The Letter Of Aristeas (concluded)

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  1. When the king had applauded loud and long in the most gracious way, the guests were urged to seek repose. So when the conversation ceased, they devoted themselves to the next course of the feast.

  2. On the following day, the same arrangement was observed, and when the king found an opportunity of putting questions to the men, he questioned the first of those who had been left over
  3. for the next interrogation, What is the highest form of government? And he replied, 'To rule oneself and not to be carried away by impulses. For all men possess a certain natural bent of mind.
  4. It is probable that most men have an inclination towards food and drink and pleasure, and kings a bent towards the acquisition of territory and great renown. But it is good that there should be moderation in all things. What God gives, that you must take and keep, but never yearn for things that are beyond your reach.'

  5. Pleased with these words, the king asked the next How he could be free from envy? And he after a brief pause replied, 'If you consider first of all that it is God who bestows on all kings glory and great wealth and no one is king by his own power. All men wish to share this glory but cannot, since it is the gift of God.'

  6. The king praised the man in a long speech and then asked another How he could despise his enemies? And he replied, 'If you show kindness to all men and win their friendship, you need fear no one. To be popular with all men is the best of good gifts to receive from God.'

  7. Having praised this answer the king ordered the next man to reply to the question, How he could maintain his great renown? and he replied that 'If you are generous and large-hearted in bestowing kindness and acts of grace upon others, you will never lose your renown, but if you wish the aforesaid graces to continue yours, you must call upon God continually.'

  8. The king expressed his approval and asked the next, To whom ought a man to show liberality? And he replied, 'All men acknowledge that we ought to show liberality to those who are well disposed towards us, but I think that we ought to show the same keen spirit of generosity to those who are opposed to us that by this means we may win them over to the right and to what is advantageous to ourselves. But we must pray to God that this may be accomplished, for he rules the minds of all men.'

  9. Having expressed his agreement with the answer, the king asked the sixth to reply to the question, To whom ought we to exhibit gratitude? And he replied, 'To our parents continually, for God has given us a most important commandment with regard to the honour due to parents. In the next place He reckons the attitude of friend towards friend for He speaks of "a friend which is as thine own soul". You do well in trying to bring all men into friendship with yourself.'

  10. The king spoke kindly to him and then asked the next, What is it that resembles beauty in value? And he said, 'Piety, for it is the pre-eminent form of beauty, and its power lies in love, which is the gift of God. This you have already acquired and with it all the blessings of life.'

  11. The king in the most gracious way applauded the answer and asked another How, if he were to fail, he could regain his reputation again in the same degree? And he said, 'It is not possible for you to fail, for you have sown in all men the seeds of gratitude which produce a harvest of goodwill,
  12. and this is mightier than the strongest weapons and guarantees the greatest security. But if any man does fail, he must never again do those things which caused his failure, but he must form friendships and act justly. For it is the gift of God to be able to do good actions and not the contrary.'

  13. Delighted with these words, the king asked another How he could be free from grief? And he replied, 'If he never injured any one, but did good to everybody and followed the pathway of
  14. righteousness, for its fruits bring freedom from grief. But we must pray to God that unexpected evils such as death or disease or pain or anything of this kind may not come upon us and injure us. But since you are devoted to piety, no such misfortune will ever come upon you.'

  15. The king bestowed great praise upon him and asked the tenth, What is the highest form of glory? And he said, 'To honour God, and this is done not with gifts and sacrifices but with purity of soul and holy conviction, since all things are fashioned and governed by God in accordance with His will. Of this purpose you are in constant possession as all men can see from your achievements in the past and in the present.'

  16. With loud voice the king greeted them all and spoke kindly to them, and all those who were present expressed their approval, especially the philosophers. For they were far superior to them i.e. the philosophers both in conduct and in argument, since they always made God their starting point. After this the king to show his good feeling proceeded to drink the health of his guests.

  17. On the following day the same arrangements were made for the banquet, and the king, as soon as an opportunity occurred, began to put questions to the men who sat next to those who had already responded, and he said to the first 'Is wisdom capable of being taught?' And he said, 'The soul is so constituted that it is able by the divine power to receive all the good and reject the contrary.'

