its
owner believed that no horse living could run with
greater speed. Therefore, would he wager any sum
however large that his horse could outspeed any
horse in all Babylonia. Compared to their horse, so
my friends said, it was but a lumbering ass that could
be beaten with ease.
" 'They offered, as a great favour, to permit me to
join them in a wager. I was quite carried away with
the plan.
" 'Our horse was badly beaten and I lost much of
my gold.' The father laughed. 'Later, I discovered
that this was a deceitful plan of these men and they
constantly journeyed with caravans seeking victims.
You see, the man in Nineveh was their partner and
shared with them the bets he won. This shrewd deceit
taught me my first lesson in looking out for
" 'I was soon to learn another, equally bitter. In
the caravan was another young man with whom I
became quite friendly. He was the son of wealthy
parents and, like myself, journeying to Nineveh to
find a suitable location. Not long after our arrival, he
told me that a merchant had died and his shop with
its rich merchandise and patronage could be secured
at a paltry price. Saying that we would be equal partners
but first he must return to Babylon to secure his
gold, he prevailed upon me to purchase the stock
with my gold, agreeing that his would be used later
to carry on our venture.
" 'He long delayed the trip to Babylon, proving in
the meantime to be an unwise buyer and a foolish
spender, I finally put him out, but not before the
business had deteriorated to where we had only unsalable
goods and no gold to buy other goods. I sacrificed
what was left to an Israelite for a pitiful sum.
" 'Soon there followed, I tell you, my father, bitter
days. I sought employment and found it not, for I
was without trade or training that would enable me
to earn. I sold my horses. I sold my slave. I sold my
extra robes that I might have food and a place to
sleep, but each day grim want crouched closer.
" 'But in those bitter days, I remembered thy confidence
in me, my father. Thou hadst sent me forth
to become a man, and this I was determined to accomplish.'
The mother buried her face and wept
" 'At this time, I bethought me of the table thou
had given to me upon which thou had carved the
five laws of gold. Thereupon, I read most carefully
thy words of wisdom, and realized that had I but
sought wisdom first, my gold would not have been
lost to me. I learned by heart each law and determined
that, when once more the goddess of good
fortune smiled upon me, I would be guided by the
wisdom of age and not by the inexperience of youth.
" 'For the benefit of you who are seated here this
night, I will read the wisdom of my father as engraved
upon the clay tablet which he gave to me ten
years ago:
The Five Laws of Gold 65
1. Gold cometh gladly and in increasing quantity
to any man who will put by not less than
one-tenth or his earnings to create an estate
for his future and that or his family.
2. Gold laboureth diligently and contentedly for
the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment,
multiplying even as the flocks of the field.
3. Gold clingeth to the protection of the cautious
owner who invests it under the advice of
men wise in its handling.
4. Gold slippeth away from the man who invests
it in businesses or purposes with which
he is not familiar or which are not approved
by those skilled in its keep.
5. Gold flees the man who would force it to
impossible earnings or who followeth the alluring
advice of tricksters and schemers or who
trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic
desires in investment.
" 'These are the five laws of gold as written by my
father. I do proclaim them as of greater value than
gold itself, as I will show by the continuance of my
"He again faced his father. 'I have told thee of the
depth of poverty and despair to which my inexperience
brought me.
" 'However, there is no chain of disasters that will
not come to an end. Mine came when I secured employment
managing a crew of slaves working upon
the new outer wall of the city.
" 'Profiting from my knowledge of the first law of
gold, I saved a copper from my first earnings, adding
to it at every opportunity until I had a piece of silver.
It was a slow procedure, for one must live. I did
spend grudgingly, I admit, because I was determined
to earn back before the ten years were over as much
gold as you, my father, had given to me.
" 'One day the slave master, with whom I had become
quite friendly, said to me: "Thou art a thrifty
youth who spends not wantonly what he earns. Hast
thou gold put by that is not earning?"
" ' "Yes," I replied, "It is my greatest desire to accumulate
gold to replace that which my father gave to
me and which I have lost."
"'" 'Tis a worthy ambition, I will grant, and do
you know that the gold which you have saved can
work for you and earn much more gold?"
"' "Alas! my experience has been bitter, for my
father's gold has fled from me, and I am in much
fear lest my own do the same."
" * "If thou hast confidence in me, I will give thee a
lesson in the profitable handling of gold," he replied.
"Within a year the outer wall will be complete and
ready for the great gates of bronze that will be built
at each entrance to protect the city from the king's
enemies. In all Nineveh there is not enough metal to
make these gates and the king has not thought to provide
it. Here is my plan: A group of us will pool our
gold and send a caravan to the mines of copper and
tin, which are distant, and bring to Nineveh the metal
The Five Laws of Gold 67
for the gates. When the king says, 'Make the great
gates/ we alone can supply the metal and a rich price
he will pay. If the king will not buy from us, we will
yet have the metal which can be sold for a fair price."
" 'In his offer I recognized an opportunity to abide
by the third law and invest my savings under the
guidance of wise men. Nor was I disappointed. Our
pool was a success, and my small store of gold was
greatly increased by the transaction.
" 'In due time, I was accepted as a member of this
same group in other ventures. They were men wise
in the profitable handling of gold. They talked over
each plan presented with great care, before entering
upon it. They would take no chance on losing their
principal or tying it up in unprofitable investments
from which their gold could not be recovered. Such
foolish things as the horse race and the partnership
into which I had entered with my inexperience would
have had scant consideration with them. They would
have immediately pointed out their weaknesses.
" 'Through my association with these men, I
learned to safely invest gold to bring profitable returns.
As the years went on, my treasure increased
more and more rapidly. I not only made back as
much as I lost, but much more.
" 'Through my misfortunes, my trials and my success,
I have tested time and again the wisdom of the
five laws of gold, my father, and have proven them
true in every test. To him who is without knowledge
of the five laws, gold comes not often, and goeth
away quickly. But to him who abide by the five laws,
gold comes and works as his dutiful slave.'
"Nomasir ceased speaking and motioned to a slave
in the back of the room. The slave brought forward,
one at a time, three heavy leather bags. One of these
Nomasir took and placed upon the floor before his
father addressing him again:
" 'Thou didst give to me a bag of gold, Babylon
gold. Behold in its place, I do return to thee a bag
of Nineveh gold of equal weight. An equal exchange,
as all will agree.
" 'Thou didst give to me a clay tablet inscribed
with wisdom. Behold, in its stead, I do return two
bags of gold/ So saying, he took from the slave the
other two bags and, likewise, placed them upon the
floor before his father.
" 'This I do to prove to thee, my father, of how much
greater value I consider thy wisdom than thy gold. Yet,
who can measure in bags of gold, the value of wisdom?
Without wisdom, gold is quickly lost by those who
have it, but with wisdom, gold can be secured by those
who have it not, as these three bags of gold do prove.
" 'It does, indeed, give to me the deepest satisfaction,
my father, to stand before thee and say that,
because of thy wisdom, I have been able to become
rich and respected before men.'
"The father placed his hand fondly upon the head
of Nomasir. 'Thou hast learned well thy lessons, and
I am, indeed, fortunate to have a son to whom I may
entrust my wealth.'"
Kalabab ceased his tale and looked critically at
his listeners.
"What means this to thee, this tale of Nomasir?"
he continued.
"Who among thee can go to thy father or to the
father of thy wife and give an account of wise handling
of his earnings?
"What would these venerable men think were you
to say: 'I have travelled much and learned much and
The Five Laws of Gold 69
laboured much and earned much, yet alas, of gold I
have little. Some I spent wisely, some I spent foolishly
and much I lost in unwise ways.'
"Dost still think it but an inconsistency of fate that
some men have much gold and others have naught?
Then you err.
"Men have much gold when they know the five
laws of gold and abide thereby.
"Because I learned these five laws in my youth and
abided by them, I have become a wealthy merchant. Not
by some strange magic did I accumulate my wealth.
"Wealth that comes quickly goeth the same way.
"Wealth that stayeth to give enjoyment and satisfaction
to its owner comes gradually, because it is a
child born of knowledge and persistent purpose.
"To earn wealth is but a slight burden upon the
thoughtful man. Bearing the burden consistently
from year to year accomplishes the final purpose.
"The five laws of gold offer to thee a rich reward
for their observance.
"Each of these five laws is rich with meaning and
lest thou overlook this in the briefness of my tale, I
will now repeat them. I do know them each by heart
because in my youth, I could see their value and would
not be content until I knew them word for word.
Gold cometh gladly and in increasing quantity
to any man who will put by not less
than one-tenth of his earnings to create an
estate for his future and that of his family.
"Any man who will put by one-tenth of his earnings
consistently and invest it wisely will surely create
a valuable estate that will provide an income for
him in the future and further guarantee safety for his
family in case the Gods call him to the world of
darkness. This law always sayeth that gold cometh
gladly to such a man. I can truly certify this in my
own life. The more gold I accumulate, the more
readily it comes to me and in increased quantities.
The gold which I save earns more, even as yours
will, and its earnings earn more, and this is the working
out of the first law."
Gold laboureth diligently and contentedly
for the wise owner who finds for it profitable
employment, multiplying even as the
flocks of the field.
"Gold, indeed, is a willing worker. It is ever eager
to multiply when opportunity presents itself. To
every man who hath a store of gold set by, opportunity
comes for its most profitable use. As the years
pass, it multiplies itself in surprising fashion."
Gold clingeth to the protection of the cautious
owner who invests it under the advice
of men wise in its handling.
The Five Laws of Gold 71
"Gold, indeed, clingeth to the cautious owner, even
as it flees the careless owner. The man who seeks the
advice of men wise in handling gold soon learneth not
to jeopardize his treasure, but to preserve in safety and
to enjoy in contentment its consistent increase."
Gold slippeth away front the man who invests
it in businesses or purposes with
which he is not familiar or which are not
approved by those skilled in its keep.
"To the man who hath gold, yet is not skilled in its
handling, many uses for it appear most profitable. Too
often these are fraught with danger of loss, and if properly
analyzed by wise men, show small possibility of
profit. Therefore, the inexperienced owner of gold who
trusts to his own judgment and invests it in businesses or
purposes with which he is not familiar, too often finds
his judgment imperfect, and pays with his treasure for
his inexperience. Wise, indeed, is he who investeth his
treasures under the advice of men skilled in the ways of
Gold flees the man who would force it to
impossible earnings\or who followeth the
alluring advice of tricksters and schemers
or who trusts it to his own inexperience
and romantic desires in investment.
"Fanciful propositions that thrill like adventure
tales always come to the new owner of gold. These
appear to endow his treasure with magic powers that
will enable it to make impossible earnings. Yet heed
ye the wise men for verily they know the risks that
lurk behind every plan to make great wealth
"Forget not the rich men of Nineveh who would
take no chance of losing their principal or tying it up
in unprofitable investments.
"This ends my tale of the five laws of gold. In
telling it to thee, I have told the secrets of my own
success. •
"Yet, they are not secrets but truths which every
man must first learn and then follow who wishes to
step out of the multitude that, like yon wild dogs, I
must worry each day for food to eat.
"Tomorrow, we enter Babylon. Look! See the fire
that burns eternal above the Temple of Bel! We are
already in sight of the golden city. Tomorrow, each
of thee shall have gold, the gold thou has so well
earned by thy faithful services.
"Ten years from this night, what can you tell about
this gold?
"If there be men among you, who, like Nomasir,
will use a portion of their gold to start for themselves
an estate and be thenceforth wisely guided by the
wisdom of Arkad, ten years from now, 'tis a safe
wager, like the son of Arkad, they will be rich and
respected among men.
"Our wise acts accompany us through life to
please us and to help us. Just as surely, our unwise
acts follow us to plague and torment us. Alas, they
cannot be forgotten. In the front rank of the torments
that do follow us are the memories of the things we
The Five Laws of Gold 73
should have done, of the opportunities which came
to us and we took not.
"Rich are the treasures of Babylon, so rich no man
can count their value in pieces of gold. Each year,
they grow richer and more valuable. Like the treasures
of every land, they are a reward, a rich reward
awaiting those men of purpose who determine to secure
their just share.
"In the strength of thine own desires is a magic
power. Guide this power with thy knowledge of the
five laws of gold and thou shalt share the treasures
of Babylon."
The Gold Lender of
Fifty pieces of gold! Never before had Rodan, the spearmaker
of old Babylon, carried so much gold in his learner
wallet. Happily down the king's highway from the palace
of his most liberal Majesty he strode. Cheerfully the
gold clinked as the wallet at his belt swayed with each
step—the sweetest music he had ever heard.
Fifty pieces of gold! All his! He could hardly realize
his good fortune. What power in those clinking
discs! They could purchase anything he wanted, a
grand house, land, cattle, camels, horses, chariots,
whatever he might desire.
