S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[The Athenian legislator; one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece; born in Salamis about 638 B.C.; archon and lawgiver, 594; repealed the laws of Draco, established the Areopagus, opposed the ambition of Pisistratus; died about 558.]
At a dinner given by Periander, tyrant of Corinth, to the Seven Wise Men, including Anacharsis, the question was asked, What is the ideal state, or most perfect form of popular government? The answers given by the philosophers were as follows:
Solon: That in which an injury done to the least of its citizens is an injury done to all.
Bias: Where the law has no superior.
Thales: Where the rich are neither too rich, nor the poor too poor.
Anacharsis: Where virtue is honored, and vice detested.
Pittacus: Where dignities are always conferred on the good, never on the bad.
Cleobulus: Where the citizens fear blame more than punishment.
Chilo: Where the laws are more regarded, and have more authority, than the orators.
Goethe has asked, What government is best? That which teaches us to govern ourselves. At another time he said, The best government is that which makes itself superfluous.
Good government, says Confucius, obtains when those who are near are made happy, and those who are far off are attracted.
To Crsus, king of Lydia. He said, on seeing the treasure of Crsus, If another king comes, who has better iron than you, he will be master of all this gold.
Æsop told Solon, who was chagrined at the poor reception his truths met with at the court of Crsus, A man should either not converse with kings at all, or say what is agreeable to them; to which Solon replied, Nay, he should either not do it at all, or say what is useful to them.PLUTARCH: Life. Agreeable advice, says Massillon, is rarely useful advice.
His reply to Anacharsis, a stranger, who desired to enter into engagements of friendship with him. Then said Anacharsis, Do you, who are at home, make me your friend.PLUTARCH: Life of Solon. It was this Anacharsis, who, having seen an assembly of the people at Athens, said that in Greece wise men plead causes, and fools determine them.
Absolute monarchy is a fair field, but it has no outlet.
Ibid. When asked if he had given the Athenians the best laws, Solon replied, If not the best, the best they are capable of receiving. Being asked how wrong-doing could be avoided in the state, he said, If those who are not wronged feel the same indignation as those who are.