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merely as an historian, but to justify his own actions, and sometimes
to correct, chastise, and stir up the Athenians to noble performances.
Some report that he designed to put his laws into heroic verse, and
that they began thus:-
"We humbly beg a blessing on our laws
From mighty jove, and honour, and applause."
In philosophy, as most of the wise men then, he chiefly esteemed the
political part of morals; in physics, he was very plain and antiquated,
as appears by this:-
"It is the clouds that make the snow and hail,
And thunder comes from lightning without fail;
The sea is stormy when the winds have blown,
But it deals fairly when 'tis left alone." And, indeed, it is probable
that at that time Thales alone had raised philosophy above mere practice
into speculation; and the rest of the wise men were so called from
prudence in political concerns. It is said, that they had an interview
at Delphi, and another at Corinth, by the procurement of Periander,
who made a meeting for them, and a supper. But their reputation was
chiefly raised by sending the tripod to them all, by their modest
refusal, and complaisant yielding to one another. For, as the story
goes, some of the Coans fishing with a net, some strangers, Milesians,
bought the draught at a venture; the net brought up a golden tripod,
which, they say, Helen, at her return from Troy, upon the remembrance
of an old prophecy, threw in there. Now, the strangers at first contesting
with the fishers about the tripod, and the cities espousing the quarrel
so far as to engage themselves in a war, Apollo decided the controversy
by commanding to present it to the wisest man; and first it was sent
to Miletus to Thales, the Coans freely presenting him with that for
which they fought against the whole body of the Milesians; but Thales
declaring Bias the wiser person, it was sent to him; from him to another;
and so, going round them all, it came to Thales a second time; and,
at last, being carried from Miletus to Thebes, was there dedicated
to Apollo Ismenius. Theophrastus writes that it was first presented
to Bias at Priene; and next to Thales at Miletus, and so through all
it returned to Bias, and was afterwards sent to Delphi. This is the
general report, only some, instead of a tripod, say this present was
a cup sent by Croesus; others, a piece of plate that one Bathycles
had left. It is stated, that Anacharsis and Solon, and Solon and Thales,
were familiarly acquainted and some have delivered parts of their
discourse; for, they say, Anacharsis, coming to Athens, knocked at
Solon's door, and told him, that he, being a stranger, was come to
be his guest, and contract a friendship with him; and Solon replying,
"It is better to make friends at home," Anacharsis replied, "Then
you that are at home make friendship with me." Solon, somewhat surprised
at the readiness of the repartee, received him kindly, and kept him
some time with him, being already engaged in public business and the
compilation of his laws; which, when Anacharsis understood, he laughed
at him for imagining the dishonesty and covetousness of his countrymen
could be restrained by written laws, which were like spiders' webs,
and would catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but easily be broken
by the mighty and rich. To this Solon rejoined that men keep their
promises when neither side can get anything by the breaking of them;
and he would so fit his laws to the citizens, that all should understand
it was more eligible to be just than to break the laws. But the event
rather agreed with the conjecture of Anacharsis than Solon's hope.
Anacharsis, being once at the Assembly, expressed his wonder at the
fact that in Greece wise men spoke and fools decided.
Solon went, they say, to Thales, at Miletus, and wondered that Thales
took no care to get him a wife and children. To this, Thales made
no answer for the present; but a few days after procured a stranger
to pretend that he had left Athens ten days ago; and Solon inquiring
what news there, the man, according to his instructions, replied,
"None but a young man's funeral, which the whole city attended; for
he was the son, they said, of an honourable man, the most virtuous

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