What use should he make of it? This evening as
he turned into a side street toward the home of his
sister, he could think of nothing he would rather possess
than those same glittering, heavy pieces of
gold—his to keep.
It was upon an evening some days later that a
perplexed Rodan entered the shop of Mathon, the
lender of gold and dealer in jewels and rare fabrics
Glancing neither to the right nor the left at the colour-
The Gold Lender of Babylon 75
ful articles artfully displayed, he passed through to
the living quarters at the rear; Here he found the
genteel Mathon lounging upon a rug partaking of a
meal served by a black slave.
"I would counsel with thee for I know not what
to do." Rodan stood stolidly, feet apart, hairy breast
exposed by the gaping front of his leather jacket.
Mathon's narrow, sallow face smiled a friendly
greeting. "What indiscretions hast thou done that
thou shouldst seek the lender of gold? Hast been
unlucky at the gaming table? Or hath some plump
dame entangled thee? For many years have I known
thee, yet never hast thou sought me to aid thee in
thy troubles."
"No, no. Not such as that. I seek no gold. Instead,
I crave thy wise advice."
"Hear! Hear! What this man doth say. No one
comes to the lender of gold for advice. My ears must
play me false."
"They listen true."
"Can this be so? Rodan, the spearmaker, doth display
more cunning than all the rest, for he comes to
Mathon, not for gold, but for advice. Many men
come to me for gold to pay for their follies, but as
for advice, they want it not. Yet who is more able to
advise than the lender of gold to whom many men"
come in trouble?
"Thou shalt eat with me, Rodan," he continued.
"Thou shalt be my guest for the evening. Ando!" he
commanded of the black slave, "draw up a rug for
my friend, Rodan, the spearmaker, who comes for
advice. He shall be mine honoured guest. Bring to him
much food and get for him my largest cup. Choose
well of the best wine that he may have satisfaction
in the drinking.
"Now, tell me what troubles thee."
"It is the king's gift."
"The king's gift? The king did make thee a gift
and it gives thee trouble? What manner of gift?"
"Because he was much pleased with the design I
did submit to him for a new point on the spears of
the royal guard, he did present me with fifty pieces
of gold, and now I am much perplexed.
"I am beseeched each hour the sun doth travel
across the sky by those who would share it with me."
"That is natural. More men want gold than have
it, and would wish one who comes by it easily to
divide. But can you not say 'No?' Is thy will not as
strong as thy fist?"
"To many I can say no, yet sometimes it would be
easier to say yes. Can one refuse to share with one's
sister to whom he is deeply devoted?"
"Surely, thy own sister would not wish to deprive
thee of enjoying thy reward."
"But it is for the sake of Araman, her husband,
whom she wishes to see a rich merchant. She does
feel that he has never had a chance and she beseeches
me to loan to him this gold that he may become a
prosperous merchant and repay me from his profits."
"My friend," resumed Mathon, " 'tis a worthy subject
thou bringest to discuss. Gold bringeth unto its
possessor responsibility and a changed position with
his fellow men. It bringeth fear lest he lose it or it
be tricked away from him. It bringeth a feeling of
power and ability to do good. Likewise, it bringeth
opportunities whereby his very good intentions may
bring him into difficulties.
"Didst ever hear of the farmer of Nineveh who
could understand the language of animals? I wot not, for
'tis not the kind of tale men like to tell over the
The Gold Lender of Babylon 77
bronze caster's forge. I will tell it to thee for thou
shouldst know that to borrowing and lending there
is more than the passing of gold from the hands of
one to the hands of another.
"This farmer, who could understand what the animals
said to each other, did linger in the farm yard
each evening just to listen to their words. One evening
he did hear the ox bemoaning to the ass the
hardness of his lot: 'I do labour pulling the plow from
morning until night. No matter how hot the day, or
how tired my legs, or how the bow doth chafe my
neck, still must I work. But you are a creature of
leisure. You are trapped with a colourful blanket and
do nothing more than carry our master about where
he wishes to go. When he goes nowhere you do rest
and eat the green grass all the day.'
"Now the ass, in spite of his vicious heels, was a
goodly fellow and sympathized with the ox. 'My
good friend,' he replied, 'you do work very hard and
I would help ease your lot. Therefore, will I tell you
how you may have a day of rest. In the morning
when the slave comes to fetch you to the plow, lie
upon the ground and bellow much that he may say
you are sick and cannot work.'
"So the ox took the advice of the ass and the next
morning the slave returned to the farmer and told
him the ox was sick and could not pull the plow.
" 'Then,' said the farmer, 'hitch the ass to the plow
for the plowing must go on.'
"All that day the ass, who had only intended to
help his friend, found himself compelled to do the
ox's task. When night came and he was released from
the plow his heart was bitter and his legs were weary
and his neck was sore where the bow had chafed it.
"The farmer lingered in the barnyard to listen.
"The ox began first. 'You are my good friend. Because
of your wise advice I have enjoyed a day of
" 'And 1,’ retorted the ass, 'am like many another
simple-hearted one who starts to help a friend and
ends up by doing his task for him. Hereafter you
draw your own plow, for I did hear the master tell
the slave to send for the butcher were you sick again.
1 wish he would, for you are a lazy fellow.' Thereafter
they spoke to each other no more—this ended
their friendship. Canst thou tell the moral to this
tale, Rodan?"
' 'Tis a good tale," responded Rodan, "but I see
not the moral."
"I thought not that you would. But it is there and
simple too. Just this: If you desire to help thy friend,
do so in a way that will not bring thy friend's burdens
upon thyself."
"I had not thought of that. It is a wise moral. I
wish not to assume the burdens of my sister's husband.
But tell me. You lend to many. Do not the
borrowers repay?"
Mathon smiled the smile of one whose soul is rich
with much experience. "Could a loan be well made
if the borrower cannot repay? Must not the lender
be wise and judge carefully whether his gold can
perform a useful purpose to the borrower and return
to him once more; or whether it will be wasted by
one unable to use it wisely and leave him without
his treasure, and leave the borrower with a debt he
cannot repay? I will show to thee the tokens in my
token chest and let them tell thee some of their
Into the room he brought a chest as long as his
arm covered with red pigskin and ornamented with
The Gold Lender of Babylon 79
bronze designs. He placed it upon the floor and
squatted before it, both hands upon the lid.
"From each person to whom I lend, I do exact a
token for my token chest, to remain there until the
loan is repaid. When they repay, I give it back, but
if they never repay, it will always remind me of one
who was not faithful to my confidence.
"The safest loans, my token box tells me, are to
those whose possessions are of more value than the
one they desire. They own lands, or jewels, or camels,
or other things which could be sold to repay the loan.
Some of the tokens given to me are jewels of more
value than the loan. Others are promises that if the
loan be not repaid as agreed they will deliver to me
certain property settlement. On loans like those I am
assured that my gold will be returned with the rental
thereon, for the loan is based on property.
"In another class are those who have the capacity
to earn. They are such as you, who labour or serve
and are paid. They have income and if they are honest
and suffer no misfortune, I know that they also
can repay the gold I loan them and the rental to
which I am entitled. Such loans are based on
human effort.
"Others are those who have neither property nor
assured earning capacity. Life is hard and there will
always be some who cannot adjust themselves to it.
Alas for the loans I make them, even though they be
no larger than a pence, my token box may censure
me in the years to come unless they be guaranteed
by good friends of the borrower who know him
Mathon released the clasp and opened the lid.
Rodan leaned forward eagerly.
At the top of the chest a bronze neck-piece lay
upon a scarlet cloth. Mathon picked up the piece and
patted it affectionately. "This shall always remain in
my token chest because the owner has passed on
into the great darkness. I treasure it, his token, and
I treasure his memory; for he was my good friend.
We traded together with much success until out of
the east he brought a woman to wed, beautiful, but
not like our women. A dazzling creature. He spent
his gold lavishly to gratify her desires. He came to
me in distress when his gold "was gone. I counselled
with him. I told him I would help him to once more
master his own affairs. He swore by the sign of the
Great Bull that he would. But it was not to be. In a
quarrel she thrust a knife into the heart he dared her
to pierce."
"And she?" questioned Rodan.
"Yes, of course, this was hers." He picked up the
scarlet cloth. "In bitter remorse she threw herself into
the Euphrates. These two loans will never be repaid..
The chest tells you, Rodan, that humans in the throes
of great emotions are not safe risks for the gold
"Here! Now this is different." He reached for a
ring carved of ox bone. "This belongs to a farmer. I
buy the rugs of his women. The locusts came and
they had not food. I helped him and when the new
crop came he repaid me. Later he came again and
told of strange goats in a distant land as described
by a traveller. They had long hair so fine and soft it
would weave into rugs more beautiful than any ever
seen in Babylon. He wanted a herd but he had no
money. So I did lend him gold to make the journey
and bring back goats. Now his herd is begun and
next year I shall surprise the lords of Babylon with
the most expensive rugs it has been their good forThe
Gold Lender of Babylon 81
tune to buy. Soon I must return his ring. He doth
insist on repaying promptly."
"Some borrowers do that?" queried Rodan.
"If they borrow for purposes that bring money
back to them, I find it so. But if they borrow because
of their indiscretions, I warn thee to be cautious if
thou wouldst ever have thy gold back in hand
"Tell me about this," requested Rodan, picking up
a heavy gold bracelet inset with jewels in rare
"The women do appeal to my good friend," bantered
"I am still much younger than you," retorted
"I grant that, but this time thou doth suspicion
romance where it is not. The owner of this is fat and
wrinkled and doth talk so much and say so little she
drives me mad. Once they had much money and
were good customers, but ill times came upon them.
She has a son of whom she would make a merchant.
So she came to me and borrowed gold that he might
become a partner of a caravan owner who travels
with his camels bartering in one city what be buys
in another.
"This man proved a rascal for he left the poor boy
in a distant city without money and without friends,
pulling out early while the youth slept. Perhaps
when this youth has grown to manhood, he will
repay; until then I get no rental for the loan—only
much talk. But I do admit the jewels are worthy of
the loan."
"Did this lady ask thy advice as to the wisdom of
the loan?"
"Quite otherwise. She had pictured to herself this
son of hers as a wealthy and powerful man of Babylon.
To suggest the contrary was to infuriate her. A
fair rebuke I had. I knew the risk for this inexperienced
boy, but as she offered security I could not 1
refuse her.
"This," continued Mathon, waving a bit of pack
rope tied into a knot, "belongs to Nebatur, the camel
trader. When he would buy a herd larger than his
funds he brings to me this knot and I lend to him
according to his needs. He is a wise trader. I have
confidence in his good judgment and can lend him
freely. Many other merchants of Babylon have my
confidence because of their honourable behaviour. Their
tokens come and go frequently in my token box.
Good merchants are an asset to our city and it profits
me to aid them to keep trade moving that Babylon
be prosperous."
Mathon picked out a beetle carved in turquoise
and tossed it contemptuously on the floor. "A bug
from Egypt. The lad who owns this does not care
whether I ever receive back my gold. When I reproach
him he replies, 'How can I repay when ill
fate pursues me? You have plenty more.' What can
I do? The token is his father's—a worthy man of
small means who did pledge his land and herd to
back his son's enterprises. The youth found success
at first and then was overzealous to gain great
wealth. His knowledge was immature. His enterprises
"Youth is ambitious. Youth would take short cuts
to wealth and the desirable things for which it
stands. To secure wealth quickly youth often borrows
unwisely. Youth, never having had experience, cannot
realize that hopeless debt is like a deep pit into
which one may descend quickly and where one may
The Gold Lender of Babylon 83
struggle vainly for many days. It is a pit of sorrow
and regrets where the brightness of the sun is overcast
and night is made unhappy by restless sleeping.
Yet, I do not discourage borrowing gold. I encourage
it. I recommend it if it be for a wise purpose. I myself
made my first real success as a merchant with borrowed
"Yet, what should the lender do in such a case?
The youth is in despair and accomplishes nothing.
He is discouraged. He makes no effort to repay. My
heart turns against depriving the father of his land
and cattle."
"You tell me much that I am interested to hear,"
ventured Rodan, "but, I hear no answer to my question.
Should I lend my fifty pieces of gold to my
sister's husband? They mean much to me."
"Thy sister is a sterling woman whom I do much
esteem. Should her husband come to me and ask to
borrow fifty pieces of gold I should ask him for what
purpose he would use it.
"If he answered that he desired to become a merchant
like myself and deal in jewels and rich furnishings,
I would say, 'What knowledge have you of the
ways of trade? Do you know where you can buy at
lowest cost? Do you know where you can sell at a
fair price?' Could he say 'Yes' to these questions?"
"No, he could not," Rodan admitted. "He has
helped me much in making spears and he has helped
some in the shops."
"Then, would I say to him that his purpose was
not wise. Merchants must learn their trade. His ambition,
though worthy, is not practical and I would not
lend him any gold.
