From Cyropaedia:

Indeed, a saying of [Cyrus] is handed down comparing a good king to a good shepherd—the shepherd must manage his flock by giving them all they need, and the king must satisfy the needs of his cities and his subjects if he is to manage them. We need not wonder, then, that with such opinions his ambition was to excel mankind in courtesy and care. There was a noble illustration of his philosophy in the answer we are told he gave to Croesus, who had taken him to task, saying his lavish gifts would bring him to beggary, although he could lay by more treasures for himself than any man had ever had before. Cyrus, it is said, asked him in return, “How much wealth do you suppose I could have amassed already, had I collected gold, as you bid me, ever since I came into my empire?”

Croesus chastised Cyrus for giving away too much instead of accumulating more wealth for himself. He asked Croesus how much money he should be in possession of.

And Croesus named an enormous sum. Then Cyrus said, “Listen, Croesus, here is my friend, Hystaspas, and you must send with him a man that you can trust.” Then, turning to Hystaspas, “Do you,” he said, “go round to my friends and tell them that I need money for a certain enterprise—and that is true, I do need it. Bid each of them write down the amount he can give me, seal the letter, and hand it to the messenger of Croesus, who will bring it here.” Thereupon Cyrus wrote his wishes and put his seal on the letter, and gave it to Hystaspas to carry round, only he added a request that they should all welcome Hystaspas as a friend of his. And when the messengers came back, the officer of Croesus carrying the answers, Hystaspas cried, “Cyrus, my lord, you must know I am a rich man now! I have made my fortune, thanks to your letter! They have loaded me with gifts.”

Cyrus sent his assistant to various friends asking how much money they could pledge to him. His assistant comes back, ecstatic, saying that the gifts alone given by those friends has made him a rich man.

And Cyrus said, “There, Croesus, that is treasure number one; and now run through the rest, and count what sums I have in hand, in case I need them.” And Croesus counted, and found, so the story tells us, that the sum was far larger than the amount he had said would have been lying in the treasury if only Cyrus had made a hoard.

In addition, the amount pledged by his friends exceeded the vast sum that Croesus originally stated, revealing that Cyrus, through his style of rule and approach to wealth, was far wealthier than the amount of gold in his vault.


At this discovery Cyrus said, so we are told, “You see, Croesus, I have my treasures too. Only you advise me to collect them and hide them, and be envied and hated because of them, and set mercenaries to guard them, putting my trust in hirelings. But I hold to it that if I make my friends rich they will be my treasures themselves, and far better guards too, for me and all we have, than if I set hired watchmen over my wealth.

And I have somewhat else to say; I tell you, Croesus, there is something the gods have implanted in our souls, and there they have made us all beggars alike, something I can never overcome. I too, like all the rest, am insatiate of riches, only in one respect I fancy I am different. Most men when they have more wealth than they require bury some of it underground, and let some of it rot, and some they count and measure, and they guard it and they air it, and give themselves a world of trouble, and yet for all their wealth they cannot eat more than they have stomach for–they would burst asunder if they did–nor wear more clothes than they can carry–they would die of suffocation–and so their extra wealth means nothing but extra work.

Cyrus stated that accumulation of wealth beyond one’s capacity to consume it breeds ill-will and waste.

For my part, I serve the gods, and I stretch out my hands for more and more; only when I have got what is beyond my own requirements I piece out the wants of my friends, and so, helping my fellows, I purchase their love and their goodwill, and out of these I garner security and renown, fruits that can never rot, rich meats that can work no mischief; for glory, the more it grows, the grander it becomes, and the fairer, and the lighter to be borne; it even gives a lighter step to those who bear it. One thing more, Croesus, I would have you know; the happiest men, in my judgment, are not the holders of vast riches and the masters who have the most to guard; else the sentinels of our citadels would be the happiest of mortals, seeing they guard the whole wealth of the state. He, I hold, has won the crown of happiness who has had the skill to gain wealth by the paths of righteousness and use it for all that is honourable and fair.”

That was the doctrine Cyrus preached, and all men could see that his practice matched his words.

If you sent out an email to your social network asking for help or favors, how many would be willing to help? Perhaps this is a more accurate total of the wealth you truly have, and not what is in your bank account.

Previously: Cyropaedia: The Education Of Cyrus

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