  18. The king expressed approval and asked the next man, What is it that is most beneficial to health? And he said, 'Temperance, and it is not possible to acquire this unless God create a disposition towards it.'

  19. The king spoke kindly to the man and said to another, 'How can a man worthily pay the debt of gratitude to his parents?' And he said, 'By never causing them pain, and this is not possible unless God dispose the mind to the pursuit of the noblest ends.'

  20. The king expressed agreement and asked the next How he could become an eager listener? And he said, 'By remembering that all knowledge is useful, because it enables you by the help of God in a time of emergency to select some of the things which you have learned and apply them to the crisis which confronts you. And so the efforts of men are fulfilled by the assistance of God.'

  21. The king praised him and asked the next How he could avoid doing anything contrary to law? And he said, 'If you recognize that it is God who has put the thoughts into the hearts of the lawgivers that the lives of men might be preserved, you will follow them.'

  22. The king acknowledged the man's answer and said to another, 'What is the advantage of kinship?' And he replied, 'If we consider that we ourselves are afflicted by the misfortunes which fall upon our relatives and if their sufferings become our own - then the strength of kinship is
  23. apparent at once, for it is only when such feeling is shown that we shall win honour and esteem in their eyes. For help, when it is linked with kindliness, is of itself a bond which is altogether indissoluble. And in the day of their prosperity we must not crave their possessions, but must pray God to bestow all manner of good upon them.'

  24. And having accorded to him the same praise as to the rest, the king asked another How he could attain freedom from fear? And he said, 'When the mind is conscious that it has wrought no evil, and when God directs it to all noble counsels.'

  25. The king expressed his approval and asked another How he could always maintain a right judgement? And he replied, 'If he constantly set before his eyes the misfortunes which befall men and recognized that it is God who takes away prosperity from some and brings others to great honour and glory.'

  26. The king gave a kindly reception to the man and asked the next to answer the question How he could avoid a life of ease and pleasure? And he replied, 'If he continually remembered that he was the ruler of a great empire and the lord of vast multitudes, and that his mind ought not to be occupied with other things, but he ought always to be considering how he could best promote their welfare. He must pray, too, to God that no duty might be neglected.'

  27. Having bestowed praise upon him, the king asked the tenth How he could recognize those who were dealing treacherously with him? And he replied to the question, 'If he observed whether the bearing of those about him was natural and whether they maintained the proper rule of precedence at receptions and councils, and in their general intercourse, never going beyond the bounds of
  28. propriety in congratulations or in other matters of deportment. But God will incline your mind, O King, to all that is noble.' When the king had expressed his loud approval and praised them all individually (amid the plaudits of all who were present), they turned to the enjoyment of the feast.

  29. And on the next day, when the opportunity offered, the king asked the next man, What is the grossest form of neglect? And he replied, 'If a man does not care for his children and devote every effort to their education. For we always pray to God not so much for ourselves as for our children that every blessing may be theirs. Our desire that our children may possess self-control is only realized by the power of God.'

  30. The king said that he had spoken well and then asked another How he could be patriotic? 'By keeping before your mind,' he replied, 'the thought that it is good to live and die in one's own country. Residence abroad brings contempt upon the poor and shame upon the rich as though they had been banished for a crime. If you bestow benefits upon all, as you continually do, God will give you favour with all and you will be accounted patriotic.'

  31. After listening to this man, the king asked the next in order How he could live amicably with his wife? And he answered, 'By recognizing that womankind are by nature headstrong and energetic in the pursuit of their own desires, and subject to sudden changes of opinion through fallacious reasoning, and their nature is essentially weak. It is necessary to deal wisely with them
  32. and not to provoke strife. For the successful conduct of life the steersman must know the goal toward which he ought to direct his course. It is only by calling upon the help of God that men can steer a true course of life at all times.'

  33. The king expressed his agreement and asked the next How he could be free from error? And he replied, 'If you always act with deliberation and never give credence to slanders, but prove for yourself the things that are said to you and decide by your own judgement the requests which are made to you and carry out everything in the light of your judgement, you will be free from error, O King. But the knowledge and practice of these things is the work of the Divine power.'