"But, supposing he could say: 'Yes, I have helped
merchants much. I know how to travel to Smyrna
and to buy at low cost the rugs the housewives
weave. I also know many of the rich people of Babylon
to whom I can sell these at a large profit.' Then I
would say: 'Your purpose is wise and your ambition
honourable. I shall be glad to lend you the fifty pieces
of gold if you can give me security that they will be
returned." But would he say, 'I have no security
other than that I am an honoured man and will pay
you well for the loan.' Then would I reply, 'I treasure
much each piece of gold. Were the robbers to take it
from you as you journeyed to Smyrna or take the
rugs from you as you returned, then you would have
no means of repaying me and my gold would be
"Gold, you see, Rodan, is the merchandise of the
lender of money. It is easy to lend. If it is lent unwisely
then it is difficult to get back. The wise lender
wishes not the risk of the undertaking but the guarantee
of safe repayment.
" 'Tis well," he continued, "to assist those that are
. in trouble, 'tis well to help those upon whom fate
has laid a heavy hand. 'Tis well to help those who
are starting that they may progress and become valuable
citizens. But help must be given wisely, lest, like
the farmer's ass, in our desire to help we but take
upon ourselves the burden that belongs to another.
"Again I wandered from thy question, Rodan, but
hear my answer: Keep thy fifty pieces of gold. What
thy labour earns for thee and what is given thee for
reward is thine own and no man can put an obligation
upon thee to part with it unless it do be thy, wish. If
thee wouldst lend it so that it may earn thee
more gold, then lend with caution and in many
places. I like not idle gold, even less I like too much
of risk.
The Gold Lender of Babylon 85
"How many years hast thou laboured as a spearmaker?"
"Fully three."
"How much besides the king's gift hast saved?"
"Three gold pieces."
"Each year that thou hast laboured thou has denied
thyself good things to save from thine earnings one
piece of gold?"
" Tis as you say."
"Then mightest save in fifty years of labour fifty
pieces of gold by thy self-denial?"
"A lifetime of labour it would be."
"Thinkest thou thy sister would wish to jeopardize
the savings of fifty years of labour over the bronze
melting pot that her husband might experiment on
being a merchant?"
"Not if I spoke in your words."
"Then go to her and say: 'Three years I have labored
each day except fast days, from morning until
night, and I have denied myself many things that my
heart craved. For each year of labour and self-denial I
have to show one piece of gold. Thou art my favoured
sister and I wish that thy husband may engage in
business in which he will prosper greatly. If he will
submit to me a plan that seems wise and possible to
my friend, Mathon, then will I gladly lend to him
my savings of an entire year that he may have an
opportunity to prove that he can succeed.' Do that,
I say, and if he has within him the soul to succeed
he can prove it. If he fails he will not owe thee more
than he can hope some day to repay.
"I am a gold lender because I own more gold than
I can use in my own trade. I desire my surplus gold
to labour for others and thereby earn more gold. I do
not wish to take risk of losing my gold for I have
laboured much and denied myself much to secure it.
Therefore, I will no longer lend any of it where I am
not confident that it is safe and will be returned to
me. Neither will I lend it where I am not convinced
that its earnings will be promptly paid to me.
"I have told to thee, Rodan, a few of the secrets of
my token chest. From them you may understand the
weakness of men and their eagerness to borrow that
which they have no certain means to repay. From
this you can see how often their high hopes of the
great earnings they could make, if they but had gold,
are but false hopes they have not the ability or training
to fulfil.
"Thou, Rodan, now have gold which thou shouldst
put to earning more gold for thee. Thou art about to
become even as I, a gold lender. If thou dost safely
preserve thy treasure it will produce liberal earnings
for thee and be a rich source of pleasure and profit
during all thy days. But if thou dost let it escape
from thee, it will be a source of constant sorrow and
regret as long as thy memory doth last.
"What desirest thou most of this gold in thy
"To keep it safe."
"Wisely spoken," replied Mathon approvingly.
"Thy first desire is for safety. Thinkest thou that in
the custody of thy sister's husband it would be truly
safe from possible loss?"
"I fear not, for he is not wise in guarding gold."
"Then be not swayed by foolish sentiments of obligation
to trust thy treasure to any person. If thou
wouldst help thy family or thy friends, find other
ways than risking the loss of thy treasure. Forget not
that gold slippeth away in unexpected ways from
The Gold Lender of Babylon 87
those unskilled in guarding it. As well waste thy treasure
in extravagance as let others lose it for thee.
"What next after safety dost desire of this treasure
of thine?"
"That it earn more gold."
"Again thou speakest with wisdom. It should be
made to earn and grow larger. Gold wisely lent may
even double itself with its earnings before a man like
you groweth old. If you risk losing it you risk losing
all that it would earn as well.
"Therefore, be not swayed by the fantastic plans
of impractical men who think they see ways to force
thy gold to make earnings unusually large. Such
plans are the creations of dreamers unskilled in the
safe and dependable laws of trade. Be conservative
in what thou expect it to earn that thou mayest keep
and enjoy thy treasure. To hire it out with a promise
of usurious returns is to invite loss.
"Seek to associate thyself with men and enterprises
whose success is established that thy treasure may
earn liberally under their skilful use and be guarded
safely by their wisdom and experience.
"Thus, mayest thou avoid the misfortunes that follow
most of the sons of men to whom the gods see
fit to entrust gold."
When Rodan would thank him for his wise advice
he would not listen, saying, "The king's gift shall
teach thee much wisdom. If wouldst keep thy fifty
pieces of gold thou must be discreet indeed. Many
uses will tempt thee. Much advice will be spoken to
thee. Numerous opportunities to make large profits
will be offered thee. The stories from my token box
should warn thee, before thou let any piece of gold
leave thy pouch to be sure that thou hast a safe way
to pull it back again. Should my further advice appeal
to thee, return again. It is gladly given.
'"Ere thou goest read this which I have carved
beneath the lid of my token box. It applies equally
to the borrower and the lender:
The Walls of Babylon
Old Banzar, grim warrior of another day, stood
guard at the passageway leading to the top of the
ancient walls of Babylon. Up above, valiant defenders
were battling to hold the walls. Upon them depended
ihe future existence of this great city with its hundreds
of thousands of citizens.
Over the walls came the roar of the attacking armies,
the yelling of many men, the trampling of thousands
of horses, the deafening boom of the battering
rams pounding the bronzed gates.
In the street behind the gate lounged the spearmen,
waiting to defend the entrance should the gates give
way. They were but few for the task. The main armies
of Babylon were with their king, far away in
the east on the great expedition against the Elamites.
No attack upon the city having been anticipated during
their absence, the defending forces were small.
Unexpectedly from the north, bore down the mighty
armies of the Assyrians. And now the walls must
hold or Babylon was doomed.
About Banzar were great crowds of citizens, whitefaced
and terrified, eagerly seeking news of the battle.
With hushed awe they viewed the stream of
wounded and dead being carried or led out of the
Here was the crucial point of attack. After three
days of circling about the city, the enemy had suddenly
thrown his great strength against this section
and this gate.
The defenders from the top of the wall fought off
the climbing platforms and the scaling ladders of the
attackers with arrows, burning oil and, if any reached
the top, spears. Against the defenders, thousands of
the enemy's archers poured a deadly barrage of
Old Banzar had the vantage point for news. He
was closest to the conflict and first to hear of each
fresh repulse of the frenzied attackers.
An elderly merchant crowded close to him, his palsied
hands quivering. "Tell me! Tell me!" he pleaded.
"They cannot get in. My sons are with the good king.
There is no one to protect my old wife. My goods,
they will steal all. My food, they will leave nothing.
We are old, too old to defend ourselves—too old for
slaves. We shall starve. We shall die. Tell me they
cannot get in."
"Calm thyself, good merchant," the guard responded.
"The walls of Babylon are strong. Go back
to the bazaar and tell your wife that the walls will
protect you and all of your possessions as safely as
they protect the rich treasures of the king. Keep close
to the walls, lest the arrows flying over strike you!"
A woman with a babe in arms took the old man's
place as he withdrew. "Sergeant, what news from
the top? Tell me truly that I may reassure my poor
The Walls of Babylon 91
husband. He lies with fever from his terrible wounds,
yet insists upon his armour and his spear to protect
me, who am with child. Terrible he says will be the
vengeful lust of our enemies should they break in."
"Be thou of good heart, thou mother that is, and
is again to be, the walls of Babylon will protect you
and your babes. They are high and strong. Hear ye
not the yells of our valiant defenders as they empty
the caldrons of burning oil upon the ladder scalers?"
"Yes, that do I hear and also the roar of the battering
rams that do hammer at our gates."
"Back to thy husband. Tell him the gates are strong
and withstand the rams. Also that the scalers climb
the walls but to receive the waiting spear thrust.
Watch thy way and hasten behind yon buildings."
Banzar stepped aside to clear the passage for heavily
armed reinforcements. As, with clanking bronze
shields and heavy tread, they tramped by, a small
girl plucked at his girdle.
"Tell me please, soldier, are we safe.?" she pleaded.
"I hear the awful noises. I see the men all bleeding.
I am so frightened. What will become of our family,
of my mother, little brother and the baby?"
The grim old campaigner blinked his eyes and
thrust forward his chin as he beheld the child.
"Be not afraid, little one," he reassured her. "The
walls of Babylon will protect you and mother and
little brother and the baby. It was for the safety of
such as you that the good Queen Semiramis built
them over a hundred years ago. Never have they
been broken through. Go back and tell your mother
and little brother and the baby that the walls of Babylon
will protect them and they need have no fear."
Day after day old Banzar stood at his post and
watched the reinforcements file up the passageway,
there to stay and fight until wounded or dead they
came down once more. Around him, unceasingly
crowded the throngs of frightened citizens eagerly
seeking to learn if the walls would hold. To all he
gave his answer with the fine dignity of an old soldier,
"The walls of Babylon will protect you."
For three weeks and five days the attack waged
with scarcely ceasing violence. Harder and grimmer
set the jaw of Banzar as the passage behind, wet with
the blood of the many wounded, was churned into
mud by the never-ceasing streams of men passing
up and staggering down. Each day the slaughtered
attackers piled up in heaps before the wall. Each
night they were carried back and buried by their
Upon the fifth night of the fourth week the clamour
without diminished. The first streaks of daylight, illuminating
the plains, disclosed great clouds of dust
raised by the retreating armies.
A mighty shout went up from the defenders. There
was no mistaking its meaning. It was repeated by
the waiting troops behind the walls. It was echoed
by the citizens upon the streets. It swept over the
city with the violence of a storm.
People rushed from the houses. The streets were
jammed with a throbbing mob. The pent-up fear of
weeks found an outlet in the wild chorus of joy.
From the top of the high tower of the Temple of Bel
burst forth the flames of victory. Skyward floated the
column of blue smoke to carry the message far and
The walls of Babylon had once again repulsed a
mighty and vicious foe determined to loot her rich
treasures and to ravish and enslave her citizens.
The Walls of Babylon 93
Babylon endured century after century because it
was fully protected. It could not afford to be otherwise.
The walls of Babylon were an outstanding example
of man's need and desire for protection. This desire
is inherent in the human race. It is just as strong
today as it ever was, but we have developed broader
and better plans to accomplish the same purpose.
In this day, behind the impregnable walls of insurance,
savings accounts and dependable investments,
we can guard ourselves against the unexpected tragedies
that may enter any door and seat themselves
before any fireside.
The Camel Trader of
The hungrier one becomes, the clearer one's mind
works—also the more sensitive one becomes to the
odours of food.
Tarkad, the son of Azure, certainly thought so. For
two whole days he had tasted no food except two
small figs purloined from over the wall of a garden.
Not another could he grab before the angry woman
rushed forth and chased him down the street. Her
shrill cries were still ringing in his ears as he walked
through the marketplace. They helped him to restrain
his restless fingers from snatching the tempting fruits
from the baskets of the market women.
Never before had he realized how much food was
brought to the markets of Babylon and how good it
smelled. Leaving the market, he walked across to the
inn and paced back and forth in front of the eating
house. Perhaps here he might meet someone he
knew; someone from whom he could borrow a copper
that would gain him a smile from the unfriendly
keeper of the inn and, with it, a liberal helping. With-
The Camel Trader of Babylon 95
out the copper he knew all too well how unwelcome
he would be.
In his abstraction he unexpectedly found himself
face to face with the one man he wished most to
avoid, the tall bony figure of Dabasir, the camel
trader. Of all the friends and others from whom he
had borrowed small sums, Dabasir made him feel
the most uncomfortable because of his failure to keep
his promises to repay promptly.
Dabasir's face lighted up at the sight of him. "Ha!
'Tis Tarkad, just the one I have been seeking that he
might repay the two pieces of copper which I lent
him a moon ago; also the piece of silver which I lent
to him before that. We are well met. I can make good
use of the coins this very day. What say, boy?
What say?"
