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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Wife of Pythes
By Plutarch (c. 45–120 A.D.)
 
From the Discourse ‘Concerning the Virtues of Women,’ in Plutarch’s ‘Miscellanies and Essays’: Translation of Isaac Chauncy

IT is reported that the wife of Pythes, who lived at the time of Xerxes, was a wise and courteous woman. Pythes, as it seems, finding by chance some gold mines, and falling vastly in love with the riches got out of them, was insatiably and beyond measure exercised about them: and he brought down likewise the citizens, all of whom alike he compelled to dig or carry or refine the gold, doing nothing else; many of them dying in the work, and all being quite worn out. Their wives laid down their petition at his gate, addressing themselves to the wife of Pythes. She bade them all depart and be of good cheer; but those goldsmiths which she confided most in she required to wait upon her, and confining them commanded them to make up golden loaves, all sorts of junkets and summer fruits, all sorts of fish and flesh meats, in which she knew Pythes was most delighted. All things being provided, Pythes coming home then (for he happened to go a long journey) and asking for his supper, his wife set a golden table before him, having no edible food upon it, but all golden. Pythes admired the workmanship for its imitation of nature. When however he had sufficiently fed his eyes, he called in earnest for something to eat; but his wife, when he asked for any sort, brought it of gold. Whereupon being provoked, he cried out, “I am an hungered.” She replied, “Thou hast made none other provisions for us: every skillful science and art being laid aside, no man works in husbandry; but neglecting sowing, planting, and tilling the ground, we delve and search for useless things, killing ourselves and our subjects.” These things moved Pythes, but not so as to give over all his works about the mine; for he now commanded a fifth part of the citizens to that work, the rest he converted to husbandry and manufactures. But when Xerxes made an expedition into Greece, Pythes, being most splendid in his entertainments and presents, requested a gracious favor of the King,—that since he had many sons, one might be spared from the camp to remain with him, to cherish his old age. At which Xerxes in a rage slew this son only which he desired, and cut him in two pieces, and commanded the army to march between the two parts of the corpse. The rest he took along with him, and all of them were slain in the wars. At which Pythes fell into a despairing condition, so that he fell under the like suffering with many wicked men and fools. He dreaded death, but was weary of his life; yea, he was willing not to live, but could not cast away his life. He had this project. There was a great mound of earth in the city, and a river running by it which they called Pythopolites. In that mound he prepared him a sepulchre, and diverted the stream so as to run just by the side of the mound, the river lightly washing the sepulchre. These things being finished, he enters into the sepulchre, committing the city and all the government thereof to his wife: commanding her not to come to him, but to send his supper daily laid on a sloop, till the sloop should pass by the sepulchre with the supper untouched; and then she should cease to send, as supposing him dead. He verily passed in this manner the rest of his life; but his wife took admirable care of the government, and brought in a reformation of all things amiss among the people.  1
 
 
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