  34. Delighted with these words, the king asked another How he could be free from wrath? And he said in reply to the question, 'If he recognized that he had power over all even to inflict death upon them, if he gave way to wrath, and that it would be useless and pitiful if he, just because he was lord,
  35. deprived many of life. What need was there for wrath, when all men were in subjection and no one was hostile to him? It is necessary to recognize that God rules the whole world in the spirit of kindness and without wrath at all, and you,' said he, 'O king, must of necessity copy His example.

  36. The king said that he had answered well and then inquired of the next man, What is good counsel? 'To act well at all times and with due reflection,' he explained, 'comparing what is advantageous to our own policy with the injurious effects that would result from the adoption of the opposite view, in order that by weighing every point we may be well advised and our purpose may be accomplished. And most important of all, by the power of God every plan of yours will find fulfilment because you practice piety.'

  37. The king said that this man had answered well, and asked another What is philosophy? And he explained, 'To deliberate well in reference to any question that emerges and never to be carried away by impulses, but to ponder over the injuries that result from the passions, and to act rightly as the circumstances demand, practicing moderation. But we must pray to God to instil into our mind a regard for these things.'

  38. The king signified his consent and asked another How he could meet with recognition when traveling abroad? 'By being fair to all men,' he replied, 'and by appearing to be inferior rather than superior to those amongst whom he was traveling. For it is a recognized principle that God by His very nature accepts the humble. And the human race loves those who are willing to be in subjection to them.'

  39. Having expressed his approval at this reply, the king asked another How he could build in such a way that his structures would endure after him? And he replied to the question, 'If his creations were on a great and noble scale, so that the beholders would spare them for their beauty, and if he never dismissed any of those who wrought such works and never compelled others to minister to his
  40. needs without wages. For observing how God provides for the human race, granting them health and mental capacity and all other gifts, he himself should follow His example by rendering to men a recompense for their arduous toil. For it is the deeds that are wrought in righteousness that abide continually.'

  41. The king said that this man, too, had answered well and asked the tenth, What is the fruit of wisdom? And he replied, 'That a man should be conscious in himself that he has wrought no evil
  42. and that he should live his life in the truth, since it is from these, O mighty King, that the greatest joy and steadfastness of soul and strong faith in God accrue to you if you rule your realm in piety.' And when they heard the answer they all shouted with loud acclaim, and afterwards the king in the fullness of his joy began to drink their healths.

  43. And on the next day the banquet followed the same course as on previous occasions, and when the opportunity presented itself the king proceeded to put questions to the remaining guests, and
  44. he said to the first, 'How can a man keep himself from pride?' And he replied, 'If he maintains equality and remembers on all occasions that he is a man ruling over men. And God brings the proud to nought, and exalts the meek and humble.'

  45. The king spoke kindly to him and asked the next, Whom ought a man to select as his counsellors? and he replied, ' Those who have been tested in many affairs and maintain unmingled goodwill towards him and partake of his own disposition. And God manifests Himself to those who are worthy that these ends may be attained.'

  46. The king praised him and asked another, What is the most necessary possession for a king? 'The friendship and love of his subjects,' he replied, 'for it is through this that the bond of goodwill is rendered indissoluble. And it is God who ensures that this may come to pass in accordance with your wish.'

  47. The king praised him and inquired of another, What is the goal of speech? And he replied, 'To convince your opponent by showing him his mistakes in a well-ordered array of arguments. For in this way you will win your hearer, not by opposing him, but by bestowing praise upon him with a view to persuading him. And it is by the power of God that persuasion is accomplished.'

  48. The king said that he had given a good answer, and asked another How he could live amicably with the many different races who formed the population of his kingdom? 'By acting the proper part towards each,' he replied, 'and taking righteousness as your guide, as you are now doing with the help of the insight which God bestows upon you.'

  49. The king was delighted by this reply, and asked another 'Under what circumstances ought a man to suffer grief?' 'In the misfortunes that befall our friends,' he replied, when we see that they are protracted and irremediable. Reason does not allow us to grieve for those who are dead and set free from evil, but all men do grieve over them because they think only of themselves and their own advantage. It is by the power of God alone that we can escape all evil.'