Tarkad stuttered and his face flushed. He had
naught in his empty stomach to nerve him to argue
with the outspoken Dabasir. "I am sorry, very sorry,"
he mumbled weakly, "but this day I have neither the
copper nor the silver with which I could repay."
"Then get it," Dabasir insisted. "Surely thou canst
get hold of a few coppers and a piece of silver to
repay the generosity of an old friend of thy father
who aided thee whenst thou wast in need?"
" 'Tis because ill fortune does pursue me that I
cannot pay."
"Ill fortune! Wouldst blame the gods for thine own
weakness. Ill fortune pursues every man who thinks
more of borrowing than of repaying. Come with me,
boy, while I eat. I am hungry and I would tell thee
a tale."
Tarkad flinched from the brutal frankness of Dabasir,
but here at least was an invitation to enter the
coveted doorway of the eating house.
Dabasir pushed him to a far corner of the room
where they seated themselves upon small rugs.
When Kauskor, the proprietor, appeared smiling,
Dabasir addressed him with his usual freedom, "Fat
lizard of the desert, bring to me a leg of the goat,
very brown with much juice, and bread and all of
the vegetables for I am hungry and want much food.
Do not forget my friend here. Bring to him a jug of
water. Have it cooled, for the day is hot."
Tarkad's heart sank. Must he sit here and drink
water while he watched this man devour an entire
goat leg? He said nothing. He thought of nothing he
could say.
Dabasir, however, knew no such thing as silence.
Smiling and waving his hand good-naturedly to the
other customers, all of whom knew him, he continued.
"I did hear from a traveller just returned from Urfa
of a certain rich man who has a piece of stone cut
so thin that one can look through it. He put it in the
window of his house to keep out the rains. It is yellow,
so this traveller does relate, and he was permitted
to look through it and all the outside world
looked strange and not like-it really is. What say you
to that, Tarkad? Thinkest all the world could look to
a man a different colour from what it is?"
"I dare say," responded the youth, much more interested
in the fat leg of goat placed before Dabasir.
"Well, I know it to be true for I myself have seen
the world all of a different colour from what it really
is and the tale I am about to tell relates how I came
to see it in its right colour once more."
"Dabasir will tell a tale," whispered a neighbouring
diner to his neighbour, and dragged his rug close.
Other diners brought their food and crowded in a
The Camel Trader of Babylon 97
semicircle. They crunched noisily in the ears of Tarkad
and brushed him with their meaty bones. He
alone was without food. Dabasir did not offer to
share with him nor even motion him to a small corner
of the hard bread that was broken off and had
fallen from the platter to the floor.
"The tale that I am about to tell," began Dabasir,
pausing to bite a goodly chunk from the goat leg,
"relates to my early life and how I came to be a
camel trader. Didst anyone know that I once was a
slave in Syria?"
A murmur of surprise ran through the audience to
which Dabasir listened with satisfaction.
"When I was a young man," continued Dabasir
after another vicious onslaught on the goat leg, "I
learned the trade of my father, the making of saddles.
I worked with him in his shop and took to myself a
wife. Being young and not greatly skilled, I could
earn but little, just enough to support my excellent
wife in a modest way. I craved good things which I
could not afford. Soon I found that the shopkeepers
would trust me to pay later even though I could not
pay at the time.
"Being young and without experience I did not
know that he who spends more than he earns is sowing
the winds of needless self-indulgence from which
he is sure to reap the whirlwinds of trouble and humiliation.
So I indulged my whims for fine raiment
and bought luxuries for my good wife and our home,
beyond our means.
"I paid as I could and for a while all went well.
But in time I discovered I could not use my earnings
both to live upon and to pay my debts. Creditors
began to pursue me to pay for my extravagant purchases
and my life became miserable. I borrowed
from my friends, but could not repay them either.
Things went from bad to worse. My wife returned
to her father and I decided to leave Babylon and
seek another city where a young man might have
better chances.
"For two years I had a restless and unsuccessful
life working for caravan traders. From this I fell in
with a set of likable robbers who scoured the desert
for unarmed caravans. Such deeds were unworthy of
the son of my father, but I was seeing the world
through a coloured stone and did not realize to what
degradation I had fallen.
"We met with success on our first trip, capturing
a rich haul of gold and silks and valuable merchandise.
This loot we took to Ginir and squandered.
"The second time we were not so fortunate. Just
after we had made our capture, we were attacked by
the spearsmen of a native chief to whom the caravans
paid for protection. Our two leaders were killed, and
the rest of us were taken to Damascus where we
were stripped of our clothing and sold as slaves.
"I was purchased for two pieces of silver by a Syrian
desert chief. With my hair shorn and but a loincloth
to wear, I was not so different from the other
slaves. Being a reckless youth, I thought it merely an
adventure until my master took me before his four
wives and told them they could have me for a
"Then, indeed, did I realize the hopelessness of my
situation. These men of the desert were fierce and
warlike. I was subject to their will without weapons
or means of escape.
"Fearful I stood, as those four women looked me
over. I wondered if I could expect pity from them.
Sira, the first wife, was older than the others. Her
The Camel trader of Babylon 99
face was impassive as she looked upon me. I turned
from her with little consolation. The next was a contemptuous
beauty who gazed at me as indifferently
as if I had been a worm of the earth. The two
younger ones tittered as though it were all an exciting
"It seemed an age that 1 stood waiting sentence.
Each woman appeared willing for the others to decide.
Finally Sira spoke up in a cold voice.
" 'Of eunuchs we have plenty, but of camel tenders
we have few and they are a worthless lot. Even this
day I would visit my mother who is sick with the
fever and there is no slave I would trust to lead my
camel. Ask this slave if he can lead a camel.'
"My master thereupon questioned me, 'What
know you of camels?'
"Striving to conceal my eagerness, I replied, 'I can
make them kneel, I can load them, I can lead them
on long trips without tiring. If need be, I can repair
their trappings.'
" 'The slave speaks forward enough,' observed my
master. 'If thou so desire, Sira, take this man for thy
camel tender.'
"So I was turned over to Sira and that day 1 led
her camel upon a long journey to her sick mother. I
took the occasion to thank her for her intercession
and also to tell her that I was not a slave by birth,
but the son of a freeman, an honourable saddle-maker
of Babylon. I also told her much of my story. Her
comments were disconcerting to me and 1 pondered
much afterward on what she said.
" 'How can you call yourself a free man when your
weakness has brought you to this? If a man has in
himself the soul of a slave will he not become one no
matter what his birth, even as water seeks its level? If
a man has within him the soul of a free man, will
he not become respected and honoured in has own
city in spite of his misfortune?'
"For over a year I was a slave and lived with the
slaves, but I could not become as one of them. One
day Sira asked me, 'In the even time when the other
slaves can mingle and enjoy the society of each other,
why dost thou sit in thy tent alone?'
"To which I responded, 'I am pondering what you
have said to me. I wonder if I have the soul of a
slave. I cannot join them, so I must sit apart.'
" T, too, must sit apart,' she confided. 'My dowry
was large and my lord married me because of it. Yet
he does not desire me. What every woman longs for
is to be desired. Because of this and because I am
barren and have neither son nor daughter, must I sit
apart. Were I a man I would rather die than be such
a slave, but the conventions of our tribe make slaves
of women.'
. " 'What think thou of me by this time?' I asked
her suddenly. 'Have I the soul of a man or have I
the soul of a slave?'
" 'Have you a desire to repay the just debts you
owe in Babylon?' she parried.
" 'Yes, I have the desire, but I see no way.'
"If thou contentedly let the years slip by and make
no effort to repay, then thou hast but the contemptible
soul of a slave. No man is otherwise who cannot
respect himself and no man can respect himself who
does not repay honest debts.'
" 'But what can I do who am a slave in Syria?'
" 'Stay a slave in Syria, thou weakling.'
" 'I am not a weakling,' I denied hotly.
" 'Then prove it.'
" 'How?'
The Camel Trader of Babylon 101
" 'Does not thy great king fight his enemies in
every way he can and with every force he has? Thy
debts are thy enemies. They ran thee out of Babylon.
You left them alone and they grew too strong for
thee. Hadst fought them as a man, thou couldst have
conquered them and been one honoured among the
townspeople. But thou had not the soul to fight them
and behold thy pride hast gone down until thou are
a slave in Syria.'
"Much I thought over her unkind accusations and
many defensive phrases I worded to prove myself
not a slave at heart, but I was not to have the chance
to use them. Three days later the maid of Sira took
me to her mistress.
n 'My mother is again very sick,’ she said. 'Saddle
the two best camels in my husband's herd. Tie on
water skins and saddlebags for a long journey. The
maid will give thee food at the kitchen tent.' I packed
the camels wondering much at the quantity of provisions
the maid provided, for the mother dwelt less
than a day's journey away. The maid rode the rear
camel which followed and I led the camel of my
mistress. When we reached her mother's house it was
just dark. Sira dismissed the maid and said to me:
" 'Dabasir, hast thou the soul of a free man or the
soul of a slave?'
" 'The soul of a free man,' I insisted.
" 'Now is thy chance to prove it. Thy master hath
imbibed deeply and his chiefs are in a stupor. Take
then these camels and make thy escape. Here in this
bag is raiment of thy master's to disguise thee. I will
say thou stole the camels and ran away while I visited
my sick mother.'
" 'Thou hast the soul of a queen,’ I told her. 'Much
do I wish that I might lead thee to happiness.'
" 'Happiness,' she responded, 'awaits not the runaway
wife who seeks it in far lands among strange
people. Go thy own way and may the gods of the
desert protect thee for the way is far and barren of
food or water.'
"I needed no further urging, but thanked her
warmly and was away into the night. I knew not
this strange country and had only a dim idea of the
direction in which lay Babylon, but struck out
bravely across the desert toward the hills. One camel
I rode and the other I led. All that night I travelled
and all the next day, urged on by the knowledge of
the terrible fate that was meted out to slaves who
stole their master's property and tried to escape.
"Late that afternoon, 1 reached a rough country as
uninhabitable as the desert. The sharp rocks bruised
the feet of my faithful camels and soon they were
picking their way slowly and painfully along. I met
neither man nor beast and could well understand
why they shunned this inhospitable land.
"It was such a journey from then on as few men
live to tell of. Day after day we plodded along. Food
and water gave out. The heat of the sun was merciless.
At the end of the ninth day, I slid from the back
of my mount with the feeling that I was too weak to
ever remount and I would surely die, lost in this
abandoned country.
"I stretched out upon the ground and slept, not
waking until the first gleam of daylight.
"I sat up and looked about me. There was a coolness
in the morning air. My camels lay dejected not
far away. About me was a vast waste of broken country
covered with rock and sand and thorny things,
no sign of water, naught to eat for man or camel.
The Camel Trader of Babylon 103
"Could it be that in this peaceful quiet I faced my
end? My mind was clearer than it had ever been
before. My body now seemed of little importance.
My parched and bleeding lips, my dry and swollen
tongue, my empty stomach, all had lost their supreme
agonies of the day before.
"I looked across into the uninviting distance and
once again came to me the question, 'Have I the soul
of a slave or the soul of a free man?' Then with
clearness I realized that if I had the soul of a slave,
I should give up, lie down in the desert and die, a
fitting end for a runaway slave.
"But if I had the soul of a free man, what then?
Surely I would force my way back to Babylon, repay
the people who had trusted me, bring happiness to
my wife who truly loved me and bring peace and
contentment to my parents.
" 'Thy debts are thine enemies who have run thee
out of Babylon,’ Sira had said. Yes it was so. Why
had I refused to stand my ground like a man? Why
had I permitted my wife to go back to her father?
"Then a strange thing happened. All the world
seemed to be of a different colour as though I had
been looking at it through a coloured stone which had
suddenly been removed. At last I saw the true values
in life.
"Die in the desert! Not I! With a new vision, I saw
the things that I must do. First I would go back to
Babylon and face every man to whom I owed an
unpaid debt. I should tell them that after years of
wandering and misfortune, I had come back to pay
my debts as fast as the Gods would permit. Next I
should make a home for my wife and become a citizen
of whom my parents should be proud.
"My debts were my enemies, but the men I owed
were my friends for they had trusted me and believed
in me.
"I staggered weakly to my feet. What mattered hunger?
What mattered thirst? They were but incidents on
the road to Babylon. Within me surged the soul of a
free man going back to conquer his enemies and reward
his friends. I thrilled with the great resolve.
"The glazed eyes of my camels brightened at the
new note in my husky voice. With great effort, after
many attempts, they gained their feet. With pitiful perseverance,
they pushed on toward the north where
something within me said we would find Babylon.
"We found water. We passed into a more fertile
country where were grass and fruit. We found the
trail to Babylon because the soul of a free man looks
at life as a series of problems to be solved and solves
them, while the soul of a slave whines, 'What can I
do who am but a slave?'
