Children are often wiser than their parents, and history shows this to be just as true hundreds of years ago, as it is today.
In about 500 BC the king of Sparta was a man called Cleomenes; people said
that he was simple-minded, and he was certainly irresolute and indecisive. One
day the king of Miletus, Aristagoras by name, came to Sparta, wishing to gain
the city’s support in his revolt against the Persians. Cleomenes was unwilling
to enter into a conflict, and listened to Aristagoras’s persuasions with
“See here, my lord,” cried the Milesian king, drawing forth a bronze tablet, on which was engraved a map of the world, “if you will come to our aid against the barbarian overlords, these cities and states will be liberated, and instead of paying tribute to the Persians, they will pay tribute to you; what an increase in wealth that would be for Sparta, and how your people will acclaim you!”
Cleomenes shifted uneasily in his chair and told Aristagoras to return in
three days’ time. When the Milesian king was again admitted to him, Cleomenes
asked how long a march it was from the shores of the Mediterranean to the palace
of the Persian king.
Aristagoras replied that it was a journey of three months.
“Milesian stranger, quit Sparta before sunset!” exclaimed Cleomenes, arising with an expression of mingled indignation and relief. “This is no good proposal that you make to the Spartans; we will never journey so far inland.”
Aristagoras was dismissed, cursing his foolish blunder; but he still believed
that he could persuade the weak-willed Spartan king to lend him his support. The
next day he took an olive branch and went with it to the king’s dwelling.
Seeing this token of humility, the attendants allowed him to enter and he soon
found Cleomenes, who was seated with his daughter, a little girl of about eight
or nine years of age.
Aristagoras frowned and asked the king to send the child away, as he had important matters on which he wished to speak.
“No,” said Cleomenes, whose face had resumed its troubled expression at the sight of the imperious Milesian, “say what you have come to say, and do not mind the child.”
With a bad grace Aristagoras sat down, and told the king that if he would
assist him against the Persians, he should have ten talents of gold. Cleomenes
shook his head and the number rose to twenty, then to forty, then to fifty
talents. At this point the little girl, who had been standing quietly by, tugged
at her father’s sleeve,
“Father,” she said, “get up and go, or the stranger will certainly corrupt thee.”
A look of relief overspread Cleomenes’ countenance and telling Aristagoras that further entreaties would be in vain, withdrew with his daughter into another room.
The Milesian king was forced to return home, and the Spartans played no part in the ensuing conflict.
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