  50. The king said that he had given a fitting answer, and asked another, How is reputation lost? And he replied, When pride and unbounded self-confidence hold sway, dishonour and loss of reputation are engendered. For God is the Lord of all reputation and bestows it where He will.'

  51. The king gave his confirmation to the answer, and asked the next man, To whom ought men to entrust themselves? 'To those,' he replied, who serve you from goodwill and not from fear or self-interest, thinking only of their own gain. For the one is the sign of love, the other the mark of ill-will and time-serving. For the man who is always watching, for his own gain is a traitor at heart. But you possess the affection of all your subjects by the help of the good counsel which God bestows upon you.'

  52. The king said that he had answered wisely, and asked another, What is it that keeps a kingdom safe? And he replied to the question, 'Care and forethought that no evil may be wrought by those who are placed in a position of authority over the people, and this you always do by the help of God who inspires you with grave judgement '.

  53. The king spoke words of encouragement to him, and asked another, What is it that maintains gratitude and honour? And he replied, 'Virtue, for it is the creator of good deeds, and by it evil is destroyed, even as you exhibit nobility of character towards all by the gift which God bestows upon you.'

  54. The king graciously acknowledged the answer and asked the eleventh (since there were two more than seventy), How he could in time of war maintain tranquillity of soul? And he replied, 'By remembering that he had done no evil to any of his subjects, and that all would fight for him in return for the benefits which they had received, knowing that even if they lose their lives, you will care for those
  55. dependent on them. For you never fail to make reparation to any - such is the kind-heartedness with which God has inspired you.' The king loudly applauded them all and spoke very kindly to them and then drank a long draught to the health of each, giving himself up to enjoyment, and lavishing the most generous and joyous friendship upon his guests.

  56. On the seventh day much more extensive preparations were made, and many others were present from the different cities (among them a large number of ambassadors). When an opportunity occurred, the king asked the first of those who had not yet been questioned How he could avoid
  57. being deceived by fallacious reasoning? and he replied, 'By noticing carefully the speaker, the thing spoken, and the subject under discussion, and by putting the same questions again after an interval in different forms. But to possess an alert mind and to be able to form a sound judgement in every case is one of the good gifts of God, and you possess it, O King.'

  58. The king loudly applauded the answer and asked another, Why is it that the majority of men never become virtuous? 'Because,' he replied, 'all men are by nature intemperate and inclined to
  59. pleasure. Hence, injustice springs up and a flood of avarice. The habit of virtue is a hindrance to those who are devoted to a life of pleasure because it enjoins upon them the preference of temperance and righteousness. For it is God who is the master of these things.'

  60. The king said that he had answered well, and asked, What ought kings to obey? And he said, 'The laws, in order that by righteous enactments they may restore the lives of men. Even as you by such conduct in obedience to the Divine command have laid up in store for yourself a perpetual memorial.'

  61. The king said that this man, too, had spoken well, and asked the next, Whom ought we to appoint as governors? And he replied, 'All who hate wickedness, and imitating your own conduct act righteously that they may maintain a good reputation constantly. For this is what you do, O mighty King,' he said, 'and it is God who has bestowed upon you the crown of righteousness.'

  62. The king loudly acclaimed the answer and then looking at the next man said, Whom ought we to appoint as officers over the forces?' And he explained, 'Those who excel in courage and righteousness and those who are more anxious about the safety of their men than to gain a victory by risking their lives through rashness. For as God acts well towards all men, so too you in imitation of Him are the benefactor of all your subjects.'

  63. The king said that he had given a good answer and asked another, What man is worthy of admiration? And he replied, The man who is furnished with reputation and wealth and power and possesses a soul equal to it all. You yourself show by your actions that you are most worthy of admiration through the help of God who makes you care for these things.'

  64. The king expressed his approval and said to another 'To what affairs ought kings to devote most time?' And he replied, 'To reading and the study of the records of official journeys, which are written in reference to the various kingdoms, with a view to the reformation and preservation of the subjects. And it is by such activity that you have attained to a glory which has never been approached by others, through the help of God who fulfils all your desires.'