"How about thee, Tarkad? Dost thy empty stomach
make thy head exceedingly clear? Art ready to take the
road that leads back to self-respect? Canst thou see the
world in its true colour? Hast thou the desire to pay thy
honest debts, however many they may be, and once
again be a man respected in Babylon?"
Moisture came to the eyes of the youth. He rose
eagerly to his knees. "Thou has shown me a vision;
already I feel the soul of a free man surge within me."
"But how fared you upon your return?" questioned
an interested listener.
"Where the determination is, the way can be found,"
Dabasir replied. "I now had the determination so I
set out to find a way. First I visited every man to
whom I was indebted and begged his indulgence
until I could earn that with which to repay. Most of
The Camel Trader of Babylon 105
them met me gladly. Several reviled me but others
offered to help me; one indeed did give me the very
help I needed. It was Mathon, the gold lender. Learning
that I had been a camel tender in Syria, he sent
me to old Nebatur, the camel trader, just commissioned
by our good king to purchase many herds of
sound camels for the great expedition. With him, my
knowledge of camels I put to good use. Gradually I
was able to repay every copper and every piece of
silver. Then at last I could hold up my head and feel
that I was an honourable man among men."
Again Dabasir turned to his food. "Kauskor, thou
snail," he called loudly to be heard in the kitchen,
"the food is cold. Bring me more meat fresh from
the roasting. Bring thou also a very large portion for
Tarkad, the son of my old friend, who is hungry and
shall eat with me."
So ended the tale of Dabasir the camel trader of old
Babylon. He found his own soul when he realized a
great truth, a truth that had been known and used
by wise men long before his time.
It has led men of all ages out of difficulties and
into success and it will continue to do so for those
who have the wisdom to understand its magic
power. It is for any man to use who reads these lines:
The Clay Tablets
from Babylon
Nottingham University
October 21, 1934
Frofessor Franklin Caldwell,
Care of British Scientific
Hillah, Mesopotamia.
My dear Professor:
The five clay tablets from your recent
excavation in the ruins of Babylon arrived on
the same boat with your letter. I have been
fascinated no end, and have spent many
pleasant hours translating their inscriptions. I
should have answered your letter at once but
delayed until I could complete the translations
which are attached.
The tablets arrived without damage, thanks to
your careful use of preservatives and
excellent packing.
The Clay Tablets from Babylon 107
You will be as astonished as we in the
laboratory at the story they relate. One
expects the dim and distant past to speak of
romance and adventure. "Arabian Nights"
sort of things, you know. When instead it
discloses the problem of a person named
Dabasir to pay off his debts, one realises that
conditions upon this old world have not
changed as much in five thousand years as one
might expect.
It's odd, you know, but these old inscriptions
rather "rag" me, as the students say. Being a
college professor, I am supposed to be a thinking
human being possessing a working knowledge
of most subjects. Yet, here comes this old chap out
of the dust-covered ruins of Babylon to offer a
way I had never heard of to pay off my debts and
at the same time acquire gold to jingle in my
Pleasant thought, I say, and interesting to prove
whether it will work as well nowadays as it did
in old Babylon. Mrs. Shrewsbury and myself are
planning to try out his plan upon our own
affairs which could be much improved.
Wishing you the best of luck in your worthy
undertaking and waiting eagerly another
opportunity to assist, I am,
Yours sincerely,
Alfred H. Shrewsbury,
Department of Archaeology.
Now, when the moon becometh full, I, Dabasir, who
am but recently returned from slavery in Syria,
with the determination to pay my many just debts
and become a man of means worthy of respect in my
native city of Babylon, do here engrave upon the
clay a permanent record of my affairs to guide and
assist me in carrying through my high desires.
Under the wise advice of my good friend Mathon,
the gold lender,-I am determined to follow an exact
plan that he doth say will lead any honourable man
out of debt into means and self-respect.
This plan includeth three purposes which are my
hope and desire.
First, the plan doth provide for my future prosperity.
Therefore one-tenth of all I earn shall be set aside
as my own to keep. For Mathon speaketh wisely
when he saith:
"That man who keepeth in his purse both gold and
silver that he need not spend is good to his family
and loyal to his king.
"The man who hath but a few coppers in his purse
is indifferent to his family and indifferent to his
"But the man who hath naught in his purse is
unkind to his family and is disloyal to his king, for
his own heart is bitter.
"Therefore, the man who wisheth to achieve must
have coin that he may keep to jingle in his purse,
that he have in his heart love for his family and loyalty
to his king."
Second, the plan doth provide that I shall support
and clothe my good wife who hath returned to me
with loyalty from the house of her father. For Mathon
doth say that to take good care of a faithful wife
putteth self-respect into the heart of a man and addeth
strength and determination to his purposes.
Therefore seven-tenths of all I earn shall be used to
provide a home, clothes to wear, and food to eat, with
a bit extra to spend, that our lives be not lacking in
pleasure and enjoyment. But he doth further enjoin the
greatest care that we spend not greater than seven-tenth
The Clay Tablets from Babylon 109
of what I earn for these worthy purposes. Herein lieth
the success of the plan. I must live upon this portion
and never use more nor buy what I may not pay for
out of this portion.
Third, the plan doth provide that out of my earnings
my 'debts shall be paid.
Therefore each time the moon is full, two-tenths of
all I have earned shall be divided honourably and
fairly among those who have trusted me and to whom
I am indebted. Thus in due time will all my
indebtedness be surely paid.
Therefore, do I here engrave the name of every man
to whom I am indebted and the honest amount of
my debt.
Fahru. the cloth weaver, 2 silver, 6 copper.
Shi jar, the couch maker, 1 silver. .
Ahmar, my friend, 3 silver, 1 copper.
Zankar, my friend, 4 silver, 7 copper.
Askamir, my friend, 1 silver, 3 copper.
Harinsir, the jewelmaker, 6 silver, 2 copper.
Diarbeker, my father's friend, 4 silver, 1 copper.
Alkahad, the house owner, 14 silver.
Mathon, the gold lender, 9 silver.
Birejik, the farmer, I silver, 7 copper.
(From here on, disintegrated. Cannot be deciphered.)
To these creditors do I owe in total one hundred
and nineteen pieces of silver and one hundred and
forty-one pieces of copper. Because I did owe these
sums and saw no way to repay, in my folly I did
permit my wife to return to her father and didst leave
my native city and seek easy wealth elsewhere, only
to find disaster and to see myself sold into the
degradation of slavery.
Now that Mathon doth show me how I can repay
my debts in small sums of my earnings, do I realize
the great extent of my folly in running away from the
results of my extravagances.
Therefore have I visited my creditors and explained
to them that I have no resources with which to pay
except my ability to earn, and that I intend to apply
two-tenths of all I earn upon my indebtedness evenly
and honestly. This much can I pay but no more.
Therefore if they be patient, in time my obligations
will be paid in full.
Ahmar, whom I thought my best friend, reviled me
bitterly and I left him in humiliation. Birejik, the
farmer, pleaded that I pay him first as he didst badly
need help. Alkahad, the house owner, was indeed
disagreeable and insisted that he would make me
trouble unless I didst soon settle in full with him.
All the rest willingly accepted my proposal.
Therefore am I more determined than ever to carry
through, being convinced that it is easier to pay one's
just debts than to avoid them. Even though I cannot
meet the needs and demands of a few of my creditors
I will deal impartially with all.
The Clay Tablets from Babylon 111
Again the moon shines full. I have worked hard
with a free mind. My good wife hath supported
my intentions to pay my creditors. Because of our
wise determination, I have earned during the
past moon, buying camels of sound wind and good
legs, for Nebatur, the sum of nineteen pieces of
This I have divided according to the plan. One-tenth
have I set aside to keep as my own, seven-tenths
have I divided with my good wife to pay for our living.
Two-tenths have I divided among my creditors as
evenly as could be done in coppers.
I did not see Ahmar but left it with his wife. Birejik
was so pleased he would kiss my hand. Old Alkahad
alone was grouchy and said I must pay faster. To
which I replied that if I were permitted to be well
fed and not worried, that alone would enable me to
pay faster. All the others thanked me and spoke well
of my efforts.
Therefore, at the end of one moon, my indebtedness
is reduced by almost four pieces of silver and I
possess almost two pieces of silver besides, upon which
no man hath claim. My heart is lighter than it
hath been for a long time.
Again the moon shines full I have worked hard but
with poor success. Few camels have I been able to
buy. Only eleven pieces of silver have I earned.
Nevertheless my good wife and I have stood by the
plan even though we have bought no new raiment and
eaten little but herbs. Again I paid ourselves onetenth
of the eleven pieces, while we lived upon seventenths.
I was surprised when Ahmar commended
my payment, even though small. So did Birejik.
Alkahad flew into a rage but when told to give back
his portion if he did not wish it, he became reconciled.
The others, as before, were content.
Again the moon shines full and I am greatly
rejoiced, I intercepted a fine herd of camels and
bought many sound ones, therefore my earnings were
forty-two pieces of silver. This moon my wife and
myself have bought much needed sandals and raiment.
Also we have dined well on meat and fowl.
More than eight pieces of silver we have paid to our
creditors. Even Alkahad did not protest.
Great is the plan for it leadeth us out of debt and
giveth us wealth which is ours to keep.
Three times the moon had been full since I last
carved upon this clay. Each time I paid to myself
one-tenth of all I earned. Each time my good wife and
I have lived upon seven-tenths even though at times
it was difficult. Each time have I paid to my creditors
In my purse I now have twenty-one pieces of silver
that are mine. It maketh my head to stand straight
upon my shoulders and maketh me proud to walk
among my friends.
My wife keepeth well our home and is becomingly
gowned. We are happy to live together.
The plan is of untold value. Hath it not made an
honourable man of an ex-slave?
Again the moon shines full und I remember that it
is long since I carved upon the clay. Twelve moons
in truth have come and gone. But this day I will not
neglect my record because upon this day I have
Paid the last of my debts. This is the day upon which
my good wife and my thankful self celebrate with
The Clay Tablets from Babylon 113
great feasting that our determination hath been
Many things occurred upon my final visit to my
creditors that I shall long remember. Ahmar begged
my forgiveness for his unkind words and said that I
was one of all others he most desired for a friend.
Old Alkahad is not so bad after all, for he said,
"Thou wert once a piece of soft clay to be pressed
and molded by any hand that touched thee, but now
thou art a piece of bronze capable of holding an
edge. If thou needst silver or gold at any time come
to me."
Nor is he the only one who holdeth me in high
regard. Many others speak deferentially to me. My
good wife looketh upon me with a light in her eyes
that doth make a man have confidence in himself.
Yet it is the plan that hath made my success. It hath
enabled me to pay all my debts and to jingle both
gold and silver in my purse. I do commend it to all
who wish to get ahead. For truly if it will enable
an ex-slave to pay his debts and have gold in his purse,
will it not aid any man to find independence? Nor
am I, myself, finished with it, for I am convinced that
if I follow it further it will make me rich among
Nottingham University
Newark- on-Trent
November 7, 1936.
Professor Franklin Caldwell,
Care of British Scientific Expedition,
Hillah, Mesopotamia.
My dear Professor:
If, in your further digging into those ruins of
Babylon, you encounter the ghost of a former
resident, an old camel trader named Dabasir, do
me a favour. Tell him that his scribbling upon
those clay tablets, so long ago, has earned for him
the lifelong gratitude of a couple of college folks
back here in England.
You will possibly remember my writing a year
ago that Mrs. Shrewsbury and myself intended
to try his plan for getting out of debt and at the
same time having gold to jingle. You may have
guessed, even though we tried to keep it from our
friends, our desperate straits.
We were frightfully humiliated for years by a
lot of old debts 'and worried sick for fear some
of the trades people might start a scandal that
would force me out of the college. We paid and
paid—every shilling we could squeeze out of
income—but it was hardly enough to hold things
even. Besides we were forced to do all our buying
where we could get further credit regardless of
higher costs.
It developed into one of those vicious circles that
grow worse instead of better. Our struggles
were getting hopeless. We could not move to less
costly rooms because we owed the landlord.
There did not appear to be anything we could do
to improve our situation.
Then, here comes your acquaintance, the old
The-Clay Tablets from Babylon 115
camel trader from Babylon, with a plan to do
just what we wished to accomplish. He jolly well
stirred us up to follow his system. We made a
list of all our debts and I took it around and
showed it to every one we owed.
I explained how it was simply impossible for me
to ever pay them the way things were going
along. They could readily see this themselves from
the figures. Then I explained that the only way
I saw to pay in full was to set aside twenty percent
of my income each month to be divided pro
rata, which would pay them in full in a little over
two years. That, in the meantime, we would go
on a cash basis and give them the further benefit
of our cash purchases.
They were really quite decent. Our greengrocer,
a wise old chap, put it in a way that helped to
bring around the rest. "If you pay for all you buy
and then pay some An what you owe, that is
better than you have done, for ye ain't paid down
the account none in three years."
Finally I secured all their names to an
agreement binding them not to molest us as
long as the twenty percent of income was paid
regularly. Then we began scheming on how to
live upon seventy percent. We were determined to
keep that extra ten percent to jingle. The
thought of silver and possibly gold was most
It was like having an adventure to make the
change. We enjoyed figuring this way and that,
to live comfortably upon that remaining seventy
percent. We started with rent and managed to
secure a fair reduction. Next we put our favourite
brands of tea and such under suspicion and
were agreeably surprised how often we could
purchase superior qualities at less cost.
It is too long a story for a letter but anyhow it
did not prove difficult. We managed and right
cheerfully at that. What a relief it proved to have
our affairs in such a shape we were no longer
persecuted by past due accounts.
I must not neglect, however, to tell you about
that extra ten percent we were supposed to
jingle. Well, we did jingle it for some time. Now
don't laugh too soon. You see, that is the sporty
part. It is the real fun, to start accumulating
money that you do not want to spend. There is
more pleasure in running up such a surplus than
there could be in spending it.
After we had jingled to our hearts' content, we
found a more profitable use for it. We took up
an investment upon which we could pay that ten
percent each month. This is proving to be the
most satisfying part of our regeneration. It is the
first thing we pay out of my check.
There is a most gratifying sense of security to
know our investment is growing steadily. By
the time my teaching days are over it should be a
snug sum, large enough so the income will take
care of us from then on.
All this out of my same old check. Difficult to
believe, yet absolutely true. All our debts being
gradually paid and at the same time our
investment increasing. Besides we get along,
financially, even better than before. Who would
believe there could be such a difference in
results between following a financial plan and just
drifting along.
At the end of the next year, when all our old
bills shall have been paid, we will have more to
pay upon our investment besides some extra for
travel. We are determined never again to
permit our living expenses to exceed seventy
percent of our income.
Now you can understand why we would like to
extend our personal thanks to that old chap
whose plan saved us from our "Hell on Earth."
He knew. He had been through it all. He wanted
others to benefit from his own bitter
experiences. That is why he spent tedious hours
carving his message upon the clay.
He had a real message for fellow sufferers, a
message so important that after five thousand
The Clay Tablets from Babylon 117
years it has risen out of the ruins of Babylon, just
as true and just as vital as the day it was
Yours sincerely,
Alfred H. Shrewsbury,
Department of Archaeology.
The Luckiest Man in
At the head of his caravan, proudly rode Sharru
Nada, the merchant prince of Babylon. He liked fine
cloth and wore rich and becoming robes. He liked
fine animals and sat easily upon his spirited Arabian
stallion. To look at him one would hardly have
guessed his advanced years. Certainly they would
not have suspected that he was inwardly troubled.
The journey from Damascus is long and the hardships
of the desert many. These he minded not. The
Arab tribes are fierce and eager to loot rich caravans.
These he feared not for his many fleet mounted
guards were a safe protection.
About the youth at his side, whom he was bringing
from Damascus, was he disturbed. This was Hadan
Gula, the grandson of his partner of other years,
Arad Gula, to whom he felt he owed a debt of gratitude
which could never be repaid. He would like
to do something for this grandson, but the more he
considered this, the more difficult it seemed because
of the youth himself.
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 119
Eyeing the young man's rings and earrings, he
thought to himself, "He thinks jewels are for men,
still he has his grandfather's strong face. But his
grandfather wore no such gaudy robes. Yet, I sought
him to come, hoping I might help him get a start for
himself and get away from the wreck his father has
made of their inheritance."
Hadan Gula broke in upon his thoughts, "Why
dost thou work so hard, riding always with thy caravan
upon its long journeys? Dost thou never take
time to enjoy life?"
Sharru Nada smiled. "To enjoy life?" he repeated.
"What wouldst thou do to enjoy life if thou wert
Sharru Nada?"
"If I had wealth equal to thine, I would live like a
prince. Never across the hot desert would I ride. I
would spend the shekels as fast as they came to my
purse. I would wear the richest of robes and the rarest
of jewels. That would be a life to my liking, a life
worth living." Both men laughed.
"Thy grandfather wore no jewels," Sharru Nada
spoke before he thought, then continued jokingly,
"Wouldst thou leave no time for work?"
"Work was made for slaves," Hadan Gula responded.
Sharru Nada bit his lip but made no reply, riding
in silence until the trail led them to the slope. Here
he reined his mount and pointing to the green valley
far away, "See, there is the valley. Look far down
and thou canst faintly see the walls of Babylon. The
tower is the Temple of Bel. If thine eyes are sharp
thou mayest even see the smoke from the eternal fire
upon its crest."
"So that is Babylon? Always have I longed to see
the wealthiest city in all the world," Hadan Gula
commented. "Babylon, where my grandfather started
his fortune. Would he were still alive. We would not
be so sorely pressed."
"Why wish his spirit to linger on earth beyond its
allotted time? Thou and thy father can well carry on
his good work."
"Alas, of us, neither has his gift. Father and myself
know not his secret for attracting the golden shekels."
Sharru Nada did not reply but gave rein to his
mount and rode thoughtfully down the trail to the
valley. Behind them followed the caravan in a cloud
of reddish dust. Some time later they reached the
kings' highway and turned south through the irrigated
Three old men plowing a field caught Sharru
Nada's attention. They seemed strangely familiar.
How ridiculous! One does not pass a field after forty
years and find the same men plowing there. Yet,
something within him said they were the same. One,
with an uncertain grip, held the plow. The others
laboriously plodded beside the oxen, ineffectually
beating them with their barrel staves to keep them
Forty years ago he had envied these men! How
gladly he would have exchanged places! But what a
difference now. With pride he looked back at his
trailing caravan, well-chosen camels and donkeys,
loaded high with valuable goods from Damascus. All
this was but one of his possessions.
He pointed to the plowers, saying, "Still plowing
the same field where they were forty years ago."
"They look it, but why thinkest thou they are the
"I saw them there," Sharru Nada replied.
Recollections were racing rapidly through his mind.
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 121
Why could he not bury the past and live in the present?
Then he saw, as in a picture, the smiling face of
Arad Gula. The barrier between himself and the cynical
youth beside him dissolved.
But how could he help such a superior youth with
his spendthrift ideas and bejeweled hands? Work he
could offer in plenty to willing workers, but naught
for men who considered themselves too good for
work. Yet he owed it to Arad Gula to do something,
not a half-hearted attempt. He and Arad Gula had
never done things that way. They were not that sort
of men.
A plan came almost in a flash. There were objections.
He must consider his own family and his own
standing. It would be cruel; it would hurt. Being a
man of quick decisions, he waived objections and
decided to act.
"Wouldst thou be interested in hearing how thy
worthy grandfather and myself joined in the partnership
which proved so profitable?" he questioned.
"Why not just tell me how thou madest the golden
shekels? That is all I need to know," the young
man parried.
Sharru Nada ignored the reply and continued,
"We start with those men plowing. I was no older
than thou. As the column of men in which I marched
approached, good old Megiddo, the farmer, scoffed
at the slip-shod way in which they plowed. Megiddo
was chained next to me. 'Look at the lazy fellows,'
he protested, 'the plow holder makes no effort to
plow deep, nor do the beaters keep the oxen in the
furrow. How can they expect to raise a good crop
with poor plowing?'"
"Didst thou say Megiddo was chained to thee?"
Hadan Gula asked in surprise.
"Yes, with bronze collars about our necks and a
length of heavy chain between us. Next to him was
Zabado, the sheep thief. I had known him in Harroun.
At the end was a man we called Pirate because
he told us not his name. We judged him as a sailor
as he had entwined serpents tattooed upon his chest
in sailor fashion. The column was made up thus so
the men could walk in fours."
"Thou wert chained as a slave?" Hadan Gula
asked incredulously.
"Did not thy grandfather tell thee I was once a
"He often spoke of thee but never hinted of this."
"He was a man thou couldst trust with innermost
secrets. Thou, too, are a man I may trust, am I not
right?" Sharru Nada looked him squarely in the eye.
"Thou mayest rely upon my silence, but I am
amazed. Tell me how didst thou come to be a slave?"
Sharru Nada shrugged his shoulders, "Any man
may find himself a slave. It was a gaming house and barley
beer that brought me disaster. I was the victim of my
brother's indiscretions. In a brawl he killed his friend. I
was bonded to the widow by my father, desperate to
keep my brother from being prosecuted under the law.
When my father could not raise the silver to free me,
she in anger sold me to the slave dealer."
"What a shame and injustice!" Hadan Gula protested.
"But tell me, how didst thou regain freedom?"
"We shall come to that, but not yet. Let us continue
my tale. As we passed, the plowers jeered at us. One
did doff his ragged hat and bow low, calling out,
'Welcome to Babylon, guests of the king. He waits
for thee on the city walls where the banquet is
spread, mud bricks and onion soup.' With that they
laughed uproariously.
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 123
"Pirate flew into a rage and cursed them roundly.
'What do those men mean by the king awaiting us
on the walls?' I asked him.
" 'To the city walls ye march to carry bricks until
the back breaks. Maybe they beat thee to death before
it breaks. They won't beat me. I'll kill 'em.'
"Then Megiddo spoke up, 'It doesn't make sense to
me to talk of masters beating willing, hard-working
slaves to death. Masters like good slaves and treat
them well.'
" 'Who wants to work hard?' commented Zabado.
'Those plowers are wise fellows. They're not breaking,
their backs. Just letting on as if they be.'
" 'Thou can't get ahead by shirking,' Megiddo protested.
If thou plow a hectare, that’s a good day's work
and any master knows it. But when thou plow only a
half, that's shirking. I don't shirk. I like to work and I
like to do good work, for work is the best friend I've
ever known. It has brought me all the good things I've
had, my farm and cows and crops, everything.'
" 'Yea, and where be these things, now?' scoffed
Zabado. T figure it pays better to be smart and get by
without working. You watch Zabado, if we're sold to
the walls, he'll be carrying the water bag or some easy
job when thou, who like to work, will be breaking thy
back carrying bricks/ He laughed his silly laugh.
"Terror gripped me that night. I could not sleep. I
crowded close to the guard rope, and when the others
slept, I attracted the attention of Godoso who was
doing the first guard watch. He was one of those brigand
Arabs, the sort of rogue who, if he robbed thee of
thy purse, would think he must also cut thy throat.
" 'Tell me, Godoso,' I whispered, 'when we get to
Babylon will we be sold to the walls?'
" 'Why want to know?' he questioned cautiously.
" 'Canst thou not understand?' I pleaded. 'I am
young. I want to live. I don't want to be worked or I
beaten to death on the walls. Is there any chance for
me to get a good master?'
"He whispered back, 'I tell something. Thou good
fellow, give Godoso no trouble. Most times we go
first to slave market. Listen now. When buyers come,
tell 'em you good worker, like to work hard for good
master. Make 'em want to buy. You not make 'em
buy, next day you carry brick. Mighty hard work.'
"After he walked away, I lay in the warm sand,
looking up at the stars and thinking about work.
What Megiddo had said about it being his best friend
made me wonder if it would be my best friend. Certainly
it would be if it helped me out of this.
"When Megiddo awoke, I whispered my good
news to him. It was our one ray of hope as we
marched toward Babylon. Late in the afternoon we
approached the walls and could see the lines of men,
like black ants, climbing up and down the steep diagonal
paths. As we drew closer, we were amazed at
the thousands of men working; some were digging
in the moat, others mixed the dirt into mud bricks.
The greatest number were carrying the bricks in large
baskets up those steep trails to the masons.*
"Overseers cursed the laggards arid cracked bul-
*The famous works of ancient Babylon, its walls, temples, hanging
gardens and great canals, were built by slave labour, mainly prisoners
of war, which explains the inhuman treatment they received.
This force of workmen also included many citizens of Babylon and
its provinces who had been sold into slavery because of crimes or
financial troubles. It was a common custom for men to put themselves,
their wives or their children up as a bond to guarantee
payment of loans, legal judgments or other obligations. In case of
default, those so bonded were sold into slavery.
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 125
lock whips over the backs of those who failed to keep
in line. Poor, worn-out fellows were seen to stagger
and fall beneath their heavy baskets, unable to rise
again. If the lash failed to bring them to their feet,
they were pushed to the side of the paths and left
writhing in agony. Soon they would be dragged
down to join other craven bodies beside the roadway
to await unsanctified graves. As I beheld the ghastly
sight, I shuddered. So this was what awaited my father's
son if he failed at the slave market.
"Godoso had been right. We were taken through
the gates of the city to the slave prison and next
morning marched to the pens in the market. Here
the rest of the men huddled in fear and only the
whips of our guard could keep, them moving so the
buyers could examine them. Megiddo and myself eagerly
talked to every man who permitted us to address
"The slave dealer brought soldiers from the king's
Guard who shackled Pirate and brutally beat him
when he protested. As they led him away, I felt sorry
for him.