  65. The king spoke enthusiastically to the man and asked another How ought a man to occupy himself during his hours of relaxation and recreation? And he replied, 'To watch those plays which can be acted with propriety and to set before one's eyes scenes taken from life and enacted
  66. with dignity and decency is profitable and appropriate. For there is some edification to be found even in these amusements, for often some desirable lesson is taught by the most insignificant affairs of life. But by practicing the utmost propriety in all your actions, you have shown that you are a philosopher and you are honoured by God on account of your virtue.'

  67. The king, pleased with the words which had just been spoken, said to the ninth man, How ought a man to conduct himself at banquets? And he replied, 'You should summon to your side men of learning and those who are able to give you useful hints with regard to the affairs of your kingdom and the lives of your subjects (for you could not find any theme more suitable or more
  68. educative than this) since such men are dear to God because they have trained their minds to contemplate the noblest themes - as you indeed are doing yourself, since all your actions are directed by God.'

  69. Delighted with the reply, the king inquired of the next man, What is best for the people? That a private citizen should be made king over them or a member of the royal family? And he
  70. replied, He who is best by nature. For kings who come of royal lineage are often harsh and severe towards their subjects. And still more is this the case with some of those who have risen from the ranks of private citizens, who after having experienced evil and borne their share of
  71. poverty, when they rule over multitudes turn out to be more cruel than the godless tyrants. But, as I have said, a good nature which has been properly trained is capable of ruling, and you are a great king, not so much because you excel in the glory of your rule and your wealth but rather because you have surpassed all men in clemency and philanthropy, thanks to God who has endowed you with these qualities.'

  72. The king spent some time in praising this man and then asked the last of all, What is the greatest achievement in ruling an empire? And he replied, 'That the subjects should continually dwell in a state of peace, and that justice should be speedily administered in cases of dispute.
  73. These results are achieved through the influence of the ruler, when he is a man who hates evil and loves the good and devotes his energies to saving the lives of men, just as you consider injustice the worst form of evil and by your just administration have fashioned for yourself an undying reputation, since God bestows upon you a mind which is pure and untainted by any evil.'

  74. And when he ceased, loud and joyful applause broke out for some considerable time. When it stopped the king took a cup and gave a toast in honour of all his guests and the words which they had uttered. Then in conclusion he said, 'I have derived the greatest benefit from your presence.
  75. I have profited much by the wise teaching which you have given me in reference to the art of ruling.' Then he ordered that three talents of silver should be presented to each of them, and appointed one of his slaves to deliver over the money. All at once shouted their approval, and the banquet became a scene of joy, while the king gave himself up to a continuous round of festivity.

  76. I have written at length and must crave your pardon, Philocrates. I was astonished beyond measure at the men and the way in which on the spur of the moment they gave answers which
  77. really needed a long time to devise. For though the questioner had given great thought to each particular question, those who replied one after the other had their answers to the questions ready at once and so they seemed to me and to all who were present and especially to the philosophers to be worthy of admiration. And I suppose that the thing will seem incredible to those who will
  78. read my narrative in the future. But it is unseemly to misrepresent facts which are recorded in the public archives. And it would not be right for me to transgress in such a matter as this. I tell the story just as it happened, conscientiously avoiding any error. I was so impressed by the force of their utterances, that I made an effort to consult those whose business it was to make
  79. a record of all that happened at the royal audiences and banquets. For it is the custom, as you know, from the moment the king begins to transact business until the time when he retires to rest, for a record to be taken of all his sayings and doings - a most excellent and useful arrangement.
  80. For on the following day the minutes of the doings and sayings of the previous day are read over before business commences, and if there has been any irregularity, the matter is at once set right.
  81. I obtained therefore, as has been said, accurate information from the public records, and I have set forth the facts in proper order since I know how eager you are to obtain useful information.