"Megiddo felt that we would soon part When no
buyers were near, he talked to me earnestly to impress
upon me how valuable work would be to me
in the future: 'Some men hate it. They make it their
enemy. Better to treat it like a friend, make thyself
like it. Don't mind because it is hard. If thou thinkest
about what a good house thou build, then who cares
if the beams are heavy and it is far from the well to
carry the water for the plaster. Promise me, boy, if
thou get a master, work for him as hard as thou
canst. If he does not appreciate all thou do, never
mind. Remember, work, well-done, does good to the
man who does it. It makes him a better man.' He
stopped as a burly farmer came to the enclosure and
looked at us critically.
"Megiddo asked about his farm and crops, soon
convincing him that he would be a valuable man.
After violent bargaining with the slave dealer, the
farmer drew a fat purse from beneath his robe, and
soon Megiddo had followed his new master out of
"A few other men were sold during the morning.
At noon Godoso confided to me that the dealer was
disgusted and would not stay over another night but
would take all who remained at sundown to the
king's buyer. I was becoming desperate when a fat,
good-natured man walked up to the wall and inquired
if there was a baker among us.
"I approached him saying, 'Why should a good
baker like thyself seek another baker of inferior
ways? Would it not be easier to teach a willing man
like myself thy skilled ways? Look at me, I am
young, strong and like to work. Give me a chance
and I will do my best to earn gold and silver for
thy purse.'
"He was impressed by my willingness and began
bargaining with the dealer who had never noticed
me since he had bought me but now waxed eloquent
on my abilities, good health and good disposition. I
felt like a fat ox being sold to a butcher. At last, much
to my joy, the deal was closed. I followed my new
master away, thinking I was the luckiest man in
"My new home was much to my liking. Nananaid,
my master, taught me how to grind the barley
in the stone bowl that stood in the courtyard, how
to build the fire in the oven and then how to grind
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 127
very fine the sesame flour for the honey cakes. I had
a couch in the shed where his grain was stored. The
old slave housekeeper, Swasti, fed me well and was
pleased at the way I helped her with the heavy tasks.
"Here was the chance I had longed for to make
myself valuable to my master and, I hoped, to find
a way to earn my freedom.
"I asked Nana-naid to show me how to knead the
bread and to bake. This he did, much pleased at my
willingness. Later, when I could do this well, I asked
him to show me how to make the honey cakes, and
soon I was doing all the baking. My master was glad
to be idle, but Swasti shook her head in disapproval.
'No work to do is bad for any man,' she declared.
"I felt it was time for me to think of a way by
which I might start to earn coins to buy my freedom.
As the baking was finished at noon, I thought Nananaid
would approve if I found profitable employment
for the afternoons and might share my earnings
with me. Then the thought came to me, why not bake
more of the honey cakes and peddle them to hungry
men upon the streets of the city?
"I presented my plan to Nana-naid this way: 'If I
can use my afternoons after the baking is finished to
earn for thee coins, would it be only fair for thee to
share my earnings with me that I might have money
of my own to spend for those things which every
man desires and needs?'
"'Fair enough, fair enough,' he admitted. When I
told him of my plan to peddle our honey cakes, he
was well pleased. 'Here is what we will do,' he suggested.
"Thou sellest them at two for a penny, then
half of the pennies will be mine to pay for the flour
and the honey and the wood to bake them. Of the
rest, I shall take half and thou shall keep half.'
"I was much pleased by his generous offer that I
might keep for myself, one-fourth of my sales. That
night 1 worked late to make a tray upon which to
display them. Nana-naid gave me one of his worn
robes that I might look well, and Swasti helped me
patch it and wash it clean.
"The next day I baked an extra supply of honey
cakes. They looked brown and tempting upon the
tray as 1 went along the street, loudly calling my
wares. At first no one seemed interested, and I became
discouraged. I kept on and later in the afternoon
as men became hungry, the cakes began to sell
and soon my tray was empty.
"Nana-naid was well pleased with my success and
gladly paid me my share. I was delighted to own
pennies. Megiddo had been right when he said a
master appreciated good work from his slaves. That
night I was so excited over my success I could hardly
sleep and tried to figure how much I could earn in
a year and how many years would be required to
buy my freedom.
"As I went forth with my tray of cakes every day, I
soon found regular customers. One of these was none
other than thy grandfather, Arad Gula. He was a rug
merchant and sold to the housewives, going from one
end of the city to the other, accompanied by a donkey
loaded high with rugs and a black slave to tend it. He
would buy two cakes for himself and two for his slave,
always tarrying to talk with me while they ate them,
"Thy grandfather said something to me one day
that I shall always remember. 'I like thy cakes, boy,
but better still I like the fine enterprise with which
thou offerest them. Such spirit can carry thee far on
the road to success.'
"But how canst thou understand, Hadan Gula, what
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 129
such words of encouragement could mean to a slave
boy, lonesome in a great city, struggling with all he
had in him to find a way out of his humiliation?
"As the months went by I continued to add pennies
to my purse. It began to have a comforting
weight upon my belt. Work was proving to be my
best friend just as Megiddo had said. I was happy
but Swasti was worried.
" 'Thy master, I fear to have him spend so much
time at the gaming houses/ she protested.
"I was overjoyed one day to meet my friend Megiddo
upon the street. He was leading three donkeys
loaded with vegetables to the market. 'I am doing
mighty well,' he said. 'My master does appreciate my
good work for now I am a foreman. See, he does
trust the marketing to me, and also he is sending for
my family. Work is helping me to recover from my
great trouble. Some day it will help me to buy my
freedom and once more own a farm of my own.'
"Time went on and Nana-naid became more and
more anxious for me to return from selling. He would
be waiting when I returned and would eagerly count
and divide our money. He would also urge me to seek
further markets and increase my sales.
"Often I went outside the city gates to solicit the
overseers of the slaves building the walls. I hated to
return to the disagreeable sights but found the overseers
liberal buyers. One day I was surprised to see
Zabado waiting in line to fill his basket with bricks.
He was gaunt and bent, and his back was covered
with welts and sores from the whips of the overseers.
I was sorry for him and handed him a cake which
he crushed into his mouth like a hungry animal.
Seeing the greedy look in his eyes, I ran before he
could grab my tray.
" 'Why dost thou work so hard?' Arad Gula said
to me one day. Almost the same question thou asked
' of me today, dost thou remember? I told him what
Megiddo had said about work and how it was proving
to be my best friend. I showed him with pride
my wallet of pennies and explained how I was saving
them to buy my freedom.
" 'When thou art free, what wilt thou do?' he
" 'Then,' I answered, 'I intend to become a merchant.'
"At that, he confided in me. Something I had never
suspected. 'Thou knowest not that I, also, am a slave.
I am in partnership with my master.' "
"Stop," demanded Hadan Gula. 'I will not listen
to lies defaming my grandfather. He was no slave."
His eyes blazed in anger.
Sharru Nada remained calm. "I honour him for rising
above his misfortune and becoming a leading citizen
of Damascus. Art thou, his grandson, cast of the
same mold? Art thou man enough to face true .facts,
or dost thou prefer to live under false illusions?"
Hadan Gula straightened in his saddle. In a voice
suppressed with deep emotion he replied, "My grandfather
was beloved by all. Countless were his good
deeds. When the famine came did not his gold buy
grain in Egypt and did not his caravan bring it to Damascus
and distribute it to the people so none would
starve? Now thou sayest he was but a despised slave
in Babylon."
"Had he remained a slave in Babylon, then he
might well have been despised, but when, through
his own efforts, he became a great man in Damascus,
the Gods indeed condoned his misfortunes and honored
him with their respect," Sharru Nada replied.
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 131
"After telling me that he was a slave," Sharru
Nada continued, 'he explained how anxious he had
been to earn his freedom. Now that he had enough
money to buy this he was much disturbed as to what
he should do. He was no longer making good sales
and feared to leave the support of his master.
"I protested his indecision: 'Cling no longer to thy
master. Get once again the feeling of being a free man.
Act like a free man and succeed like one! Decide what
thou desirest to accomplish and then work will aid
thee to achieve it!' He went on his way saying he was
glad I had shamed him for his cowardice.*
"One day I went outside the gates again, and was
surprised to find a great crowd gathering there.
When I asked a man for an explanation he replied:
"Hast thou not heard? An escaped slave who murdered
one of the king's guards has been brought to
justice and will this day be flogged to death for his
crime. Even the king himself is to be here.'
"So dense was the crowd about the flogging post, I
feared to go near lest my tray of honey cakes be upset.
Therefore, I climbed up the unfinished wall to see over
the heads of the people. I was fortunate in having a
view of Nebuchadnezzar himself as he rode by in his
golden chariot. Never had I beheld such grandeur, such
robes and hangings of gold cloth and velvet.
"I could not see the flogging though I could hear
the shrieks of the poor slave. I wondered how one
so noble as our handsome king could endure to see
*Slave customs in ancient Babylon, though they may seem inconsistent
to us, were strictly regulated by law. For example, a slave
could own property of any kind, even other slaves upon which his
master had no claim. Slaves intermarried freely with non-slaves.
Children of free mothers were free. Most of the city merchants
were slaves. Many of these were in partnership with their masters
and wealthy in their own right.
such suffering, yet when I saw he was laughing and
joking with his nobles, I knew he was cruel and understood
why such inhuman tasks were demanded
of the slaves building the walls.
"After the slave was dead, his body was hung
upon a pole by a rope attached to his leg so all might
see. As the crowd began to thin, I went close. On the
hairy chest, I saw tattooed, two entwined serpents.
It was Pirate.
"Hie next time I met Arad Gula he was a changed
man. Full of enthusiasm he greeted me: 'Behold, the
slave thou knewest is now a free man. There was
magic in thy words. Already my sales and my profits
are increasing. My wife is overjoyed. She was a free
woman, the niece of my master. She much desires
that we move to a strange city where no man shall
know I was once a slave. Thus our children shall be
above reproach for their father's misfortune. Work
has become my best helper. It has enabled me to
recapture my confidence and my skill to sell.'
"I was overjoyed that I had been able even in a
small way, to repay him for the encouragement he
had given me.
"One evening Swasti came to me in deep distress:
'Thy master is in trouble. I fear for him. Some months
ago he lost much at the gaming tables. He pays not
the farmer for his grain nor his honey. He pays not
the money lender. They are angry and threaten him.'
" 'Why should we worry over his folly. We are not
his keepers,' I replied thoughtlessly.
" 'Foolish youth, thou understandeth not. To the
money lender didst he give thy title to secure a loan.
Under the law he can claim thee and sell thee. I know
not what to do. He is a good master. Why? Oh why,
should such trouble come upon him?'
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 133
"Not were Swasti's fears groundless. While I was
doing the baking next morning, the money lender
returned with a man he called Sasi. This man looked
me over and said I would do.
"The money lender waited not for my master to
return but told Swasti to tell him he had taken me.
With only the robe on my back and the purse of
pennies hanging safely from my belt, I was hurried
away from the unfinished baking.
"I was whirled away from my dearest hopes as
the hurricane snatches the tree from the forest and
casts it into the surging sea. Again a gaming house
and barley beer had caused me disaster.
"Sasi was a blunt, gruff man. As he led me across
the city, I told him of the good work I had been
doing for Nana-naid and said I hoped to do good
work for him. His reply offered no encouragement:
" T like not this work. My master likes it not. The
King has told him to send me to build a section of
the Grand Canal. Master tells Sasi to buy more slaves,
work hard and finish quick. Bah, how can any man
finish a big job quick?'
"Picture a desert with not a tree, just low shrubs
and a sun burning with such fury the water in our
barrels became so hot we could scarcely drink it.
Then picture rows of men, going down into the deep
excavation and lugging heavy baskets of dirt up soft,
dusty trails from daylight until dark. Picture food
served in open troughs from which we helped ourselves
like swine. We had no tents, no straw for beds.
That was the situation in which I found myself. I
buried my wallet in a marked spot, wondering if I.
would ever dig it up again,
"At first I worked with good will, but as the
months dragged on, I felt my spirit breaking. Then
the heat fever took hold of my weary body. I lost
my appetite and could scarcely eat the mutton and
vegetables. At night I would toss in unhappy wakefulness.
"In my misery, I wondered if Zabado had not the
best plan, to shirk and keep his back from being broken
in work. Then I recalled my last sight of him
and knew his plan was not good.
"I thought of Pirate with his bitterness and wondered
if it might be just as well to fight and kill. The
memory of his bleeding body reminded me that his
plan was also useless.
"Then I remembered my last sight of Megiddo. His
hands were deeply calloused from hard work but his
heart was light and there was happiness on his face.
His was the best plan.
"Yet I was just as willing to work as Megiddo; he
could not have worked harder than I. Why did not
my work bring me happiness and success? Was it
work that brought Megiddo happiness, or was happiness
and success merely in the laps of the Gods? Was
I to work the rest of my life without gaining my
desires, without happiness and success? All of these
questions were jumbled in my mind and I had not
an answer. Indeed, I was sorely confused.
"Several days later when it seemed that I was at
the end of my endurance and my questions still
unanswered, Sasi sent for me. A messenger had come
from my master to take me back to Babylon. I dug up
my precious wallet, wrapped myself in the tattered
remnants of my robe and was on my way.
"As we rode, the same thoughts of a hurricane
whirling me hither and thither kept racing through
my feverish brain. I seemed to be living the weird
words of a chant from my native town of Harroun:
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 135
Besetting a man like a whirlwind,
Driving him like a storm,
Whose course no one can follow,
Whose destiny no one can foretell.
"Was I destined to be ever thus punished for I
knew not what? What new miseries and disappointments
awaited me?
"When we rode to the courtyard of my master's
house, imagine my surprise when I saw Arad Gula
awaiting me. He helped me down and hugged me
like a long lost brother.
"As we went our way I would have followed him
as a slave should follow his master., but he would
not permit me. He put his arm about me, saying, 'I
hunted everywhere for thee: When I had almost
given up hope, I did meet Swasti who told me of the
money lender, who directed me to thy noble owner.
A hard bargain he did drive and made me pay an
outrageous price, but thou art worth it, Thy philosophy
and thy enterprise have been my inspiration to
this new success.'
" 'Megiddo's philosophy, not mine/ I interrupted.
" 'Megiddo's and thine. Thanks to thee both, we
are going to Damascus and I need thee for my partner.
See,' he exclaimed, 'in one moment thou will be
a free man!' So saying he drew from beneath his robe
the clay tablet carrying my title. This he raised above
his head and hurled it to break in a hundred pieces
upon the cobblestones. With glee he stamped upon
the fragments until they were but dust.
"Tears of gratitude filled my eyes. 1 knew I was
the luckiest man in Babylon.
"Work, thou see, by this, in the time of my greatest
distress, didst prove to be my best friend. My will136
ingness to work enabled me to escape from being
sold to join the slave gangs upon the walls. It also
so impressed thy grandfather, he selected me for
his partner."
Then Hadan Gula questioned, "Was work my
grandfather's secret key to the golden shekels?"
"It was the only key he had when I first knew
him," Sharru Nada replied. "Thy grandfather enjoyed
working. The Gods appreciated his efforts and
rewarded him liberally."
"I begin to see," Hadan Gula was speaking thoughtfully.
"Work attracted his many friends who admired
his industry and the success it brought. Work
brought him the honours he enjoyed so much in Damascus.
Work brought him all those things I have
approved. And I thought work was fit only for
"Life is rich with many pleasures for men to
enjoy," Sharru Nada commented. "Each has its place,
I am glad that work is not reserved for slaves. Were
that the case I would be deprived of my greatest
pleasure. Many things do I enjoy but nothing takes
the place of work."
Sharru Nada and Hadan Gula rode in the shadows
of the towering walls up to the massive, bronze gates
of Babyloa At their approach the gate guards jumped
to attention and respectfully saluted an honoured citizen.
With riead held high Sharru Nada led the long
caravan through the gates and up the streets of the
"I have always hoped to be a man like my grandfather,"
Hadan Gula confided to him. "Never before
did I realize just what kind of man he was. This thou
hast shown me. Now that I understand, I do admire
him all the more and feel more determined to be like
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 137
him. I fear I can never repay thee for giving me the
true key to his success. From this day forth, I shall
use his key. I shall start humbly as he started, which
befits my true station far better than jewels and
fine robes."
So saying Hadan Gula pulled the jeweled baubles
from his ears and the rings from his fingers. Then
reining his horse, he dropped back and rode with
deep respect behind the leader of the caravan.
An Historical Sketch of
In the pages of history there lives no city more glamorous
than Babylon. Its very name conjures visions
of wealth and splendour. Its treasures of gold and jewels
were fabulous. One naturally pictures such a
wealthy city as located in a suitable setting of tropical
luxury, surrounded by rich natural resources of forests
and mines. Such was not the case. It was located
beside the Euphrates River, in a flat, arid valley. It
had no forests, no mines—not even stone for building:
It was not even located upon a natural trade
route. The rainfall was insufficient to raise crops.
Babylon is an outstanding example of man's ability to
achieve great objectives, using whatever means are at his
disposal. All of the resources supporting this large city
were man-developed. All of its riches were man-made.
Babylon possessed just two natural resources—a
fertile soil and water in the river. With one of the
greatest engineering accomplishments of this or any
other day, Babylonian engineers diverted the waters
from the river by means of dams and immense irriga-
An Historical Sketch of Babylon 139
tion canals. Far out across that arid valley went these
canals to pour the life-giving waters over the fertile
soil. This ranks among the first engineering feats
known to history. Such abundant crops as were the
reward of this irrigation system the world had never
seen before.
Fortunately, during its long existence, Babylon was
ruled by successive lines of kings to whom conquest
and plunder were but incidental. While it engaged
in many wars, most of these were local or defensive
against ambitious conquerors from other countries
who coveted the fabulous treasures of Babylon. The
outstanding rulers of Babylon live in history because
of their wisdom, enterprise and justice. Babylon produced
no strutting monarchs who sought to conquer
the known world that all nations might pay homage
to their egotism.
As a city, Babylon exists no more. When those energizing
human forces that built and maintained the
city for thousands of years were withdrawn, it soon
became a deserted ruin. The site of the city is in Asia
about six hundred miles east of the Suez Canal, just
north of the Persian Gulf. The latitude is about thirty
degrees above the Equator, practically the same as
that of Yuma, Arizona. It possessed a climate similar
to that of this American city, hot and dry.
Today, this valley of the Euphrates, once a populous
irrigated farming district, is again a wind-swept
arid waste. Scant grass and desert shrubs strive for
existence against the windblown sands. Gone are the
fertile fields, the mammoth cities and the long caravans
of rich merchandise. Nomadic bands of Arabs,
securing a scant living by tending small herds, are
the only inhabitants. Such it has been since about the
beginning of the Christian era.
Dotting this valley are earthen hills. For centuries,
they were considered by travellers to be nothing else.
The attention of archaeologists were finally attracted
to them because of broken pieces of pottery and brick
washed down by the occasional rainstorms. Expeditions,
financed by European and American museums,
were sent here to excavate and see what could be
found. Picks and shovels soon proved these hills to
be ancient cities. City graves, they might well be
Babylon was one of these. Over it for something
like twenty centuries, the winds had scattered the
desert dust. Built originally of brick, all exposed
walls had disintegrated and gone back to earth once
more. Such is Babylon, the wealthy city, today. A
heap of dirt, so long abandoned that no living person
even knew its name until it was discovered by carefully
removing the refuse of centuries from the
streets and the fallen wreckage of its noble temples
and palaces.
Many scientists consider the civilization of Babylon
and other cities in this valley to be the oldest of which
there is a definite record. Positive dates have been
proved reaching back 8000 years. An interesting fact in
this connection is the means used to determine these
dates. Uncovered in the ruins of Babylon were descriptions
of an eclipse of the sun. Modern astronomers
readily computed the time when such an
eclipse, visible in Babylon, occurred and thus established
a known relationship between their calendar
and our own.
In this way, we have proved that 8000 years ago,
the Sumerites, who inhabited Babylonia, were living
in walled cities. One can only conjecture for how
An Historical Sketch of Babylon 141
many centuries previous such cities had existed.
Their inhabitants were not mere barbarians living
within protecting walls. They were an educated and
enlightened people. So far as written history goes,
they were the first engineers, the first astronomers,
the first mathematicians, the first financiers and the
first people to have a written language.
Mention has already been made of the irrigation
systems which transformed the arid valley into an
agricultural paradise. The remains of these canals can
still be traced, although they are mostly filled with
accumulated sand. Some of them were of such size
that, when empty of water, a dozen horses could be
ridden abreast along their bottoms. In size they compare
favourably with the largest canals in Colourado
and Utah.
In addition to irrigating the valley lands, Babylonian
engineers completed another project of similar
magnitude. By means of an elaborate drainage system
they reclaimed an immense area of swampland
at the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and
put this also under cultivation.
Herodotus, the Greek traveller and historian, visited
Babylon while it was in its prime and has given us the
only known description by an outsider. His writings
give a graphic description of the city and some of the
unusual customs of its people. He mentions the remarkable
fertility of the soil and the bountiful harvest
of wheat and barley which they produced.
The glory of Babylon has faded but its wisdom has
been preserved for us. For this we are indebted to
their form of records. In that distant day, the use of
paper had not been invented. Instead, they laboriously
engraved their writing upon tablets of moist
clay. When completed, these were baked and became
hard tile. In size, they were about six by eight inches,
and an inch in thickness.
These clay tablets, as they are commonly called,
were used much as we use modern forms of writing.
Upon them were engraved legends, poetry, history,
transcriptions of royal decrees, the laws of the land,
titles to property, promissory notes and even letters
which were dispatched by messengers to distant
cities. From these clay tablets we are permitted an
insight into the intimate, personal affairs of the people.
For example, one tablet, evidently from the records
of a country storekeeper, relates that upon the
given date a certain named customer brought in a
cow and exchanged it for seven sacks of wheat, three
being delivered at the time and the other four to
await the customer's pleasure.
Safely buried in the wrecked cities, archaeologists
have recovered entire libraries of these tablets, hundreds
of thousands of them.
One of the outstanding wonders of Babylon was
the immense walls surrounding the city. The ancients
ranked them with the great pyramid of Egypt as belonging
to the "seven wonders of the world." Queen
Semiramis is credited with having erected the first
walls during the early history of the city. Modern
excavators have been unable to find any trace of the
original walls. Nor is their exact height known. From
mention made by early writers, it is estimated they
were about fifty to sixty feet high, faced on the outer
side with burnt brick and further protected by a deep
moat of water.
The later and more famous walls were started
about six hundred years before the time of Christ by
King Nabopolassar. Upon such a gigantic scale did
An Historical Sketch of Babylon 143
he plan the rebuilding, he did not live to see the
work finished. This was left to his son, Nebuchadnezzar,
whose name is familiar in Biblical history.
The height and length of these later walls staggers
belief. They are reported upon reliable authority to
have been about one hundred and sixty feet high,
the equivalent of the height of a modern fifteen story
office building. The total length is estimated as between
nine and eleven miles. So wide was the top
that a six-horse chariot could be driven around them.
Of this tremendous structure, little now remains except
portions of the foundations and the moat. In
addition to the ravages of the elements, the Arabs
completed the destruction by quarrying the brick for
building purposes elsewhere.
Against the walls of Babylon marched, in turn, the
victorious armies of almost every conqueror of that
age of wars of conquest. A host of kings laid siege
to Babylon, but always in vain. Invading armies of
that day were not to be considered lightly. Historians
speak of such units as 10,000 horsemen, 25,000 chariots,
1200 regiments of foot soldiers with 1000 men to
the regiment. Often two or three years of preparation
would be required to assemble war materials and
depots of food along the proposed line of march.
The city of Babylon was organized much like a modern
city. There were streets and shops. Peddlers offered
their wares through residential districts. Priests officiated
in magnificent temples. Within the city was an
inner enclosure for the royal palaces. The walls about
this were said to have been higher than those about
the city.
The Babylonians were skilled in the arts. These included
sculpture, painting, weaving, gold working
and the manufacture of metal weapons and agricul144
tural implements. Their jewelers created most artistic
jewelry. Many samples have been recovered from the
graves of its wealthy citizens and are now on exhibition
in the leading museums of the world.
At a very early period when the rest of the world
was still hacking at trees with stone-headed axes, or
hunting and fighting with flint-pointed spears and
arrows, the Babylonians were using axes, spears and
arrows with metal heads.
The Babylonians were clever financiers and traders.
So far as we know, they were the original inventors
of money as a means of exchange, of promissory
notes and written titles to property.
Babylon was never entered by hostile armies until
about 540 years before the birth of Christ. Even then
the walls were not captured. The story of the fall
of Babylon is most unusual. Cyrus, one of the great
conquerors of that period, intended to attack the city
and hoped to take its impregnable walls. Advisors of
Nabonidus, the King of Babylon, persuaded him to
go forth to meet Cyrus and give him battle without
waiting for the city to be besieged. In the succeeding
defeat to the Babylonian army, it fled away from the
city. Cyrus, thereupon, entered the open gates and
took possession without resistance.
Thereafter the power and prestige of the city gradually
waned until, in the course of a few hundred
years, it was eventually abandoned, deserted, left for
the winds and storms to level once again to that desert
earth from which its grandeur had originally
been built. Babylon had fallen, never to rise again,
but to it civilization owes much.
The eons of time have crumbled to dust the proud
walls of its temples, but the wisdom of Babylon
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