  82. Three days later Demetrius took the men and passing along the sea-wall, seven stadia long, to the island, crossed the bridge and made for the northern districts of Pharos. There he assembled them in a house, which had been built upon the sea-shore, of great beauty and in a secluded situation, and invited them to carry out the work of translation, since everything that they needed for the purpose
  83. was placed at their disposal. So they set to work comparing their several results and making them agree, and whatever they agreed upon was suitably copied out under the direction of Demetrius.
  84. And the session lasted until the ninth hour; after this they were set free to minister to their physical
  85. needs. Everything they wanted was furnished for them on a lavish scale. In addition to this Dorotheus made the same preparations for them daily as were made for the king himself - for thus he had been commanded by the king. In the early morning they appeared daily at the Court, and
  86. after saluting the king went back to their own place. And as is the custom of all the Jews, they washed their hands in the sea and prayed to God and then devoted themselves to reading and
  87. translating the particular passage upon which they were engaged, and I put the question to them, Why it was that they washed their hands before they prayed? And they explained that it was a token that they had done no evil (for every form of activity is wrought by means of the hands) since in their noble and holy way they regard everything as a symbol of righteousness and truth.

  88. As I have already said, they met together daily in the place which was delightful for its quiet and its brightness and applied themselves to their task. And it so chanced that the work of translation was completed in seventy-two days, just as if this had been arranged of set purpose.

  89. When the work was completed, Demetrius collected together the Jewish population in the place where the translation had been made, and read it over to all, in the presence of the translators, who met with a great reception also from the people, because of the great benefits which they had
  90. conferred upon them. They bestowed warm praise upon Demetrius, too, and urged him to have the whole law transcribed and present a copy to their leaders.
  91. After the books had been read, the priests and the elders of the translators and the Jewish community and the leaders of the people stood up and said, that since so excellent and sacred and accurate a translation had been made, it was only right that it should remain as it was and no
  92. alteration should be made in it. And when the whole company expressed their approval, they bade them pronounce a curse in accordance with their custom upon any one who should make any alteration either by adding anything or changing in any way whatever any of the words which had been written or making any omission. This was a very wise precaution to ensure that the book might be preserved for all the future time unchanged.
  93. When the matter was reported to the king, he rejoiced greatly, for he felt that the design which he had formed had been safely carried out. The whole book was read over to him and he was greatly astonished at the spirit of the lawgiver. And he said to Demetrius, 'How is it that none of the historians or the poets have ever thought it worth their while to allude to such a wonderful
  94. achievement?' And he replied, 'Because the law is sacred and of divine origin. And some of those who formed the intention of dealing with it have been smitten by God and therefore desisted from
  95. their purpose.' He said that he had heard from Theopompus that he had been driven out of his mind for more than thirty days because he intended to insert in his history some of the incidents from the earlier and somewhat unreliable translations of the law. When he had recovered
  96. a little, he besought God to make it clear to him why the misfortune had befallen him. And it was revealed to him in a dream, that from idle curiosity he was wishing to communicate sacred truths to common men, and that if he desisted he would recover his health. I have heard, too, from the lips
  97. of Theodektes, one of the tragic poets, that when he was about to adapt some of the incidents recorded in the book for one of his plays, he was affected with cataract in both his eyes. And when he perceived the reason why the misfortune had befallen him, he prayed to God for many days and was afterwards restored.
  98. And after the king, as I have already said, had received the explanation of Demetrius on this point, he did homage and ordered that great care should be taken of the books, and that they should
  99. be sacredly guarded. And he urged the translators to visit him frequently after their return to Judea, for it was only right, he said, that he should now send them home. But when they came back, he
  100. would treat them as friends, as was right, and they would receive rich presents from him. He ordered preparations to be made for them to return home, and treated them most munificently. He presented each one of them with three robes of the finest sort, two talents of gold, a sideboard weighing one talent, all the furniture for three couches.
  101. And with the escort he sent Eleazar ten couches with silver legs and all the necessary equipment, a sideboard worth thirty talents, ten robes, purple, and a magnificent crown, and a hundred pieces of the finest woven linen, also bowls and dishes, and two golden beakers to be dedicated to God.
  102. He urged him also in a letter that if any of the men preferred to come back to him, not to hinder them. For he counted it a great privilege to enjoy the society of such learned men, and he would rather lavish his wealth upon them than upon vanities.
  103. And now Philocrates, you have the complete story in accordance with my promise. I think that you find greater pleasure in these matters than in the writings of the mythologists. For you are devoted to the study of those things which can benefit the soul, and spend much time upon it. I shall attempt to narrate whatever other events are worth recording, that by perusing them you may secure the highest reward for your zeal.

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